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Ulterior Motives

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Steve doesn't actually like fighting.

He thinks this as he swings his axe, beheads a monster, and ducks the spray of blood. It's a funny thing, he supposes, but he doesn't like it at all.

It had been Bucky's idea, joining up. He'd said we can take the fight to them as they'd stared at the poster for the super-soldier program. On the poster, Sam Wilson had stared right back, shield in his hand, falcon on his arm. Don't you want to fight? Bucky had asked. Don't you want to do your part?

He'd wanted to save his domain. Their domain. Of course he had.

So they'd joined, and they'd become super-soldiers, and they'd fought. And they'd lost. And they'd surrendered.

And now they're here, Steve and Bucky, on the outskirts of Doomstadt itself, gladiators in Arcade's Killiseum. With Devil at their side, they're unstoppable. The crowd roars when they step into the arena. The crowd chants their names. And now, of course, they win. Not that it means anything. There won't be freedom for them, not when he entertains the masses so well, not when he brings the ratings. He fights, or they'll kill him. He has no choice. This is Battleworld, and the world is as God-Doom wills it.

The days blur into each other: training, sleeping curled next to Devil in the barns, eating food he thinks once he'd have turned his nose up at. He remembers that he used to complain about MREs. And then the fighting. He doesn't think about the fighting. He knows how to do it. He knows he's good at it. The serum made him good at it. He lets his training take over, and he swings his axe, and his foes fall at his feet. He wishes they'd let him stop. They're never going to let him stop.

But there is one bright spot. The silver lining, as it were.

The sex.

Oh, Steve's not stupid. He knows it's meant to be another way to control him, to keep him complacent, as if he wouldn't dare run or fight back because he's getting laid regularly. But he wasn't ever really the kind of guy anyone looked twice at, before the serum, and then there was a war on... and, well, there wasn't a lot of time for fooling around then. But he has nothing but time now.

Besides, it makes the endless gray blur of days a little brighter to know that there will be a spark of pleasure at the end of them. It makes him look forward to the fights, almost, because he knows that if he fights well, after, there will be some man or woman waiting for him, some starry-eyed fan longing to spend a night with a gladiator, and they can make each other happy, just for a bit. And who wouldn't want that? He might be a super-soldier, but he's still a man. He has needs.

He feels like he really needs it, tonight.

The crowd cheers as he brings his axe down on the last gamma-mutated monster, and blood seeps into the sand. It's just him and Devil as a pair tonight; Bucky had a solo fight this morning.

Devil throws his huge head back and roars, and Steve holds his hands high. His bloodied axe gleams in the stadium lights; the cameras zoom in for close-ups. His armor -- a parody of what he once wore as Captain America -- is dull, spattered with dirt, and sweat soaks his fringed kilt and drips down his bare legs. He used to hope that if he did well, they'd give him pants, but no. The crowd likes his body. He knows that. They all want his body, in a variety of ways.

He smiles for the cameras. This is his life now.

When the cheering dies down, he and Devil head back through the gate. A team of handlers are waiting for Devil, as always, to bring him back to the barns, to hose the gore off him. Steve pats him on the tail and lets him go.

There's a man waiting for Steve, one of Arcade's employees, as there sometimes is, and Steve supposes he's fought well enough tonight to merit more... intimate... interest from one of the onlookers. He's half-hard just at the thought. By God-Doom, he really needs this. The bleak future, the thought of endless days in the arena, is hitting him hard tonight.

The man inclines his head. "Would you like company for the evening, Captain?"

It's not exactly coercion. He is always free to say no. Sometimes he has. It is, however, prostitution. Arcade has a nice little sideline going. He knows money is changing hands, somewhere up the chain. He doesn't see any of it. What good would money do him, when he can't leave? For him, it's just sex. He likes sex. It's easy. It's relaxing. It's fun.

Steve smiles. The dried blood on his face cracks. "Do they want me to shower first?"

Some people don't. It takes all kinds, he supposes. Personally he thinks the blood is a little much, but some people like him fresh out of the arena, smelling like sweat and leather. Their gladiator fantasy.

"Shower, yes," the man says. His expression doesn't shift. "He wants you back in the armor afterward."

Oh, yes, the armor. A lot of folks seem to have an armor kink. Steve's fine either way. He's really looking forward to the rest of the evening; his fantasies already sketch out someone warm and willing, tumbling him into bed. He can feel his cock harden, ever hopeful, and he resists the urge to cover his groin with his shield. The attendants have seen it all before, anyway.

Steve nods. "All right. Lead the way."

The attendants take his armor away to clean it while Steve goes to the showers. There's no one else in the showers right now. Steve's footsteps echo on the tile as he walks past the long half-height wall and chooses a showerhead at random. Warm water sluices over his body and he sighs and relaxes into the spray, letting the blood and dirt slough off him, resisting the impulse to take his cock in hand. Sure, he's got the place to himself, but he'll have better than his hand soon enough, he tells himself, sternly. Not that thinking that makes the erection go away.

He glares down at himself, soaps up, and then starts washing his hair, combing through the tangles with conditioner, the nice bergamot-scented one they give him when there's someone waiting for him, the one that makes his hair sleek and shiny. The people who have him for the night almost always enjoy his hair.

He wonders who this one will be. A man, they said. Will he want to fuck Steve? Will he want Steve to fuck him? Steve's never really had a preference for one way or the other; it's all good. He imagines gentle hands, a warm smile. He imagines the moments afterward, when they hold each other, when for a few minutes he can shut his eyes and pretend that everything is going to be all right.

He wants to be free. But if he can't be free, he'll at least take some kindness.

The elevator doesn't stop on the level Steve expects it to. The middle three floors of the building are all rooms rented to those who've bought a gladiator for the night, or just for a span of hours. Steve's spent a good deal of time there, himself. The rooms are small and mostly identical, well-stocked with lube and toys and whatever supplies anyone might want. The beds are comfortable. They're better than where he and Bucky usually end up in the barn. He doesn't usually get to sleep in them, though, unless he's been bought for the entire night. He's pretty sure he's been bought for the whole night now. He's looking forward to it.

But the elevator keeps rising, higher and higher; the operator doesn't stop it. He can see the Killiseum from the air, practically. Steve shifts his weight, nervously, making his armor creak. He wishes he had his shield. Or his axe. He's walking into uncharted territory.

Eventually the elevator glides to a stop. The doors open. Top floor. Penthouse apartment. Steve's never been here before.

The operator raises his eyebrows and motions him out. The doors close behind him, and Steve is surrounded by... extravagance.

The suite has plush, woven carpets and high, gilded ceilings. There are no walls; he can see every one of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Sections of the room are divided by stairs into little raised platforms and lowered nooks. The centerpiece of the room is, of course, the massive bed, a four-poster set in the middle of the tallest platform at the far side of the room, covered in pale silk sheets.

The room's sole occupant is, to Steve's surprise, not anywhere near the bed. He's sitting on one of the couches in the little lowered nooks, a glass of red wine in his hand. There's a bottle on the table next to him, and an empty glass. And then he rises, and he turns, and Steve finally gets a good look at him.

He's... gorgeous. He's about Steve's height, tanned, dark-haired, blue-eyed. Muscular. A goatee frames his elegant, smiling mouth, and his eyes are bright. He's wearing a dark and expensive-looking business suit. He's from one of the more modern realms, then, which is nice; Steve always feels like he has more in common with people who share his general era. He's not from Steve's kingdom. No one is from Steve's kingdom, anymore. The few survivors are enslaved, and none of them would have this kind of money, not now. But there's something haunted in the man's eyes, too, and Steve knows that, in his own way, this man is a soldier. He's seen war.

"Steve, darling," the man purrs, raising his glass in a gesture that might equally be a greeting or a toast, and Steve stops dead.

This man knows his name.

It's not a name that Steve uses much, anymore. As far as the Killiseum is concerned, he's the Captain, and he hasn't been anything but the Captain to any of them. The people who buy him for the night don't get his name. They never hear the name Steve Rogers. He's Steve to Bucky, all right, but he hasn't been Steve to anyone else in a long, long time.

He knows why the man knows his name as soon as he hears it, of course; this man's realm must have its own Steve Rogers. He's heard enough over the years to get the impression that in so many realms, he's Captain America, the first and only Captain America, the only super-soldier. He's a kind of legend. This man must be from one of those places. But he said Steve's name like Steve was his friend, which adds an additional level of strangeness: someone who knows his out-kingdom counterpart, who counts him a friend, is spending obscene amounts of money to have him for the night.

Well, this is going to be... different.

Steve clears his throat and makes himself stand tall. "I'm afraid you have the advantage of me, sir."

Sadness flickers briefly through the stranger's gaze; Steve watches him realize that Steve has no idea who he is. The stranger frowns. He was clearly hoping Steve recognized him.

"They didn't give you my name?"

Names have never really mattered, in Steve's experience. Usually there aren't a whole lot of words exchanged. They just get right down to the fucking. He's not sure what's going on here, and he's not sure if he likes it. He really wishes he had his shield. Or his dinosaur.

He shakes his head.

"Antonio Stark," the man says, with a smooth smile. "But, please, call me Tony. I like my friends to call me Tony." Something about the smile now is soft, more real, and he gestures with the hand that isn't holding the wine. "You want to come closer? I promise I don't bite. Unless you ask nicely, darling."

The innuendo makes Steve tingle with warmth; his body is ready, needy, waiting. But there's something else interesting about Tony's words: Tony knows how to read him. Steve makes a habit of keeping his reactions guarded; he's had to, to stay alive. It shouldn't have been apparent that he was at all nervous. But Tony looked at him and just... knew. So whoever he is, he knows his realm's Steve Rogers pretty damn well. And yet, he's here instead.

"I'm getting the sense that where you're from, I'm already your friend," Steve ventures, as he makes his way from the elevator, around an armchair, and down three steps to join Tony by the couch.

"Mmm, yes," Tony says, a lazy noise of agreement, as he settles back down on the couch, and he pats the cushion next to him. "I've got one of you at home. But he's much less... amenable, shall we say, than you are." And then his eyes glitter with laughter. "Besides, I've never been able to resist a man with a big axe."

Steve can't help but smile at the line as he moves closer; he's already bought and paid-for, and it's been ages since someone bothered to put in any effort. It's kind of refreshing to be flirted at, to be thought of as someone worth charming. He arranges his kilt around him so as not to give Tony too much of a view as he sits down, although the gleam in Tony's eyes as he watches him sit suggests that Tony's looking forward to getting an even better view of what Steve has to offer. Steve's cock swells against his kilt. Tony's gaze dips to his lap, even though Tony probably can't see much with the leather armoring in the way. Tony licks his lips.

Steve's actually trying to keep some part of his mind on the conversation, too. He wants to figure this guy out. The mention of his axe means-- "You saw me fight?"

"I did," Tony acknowledges. "You were very impressive." Steve finds he's smiling at the compliment. "And then I was told that you might be, ahem, available to interested parties for the right price, and, well... I was quite interested, darling." He leans over and picks up the bottle. "Wine?"

He may not be able to get drunk since the serum, but he's not going to turn down a taste of the finer things in life. "Yes, please."

Tony looks a little surprised at that; Steve wonders if his other self is a teetotaler. Tony's hands on the bottle are practiced and nimble as he pours Steve a glass. When he hands it to him, Tony's long fingers brush against his. Steve shivers in anticipation.

"So, Steve," Tony says, in a drawl that is somehow both lazy and eager. He leans back and sips from his own glass. "Tell me about yourself. I assumed you were from one of the lower-tech domains, what with the plate mail and the tyrannosaur, but you're not, are you?"

The old grief swamps him. He can go days without thinking about home. Mostly he tries not to. There's no going home. "No," he says, and his voice is rough. "This is just gear for the arena, and Devil is... just Devil. I am -- I was -- from one of the western domains. We fought Apocalypse. We lost. I surrendered. It's all part of Apocalypse's realm now."

Tony's lips part; his eyes are hooded in shared pain. "I'm sorry."

"It's all right. It doesn't matter," he says, and he sips the wine. It's very good.

"It does, though," Tony says, and Steve has the odd sense that Tony actually cares. "You're a soldier in every realm, aren't you? Super-soldier?"

The question sounds like there's more than idle interest; Steve supposes Tony knows something about the program in his land.

Steve nods. "One of many, where I was from. I gather that in other domains the program is more... uniquely mine."

Tony chuckles, but his expression is somber, too. "You could say that. You're the only one we ever really got right. We tried to recreate the serum so many times, over the years. Our failures were... catastrophic." Tony bites his lip. There's a story there. A battle. A war.

Steve runs his tongue over his lips to catch a droplet of wine; Tony's gaze, predictably, follows the motion, and Steve feels like he's wearing too many clothes even though he knows he definitely isn't.

"Who am I to you, Tony?"

Tony half-smiles. "A friend. A comrade. A brother-in-arms." He sighs. "Where I'm from, we're heroes together. Captain America and Iron Man. Original members of the Ultimates." He gestures at himself with his glass. "That's me, Iron Man. I know my way around a suit of armor. That's why I was hoping to see yours. That and, well." Tony raises his eyebrows; the leer is somehow sweet. "I will admit to an ulterior motive."

"You're paying for an ulterior motive," Steve points out. "Which I'm very much looking forward to learning more about."

Tony's laugh is a surprised snort. "You know," he murmurs, "you look exactly like him, but then you say something like that, and I know he'd never--" His voice trails off.

Steve isn't sure how to play the part of this other man. He isn't sure Tony wants him to. But finding out more first can't hurt.

"You're in love with him," Steve ventures, because that seems like a safe guess.

Tony raises his glass and drains it, not answering for long moments. "I'm an unlucky man when it comes to love," he says, which isn't much of an answer either way. "I don't see my track record improving if I make an actual pass at him. I don't think he'd take it well. He's... a complicated man, my Steve."

Steve frowns, uncomfortable. "Is he that unkind?" He hates to think of himself as mean, even if it's not actually him.

But Tony shakes his head instantly. "Not at all. He's... he's difficult to describe, I suppose. A man of deep feelings. Life hasn't treated him well. He's had a lot to get used to, with us. With me." He looks pensive. "He's not bad. He's just... a harder man than you, darling."

"I don't know," Steve says, deciding as he says it that Tony is clearly a man who appreciates a good bit of innuendo. "Speaking for myself, I'm pretty hard right now." He winks.

Tony laughs again, still startled. "Yeah," he murmurs. "The Steve Rogers I know would throw himself right out that window before ever making a joke like that. Or if anyone made it in his presence."

Steve glances dubiously out the window. They're pretty high up.

"He definitely would," Tony reiterates, sounding both annoyed and affectionate at the same time.

There's a warm feeling in Steve, under his breastbone, like sunlight after a year of cloudy skies. He wants to give Tony this, he realizes. He likes this man with his sweet and sly smile, with his mouth full of fond endearments. He wants Tony to be happy. They're both lonely, in their own way. They can be something better than that, just for the night.

Steve puts his glass down, leans forward, and takes Tony's free hand in both of his. Tony's skin is warm, soft with lotion, pleasant to touch. Tony jumps a little in his grasp, like he's not used to anyone making the first move when he's around.

"Tony," Steve murmurs, low, as sultry as he knows how to be, and he hears Tony's breathing stutter. "What would you like us to do, hmm? I'm yours for the night. Anything you want. Anything you've imagined. You can have it."

Tony glances around wildly. He's six inches away and he doesn't want to look Steve in the eye. Steve wonders if what he wants is really that extreme, or if he's just taken aback by the sudden possibility that it can be more than a dream after all.

"You can call me Steve if you want," Steve suggests, with a smile, because he's figured out that jokes put this man at ease. "It's already my name. Very convenient."

None of the people who pay for him ever get to use his name.

He strokes the back of Tony's hand with his fingers, and eventually Tony swallows hard and meets his gaze.

"It's nothing too fancy, what I want," Tony says, with a practiced smile. His voice curls with self-assurance again even as his eyes are still wide and uneasy, a deep blue like turbulent water. Steve's getting the impression both that Tony's not usually knocked off balance easily, and that he's usually better at masks when he is. "Honestly, darling, I want you to fuck me."

Tony licks his lips, a nervous gesture now. Steve knows that's not the whole story.

Steve's a good tactician, and he's pretty good at figuring people out, and it's nowhere near difficult to figure out what else Tony wants. Tony didn't just pick him at random, after all. And, okay, maybe it'll be weird, roleplaying someone who isn't quite himself, but it won't be the weirdest thing Steve's ever done. And it'll make Tony happy.

Steve waits. A whole five seconds. He lets his thumb smooth over the inside of Tony's wrist. There are scars there. He doesn't think Tony's life has been easy.

"And?" Steve prompts, very gently.

Tony glances away again. "It's ridiculous," he mutters. "You're not him, I know you're not him, you're your own man, and I shouldn't--"

"I'm interested," Steve says, and that brings Tony up short. Steve smiles. "You seem like a nice guy, Tony. I want you to get what you want."

Tony looks at him and smiles back. It's a real smile, this one. Steve likes the look of it. "Okay," Tony says. "Okay. Yes. Please."

Steve grins. "All right. You want the armor on or off?"

"Off," Tony says, instantly. "If we're going to be like that, I-- I want to look at you."

When he says it, Steve knows, he's not talking about Steve; Steve's the stand-in, the proxy for a man who -- if Tony is to be believed -- isn't interested. Steve doesn't mind. Tony's handsome, and kind, and right here, and Steve is interested enough for both of them.

Steve supposes the Steve Rogers that Tony knows doesn't have to wear plate mail. Lucky bastard.

"Sure thing," Steve says. "Do I get to look back?"

Tony smiles a pleased smile and starts to loosen his tie. "That can definitely be arranged, darling."

Tony is as good as his word; he knows his way around a suit of armor. They leave pieces of it strewn across the suite, a trail to the bed, until Steve's sitting on the edge of the mattress, naked. Tony's gotten his jacket, tie, and shoes off, but nothing else. The top two buttons of his shirt are undone, and looking at the hollow of Tony's throat dipping invitingly to the beginning of his muscular chest is just making Steve harder. He wants to get his mouth on him. He wants to put his mouth all over him. But he's beginning to suspect that Tony's Steve isn't that sort of guy.

Tony, in fact, has somehow managed to avoid staring at Steve's body since they got him naked, which Steve suspects of being a superhuman feat, given that there's a whole lot of Steve to look at. But Tony's just smiling this small, encouraging smile, like Steve hasn't slept with a dozen different people this month, like this is some kind of first time and he needs to be on his best behavior. Like he thinks Steve will freak out.

Steve's trying to piece all these cues together, to assemble a character. He's never been a very good actor, but by God-Doom, he's going to try.

Tony sits back, and they look at each other, and Steve knows the game begins now. Tony reaches out a trembling, tender hand to cup his face, and Steve is torn between desire and the knowledge that it isn't quite him that Tony's seeing.

It's okay. He can be Tony's Steve for the night.

"Steve," Tony murmurs.

Steve lets his eyes round, wide and innocent; he lets his teeth worry at his lip. "I'm so glad we can be together now, Tony," he whispers. "I've had feelings for you for so long."

That seems like a safe introduction. He debates adding I never knew you felt the same way but then decides it's probably patently obvious to anyone who's known Tony for thirty seconds how he feels about his realm's Steve Rogers.

Tony makes a small, broken noise in the back of his throat, like this is what he's always wanted to hear, but there's something distant and pained in his eyes. Dissonant. Discordant. This isn't how his fantasy goes.

Steve's doing it wrong. He's said something wrong already. And then he thinks about the way Tony flirted with him, the way Tony was surprised when he flirted right back, the look in Tony's eyes when he said he didn't think the Steve he knows would take a love confession well. Steve had been assuming the guy was straight. But that's not necessarily true. That's not necessarily straightness.

That's repression.

Okay. Good. He can work with this. Steve makes himself smile a small, nervous smile. He makes himself look away. "It took me a while to figure it out," he says, and he hopes it sounds like a confession. "It took me even longer to admit it to myself. But you're who I want, Tony. You're who I've always wanted."

And Tony just beams at him, a beautiful and gorgeous smile that makes Steve want to kick his counterpart for not seeing what's right there in front of him. But at least now Steve's figured out why. That's how it goes, all right. That's what this guy would say.

Bingo. He's got this.

Tony's thumb slides over his jaw, soft and gentle. "I'm so glad to hear you say that, darling," he murmurs. "I know it was hard for you, at first, adjusting to being in the future--" what the fuck? Steve thinks, but he keeps smiling anyway-- "and it must have been hard for you to say. I've wanted you for so long too. I'm so happy you decided to tell me."

"Well, you know," Steve temporizes, "we had that... uh... mission?" He hopes they have missions. They sounded like soldiers. He glances up, and Tony nods a tiny nod for him to continue. "You know, those missions that we have. And I nearly died, and, well, you get to reconsidering your life, when something like that happens."

Tony's gaze is faraway for an instant, like he's trying to remember something and it's just not there. Then he smiles faintly. "You do get to doing that, indeed."

"And I really want to be with you tonight," Steve says, as earnestly as possible, which doesn't take a lot of acting because he's already hard enough to pound nails. "You'll have to show me what to do," he says, lowering his eyes shyly, and Tony makes another small noise of helpless desire. Oh, yeah, Steve's on the right track. "I've-- I've never been with a man before," he adds. He manages not to laugh at that one, just barely, which is worth it because Tony makes another one of those little helpless gasps again.

Steve really likes making him make that sound.

"Sweetheart," Tony says, "it would be my pleasure."

This isn't for Steve and they both know it. But he'll take it anyway.

They both lean in at the same time. Tony tilts his head to the side, giving way so Steve won't have to, and their mouths meet. The kiss is long, lingering, sweet. Steve doesn't take control of it; a man just barely admitting his own attraction would surely be too nervous to try. But Tony doesn't quite take control either; there's none of the aggression that Steve might have expected from a man who flirts like it's a weapon. Tony seems content to explore his mouth slowly, tasting him, like he wants to get to know him thoroughly, like he's wanted this for a while.

When they pull away, Tony smiles a gentle smile and runs his thumb over Steve's mouth. "Was that all right?" Tony murmurs.

Steve hopes Tony does make a pass at his Steve someday; the other Steve is crazy to miss out on this guy. He's just so sweet.

Steve smiles back. "Better than I dreamed."

"I've dreamed about this since I met you," Tony says, with a reminiscent half-smile. "I used to stare at you across the table in all of those goddamn boring SHIELD meetings at the Triskelion and wonder what kissing you would be like."

Steve wonders what a Triskelion is.

"I'll kiss you all you like right now," Steve says, and he leans in and kisses him again.

He pushes a little more this time when he kisses, imagining that this strange version of himself would be more confident now, and is rewarded by Tony practically melting in his arms, pliant and easy and trusting. Tony is moaning, gasping, breathless as Steve kisses him hard, showing him that he isn't afraid.

"Mmm," Tony says. "You're good at that."

Steve smiles back with unfeigned fondness, and he tries to think of how this man would offer more. No flirting. No innuendo. Probably means he wouldn't just say let's fuck.

"Tony?" he asks. He makes his voice a little unsure, like he doesn't know what the answer is going to be, like Tony hasn't already paid for this.

"Yes, darling?"

Steve widens his eyes again, smiles a nervous little smile, lets his hand drift over the top button of Tony's shirt. "Could we-- could I--" he begins, stammering with purpose. "Would you let me make love to you? Tonight?"

He feels, admittedly, fucking ridiculous saying it like that, but Tony lights up like a neon sign and he knows that he picked the right words.

"I would love that," Tony says, and Tony kisses him again.

Steve is maybe a little more eager getting Tony out of his clothes than a nervous virgin really would be, but he's damned impatient. It feels like he's been waiting all night. Tony is only too happy to help, and their hands keep bumping each other, tangling as they both race to the buttons of his shirt, the tongue of his belt, the zipper of his fly.

Soon enough, Tony's naked, spread out on the bed. He sinks into the plush mattress and smiles up at Steve, his eyes dark and pleasure-dazed. Steve looks up and down his body, mesmerized by the long sweep of golden skin. Tony looks achingly hard already, but Steve doesn't let himself touch. The other Steve wouldn't presume.

"Can I go down on you?" Steve asks.

Tony smiles a lazy smile. "Please."

Steve knows that really he ought to ask Tony how, that he ought to play this more skittishly, but he's spent the evening so far wanting to taste him. He's beginning to feel like he'll die if he doesn't. He kisses down Tony's chest, as slowly as he can bring himself to go, and takes Tony's cock into his mouth.

"Oh, Steve," Tony breathes, and Steve realizes exactly how much he's missed his partners saying his name, now that he's with someone who can. "Oh, Steve, darling, that's wonderful."

Tony's effusive praise should be rewarded, and so Steve pulls out every trick he knows, licking and sucking and stroking, caressing Tony's balls and thighs, feeling Tony quiver underneath him. Tony arches up and Steve takes him all the way down, and Tony is breathing obscenities, his body trembling. He's close, and Steve is only a little regretful when Tony tugs his head up and away.

"Good lord," Tony says. His chest is heaving. "You're definitely better at that than my Steve would be." They stare at each other, and Tony's mouth twists guiltily, like he feels disloyal.

"You could show him how," Steve suggests. "Talk him through sucking your cock. Tell him just how you like it."

Tony laughs. "Congratulations on finding one of my go-to fantasies, darling," he drawls, and he reaches over to the table, grabs the lube, and slaps the bottle into Steve's hand.

"I'm sure he'd pick it up fast," Steve reassures him. He flips open the cap. "Do you want to talk me through fucking you, or can he handle that on his own?"

"I don't want to wait any longer." Tony cants his hips, a beautifully obscene invitation, and then he sighs happily as Steve slides a finger inside him. "I -- mmm, fuck, yeah, like that, sweetheart -- can just imagine he knows what to do." He pauses, thoughtfully. "You know, I used to wonder about the serum levels in bodily fluids. I had this theory that him fucking me would cure my cancer."

Two fingers in already, Steve stops. "You have cancer?"

He thinks about the super-soldier program, about the healing factor it gave all of them. In Tony's realm, they hadn't gotten the program to work on others, he'd said, but they'd cracked it in Steve's homeland. He wonders if he could run away, bring Tony there, find some scientist who'd survived Apocalypse's purges, get him the serum--

But Tony shakes his head. "Used to. All better now," he says, with a smile. "No more cancer. But, you know, you can never be too sure. Best to be on the safe side. So it's a good thing you're here, right?"

"Uh," Steve says. "Right. I guess."

Tony pouts. "Yeah, I probably shouldn't try that line on him."

"Probably not," Steve agrees.

He fucks Tony with his fingers, sliding them in and out, crooking them against Tony's prostate and watching Tony pant and gasp and writhe. Steve is desperately hard, dripping pre-come everywhere. He's been waiting for this all night. He slides his fingers out and slicks himself up and Tony grins up at him, splayed beneath him, ready and waiting.

"Come on, darling," Tony breathes. "I want it hard."

Steve lines up and slides in, nice and slow to start. Being inside Tony is as amazing as he thought it would be; the tight warmth of him is welcoming, and Tony knows exactly how to bear down to make him feel even better. Tony moans and wraps his arms around Steve's shoulders, drawing him close. Tony's legs come up; his thighs are over Steve's hips, and he's pliant and easy, obviously accustomed to this position.

Obligingly, Steve draws back and thrusts, harder, and Tony moves with him, groaning and arching up, perfectly matching the pace that Steve sets. Steve doesn't want to just pound him right away; he's not using anywhere near his full strength.

"Harder," Tony gasps, throwing his head back against the pillows. Sweat beads on his throat. He's gorgeous.

Steve hikes Tony's legs a little higher and rolls his hips forward, slamming into him in one long thrust. The sensation is absolutely amazing, and Tony goes even tighter as he does, clenching all around him, and they both groan at the same time.

"Oh, yes," Tony breathes. "Like that, just like that, please, Steve."

Hearing his name on Tony's lips just does things to Steve, and he drives into him again and again, fucking him hard, harder than he would with most other people, really giving it to him. He has one hand braced on the bed and the other holding up Tony's leg, and he's pretty sure he's bruising Tony, and Tony is just going wild, his hands running over Steve's flexing shoulders as he moans and twists and pushes himself up, unashamed and hungry, like he can somehow get even more of Steve's cock when Steve is balls-deep in him. He feels so damned good it's unbelievable.

Tony's gaze is fixed on his, bright, ecstatic. He's in love, Steve knows. There's no way that's anything other than love. Steve wonders who Tony is seeing now, if he's picturing that other Steve Rogers. It's all right. Steve doesn't mind. He thrusts even harder and admires Tony's answering smile. Steve's going to make sure his counterpart has something to live up to.

"I'm close," Tony moans, and that's when Steve realizes he is, too, that his own release is building. "Steve, darling, just touch me--"

Steve wraps a hand around Tony's cock, jerking him off, fast and tight, and Tony comes with a cry, spurting all over his own stomach, and then Steve's own orgasm hits him, and he's coming inside Tony. Everything is bright and dazzling as the pleasure overtakes him, and he trembles and comes and comes.

He slips out; heedless of the mess, Tony pulls him to him, sliding his fingers through Steve's hair, letting Steve's head rest on his chest, wrapping an arm around Steve. He still has one hand in Steve's hair, fingers playing through the ponytail, and Steve realized he never asked him to take his hair down.

"You like the hair?" Steve asks. It wasn't what he meant to ask, but he doesn't have much of a filter on his mouth after coming his brains out.

"I like the hair," Tony says. "I don't think I could talk my Steve into it, though. Shame."

Steve lifts his head and kisses Tony again, just because he can. The kiss is slower now. Sweeter. Lazier. It's nice here, in the afterglow. It's the nicest Steve's felt in a long time.

"Thank you," Tony murmurs. "For humoring me."

"I don't mind," Steve assures him. "Also, if you'll notice, I had a great time myself."

Tony chuckles. "You sure did."

Tony's gaze is faraway again.

"You're thinking about him, aren't you?" Steve asks.

"Mmm," Tony acknowledges, with half a smile. "Usually am."

"If he doesn't want you," Steve says, "he's an idiot. And I'd hate to think I'm an idiot in any realm. You should tell him."

Tony sighs. He's silent for a long while.

"I feel like I missed my chance," he says, and there's something wrong about the way he says it, something oddly intense.

Steve blinks. "What?"

"Do you ever feel like we're not supposed to be here?" Tony asks. He pauses again. "Look, the domain I'm from, we're a mess. I opened a door where there wasn't supposed to be a door and another Manhattan fell out on top of ours and now there's two of me, in the same domain." He snorts. "I'm only here in Doomstadt at all because I wanted to scout around quietly and see if any of the other domains had anything similar happen to them. But we haven't got a lot of time before Doom finds out. I have a feeling he's going to be mad." He grimaces. "The other one of me has some kind of history with him, apparently."

Steve frowns. "What does that have to do with whether we're supposed to be here? What does that even mean?"

"I have dreams, sometimes," Tony says, quietly. "I dream about a world that isn't Doom's, a world where the night sky has stars in it, a world that has no domains." He pauses. "And you're here, on this world, in my domain -- but in the dream, you're already gone. You're-- you're dead."

Tony's blinking fast; there's a tear on his cheek.

"Hey," Steve says, and he brushes Tony's hair off his forehead. "I don't know about any dreams like that, but I think-- if you think that's what it's like, if you think you'll lose him-- then tell him. Go back to your Manhattan. Tell him now. Be happy."

Tony snorts. "I'm not very good at that, darling."

"You made me happy," Steve says, firmly. "And you'll be happy. Make him happy. I know you can."


"Yeah," Steve echoes.

A world that isn't Doom's. The thought takes root in Steve's mind, a seed from the tree of life. He might not have his freedom, but he has hope. Tony gave him that, a precious gift.

"And you'll be okay?" Tony asks. "I mean, it can't be easy."

"I'm fine," Steve says, and it feels true and right when he says it. "I'll be fine. I've got a friend. And a dinosaur. And someday, if this world isn't Doom's, I'll be there to see it. I promise you that."

And maybe, in that world, there will be another Tony, one who could be his.

Tony smiles and kisses him again. "Sounds like something to live for."

"Definitely," Steve says. "By the way, Tony, you've got me for the rest of the night. I can leave a couple marks if you want. Make him jealous. I'm a terribly jealous man, you know. I think it'll work."

"By all means," Tony says, laughing, "go on and set me up with yourself. I like you."

"Seize the day," Steve says, and he presses Tony to the bed again.

Outside, the night sky is the darkest black, as it has always been, but Steve wonders, now, what it would look like with stars in it.