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A Hundred Times, Once

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Beep, beep, beep.

Steve’s eyes fluttered open. He rolled on his side and smacked his hand around on the bedside table until it closed over his SHIELD beeper. He pressed the button. Code: 8890.

It only took a few minutes to dress, grab his go bag and slip out of his apartment. A sleek, black car was waiting at the corner and he climbed in the back. It wasn’t a priority call - they had time for a briefing at SHIELD - but it turned out there wasn’t much to brief.

“Robots?” He crossed his arms, leaning back in his chair in Nick’s office.

“Robots, Cap. Heading for Manhattan.”

Steve heard Tony chuckle from where he stood behind him, but he ignored it. “Weaknesses?”

“None that we know of. We haven't seen this kind of thing before. The military is trying to hold them off but they asked for Ultimates assistance.”

Steve shuffled through the tiny mission briefing then stood. “Alright.”

The chopper was waiting for them, and the team did one last equipment check, then piled in. SHIELD had finally come through on their promise to upgrade the comm equipment and Steve spent a moment during takeoff tucking his new GPS tracking unit into his belt.

In the distance, Tony burst out of the Triskelion, Thor close behind him. The ride was short, and Steve, Clint, and Jan each spent it gearing themselves up in their own ways. When the rails hit the ground they burst out, Jan immediately disappearing as she shrunk down, and Clint jogging off to find the high ground.

Steve took in their opponents. A long wave of robots was marching in formation towards a barricade that the army had set up across a broad street. Their weapons seemed to slow the robots down but didn’t manage to do any lasting damage. Steve sent his team wide, circling the robots so they’d have eyes on all sides.

He jogged up to the army unit defending the barricade and ordered them back, so the team could charge in without risk of putting civilians in danger. The army focused on evacuating the area and giving the Ultimates room to work.

At first, they each focused on a different robot, but once a full lightning blast from Thor failed to bring one down, Steve brought the team in tighter and they targeted one at a time. After a few tries, they got it down to a science. Thor would hit one with a lightning blast, temporarily upsetting its electrical systems and marking their next target, then Jan and Steve would charge in and occupy its attention until Clint could get eyes on its weak spot - a small port at the back of its neck. Tony circled the outside of the group, forcing the robots to hold rank and stay tight instead of wandering off to attack the city.

The system was effective against each individual robot, but as a group, the method was tiring and slow. As soon as one robot dropped, the others would rush in and fill the gap. Steve took a hard hit to his back, the bot managing to grab a hold of his arm as he fell and nearly wrench it out of the socket.

“Cap, you alright?” Clint called from his perch.

“Fine,” Steve gritted out. He pushed himself back to his feet, ducked the next swing and went low to take out the robots strong but relatively unsteady legs. It fell to the side, and with a thunk, Clint pierced the sensitive port and sent it to the ground.

Steve rolled his shoulder out and took a few steps back. The robots seemed to be focusing on the Ultimates, which was good, but taking them out one at a time was risky and tiring. They’d get sloppier and sloppier as they went on. There seemed to be nothing they could do, however. The robots never slowed their onslaught, and try as they might, they couldn’t find a single attack that would do more than slow them down, besides Clint’s arrow to the back of the neck. Even a sting from Jan there or a full-strength hit from Steve did nothing.

Tony and Thor soon found a rhythm together where they broke the robot’s ranks by flying through them, zapping everyone they could, then circled wide again to force them back together. It kept them distracted while Steve, Jan, and Clint took them down permanently, one at a time. It became clear that a hammer shot to the back of the neck was as effective as Clint’s arrows, but it had to be very targeted, so in between shocking the bots for Steve’s ground team, Tony and Thor formed their own way of knocking them down for good, Tony hitting them point-blank in the chest, and Thor swinging his hammer behind at the neck.

Before long, the street was littered with dismantled robots, but Steve was starting to feel the battle, and there was still no sign of who was responsible for this. He couldn't help but worry that this felt an awful lot like a distraction.

Finally, after hours of grueling battle, Clint brought the last of the robots down and they stood, panting and bleeding, in the street, eyeing up the carnage. The army rushed in, pushing the barricades back in and beginning the clean-up.

“Is that it?” Tony asked.

Clint shrugged. “Guess so.”

Steve wasn’t so convinced. After a short chopper ride, they met at the Triskelion for a debrief. “There were no other attacks at the same time?” Steve asked Nick for the third time. “You’re sure.”

“I’m sure, Captain. If it was a diversion, we don’t know what for. But as of now, we’re classifying this as an unknown attacker: resolved. You’re all dismissed. AA reports by the end of the day.”

Steve hit the lockers first, dumping his new equipment then changing into his street clothes and shoving his dirty uniform in his go bag. He was looking forward to getting the GPS information from the new tracker. SHIELD had said when they came in, it would be a few weeks before they emailed out the results, but after that, they'd get regular updates. Hopefully, it would help Steve do a better job planning missions like these in the future.

He shuffled up to his office and opened a new report. He was filling in the last section on the form when he heard a soft knock. He looked up and Tony was leaning against the doorframe, hands in his pockets, ever-present smirk on his face. “Need a ride, Cap?”

Steve considered it. If he said yes, he’d have to sit in the back of a limo with Tony Stark for half an hour. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Stark, he just didn’t get him. Stark was all flash and snark. He always looked like he was making fun of Steve, and Steve never got the joke. But, if he said no, he’d have to call a cab or take the subway - not so bad, but long. Normally, Steve didn’t mind, but this time it was late and he was sore. He just wanted to be home. He typed the last few words and hit send. “Sure. Thanks.”

Tony smiled like he’d known what Steve was going to say and beckoned with one hand, turning into the hallway. The made their way down to the front drive in silence. A limo was already waiting for Tony and he opened the back door and gestured Steve in imperiously.

“How’s your shoulder?” Tony asked once they were settled.

Steve rolled it out. It twinged. “Fine.”

“They moved unusually,” Tony mused, seemingly more to himself than to Steve.

“I hate ones like that,” Steve admitted. “I’ll spend the next hour trying to sleep and going over everything that went wrong instead.”

Tony grinned, shifting a little closer, he smelled like gin already and Steve hadn’t seen a drink in his hand all day. “Well, if you want to occupy your mind with something else for the next hour, I can help with that.” He winked.

Steve’s lip curled. He slouched back against the seat and crossed his arms. “No, thank you.” Everything with Stark was either sex or alcohol, neither of which Steve was interested in  - at least not with Tony.

He stayed in stony silence for the rest of the ride while Tony leaned against the opposite window, smiling infuriatingly to himself. When was he going to get the message that Steve wasn’t interested? Wasn’t like that?

When the car pulled to a halt outside of Steve’s building he shoved out the door as quickly as he could. He turned back to grab his go bag and Tony was leaning over, holding it up in one hand. “Have a good night, Steve.”

Steve snatched the bag, huffed out a, “Thank you for the ride,” and stalked away. He could swear he heard Tony sniggering to himself before the door to the limo closed.

The air was heavy and the sky was dark. It was going to rain. As soon as he stepped inside, Steve stripped out of his clothes and walked right into the shower. The hot water did a lot to soothe his tired muscles, but little to soothe his churning mind. Thoughts of the mission, of things they could all have done better, tangled up with thoughts of Tony’s proposition. It burned a little, that Tony wouldn’t stop flirting, when the truth was that Steve was lonely. He wouldn’t mind that kind of attention, but… from a woman - someone he liked. Not -

Tony was a shameless flirt, Steve didn't even know if he meant it. For all he knew, he’d say yes to going home with him and Tony would just laugh, tell everyone. Not that Steve would say yes. Ever.

He tossed and turned for hours, until finally, sometime before midnight, he slipped off to sleep.

**

Beep, beep, beep.

Steve rolled over with a tired groan and reached for his beeper. It took him a moment to blink his eyes open enough to read it. Code: 8890. Again. He huffed out a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. He lay in bed for a moment, trying to find the energy to stand. He’d been up too late last night.

Finally, knowing that the car would be here to pick him up soon, Steve padded across his apartment to the bathroom. He shut the door, looking behind it for the puddle of his dirty clothes from yesterday. He’d been too tired last night, but he should really put them in the hamper.

They weren’t there.

Huh. He must have been more out of it last night than he thought. He stuck his toothbrush in his mouth and wandered out to the living room where he’d left his go bag last night. But that wasn’t there either. He found it in the closet, its rightful place, but he could have sworn he’d left it on the floor when he walked in. Steve blinked blankly at it for a moment then pulled it out and put on his uniform without giving it another thought. It was too early to face the possibility that robots and Tony had mixed his mind up enough last night that his memory had been affected.

Go bag over his shoulder, he hustled out the door. He was surprised to see the sky clear of clouds and the ground dry. It had looked like it was ready to settle into an intense storm last night, but it must have blown by. The car was already waiting, and when he arrived at the Triskelion, so was his team.

Fury handed Steve the briefing packet and he frowned down at it. “The same robots?” he asked.

“Hmm? Yes, they’re robots, Cap. Heading for Manhattan.”

Tony chuckled behind him.

“What?” Steve looked around in confusion but Tony was looking at Fury.

“Do they have any weaknesses?” Clint asked.

“I asked that yesterday.” Steve looked around the room. Clint shot him a strange look.

“None that we know of. We haven't seen this kind of thing before,” Fury answered Clint, apparently ignoring Steve. “The military is trying to hold them off but they asked for Ultimates assistance.”

Steve blinked blankly at Fury for a moment. “I don’t get it.”

“What you need to get is your ass in gear.”

The team filed out of the office and Steve debated for a moment then went off after them. Tony and Thor disappeared immediately. Steve didn’t catch up with Jan and Clint until the armoury where they were doing their equipment checks.

“Don’t you think it’s weird that the same robots are attacking again?” he asked them.

Jan frowned at him. “What do you mean? Have we seen these guys before?”

He looked to Clint, but he was also tilting his head at Steve in blank curiosity. “Yesterday… we fought them in Manhattan yesterday.”

“Uh, no we didn’t, Cap. We didn’t have a mission yesterday.”

“Yes, we did.”

“No, we didn’t.” Jan held up her SHIELD phone. “I was super grateful we didn’t because I was out with friends late last night. Who wants to get called in on the weekend anyway?”

Weekend… Steve looked at the date on the screen of her phone. “That’s wrong, it’s Tuesday.”

Clint clapped Steve on the back. “It’s Monday, Cap. What were you up to last night?” He caught Jan’s eye and they both chuckled. Steve frowned and tugged his own phone out of his belt. Monday. Was yesterday a really realistic dream? What was happening?

The chopper was too loud to talk over, and Steve wasn’t sure what he’d say anyway. He remembered yesterday clearly, but either no one else did or they were all messing with him. It wasn’t something he’d put past his team, but why? It could put the mission in jeopardy. He shoved the pieces of equipment he still held in his hands into the pockets on his belt and settled in time for the chopper to swoop in for a landing.

He could put the mission in jeopardy if he let himself be distracted. So, he needed to take care of these robots and then figure out what was going on. Either the damage from yesterday had been cleaned up really quickly, or yesterday’s fight really had been a dream, because the street was clear, save for the oncoming robots, and all the windows they’d broken yesterday where whole again.

No matter what was going on here, Steve knew how to take the robots down. He commanded his team to form the same pattern they did last time, getting a little push back when he refused to explain, but ultimately moving everyone into formation more smoothly and efficiently than yesterday. It was another grueling battle, but they prevailed. Slamming their way through the ranks of robots until Steve looked around and realized they were all down.

He tried to bring up the repeating day again at debrief, but everyone talked over him, discussing the battle and whether it was a distraction or not. It was too similar, too confusing. Steve fell silent, staring around at his team. Had their memories been altered? He was the only one who remembered the day before. It wouldn’t be that hard to change all their phones to the wrong date, he supposed. So maybe someone was messing with them, confusing them, and somehow he’d been the only one unaffected.

When the conversation died down, Steve went back to his office and opened his AA form, but first he made a few calls and frowned when they all reported today to be Monday, including the Naval Observatory. So, if today really was Monday, the rest of the team’s memories about Sunday must be the problem. The fight must have been erased, so it could be repeated for some reason. Steve started filling in his report, including all the information he could about yesterday and memory alteration and his concerns for his team.

Steve wasn’t even halfway through his report when a soft knock startled him up.

“Need a ride, Cap?”

“Again?” Steve asked automatically, even though he knew Tony didn’t remember yesterday, and Tony’s smirk twisted into a frown.

“Sure.” He shrugged, his hands not leaving his pockets. He was wearing the same red shirt he’d worn yesterday. Steve could tell because one of the collar buttons had a loose thread and it had caught Steve’s eye yesterday too. It was another point towards memory alteration - why would he dream something like that?

Steve sighed and ran his hand over his face, trying to scrub the stress out of his eyes.

“You alright?” Tony asked.

“I’m having a weird day.” Steve shut his computer down without sending his report in and stood.

“That a yes?”

“Yeah.” Steve grabbed his bag and followed Tony out into the hall. Tony smiled like he’d known what Steve was going to say and beckoned with one hand, turning into the hallway. They made their way down to the front drive in silence again to find the waiting limo. Tony opened the back door and gestured Steve in the same way Steve remembered him doing the day before.

Steve realized after a moment that Tony was talking, but Steve hadn’t been listening. “Pardon?”

“How’s your ankle?” Tony asked.

Steve stared at him. “Better…” Yesterday, Tony had asked the same thing, but it was Steve’s shoulder that had been injured. He rolled his shoulder, but it was completely healed, as it would be with the serum. “Something funny is going on today,” Steve sighed, more to himself than to Tony.

But Tony smirked and leaned over. “Need something to take your mind off it, darling? I can offer a few options.” He winked.

Steve frowned and pushed away from him. “God, Tony, really? Can’t you let it go for one night?”

Tony leaned back, brow creased, the smirk wiped off his face for once. “Well, nevermind, then…” He turned to the window for a moment, then after a few breaths, shot a smirk back at Steve. “You’ve got my number if you change your mind.”

Steve grumbled and crossed his arms. They sat in uncomfortable silence on Steve’s part and knowable silence on Tony’s until they pulled up in front of Steve’s apartment building. He shoved out the door before the car had even come to a complete stop. He realized after half a step that he didn’t have his bag so he turned back to grab it, and Tony was leaning over with the strap of the bag over his hand. He smiled and Steve snatched the bag back.

“Have a good night, Steve.”

“Thanks,” Steve bit out. He marched back up to his apartment. The storm was back, squatting heavily over the street. Hopefully, it would finally break tonight. Steve took a turn around his apartment. It was hard to say if anything had changed - in the yesterday he remembered, he’d hardly spent any time here.

The laundry - that was weird. The robots. Clint and Jan might be playing him, but Thor wouldn’t play along and he didn’t have anything to say about the repeat. And then Tony… that conversation had been almost exactly the same.

Steve sat on his bed and rolled his ankle out; the twinge had already faded in the last half hour. He scratched his fingers through his hair and sighed. It was probably best just to go to sleep and forget about this.

Tomorrow was a new day.

**

Tomorrow was not a new day.

When Steve woke to his beeper going off, he shot out of bed and pulled out his phone. Monday. It wasn’t possible. He looked out the window - the same car waited at the curb, the sidewalk dry and the sky clear of the clouds that had been converging the night before. It didn’t make any sense.

Steve paced through his apartment. His uniform was back in the closet, his water glass was no longer in the sink. Everything was back to the way it was when he’d woken up two days ago.

Not everything though. Steve rolled his ankle then tugged up the hem of his pants. It was almost healed but there was still the faintest hint of a bruise there, just the palest yellowing of the skin. But it was proof. It wasn’t a dream, it wasn’t deja vu - he was repeating Monday over and over.

Steve made straight for Fury’s office and managed to sneak in before the rest of the team got there. “Nick, I have to talk to you.” He locked the door behind him.

“That’s ominous. I don’t like ominous before my second cup of coffee, Cap.”

“Something strange is happening to me.” Steve sat down in his chair, across from Fury’s desk, but Fury stayed standing, sipping at what Steve could only assume was his first cup of coffee. “I’m repeating Monday. Over and over.”

“Excuse me?” Nick’s coffee cup froze halfway to his mouth.

“I’m on my third Monday. No one else seems to remember, but I’m doing the same day over and over. I wake up and my beeper goes off and then these robots...” Steve trailed off at the look Nick was giving him.

“Are you okay?” He set his coffee mug down. “You know we have people in Medical who can help you, Cap. I know getting settled in this century must be hard but if you feel like your life is stagnant… just saying, you should talk to someone.”

“It’s not -” Steve sighed, gave up. It even sounded crazy to him, how would he convince Fury? “Fine. Make an appointment for Tuesday.” He laughed humourlessly, and Fury shot him an uncertain look, but a knock on the door interrupted them.

“Do we have a mission or what?” Clint’s voice came through the door.

Steve stood and unlocked it.

The rest of the day went on the same. The robots attacked, the Ultimates fought them off, and Steve went back to the Triskelion, sore and tired. He’d been so distracted by the repeating day that he’d nearly let a robot’s swinging fist catch him square in the gut. He didn’t type his report this time, sitting blankly in front of his computer instead.

It was always the same. The beeper, the car, Fury’s office, the robots, his office, Tony -

“Need a ride, Cap?”

“No.” Steve pushed to his feet and marched past Tony, down 17 flights of stairs, and out to the street. He walked home.

He was cold and tired by the time he got to his block, but the exercise had cleared his head somewhat. He stood by the door to his building and looked up. The sky was gathering with clouds that would never let loose their rain, not if he woke on Monday morning again tomorrow.

With a mug of tea in hand, he sat on a chair in his living room and tried to think things through logically. Something or someone must be doing this to him. So, there were two options: either he could find the person causing it and stop them, or there might be some trigger action that would stop the repeats from happening, some way to break the cycle.

Well, it seemed like he’d have an endless number of chances to figure things out. Steve pulled a pad of paper towards him and started writing out a list of things he’d noticed about the day. Even if it was gone come tomorrow morning, his perfect memory would store it in his head. He wrote down everything he could remember happening, from being woken by the Code 8890 to falling asleep in his own bed.

He decided that for tonight, he’d start with the simplest - stay up all night. If he stayed awake, maybe the day wouldn’t be able to start again. He set his wristwatch on the arm of the chair he sat in and took down a book to pass the time.

As the clock ticked closer and closer to midnight, Steve found it harder and harder to focus on the book. Even if Monday started again as soon as he inevitably did fall asleep - he could only stay up so long, after all - it would be nice to see Tuesday for a little while.

But, unfortunately, Tuesday never came.

The second hand ticked around at 11:59 and as the minute started to move to 12, Steve jerked awake in his bed to the sound of his beeper going off. Code 8890.

He sat there, breathing heavily, the ghost of his book still between his fingers for a moment, then scrubbed a hand over his face and pushed out of bed, determined. This was happening and he didn’t know why - but he had a plan now.

Over the next eight days, Steve worked his way through everything he could think of. Every night he wrote out his list, longer each time, and every morning he repeated it to himself in the shower. He gave up on refusing Tony’s ride but refused to talk to him instead, going over that day’s repeat of the battle in his head and trying to figure out what else he could try.

It became clear after the fifth battle that they were missing something. Tony’s comment about them moving oddly stuck in Steve’s head, because they did. There was something disturbingly graceful to the way they orbited around each other. But the weirdest thing was how varied the outcome of the battles could be. On the sixth day, Steve sent Clint to the south instead of the north and they’d only taken out two robots when the whole squad powered down. But on the next day, Steve tried the same thing, and this time they had to destroy all of them. It was strange enough that Steve couldn't stop thinking of it, but could come up with no logical explanation for that. Especially when the whole world was repeating. How could something like that change so much? It had to be the robots at the centre of all this. Steve would find out how.

Tony still tried to proposition Steve each night, but Steve became quite efficient at blowing him off, tossing out a curt “No,” before Tony had even finished asking. Tony always looked a little defeated, a little hurt even, but it wasn’t like he remembered, and it wasn’t like he should be expecting a yes anyway. Steve had no interest in whatever Tony was trying to get him to do. He didn’t even think about it.

But he couldn’t help thinking about it a little, really. Every day without fail, Tony tried to pick Steve up. Depending on the setup Steve gave him, the words themselves varied a little, from day to day, but no matter how hard the day’s battle had been or how angrily Steve scowled out the window, Tony always invited him home. And Steve couldn’t help but wonder - for what? It always sounded like a pickup line, like the ones Steve had heard men tossing out to ladies in the clubs Jan had dragged him to for dancing and music so loud it made his ears throb for hours after.

And that meant that Tony sought out men the same way he sought out women. Which was fine. Really. It was supposed to be fine now, anyway. That had been part of his 21st-century re-education. So he could accept that. But what made no sense was why Tony wanted him. He was the last person who’d say yes to such a proposal, and, besides there was no - nothing - there was no reason for Tony to want him like that. It wasn’t like they got along that well.

That night Steve looked at himself in the mirror as he stripped down to change into his pajamas. The serum had done a good job, he supposed. If one were the sort of man who was attracted to men, maybe his Captain America body was what they would want. He wouldn’t know. But women were always flirting with him, so surely men would look for the same things. But Tony actually knew him. It wasn’t like some random over-extroverted woman at a cafe. Tony knew him. He really had no reason to like Steve like that. He was a hedonist - it was surely just physical.

The thought of physicality inevitably awakened Steve’s body, and he frowned at himself in the glass and pulled his pajamas on. It had been days since he’d taken care of that need, too focused on solving the repeating issue to deal with it. But now, for some reason, it became pressing, urgent, the only thing he could think of.

He slid into bed and glanced at the clock - he still had an hour until midnight. If he stayed up until the day repeated, he usually woke exhausted, so he did his best to get at least an hour or two of sleep. This time, however, he thought it was worth wasting a little time. He slithered low under the covers then slipped his hand between his legs, letting out a sigh when his fingers wrapped around his rapidly hardening cock.

He stroked himself quickly, forcing his mind to stay blank, nothing but the physical sensation to get him off. It had been so long that it didn’t take much before he was grunting and coming into a kleenex he’d grabbed from the bedside table. He tossed it in the trash can and stared up at the ceiling. It struck him, like an arrow to his chest, that the worst part of this looping day, was how terribly lonely it was.

Chapter Text

Over the next several repeats, Steve tried increasingly bizarre things to disrupt whatever was looping him through endless Mondays. He tried not going in to SHIELD, which left the rest of the team to deal with the rampaging robots. The outcome was not one he cared to repeat. He tried rolling over and going back to sleep when the beeper went off, which only had him waking up again at the beginning of yet another day. In fact, if he fell asleep at all during the day, it would take him right to the next morning.

There were other things that would have him waking up sharply to the beeping again. After four days of staying up far too late going over his lists, Steve went into battle sloppy and exhausted. One of them caught him on a backswing and slammed him into the side of a building, its unforgiving grip crushing him into the bricks. He could feel bones breaking, as the breath was pushed out of his lungs. For a moment, he was sure that this at least would end the looping, and he was grateful for it.

But as soon as unconsciousness claimed him, he jolted awake to the code 8890 ringing in his ear. Everything hurt, but his bones had reknit, and he had his breath back. He had rolled over and gone back to sleep three more times before he was ready to face another morning.

It became harder and harder to deal with it alone. He tried telling Jan and Clint but they clearly didn’t believe him. Thor spouted nonsense about time being an illusion we needn’t prescribe to, and no matter how he presented it to Nick, he was invited to visit the team therapist. It was exhausting and painful, and he drifted further and further away from his teammates as the looping day isolated him more and more.

“Need a ride, Cap?”

The only person he hadn’t told was Tony. Of all their mocking, his would be the teasing Steve was sure he could handle the least. And Steve would remember it, even if they didn’t; it would eat at him, surely.

Which was why he was stunned when instead of saying, “Sure,” and then brushing him off the rest of the night, the words, “Help me,” tumbled out of Steve’s mouth. He groaned in embarrassment and pressed his face into his hands, but the shuffle of clothing let him know that Tony had moved to his side. A soft hand landed on his shoulder.

“What’s wrong?”

Steve swallowed the lump in his throat. Maybe he had to tell Tony, maybe Tony was the key to this after all. He’d tried everything else. Everyone else. Maybe it was Tony.

“This is going to sound crazy.”

Tony chuckled. “I’ll bet I’ve heard crazier.”

“Maybe not.”

“Try me.”

“Something’s happening to me.” Steve sat up in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. They weren’t armour enough, though, and he had the urge to pull the shield into his lap as if it could protect him from the pain of being disbelieved again. “I’m - I’m repeating the same day over and over. Every morning I wake up and it’s Monday. We go through the same things - the robots, the reports, you offer me a ride home - and then I fall asleep, only to wake up and do it again.”

Tony opened his mouth, but Steve cut him off. “And before you say it, I’m not crazy. I have proof. Injuries I sustained are still there the next time around. Everything else resets, but I stay the same.”

Tony frowned at him in silence for a moment. “Everything resets?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm. What about things like… your hunger, or the weather, or - uh - what’s on TV?”

Steve gave it some thought. “I never thought about hunger, but if I’m in pain when I go to sleep, I can still feel it when I wake up. I imagine it’s the same with hunger. The other two always reset. It’s going to look like rain tonight, but the day resets before it comes. I haven’t watched much TV, but it’s always the same.”

Tony pulled a chair out of the corner of the office and turned it around to drape over it backwards, a few feet away from Steve. “How many times has it happened?”

“Fourteen.”

“Jesus. You must be exhausted.”

Steve opened his mouth to agree then snapped it shut again. Tony actually seemed to believe him? Just like that? “You believe me?” he said, and it came out as more of a breathless whisper than he intended.

“Why would you lie about that?”

“I just - I’ve tried telling other people, but they never believe me. I was starting to think I was going crazy after all.” Steve laughed humourlessly, and Tony made a little, aborted movement towards him.

“You’re the last person I’d expect to make up a story like that. It’s possible, I’d say…” Tony stared blankly at the far wall and Steve could practically see the science whirring through his head. “Complicated… but possible. I’d have to go to my lab and work through it. But yeah, off the top of my head, I can think of three or four ways you could accomplish that. Most would involve a kind of stasis for the person in question. So it really would be all happening in your head. Sort of like an endless dream that keeps repeating itself. But the hunger thing is interesting…”

“Do you think you can help me?”

“I can sure try. Come to my lab?” Steve glanced at his watch, it was almost nine already. He frowned. “We only have three hours.”

“Until?”

“Until the day resets. And then you won’t remember.”

“Huh. That’s kind of blowing my mind, darling, but I can’t say I’m not intrigued. What if I make notes and give them to you?”

“Nope. my clothes and all that stuff resets. It’s only my body itself that seems to stay continuous.”

“Well, if we’ve only got three hours, we’d better get to it.” Tony led the way down to his on-site lab, and Steve followed him, thrilling a little. Even if Tony wasn’t able to solve it, there were two things that set his stomach churning with excitement: this was something different which he was in sore need of and Tony believed him. That alone would be enough to get him through fourteen more days. The knowledge that if he told him, Tony would believe him.

Tony started with a bunch of tests. He hauled out some equipment and hemmed and hawed over the results, frowning occasionally at his computer screens. After over two hours of testing, Tony threw his hands in the hair and tossed his pencil aside. “Nothing seems to have been done to you. There’s no nanites, no alteration of your DNA. Brainwave patterns are normal so this isn’t a dream… unless the dream protects itself by affecting what I can see. Because in that case, I’m just a projection of your subconscious. Whoa. Weird.”

“Yes, that’s what’s weird here,” Steve deadpanned.

“Fair.” Tony conceded with a hand wave. “The only thing I can think is that something is exerting some sort of force over you. Some device or implant or something is doing this externally. But… it could be anything, really. No one has shot any little computer chips under your skin lately, have they?”

“Not that I know of,” Steve said wryly.

“Too bad. That would be nice and simple. Well, I don’t have an MRI machine here to check for stuff like that. We could go to the hospital.”

“No time.”

Tony looked at Steve kind of desperately. “So, at midnight… you’re going to wake up back in bed and I’ll forget all of this?”

“Yeah… I don’t even think it’s forgetting. I think you honestly go back. No one is ever injured or even sore from the battle, so I feel like the day really does start all over. For everyone but me.”

“I’m sorry.” And Steve believed that he really was. He wasn't sure what to make of that.

“Thank you. I -”

Beep, beep, beep.

Steve gasped out the rest of a sentence he’d been halfway through as he jolted awake. Goddammit. They’d missed the clock hitting midnight.

Steve turned off his beeper and sat there for a moment, staring blankly at nothing and thinking through how the day had gone. Tony had been so understanding, had tried to help so honestly. Steve was still reeling from it a little bit. He’d discounted him as a cocky, insincere, man-whoring lush, but now he felt a little bad for thinking that. Out of everyone, even the people Steve considered friends, only Tony had believed him. And maybe that meant that Tony really was the key to all this, or maybe it meant that Steve’s friends weren’t as close as he’d thought, or maybe it just meant that Tony had a much kinder heart than Steve had ever given him.

The day carried on as Steve was used to now. When Tony came and offered him a ride, Steve almost explained again, almost went through all of it once more, just to see the soft acceptance in Tony’s eyes and to get even two hours where someone understood, where he wasn’t alone in it. But then it would hurt all the more when Tony didn’t remember the next day, and it wasn’t like they’d made any progress. They’d ruled some things out, Steve supposed, but they hadn’t really made any discoveries. No, he had to keep pushing through his list, look for who or what might be causing it. And his conversation with Tony had added at least ten more possibilities to his list, so there really was some progress, no matter how small.

He’d give it a few days, then he’d try telling Tony again.

**

But the next few days were even worse than the ones before, and Steve found it harder and harder to go through telling it all over again. He was just so tired, and the prospect of having that lengthy conversation wore him out before he even opened his mouth. He was run down and grumpy and had taken a hard hit to the side today - not even the hardest hit of any of his teammates, but it still ached. The robots were still proving frustratingly random. Sometimes they’d go down easily, sometimes it was the hardest fight of Steve’s life.

“Today could have gone better,” Steve grumbled to himself. He watched the city rush past the limo window.

Tony grinned and shifted closer. “Well, if you want to occupy your mind with something else for the next hour, I can help with that.” He winked.

Steve sighed, staring blankly at Tony. He’d heard the line, or one like it, what felt like a thousand times now. He was tired; he was utterly sick of this. He wanted the Tony from the other night back, but he couldn’t summon the words that would get them there. It was all too much - he couldn’t do it anymore. Tony’s words were the last tiny straw placed on the camel’s back. He broke.

“Fine.”

Tony couldn’t control his expression of shock for a moment, before he schooled it back into something cockier. “Really?” he drawled.

“Yeah.” Steve shrugged. He’d tried everything else. Maybe saying yes to Tony was the key. “Whatever.”

“Your enthusiasm is infectious, darling.” Tony leaned up to give the driver new directions then settled again, closer to Steve. He still smelled like gin, but also something slightly spicy - sandalwood. Steve tilted his chin and inhaled the scent deeper. It was nice. His stomach rolled.

“Having a change of heart, Stark?” he shot back, covering his nerves.

Tony chuckled and turned back to the window, not favouring Steve with a response. When they pulled up outside Tony’s ridiculous house, he grabbed Steve’s bag and ushered him inside. He dropped the go bag by the door and led Steve up the stairs and towards his bedroom. Steve stalled out in the doorway. Tony didn’t expect them to just - did he? Steve had agreed to come over, nothing more.

“Drink?” Tony was standing by a long bartop along one wall, and Steve allowed himself to really take the room in. It was massive and richly furnished, with a sitting area, a bar, and an entire wall of glass. The bed wasn’t even in this room, Steve could see it through a cracked door in the far wall, but by going upstairs, he’d assumed.

Steve took a proffered chair and the drink, even though it would have no effect on him. He knew he should tell Tony again - they had a few hours, they might be able to get somewhere - but he’d have that same chance tomorrow so tonight, tonight he just wanted to relax. He needed some human contact that wasn’t an exact repeat of the day before, something new.

Besides, he still didn’t know what would break this spell - hold - curse, whatever it was. Maybe if Tony was the key somehow, after all, doing this, spending time with him like Tony wanted him to, could break it. It’d be worth it, if it did.

Tony walked over to sprawl on the long chaise, his shirt riding up a bit where he’d pulled it free of his waistband, revealing a stripe of bare skin. Steve snapped his eyes away, flushing. Of course Tony caught him, though. “See something you like?” he drawled.

Steve’s first instinct was to snap out a no, but that would hurt Tony’s feelings as well as making this evening very awkward if he didn’t leave immediately. And also, after last night, he wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t true. He wasn’t interested in Tony. Not the way Tony was apparently interested in him. Steve wasn’t like that. But maybe he did like Tony, even if it was only a little bit. At the very least, he was grateful for him, for his understanding. He tried not to look at the bare skin Tony clearly had no qualms about flaunting.

Tony was talking again, but Steve was struggling to listen, the words floating into his brain but drifting out again. His eyes kept shifting back over to Tony’s sprawled form. He was so… blatant. Steve suppressed a shiver. It wasn’t how men were supposed to act, but Tony never seemed embarrassed, and Steve found it hard to be embarrassed for him since he was so unbothered. He was embarrassed for himself, though.

This was crazy. What was he doing here?

Steve stood abruptly and muttered out some apology as he dashed for the door and freedom. But Tony caught his arm before he crossed the rug, moving faster than Steve knew he could. Maybe he’d been expecting Steve to bolt.

“What’s wrong?” Tony murmured, low and soft.

“I shouldn’t be here,” Steve managed. “I - I should go.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being here.”

Steve turned slowly, breathing even slower, until he faced Tony. “Sorry - I don’t - it’s not that I -” His eyes fell to the carpet.

“Steve, relax. I’m not going to pounce on you. We can just have a drink.”

But Steve’s mind had caught on pounce and couldn’t seem to let the idea go. What would it look like if Tony did pounce? “What if -?” he cut himself off. What was he doing?

Tony eyed him for a moment. “Unless… that’s what you want?”

Steve tried to protest, tried to say anything, but Tony’s hand was warm and firm where it still gripped his arm. And it had been so long since Steve had been touched by anyone. This was not the right way to go about it - he should say goodnight, and maybe see if Jan would come home with him on the next repeat. He didn’t want to see her, but it hardly mattered since she’d forget it the next day. He felt bad, even as he thought it. He didn’t want Jan. He didn’t know what he wanted.

“I don’t know,” he said, too honestly, too weak, and Tony tugged him in for a hug.

He tensed at first, not expecting it, but Tony’s arms snaked around his back and held him in a surprisingly tight grip. Steve let out a breath and sunk into the steady heat of Tony’s body. He didn’t hug back, but he curved into Tony’s body and let himself be held. It felt so good to be supported by someone else. Once again, Tony was the only one there for him in this. And this time, he didn’t even know what Steve was going through. He was just… there.

Tony held him for a long time, and when he pulled back, his lips brushed against Steve’s cheek, stealing his breath for a moment. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t what Steve was here for.

Was it?

“Can I do something for you, darling? I want to make you feel good. I want this to go to away.” He lifted a finger and stroked it over the crease in Steve’s brow. Steve’s breath shuddered out of his chest. He didn’t care anymore, as long as Tony didn’t stop touching him.

“Yes. Please.”

“What do you want?” Tony asked, and Steve seized up, unable to answer the question. Because the thing his body seemed to be yearning for right now was not something he should want, not something he would want if his resolve weren’t so weakened by this endless Monday. “Shh, it’s okay.” Tony stroked his hand down to cup Steve’s cheek instead. “I’ve got you.”

Tony lead Steve back over to the chair he’d been sitting in before and sat him down. He was relieved that Tony hadn’t tried to take him into the bedroom; he wasn’t sure his feet would cross the threshold even if he asked.

But then Tony knelt between Steve’s knees, and he could think of nothing else. A hand landed on each of his knees, and Tony met his eyes. “Is this okay?”

Steve swallowed, nodded.

“Can I touch you?”

“I guess,” he stuttered out, flinching away from Tony’s touch even as he gave permission for it.

“It’s okay if it’s too much, darling. Just tell me if you want me to stop or slow down.”

“I don’t know. I just - I need, Tony. I need something. Please.” Begging had never fallen from his lips so easily before. But then Tony’s hands slid up the inside of his thighs and it was all he seemed able to do. “Please - shit - please.”

“Shh. You’re okay.” Tony flicked Steve’s button open easily and rolled his zipper down, his knuckles brushing Steve’s needy erection through his pants, making him jerk into the touch. Tony wasted no time wriggling Steve’s pants down far enough to pull his cock free.

Steve had been touched like this before but never with a man between his legs, and never so… shamelessly. Tony looked at him like he was something incredible, something he wanted. He made it feel like this was a favour for him and not one for Steve. So Steve took that and ran with it. Tony wanted this. And he was grateful for Tony, so he could do this. He shut his brain off and relaxed into the chair, focusing on nothing but the soft heat of Tony’s palm and the sure grip of his fingers.

He kept his hands clamped tightly around the arms of the chair, afraid of what he might do with them if he let them wander. Tony stroked his closed fist around Steve’s cock once, then again, tighter, and Steve bit back a groan, eyes falling shut. It felt so good, so much better than when he was alone.

Then something soft and wet flicked against the head of his cock, and Steve startled up, eyes snapping down to Tony. He was leaning forward, one eyebrow cocked in challenge, his lips just barely brushing the head of Steve’s cock. And - god - he needed so badly. Steve reached out and furrowed his fingers through Tony’s hair, tugging him forward. Tony grinned, like a cat with a canary, and dove in, sucking Steve almost to the base in one hot, wet slide.

“Holy shit,” Steve bit out, bringing his hand back to the arm of the chair so he wouldn’t crush Tony’s head. Tony eased off torturously slowly then bent down again, his hand coming up to grip the last inch he couldn’t fit down his throat. “Oh god, that feels good.” Steve couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out. But that seemed to spur Tony on. He moved faster now, his tongue gliding up the underside of Steve’s cock, then pressing against the most sensitive spot behind the head, then sliding down again with his lips. The heat and slick of him was so overwhelming that Steve found himself getting close too quickly. It’d been so long since he’d had this and he didn’t want to give it up yet, didn’t want to be alone again.

His hand jerked to Tony’s hair again, and Tony moaned, making Steve’s fingers twitch. He was so sensual in a way that Steve wasn’t sure he could even understand, reach. It wasn’t something he had in himself. But Tony continued to suck him down wantonly, making it clear with every slide that he was enjoying it nearly as much as Steve was.

He moaned again, and the shockwave rattled through Steve’s body, making him realize a moment too late that he was about to come. He tugged at Tony’s hair, gasping out some wordless warning, but Tony sucked him deeper, moving until the first wave of orgasm washed over Steve, and he gripped Tony’s head and begged him silently not to move while he spilled into the back of his throat.

Tony slid off as soon as Steve released him, sucking as he moved so not a drop spilled onto his lavish carpet or Steve’s pants. He grinned up at Steve and licked his lips. Steve’s heart pounded into overdrive. He was dizzy and dopey, somehow ready for sleep, even though it wasn’t that late. He gaped at Tony, unable to speak, or think, or do anything but buzz in the deep satisfying peace that came after a life-shattering orgasm.

Tony reached out and took him by the hands, pulling him to his feet. “Will you stay here tonight? It’s okay if you don’t want to, but I’d like to talk tomorrow. And make you breakfast.” Tony winked, and Steve felt a hot flush creep up his chest.

“I - okay.” Steve frankly, would have agreed to anything at this point, and he really, really, didn’t want to call a cab to take him all the way home, when in three hours he’d teleport there anyway. He wasn’t worried about what Tony wanted to talk about or what he meant by “breakfast” since Steve wouldn’t be here to face them, and Tony wouldn’t remember he’d wanted it. None of this was real.

“Okay.” Tony wound their fingers together, then tugged Steve off towards the cracked door. Tony’s actual bedroom was small and simple compared to his sitting room, though the bed itself was still huge. Tony grabbed the hem of Steve’s shirt. “Is this alright?”

Steve merely raised his arms in reply. Tony tugged his shirt off, then pushed his pants the rest of the way off his hips until they pooled on the floor. He left Steve’s boxers on, tugging them back into place while Steve blinked stupidly at him.

Tony shed his own clothes quickly and perfunctorily, not making a show of it, but not hiding himself either. Steve’s eyes followed the curve of his back as his skin was revealed. He knew Tony wouldn’t mind if he reached out and touched, but his hand didn’t move.

Tony urged Steve into bed, disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, then came back smelling like toothpaste. He climbed on to the other side of the bed and shifted solidly into Steve’s space. “Is this okay?”

“I guess so.” Steve’s brain was starting to come back online, and with it, anxiety reared its ugly head. But then the light flicked out, and Tony was pressing against him in a long, hot line from shoulder to toe.

And Steve’s hands moved. In the dark, his hands skated over Tony’s skin, testing, exploring. Tony sprawled out over his chest and hummed happily as Steve touched him everywhere he could reach. When Steve's fingers brushed the bulge in Tony’s boxers, his hips jerked forward, and he shifted to give Steve better access. It was easy to slip his hand into Tony’s underwear and take him in hand, as easy as when he touched himself at night. He couldn’t see Tony’s piercing, blue eyes, couldn’t think. He drifted into a weird disconnected headspace where nothing was real because he was going to wake and be the only one who remembered anyway. It might as well be a dream. And you couldn’t be held accountable for your dreams.

Tony rocked into his hold, one hand pressed flat against Steve’s chest. He huffed warm, wet breath onto Steve’s shoulder and muttered out wordless praise and pleasure. Steve didn’t know if it took minutes or hours, but when Tony stilled and shuddered and spilled hot liquid over his fist, a jolt of electric pleasure shot south and filled his own cock again. He ignored it, breathing down with Tony, and his erection eventually faded as they lay still together.

Tony reached over him to grab a tissue which he used to clean both of their hands, then he settled back down against Steve’s side, one hand resting on Steve’s stomach, its searing heat burning his handprint into Steve’s skin.

“Remind me to call Nick tomorrow,” Tony mumbled.

“Hmm?” Steve couldn’t make his mouth form words.

“I want a shot at those robots before the SHIELD drones tear them apart and ruin all the pretty data.” Steve huffed affirmatively. “They move oddly.”

“You said that before,” he slurred.

“I think maybe -” Tony yawned. “- hivemind. Or something. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

“Okay.” And then because it hardly mattered anymore, “Thank you.”

“Anytime, darling.” Tony breathed, and then he was out.

Fresh anxiety rolled through Steve in waves, but it wasn’t enough to counteract the pull of sleep and despite his fight against it, he drifted off on Tony’s 1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets.

When the beeper pulled him out of sleep, Steve flicked his eyes open and stared up at his own ceiling. It was stupid, really, that any part of him had thought that Tony might be the key, that sleeping with Tony might break this endless cycle. Stupid. He sat up sharply and shoved everything off his bedside table, silencing the beeper and smashing his lamp at the same time. He left the pile of debris where it was; who cared? It would be back again tomorrow.

How could he do this? Tony wouldn’t remember, sure, but now Steve had a flawless memory of Tony between his knees, one hand sprawled on his thigh, the other wrapped around the base of his dick, obscene noises spilling out as he sucked Steve dry. Even thinking about it had Steve’s body waking up again, and he fled to the bathroom and into an ice cold shower.  

He wasn’t like that. He didn’t want this, didn’t want Tony. He was a poor replacement for what Steve did want - companionship, marriage, a wife, a family . It had happened, of course, in the army. He knew men sought refuge in each other when they were far away from their women, but Steve never had. Gail was waiting for him and he hadn’t - he didn’t -

He let out a strangled noise and slammed his fist into the shower tile, cracking it. Why would everything erase, everything reset, except the memories that were etched into his mind and on his body?

**

Steve did everything he could to put Tony out of his mind and focus on solving the repeating. He started leaving SHIELD before Tony came to his office to offer him a ride, walking home, or taking a cab or the subway. He started getting good at Monday, there was no other way to say it.

The first breakthrough was when, in Fury’s office, he was struck with a memory, and he blurted out, “Hivemind,” in the middle of the meeting. Tony had said it about the robots. Steve didn’t know what it meant, but maybe it could help them win.

He’d received nothing but blank stares during the meeting, but after, Tony had appeared in his office earlier than usual. “Why’d you say hivemind?” he asked, instead of offering Steve a ride. And Steve thrilled at the way that Tony could somehow manage to be the most different thing about his day.

“You said it to me.”

“When?”

Steve ran his tongue over the edge of his lip. He carefully didn’t think of that day. Tony must have noticed his hesitation because his eyebrow shot up, and he crossed the room to settle in the same chair he’d sat in when Steve first told him. And that gave Steve the confidence to tell him again because they didn’t have to talk about the other stuff, but Tony always believed him.

He gave him the quick and dirty explanation. “And you’re the only person who ever believes me. Anyway, once you said that the robots moved oddly, like a hivemind. I didn’t have a chance to ask you what you meant, but maybe you could explain it to me now.”

Tony nodded. He didn’t speak for a moment. “There are three hundred questions I want to ask, but it seems I’m going to forget the answers anyway, right?”

Steve nodded.

“Okay, so I’d better tell you everything I can think of.” Tony folded his arms and settled into his chair. “I think the robots are connected and there are two different ways that could work. Either they’re all equally connected and making decisions as a team, or one of the robots is in charge, issuing orders to the group which they seamlessly obey. They’re so fluid and responsive in the way they move… it makes sense.”

“So if it’s the second, bringing down the lead robot would stop the others?”

“Potentially.”

“That actually makes sense. A few times, the last one or two would just give up, it seemed. We were so relieved to have the battle over, I didn’t catch the consistency of it. So I should identify the lead robot and go from there?”

“You’re really going to wake up tomorrow and have it be this morning again?” Tony asked.

Steve met his eye. “Yes.”

“You okay?”

“Not really, but I don’t have a choice.” Steve ran his hand through his hair, scratching at his scalp, then pinched the sore muscle in the back of his neck. “I’ll figure it out.”

“You don’t have to figure it out alone.”

Steve sighed. If only that were true. “You help. On the days that I tell you, you help.”

“Good. Need a ride home?”

Steve opened his mouth to say no. He hadn’t had a ride from Tony in weeks, and it had become his new normal to sneak away before he saw him at all. Now that he was here in front of him, though, it was hard to force the word out. He suffered a sharp flashback to Tony on his knees, mouth open, and he swallowed hard and pushed it away. He could ignore it. And really, they should talk more. It seemed every time they did, Steve learned something new. “Sure,” he said, before he could talk himself out of it again.

He sat in the back of Tony’s familiar car, with Tony’s familiar scent beside him, the familiar heated weight of Tony’s too-close shoulder against his. Bizarrely, he had missed this. It was the only part of his ever-repeating day that he felt like he had some modicum of control over. Everything else seemed to happen no matter what, but Tony - Tony was always different. Tony, he could avoid, or spill his story to, or snap at, or go home with…

“Want some company tonight, Cap?” And maybe it was the way Tony phrased it, the way Steve could easily take it as an offer of comfort and not a proposition, that had Steve nodding. “Come over?”

“Yeah…”

Chapter Text

Steve followed Tony up to his lavish rooms and wandered over to peer out the window instead of sitting down. Tony appeared at his shoulder with a drink, and Steve downed it in one gulp, even though it would have no effect. He turned to face Tony who was standing far too close and smiling languidly at Steve.

Steve leaned over and kissed him. It was short, almost sharp, more of a targeted strike than a seduction, but Tony smiled when he pulled away. “What was that for?” he asked softly.

And Steve couldn’t answer that, so he said, “We’ve done this before,” instead.

Tony’s eyebrow cocked and his hand landed lightly on Steve’s arm. “Have we, now?”

It hit Steve that, no, they actually hadn’t. Tony had never kissed him. But Tony didn’t know that. “Yes. Once.” Tension rippled through Steve’s body and his stomach rolled again. Was he propositioning Tony? It didn’t make sense, but they stood there, pressed close together and Steve couldn’t pull away, some magnetic force holding him there. He tried to kiss Tony again, but Tony’s hand caught his jaw, halting him.

“Shh,” Tony whispered, then he stroked his thumb over Steve’s lips until he let out a shaky breath. Once he was breathing again, Tony leaned in and pressed a kiss to Steve’s mouth, soft, gentle, easy - all the things Steve couldn’t seem to manage. Tony guided Steve’s head to the side, using the hand that still cupped his jaw, and Steve let himself be manhandled, trying to match Tony’s easy pace even as his heart pounded in his chest.

This didn’t mean anything. It only meant something if it did, which it didn’t because Steve wasn’t gay, he wasn’t, and Tony wasn’t even - he wasn’t even like a normal man, all of whom Steve had no problem resisting every day. Because Tony pressed, and Tony pushed his buttons, and Tony’s other hand was slipping up under the hem of Steve’s t-shirt, and the kiss was shifting into something that shot an electric shock straight to Steve’s groin. Why couldn’t he just stay away?

Steve broke the kiss and staggered backwards three steps, ripping out of Tony’s hold and sitting down on the arm of the chair too hard. Tony made a startled noise and tumbled after him then stopped. Steve tipped his face into his hands, but he could see Tony’s fingers reach out towards him then snap back.

“Steve, are you okay? I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Steve mumbled into his palms. As much as he wanted to blame Tony for this, turn on him, lash out, because how dare he torment Steve like this, flaunting his sexuality and his wild lifestyle and his desire for Steve. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t. He was the broken one. “My fault. I should go.” But he couldn’t find the strength to stand.

Tony’s hand did reach out then, landing softly on the back of Steve’s head. Steve sat there for a long time, breathing deeply through what he now realized was intense anxiety, then he finally tipped his chin up to meet Tony’s eyes, his hands shaking where they were clasped in his lap. “You okay, sweetheart?” Tony asked softly.

“I’m so tired,” Steve admitted. “I’ve been doing this goddamn day for so long, and I just don’t have the strength to fight anymore. I’m sorry.”

“Fight what?”

“This. You. You always - you always ask me up. And I’m supposed to say no, but one time - one time, I didn’t. And now I’m here again. And I shouldn’t be…”

Tony’s hand started petting through his hair and the back of Steve’s eyes stung. It was almost scary, how viscerally he reacted to the comforting touch. “Why shouldn’t you be? Because I’ll forget? I don’t mind. I mean, I’ve always been a ‘live in the moment kind of guy anyway.’” He smiled softly.

“No… because…  because I don’t. I’m not.”

“Steve, darling, has anyone ever told you that it’s okay if you’re attracted to men?”

Steve spluttered for a moment. “I - I know it’s okay now, I don’t - I don’t have a problem if people want to -”

“No.” Tony’s voice was firm now. “It was always okay, the world just didn't know it yet. And it’s not just okay for everyone else. It’s okay for you.” Tony's hand travelled around to cup Steve’s cheek again. “We are definitely not going to do anything you don’t want to do, but if you do want to, and you're trying to stop yourself from wanting to, you don’t have to. You can let go.”

Steve hung there, frozen, trying to make Tony’s words make sense, but it was all a jumble of guilt and confusion and loss and exhaustion in his head. Then Tony leaned in close, until their foreheads almost touched and whispered, “What do you want, Steve?”

And Steve broke. He tipped his chin up and caught Tony in a kiss again. All higher brain function was abandoned; he might as well forget come morning too, for all he cared about what happened tonight. His hands itched to touch Tony, so he let them. His tongue yearned to dart out and taste, so he let it.

He pushed Tony towards the bedroom, remembering the way Tony had stripped off his clothes last time and wanting to see that again. Tony didn’t disappoint. He started working his way down his buttons without breaking the kiss, and Steve grabbed the back of his head with both hands to prevent him from moving away. But when Tony’s clothes were off, Steve stepped back with a sharp intake of breath and let his eyes rake down Tony’s naked body, summoning some of the shameless appreciation that he always saw light up Tony’s eyes when he looked at him.

Tony was beautiful, there was no way around it. Lean cords of muscle wrapped around his lithe frame, a dusting of dark hair drawing an enticing line from his chest to his groin. And Steve couldn’t kid himself; Tony’s body was undeniably male. He couldn’t pretend, the way he could have with a mouth around him, an indistinct body tucked between his knees, that he was here with someone else, someone he was supposed to want. It hadn’t even occurred to him then that he could imagine it was someone else. He wanted this, as twisted and wrong as it was.

Tony glowed under Steve’s heated gaze, one hand falling to his hip, the other brushing back through his hair as he preened. “Like what you see?” Tony asked, and Steve swallowed hard and growled out, “Yes,” driving Tony back towards the bed.

Tony laughed gleefully and fell on his back, letting Steve crawl up over him, drawing a line of kisses up his chest, dipping his tongue into the grooves of his abs and nipping whenever the panic welled up again, and he had to let the excess energy out somehow. Tony breathed and gasped and sighed through Steve’s ministrations, his hands exploring what they could reach but not pushing. The control that gave him bolstered Steve’s confidence - that was what he needed, control over something for one damn night - and he dipped lower to press his face into the crease of Tony’s hip.

Tony smelled musty with an overtone of that sweet spice he always smelled of, and Steve could feel the heat of his hard cock near his cheek. He could turn, he could taste… Tony murmured, “Steve, you feel so good,” and that gave Steve the strength to run his tongue up the length of Tony’s cock. When he lapped over the head there was a burst of bitter saltiness, and Steve thrilled when he realized that Tony was leaking for him.

Part of him wanted to know what it felt like to take Tony in his mouth, the way Tony had done for him the other day, but his curiosity didn’t overcome his apprehension, and he found himself looking back up at Tony uncertainly when he ran out of places to kiss and lick.

Tony tugged him up until Steve covered him, propped up on his elbows but skin to skin everywhere else. He rolled his hips cleverly, creating delicious friction between them, and Steve groaned.

“What do you want to do, darling?”

“I - I don’t know,” Steve admitted. He just wanted to feel good, to make Tony feel good. To grab this 38th repeat of this horrible Monday and make it a little bit better.

“You said we did this once before?”

“Yeah.”

“What did we do that time?”

“You - uh - with your mouth.” Steve knew he was blushing, and he hated it. “And then later, I used my hand.”

“Mmm, lovely,” Tony murmured, and Steve felt slightly less stupid about the way he’d said it. “Do you want to do that again?”

“I - sure? I don’t know what -” He had some idea of what men did together, but he’d never thought about it in the context of himself. His early introductions to the idea hadn’t exactly been positive or polite, and now, in the future, it mostly came down to the dirty innuendos Tony threw out and the jokes Jan would make at his expense, laughing when he didn’t get it.  

Tony pushed at him gently until he rolled over and Tony shifted on top, straddling his hips. He pressed a kiss to the jut of Steve’s collarbone, then licked his way up behind his ear. “I could blow you again.” He nipped at Steve’s earlobe. “I could use my hand, both of us together. I could ride you.” Steve’s hand clenched on Tony’s hips, and Tony chuckled, not unkindly. “You like the sound of that?”

“I - I guess?”

“Okay.” Tony rolled his hips again, and Steve’s cock rubbed against Tony’s in an electric slide. Tony leaned over and rummaged around in a drawer until he came back with a small clear bottle. Steve had learned about that; lubricant in this century was pretty incredible. Tony poured some of the silky liquid on his fingers, and Steve watched as Tony reached behind him, his hand disappearing between his legs. “You tell me to stop if I do anything you don’t like.”

Steve stared at him wide-eyed, and Tony smiled back. He grabbed Steve’s hand with his free one and guided it to where their erections were pressed together. “Like this.” He wrapped Steve’s fingers around both of them and stroked up. The combined pressure of his own hand and Tony’s cock, hot and heavy against his, was overwhelming. Steve sucked in a gasping breath and stroked again, his eyes falling shut. He forced himself not to ramp up the pace too much, but his instincts screamed at him to thrust up against Tony, into his own hold, anything to find more friction.

After a few minutes, Tony pushed his hand away and shuffled up. He settled a hand on Steve’s stomach. “You okay?”

“Yes,” And Steve was surprised to find it wasn’t as much of a lie as he expected. There was still a huge part of him that was very not okay, but it was lying dormant, and the rest of him was vibrating with how very beyond okay it was. “Don’t we, uh, need a condom?”

“You can if you want, but that’s one of your superpowers, isn’t it? No diseases?”

“Oh. Right. Is that the only reason…?”

Tony chuckled. “Well, you’re not going to knock me up, darling, but if you’re uncomfortable with it, I have some.”

“No, no. I just. You know - people say.”

“Those afterschool specials are working, I guess.” Tony smiled affectionately and pressed a kiss to Steve’s lips. “It’s good to ask. You want one? Some people prefer it.”

“No, I - I want to feel. If you don’t mind.”

“It would be my very genuine pleasure.” Tony took Steve in hand and, eyes never straying from Steve’s face, guided him in place.

The slick heat of Tony taking Steve in was breath-stealing, and Steve’s hand snapped first to Tony’s thighs, then to the sheets - afraid of hurting him - then back to Tony’s thighs when Tony urged them back in place with heart-stopping trust. Tony covered Steve’s hands with his own and slid down, taking Steve all the way in with a slow exhale.

“God,” slipped out of Steve’s mouth, and he flushed when Tony looked down at him.

“Like that, gorgeous?”

“Yes,” Steve admitted quietly, and the look on Tony’s face made it worth any embarrassment. Then Tony rolled his hips, and Steve’s fingers clenched. It was incredible, the tight heat of him, the way he shifted, his skin against Steve’s. Tony was strong enough and sure enough that he moved the way he wanted to, and it carried Steve along, letting him relax and give in to what Tony offered him.

When the first shock of new sensation had passed, Steve let his hands wander, sliding up Tony’s legs until his thumbs pressed into the creases of his hips, then over his sides, chest, back. He hooked Tony’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss. The new angle must have changed something because Tony moaned against his lips and his rhythm faltered.

Steve tried a tentative thrust of his hips, and Tony choked out a broken, “Yes,” so he tried it again, finding he could brace his feet on the sheets and rock up into Tony’s heat.

Together they found a new rhythm, harder, more intense, and Tony sat up and arched his back and held onto Steve’s bent knees to brace himself. With every roll of his hips, Tony’s muscles clamped down hard on Steve’s cock, and it was dizzying how amazing it felt. The waves of pleasure built higher and closer together, and Steve felt a shock of panic when he realized he was going to come and he had no idea how close Tony was or if he should do anything. “I’m close -” he managed. “Can I -?”

Tony immediately grabbed Steve’s hand and brought it to his own cock, showing him how hard to stroke him before letting go. Steve focused as intently as he could on getting Tony off, watching his cock disappear and reappear through the tight grip of his fingers, distracting himself from his own impending orgasm. Tony twitched above him then shook, his hand snapping down to cover Steve’s again, and he cried out as he shot come over Steve’s chest. His muscles rippled around Steve, and he surged halfway up, slamming into Tony as he finally let go. He pulled Tony to him, panting and shaking through the aftershocks. Tony’s back was hot and sweaty, and he ran his hands down his bare skin over the swell of his ass and found the place where they were still joined with his fingers. It was - it was incredible.

“Fuck,” Tony breathed, flinching away with a little yelp when Steve teased at his entrance, unable to resist exploring now that his orgasm had made him dopey and pliable.

Eventually, Tony sat up and pulled away, both of them wincing as they parted. Tony padded off into the bathroom, and Steve lay on the bed, staring up at a thin crack that marred Tony’s otherwise perfect ceiling. Dread curled its way through his stomach like a wisp of smoke, whirling around and filling all the empty spaces. Steve tried to fight the sense of wrongness, the fear. There’s nothing wrong with you, he told himself, but it wouldn’t quite take, and before Tony returned, he climbed out of bed and dressed.

When Tony reappeared, Steve was standing awkwardly in the doorway, back in his clothes, fingers twisted together in front of him. Tony pulled on a robe and came to stand in front of him. Steve thought maybe he’d be angry that Steve didn’t want to stay, but he didn’t look angry or even sad - maybe a little disappointed, but happy too.

He stood close but didn’t move to touch Steve, and Steve couldn't help but bend in to kiss Tony, reassurance that whatever he was going through wasn’t Tony’s fault. That he was upset and confused but grateful for what Tony gave him.

“I have to leave,” he said.

“Okay. I had a great time. Thank you.” Tony’s hand landed on Steve’s forearm and squeezed lightly.

Steve couldn’t quite bring himself to say, “Me too,” but he kissed Tony again and turned to leave.

“So, I’m going to forget, huh?” Tony called after him. Steve turned; now he looked sad.

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Goodnight. And good luck. I know you can solve it.”

“Thank you.”

Steve walked home, and it was late enough that he knew he wouldn’t make it home before the day reset, but he used the time and crisp, storm-laden air to clear his head.

It was easier this way, of course. Because sleeping with Tony Stark was a terrible idea. It would be bad for him and bad for the team. And he certainly couldn’t be what Tony needed, since he barely had a handle on what it was that he needed. If he’d stayed, and hadn’t awoken in his own bed, it would have been one of the worst mornings of his life, trying to explain what in the hell he’d been thinking last night to Tony. But even though he knew that, was utterly sure that it was the last place he should be right now, he couldn’t help wishing he could have had just a little bit more of the night.

When he woke, Steve stretched out, letting his beeper wail on, ignored. He could still feel ghosts of last night. A slight soreness to his muscles, a pull at the join of his shoulder and his neck where Tony had dug his teeth in. Tony would forget, but Steve wasn’t allowed to.

**

Steve figured out two things in tandem: the robots and Tony.

The robots were easier. Once he’d determined that one was the leader, it was easy, after a few tries, to pinpoint exactly what to do about it. The formation protected the leader at first, and then the group would fracture suddenly, making it hard to track the one they were going for. On top of that, Steve had to be careful to direct his team in a way that made sense to them, not having the same backstory with the robots that he did.

He had it down to a science after another week. He sent Thor up and around to the back of the formation and had him hit the leader robot with a lightning strike. It wasn’t enough to take it out, but it blackened its hull and that made it easy to pick out. Then, Steve would have the team concentrate their force on it, claiming that “The others seem to be listening to it.” In the heat of battle they didn't question his conclusion, and when it worked, no one cared to ask him afterwards how he had known.

With Steve’s insider information, the team became like clockwork, and before long, the Ultimates were ending the battle quickly and efficiently. It was good for Steve because it gave him more time to devote to his lists and to Tony.

His lists were so extensive that he was actually worried he would reach the limit of his augmented memory. He was down to the simplest choices like what to have for breakfast, and if he should stop and pet the dog in the hallway of his building. But, while there were many things that could have a butterfly effect on his whole day, none of them turned out to be the key to releasing him from looping-Monday hell.

So he turned to Tony. He was hiding, he knew it, but after only a few days without him, he was back in Tony’s car saying yes. And then every few days after that. He’d push it as long as could, telling himself it was the last time, holding back, then he’d give in.

When the battle was too short and he still had energy to burn, Steve would bend Tony over the mattress and take him hard, fingers twisted into his hair, while Tony sobbed out his pleasure and begged for release.  When the exhaustion caught up with him, Steve would lie on his back and ask Tony to use his mouth, eventually finding the courage to return the favour.

Most days he didn’t go to Tony. Most days he could resist, say no, or leave the Triskelion before Tony came to find him. But some days he did. Some days he waited in his office, unable to find the will to leave, and when Tony walked in, Steve said, “Yes,” and followed him out into the car and, inevitably, into his bed.

**

This day wasn’t quite as hard as the last few until the very end of the battle, and this time Jan didn’t make a dodge. Steve saw her slam into the side of a building, and his heart stopped. He thought they had this one. They’d charged the right robot, got it marked, moved easily into formation, but the timing must have been off, because a move they’d managed nearly a hundred times, ended with Jan barely breathing in the back of a SHIELD medical van.

They won, eventually. And Jan would be alright, they told him, but she had a broken leg and a collapsed lung.

Steve skipped debrief entirely, slamming around the locker room as he showered and changed, scaring off more than one SHIELD rookie who came in before a workout. He paced back and forth across his office instead of touching his computer at all. The next few hours ticked by in a haze of frustration and exhaustion. He knew he should just go to sleep, start over and relieve Jan of her pain, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. He’d wake up like this, agitated and on edge, and that would mean he’d just screw up the next mission even worse. Maybe lose someone this time; how many times could he watch his teammates die before it was too much for him and he lost his mind?

He heard Tony before he saw him, the slight shuffle of footsteps by the doorway. And as much as he raged at how neverendingly predictable this entire goddamn day was, a part of him was relieved that Tony was there. Again. He knew how to do this.

Steve spun around and grabbed two fistfuls of Tony’s jacket. Tony’s eyes went wide, terrified, and Steve pulled him into a rough kiss. It was a moment before Tony registered what was happening and relaxed into his hold, parting his lips and licking at Steve’s mouth.  

When Steve pulled back, Tony gaped at him. “Steve? What - ?”

“Don’t ask. Please. I just - I need this.” Steve drew him into another heated kiss, pouring in as much promise as he could. “Please take me home,” he begged.

“Okay,” Tony whispered against his lips.

In the car, Steve couldn’t keep his hands to himself, didn’t bother trying. The driver would forget about it by morning anyway; he didn’t care if he embarrassed himself anymore, he just needed Tony’s hands on him.

Tony climbed over him on the back seat, fingers teasing the edge of his waistband while he rocked their hips together. The movement of the car pushed them closer then pulled them apart again, and Steve kept a firm grip on the front of Tony’s jacket so he couldn’t move more than the length of his arms away.

“Steve -” Tony started, but Steve licked the words out of his mouth, grinding up in a way that made it clear he knew exactly where this was going.

They tumbled out of the limo in Tony’s drive, a mess of groping hands and rucked clothing. Steve remembered too late that he wasn’t supposed to know the way to Tony’s bedroom, but a line of biting kisses down the side of Tony’s jaw seemed to distract him sufficiently as Steve stumbled them both towards Tony’s bed.

He just - he needed, and it was burning under his skin. He needed this horrible nightmare to be over, he needed Tony’s hands to help him forget that he was going to wake up and do this all over again. “I need - “ He scrambled at Tony’s clothes, pushing his jacket to the floor and starting on his buttons. But Tony caught both of his hands in his.

“Steve, what’s wrong?”

Steve pushed a sharp breath out between his teeth, eyes fixed steadily on the two buttons he’d managed to undo before Tony stopped him. “I’m - I’m sick of this. I’m sick of doing this damn day over and over. I’m sick of fighting this - whatever this is - I’m sick of watching my teammates taken down, and there’s nothing I can do. I’m sick of it. I need you - I need you to make it stop. I can’t -”

“Steve… I can’t fix that. It sounds like -”

Steve flexed his fingers in Tony’s hold and finally raked his gaze up to meet Tony’s. His eyes were pinched with worry. “It’s not -” He took a breath, and Tony waited. “I know you can’t. I’ve had a long - week. That’s all. I want - I want you to help me forget, just for a few hours. I can’t be so alone with this all the time. Please?”

Tony was quiet for a moment, and Steve waited, frozen, knowing that if he moved he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from finding the edges of Tony’s clothing. “Okay,” Tony finally breathed, but he still brushed Steve’s hands away from his shirt. “But I need you to take a breath, okay, darling? I’ve got you. If this is what you need, I’ll help you. But it’s not a race.” Tony guided Steve over to the bed and sat him down on the edge.

It’s a race to midnight, Steve wanted to say, but he’d said it before, he’d taken the time to explain before, and right now he didn’t care. He let his eyes drift closed as Tony’s hands skated down his chest then started working on his buttons. It was too slow, too careful, and he wanted to push Tony, get him desperate and gasping like he had two nights ago, but Tony wouldn’t be pushed this time. He must have seen something in Steve today that suggested this was what he needed. Tony was good at that.

Tony worked the buttons open slowly, then pushed Steve’s shirt off his shoulders. His warm hand curled over the nape of Steve’s neck, his fingertips pushing into his hair, and he descended on Steve’s neck, kissing a leisurely path behind his ear and down to his shoulder. A long, slow breath leaked out of Steve’s lips as he tipped his chin to the side to give Tony access.

Tony whispered, “Good,” against the skin of Steve’s neck, his soft breath tickling barely on the side of too much. The word chased a flush down Steve’s chest, but he held himself still. Where before, it had felt like the only way to push this frantic, raw feeling in his chest was to move, now, it seemed, being still was settling it. Or maybe it was Tony.

Tony worked his way between Steve’s knees until their bodies were pressed tightly together, and Steve’s hands braved Tony’s hips, his thumbs slipping into the dips at his hip bones. When Steve started working his way up from the bottom of Tony’s shirt, untucking it from his pants then popping each button free, Tony didn’t stop him, focusing on his careful exploration of Steve’s shoulders with his tongue. The hand on the back of Steve’s head didn’t move, and Steve started to feel like it was the only thing keeping him grounded there in that day.

With his buttons undone, Steve drew Tony closer so he could nuzzle into Tony’s chest. He knew the curve of his muscles, the nubs of his nipples, the ridges of his ribs, but he explored them all again as if he didn’t; for all Tony knew, he didn’t. Eventually, Tony leaned back to shuck his shirt, and Steve mourned the loss of the steadying hand on the back of his head. But, blissfully, it returned only a moment later, after Tony had dropped his pants and pressed his naked heat against Steve. The pressure tipped Steve backwards onto the bed, Tony’s hips in his firm grip.

Tony worked his fingers up through Steve’s hair, scraping lightly at his scalp, while, with his other hand, he found the slash across Steve’s side, left by one of the robots earlier that day, and traced around it. Steve’s pants were starting to become uncomfortably tight as Tony’s kisses, now travelling down his chest - sent wave after wave of blood south. He dropped Tony’s hips to work his belt loose, but Tony stopped him, sitting up, straddled over Steve’s thighs, to open it himself.

“I like to open my presents myself, darling.” Tony winked, and Steve couldn’t stop his eyes from rolling. He’d said the same thing before, a couple of times. Tony laughed lightly, and Steve canted his hips up, urging him to get a move on. “Patience…” Tony murmured, but he stepped back to tug Steve’s pants off and drop them on the floor with his boxers. “Mmm, you look good sprawled out on my bed.”

Steve swallowed, resisting the urge to blush at the way Tony was staring at him. “Well, are you going to do something about it then?” he growled out, and suddenly he had a lap full of Tony again.

There was a brief scuffle while they worked their way up to rest properly on the bed, Steve’s head on the pillows, and Tony settled over his hips. Tony was fully hard now, and as he shifted forward, his cock rubbed over Steve’s abs, pushing a gasp out of his lungs. Tony shuffled down Steve’s body, trailing a line of kisses in his wake, his destination clear. But as much as Steve knew how the wet heat of his mouth felt, wrapped around his cock, sucking him down his throat, it wasn’t enough today, and he reached out, chasing the rapidly departing chest and hands and shoulders.

“Tony -”

Tony lightly scratched his nails down Steve’s chest and nuzzled his nose into the crease of his hip. “Yes, darling?” The puff of breath that came out with his words tickled Steve’s skin, and he jerked his hips up. He found Tony’s hand with one of his and gripped it - too hard.

“That’s not what I want tonight.”

Tony shot him a skeptical look, one eyebrow raised, his chin resting on the hand that Steve didn’t have locked in a deathgrip. “What do you want then?” he drawled.

Steve stuttered around the words, and Tony’s expression only shifted more unwilling. “I have done this before, you know,” Steve said sharply.

“Yeah? In general or with a man?”

“With - yes with a man. With -” you. Steve cut himself off. “You don’t have to treat me like glass.”

Tony crawled back up Steve’s body with a new wicked glint in his eye. “But what if I want to break you like glass?”

Steve gaped at him, mouth falling open, and Tony smirked back at him like it was some kind of triumph. Tony stretched over Steve’s chest to rustle around in the drawer where Steve now knew he kept lube and condoms and a slightly horrifying number of sex toys that Steve had never felt confident enough to ask about. Tony lifted the bottle. “You sure?” he asked.

“I want this. Come on.”

But when Tony slicked his fingers, he dragged them between his own legs, and Steve stiffened, suddenly realizing that this wasn’t what he wanted either. He circled Tony’s wrist with his fingers, halting his progress and locked eyes with him, begging silently. He didn't think he’d be able to say it, and Tony so enjoyed pushing his boundaries, but he needed this, intensely and unforgivingly, like oxygen. He needed to feel Tony inside him. His whole body ached for it.

Tony raised an eyebrow again then narrowed his eyes, studying Steve carefully. “You want to bottom?” he asked, surprisingly gentle.

“Please,” Steve whispered, the back of his neck burning with humiliation. He shouldn’t want this, it was wrong, it wasn’t who he was, but none of this was. This wasn’t really him, this was some sick, circular void. It wasn’t like it mattered. He gave in to the need that welled up within him. “Tony -”

“Okay.” Tony soothed his palm up Steve’s side, then dropped his hand between Steve’s legs instead. He worked his way up the inside of Steve’s thigh then brushed behind his balls. Steve couldn’t help it - he tensed. Tony stilled. “Have you done this before?” It wasn’t mocking this time, it was serious.

Steve swallowed. “No. But please don’t stop.”

Tony’s expression twisted for a moment, but then he nodded. “You have to tell me if it’s too much, if you need me to stop, okay? Promise.”

“I promise.”

Tony’s fingers pressed forward again, and Steve flinched away, but Tony rested his other hand, palm flat, over Steve’s stomach and held him steady. Tony flicked out his tongue and licked up the underside of Steve’s cock, making him groan and grab a handful of the sheets. It didn’t matter if he tore them, they’d be whole again at midnight. Tony’s fingertip brushed the edge of Steve’s hole, and he tried to will himself to relax, focusing on the wet heat of Tony’s tongue where it teased him.

“Breathe, sweetheart,” Tony murmured and Steve let out a tense breath. As he did, Tony slid his finger in up to the knuckle.

“Ah!” Steve twisted, not sure if he was arching into the touch or away from it, but Tony’s hand eased him back down again. It was a strange sensation, and one Steve wasn’t entirely sure he liked, but it didn’t hurt. And then Tony pulled his finger back and pushed in again and - oh - Steve definitely arched into it that time, silently asking for more.

Time went hazy while Tony worked Steve open, his fingers twisting and stretching, then finally finding the spot that made Steve’s vision white out. By the time Tony crawled up over him, Steve was half-delirious, his head spinning pleasantly. If someone had asked him to stand up and fight in that moment, he honestly didn’t believe he’d be able to.

Tony kissed his way up Steve’s chest then caught his eye. Steve blinked back at him. “You okay?” Tony asked.

“Amazing,” Steve slurred, and Tony laughed at him. Steve tried to frown back, but if Tony’s expression was anything to go by, it didn’t work. Then Tony was hiking up one of Steve’s legs and bracing it with his arm.

“You’ll tell me to stop?”

Steve nodded. Then he almost did. When Tony pushed in, less than an inch, Steve’s breath caught, and he snapped his hands to Tony’s arms. He was a lot bigger than a few fingers and even though it had felt like he took hours getting Steve ready, it was still a lot to take. But Tony was patient, easing his way in as Steve breathed through it, eyes never shifting from Steve’s face, though Steve’s drifted closed several times.

Then he rocked back only to push in further, and a sinful moan burst out of Steve’s throat. “Oh god,” he gripped harder which spurred Tony on. Tony’s movements were slow, but he pushed in deep with every thrust, and Steve struggled to find breath in the drowning waves of pleasure. The ringing in his ears blocked out the little voice that whispered that this was wrong, and he moaned wantonly with every thrust, relieved to be free of it.

Tony bent down and whispered filthy things against Steve’s lips, things he couldn’t hear, but could taste the shape of, and they sent shivers down his spine. And when Tony’s breath hitched, Steve’s legs locked around his hips. It was a strange sort of thrill, knowing that Tony was getting off on him, using his body to find his own pleasure.

Steve was nearly painfully hard and leaking precome into a sticky pool on his stomach, but Tony’s steady thrusts only seemed to make him harder, more desperate, but not closer to release. He didn’t mind though; he sunk into the sensations Tony was building within him instead, closing his eyes and tuning his body to all the places where his skin touched Tony’s.

“Darling? You still with me?” Tony stilled, and Steve whimpered.

“Yes, yes, I’m - ugh. Shit. Don’t stop.”

Tony chuckled, but he moved again, faster now, more insistent. He shifted Steve’s leg up higher and suddenly he was hitting a new place that felt like fireworks going off in Steve’s head. The slide of their bodies together was so easy, Steve just held on and let Tony ease him into the perfect position.

Tony’s hand curled around the back of Steve’s neck again, and he leaned forward on his elbow while his other hand dropped down to take Steve’s cock in a firm grip. Steve jerked into the hold, then rocked back to feel Tony push deep inside him again. The double sensation was overwhelming and suddenly it was like rolling downhill. The orgasm that had seemed so far off was now right at a peak ready to break.

“Oh, I’m going to -” Every muscle in Steve’s body tensed, and Tony gasped and cursed, slumping forward until his forehead rested on Steve’s chest. His rhythm stuttered, both his hand and his hips, but it didn’t matter, Steve was so close he just burst, snapping his hands to the sheets again so he wouldn’t break Tony’s arms, and thrusting up into his hand. He felt hot liquid land on his chest and he fought to suck in oxygen as Tony grabbed his hip, dug the fingers of his other hand into the hair at the nape of Steve’s neck and thrust into him until he came hard, squeezing as close and as deep into Steve as he could.

Tony was coming inside him; Steve’s head spun, already lightheaded from his own orgasm and that thought only made him dizzier. When Tony relaxed, sprawled over him in a messy heap, Steve was still riding out wave after wave of aftershocks, hands finding Tony’s back again. It was a few minutes before Tony could pull free, but when he found the strength to, he wiped Steve off with a tissue from the bedside table and tugged the sheets up over them.

“You okay?” Tony slurred into Steve’s ear as he spread out beside him.

“Mhm.”

Steve lay on his back in the dark, not bothering to ask Tony if he could stay. Tony rested a gentle hand on Steve’s stomach but didn’t crowd him, and Steve didn’t pull him closer. He expected the guilt when it came, washing over him in waves as the aftershocks of the pleasure receded. This wasn’t who he was, and yes the day would reset tomorrow, and so would Tony, but Steve wouldn’t. He’d wake and still feel the deep ache that was already blooming, the slight pull to the muscles that had been tensed for so long.

It was still early, only 11, and Tony had already drifted off to sleep. Steve turned to face him, watching his breath lift his chest, and his eyelashes flutter against his cheek. Steve took a few deep breaths in time with Tony’s and willed the churning anxiety to recede. There in the dark, with no one to judge him, and only a hour left in this fleeting day, soon to be replaced with another, Steve let himself really look at Tony. He took him in like he had never allowed himself to before.

Tony’s piercing gaze had always captured Steve’s eyes, but now he could follow the edge of Tony’s cheekbone, the cut of his hairline, the lines of tendons stretching down his neck to his muscular chest. Tony was beautiful, Steve couldn’t deny it, and that in itself settled something inside Steve. It wasn’t exactly right, but it was true, and that was all Steve could face in this moment.

He lay awake, ignoring the clock but feeling the pressure of it ticking on towards tomorrow anyway, and watched Tony sleep.

Chapter Text

After that night, Steve gave up on trying to say no to Tony. What did it matter if he spent every night in Tony’s bed - at least until midnight - when everything would reset come morning? Each time it got a bit easier, a little less terrifying, truth shifting inexorably towards right with every kiss, every touch. The pleasure he found with Tony started to be the highlight of his day, until he was waiting eagerly in his office for Tony to appear in his doorway each time.

Some nights, he’d tell Tony what had happened; some nights they would work together, Tony laying out all the ways this could be happening. Some nights, he wouldn’t, he’d just beg, tease, or kiss Tony into taking him home and laying him out on his bed. They never went back to Steve’s place, but Steve still woke up on his own pillow each morning to the sound of his beeper.

And Steve learned. His powerful memory let him categorize every touch, every movement, that made Tony gasp and arch or groan. He learned the way Tony arched his back when Steve worked him open just right and how to roll his hips when Tony was inside him to set sparks alight in his core. He learned how to take Tony deep down his throat and that Tony liked it when he furrowed fingers in his hair and thrust deep down his. He learned ways to ask for what he wanted, even if it made his neck flush unpleasantly.  

Tony didn't learn. Tony didn't change. Every time for him was the first time. Sometimes he was surprised - if Steve was particularly forceful or confident - sometimes he was cocky - if Steve let him take the ropes. Sometimes, they just worked. Everything flowed and fit together, and Steve found himself lying awake in Tony’s opulent bed, eyes fixed on the clock, Tony’s hand resting on his hip, watching each minute tick over.

And he’d wake again, alone, to the shrill beeping. It hurt a little more each time.

Steve’s regular day became more and more about Tony until he was plowing his way through the robots, then rushing everyone through debrief so Tony would appear in his doorway all the sooner. He liked the long evenings where they got to take their time. He loathed the short nights, when the fight had gone badly and Tony hadn’t showed up until too late to do more than rock desperately together until they spilled over each other’s fists.

One night, they didn’t find their releases in time, and Steve woke with a confused gasp, one hand jerking up from where it had been clutched in Tony’s hair only moments ago. It made Tony feel like a dream, and he hated it. He’d snuck touches - furtive and easily explained - at the morning meeting that day, needing to know that Tony was real, alive, that even though it only lasted 24 hours, these days were really happening.

**

“I’ve told you before,” Steve said with a sigh. He rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “Look, are we going to do this or not?” He slouched down into the squishy armchair and sloshed the drink in his glass. For the millionth time, he wished it had an effect on him so he could drink some of these days away.

“Do what?”

Steve shot Tony a wry look.

“Darling, as much as I’d enjoy that, I’m not in the habit of pushing people into my bed who don’t want to be there.”

Steve opened his mouth to protest then sighed instead. “Yeah… Sorry, I’m really tired.”

“You don’t have to to be sorry. I’m honestly surprised you agreed to come home with me at all.”

“Like I said, I’ve done that a lot.” Today’s explanation had been admittedly rushed, but Tony was a genius, and Steve was having an awful repeat. He didn’t have the energy to start again. He knew he should go home, go to sleep, start again, but instead, he stayed.

Tony watched him quietly for a moment. “Okay… well, we don’t have to today. You look like you’re more in need of a stiff drink and a nap.”

“I can’t nap,” Steve bit out, then forced himself to breathe in and out three times instead. It wasn’t Tony’s fault that this was happening. “If I fall asleep during the day - or get knocked out or killed - I wake up to my beeper going off in the morning.”

“Killed?” Tony’s voice tightened.

Steve met his eye. “Yeah. So yeah, I’m… tired. I’m sick of doing the same thing every single day. I just need a break. I feel like I could get it, figure it out, if I just had a break.” His voice broke.

Tony’s hand alighted softly on Steve’s knee. “I can help. If you tell me everything, maybe we can solve it together.”

Steve shook his head. “We’ve done that. Countless times. Well, not actually countless, since I remember every one of them perfectly.” He scrubbed his hand over his face. “It’s not enough time. It takes so long for me to explain it to you that by the time you have an idea of what’s happening, it’s midnight and I just wake up again.”

“But it’s -”

“I know it’s worth a try, I know. And I know you can make notes and I can memorize them and copy them out for you and bit by bit we’ll chip away at it. I know. But I just - I need a break, Tony. I need a day where we just… don’t.” Steve leaned forward until his forehead hit his palms. He wasn’t sure what he was saying “don’t” to - everything maybe. He needed to somehow sleep without sleeping - exist in some state of perfect nothingness, give his body a chance to recharge. Maybe that was something Tony‘s genius could manage.

Two hands landed on his shoulders; he hadn’t heard Tony get up but he was standing behind him now. His fingers dug into the muscles on either side of Steve’s neck, and he groaned involuntarily. He lifted his head to lean back and look up at Tony. Tony spun around and landed gently in Steve’s lap, leaving his hands resting on Steve’s shoulders. Steve’s arm slipped around Tony’s waist, and he had a moment of bizarre cognitive dissonance as he realized how normal and comfortable it was. And somehow it seemed normal for Tony too, even though he’d only been through this once. A hundred times, once.

“Let me give you that, darling,” Tony whispered.

Steve sighed. “I’m sorry, I’m really not up for -”

“No, no. Not like that. I can take care of you. Trust me?”

Steve met Tony’s blue gaze with his own and held it. “I do,” he said, realizing it even as the words slipped out. He really did.

Tony smiled - not the cocky, flashy grin he usually reserved for Steve, softer, gentler - then rose, urging Steve up with him and leading him up to Tony’s bedroom. “Take off your clothes.”

Steve hesitated, fingers at the top of his uniform, then gave in and started stripping. He’d told Tony he didn't want to have sex, and he trusted him. He’d have to let go and see where this went.

Tony disappeared into the ensuite bathroom, and Steve heard water running. He sat on Tony’s bed then sprawled backwards, staring up at the ceiling. With his eyes, he traced the one hair-thin crack that he always found when he ended up on his back here. It was familiar now. He felt himself drifting, so he took a few sharp breaths and shook his head to keep himself awake. He didn’t want to lose this day.

Tony appeared again at his side, still in his robe. He slipped his hand in Steve’s and pulled him upright. His eyes raked down Steve’s body with interest, but he flicked his gaze away again, leading Steve towards the bathroom. His fingers were warm and firm in Steve’s, and Steve let himself be pulled along.

Tony’s bathroom was opulent and massive, and Steve had never paid it much attention in the times he’d been in here to clean up before either leaving or falling asleep in Tony’s bed, only to wake in his own. But now Tony had the huge tub filled with water, steam curling up from the bubble-covered surface. The whole room smelled like sandalwood and something else Steve couldn’t name. “In you get,” Tony said softly, and Steve stepped into the tub.

The water was incredibly hot, and it took a moment for Steve’s skin to adjust to the prickling heat, but when it did, he eased himself down until he was stretched out, sunk low to his shoulders, hands resting lightly on the sides. The heat wrapped around him, softening his breathing and the tension in his muscles almost immediately. He let out a long, low sigh, and when he sucked a breath back in, the air was damp and strongly scented.

For the first time since he realized what was happening to him, maybe even longer, Steve felt safe. “Thank you,” he murmured, when Tony settled on the floor next to the tub, arms folded over the sides and chin rested on his arms.

“Relaxed is a good look for you, Steve.” The water rippled, and Steve startled, springing his eyes back open - which had apparently drifted shut at some point - only to see that Tony was dipping a washcloth in the warm soapy water.

“Don’t let me fall asleep, please.”

“I won’t.” Tony dipped the cloth again, then brushed it over Steve’s chest. It traveled up, around his neck, scrubbing firmly enough to keep Steve grounded in the present, but not hard enough to hurt. He was still mostly clean from his post-battle shower, but it felt so nice to have someone else touching him so caringly that he didn’t protest as Tony worked over every inch of him.

One of Steve’s hands drifted from where it hung over the edge, fingertips kissing the surface of the water, to slide over Tony’s arm where it braced him against the lip of the tub. Steve curled his fingers around Tony’s forearm and held on. This would be gone tomorrow. As soon as the clock struck midnight, this Tony would disappear as harshly as all of Steve’s other Tonys had. He didn’t want to let go.

“Shh,” Tony breathed softly, and Steve ungritted his teeth and relaxed his hold, realizing how tightly he must have been gripping Tony’s arms.

“Sorry.”

“Steve… how many days has it been?”

“A hundred and eighteen.”

Tony’s hand stilled for a moment, then picked up its movement again. He didn’t say anything. He finished Steve’s neck, his chest and arms, then lifted each of Steve’s legs out of the water and cleaned them too. When that was done, his touch disappeared, and Steve opened his eyes to see Tony untie his robe and drop it to the floor.

Steve let his eyes alight wherever he wanted, figuring that at this point it didn’t really matter. Tony clearly didn’t mind. He moved behind the tub, then urged Steve to lean forward so he could tuck in behind him. The tub was plenty big enough for them both, and Tony’s legs stretched out easily along Steve’s. It was sort of odd, for a moment, to feel someone wrapped around his back - Steve usually found himself being the wrapper, not the wrappee - but it was nice, once he settled into it.

Tony’s hands landed on his shoulders again, and his thumbs dug into the stiff muscles there, surprisingly firm. He couldn’t help the groan that slipped out, and he felt Tony’s chest shake with laughter. For the first time in the 2 years he’d known Tony, Steve didn’t feel like the laugh was aimed at him; it felt like something they were sharing.

Steve slid deeper into the water and settled a hand on each of Tony’s knees so he wouldn’t slip all the way under. He let his eyes fall shut, but made sure he focused on the grip and roll of Tony’s fingers on his neck and the firm hold he had on Tony’s legs, to keep him awake.

“I’m sorry,” Tony said, so softly, Steve almost didn’t hear it.

“For what?” Steve’s words came out slurred and softened.

“It must be terribly lonely. I wish I could help.”

“You are,” Steve answered automatically. Because this did help, even if it wasn’t the kind of help Tony meant. This was going to make it possible for Steve to get out of bed tomorrow, when his beeper went off, instead of rolling over and letting four or five more repeats of the obnoxious chime go off before he found the strength to stand. “You always believe me,” he added.

Tony’s hands stilled for a moment. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve told you forty-six times, and you’ve always believed me. Even though it’s crazy. I never have to convince you.”

“I know you wouldn’t lie about something like this, Steve.” Tony’s voice was soft and when he spoke, Steve felt the little puff of air against the back of his neck. Tony’s chest wasn’t as even as the back of the tub, but it was warm and firm, and the steady rise and fall of his breathing was soothing.

Tony continued to work his way across Steve’s neck and shoulders and then down his back, easing Steve forward so he could dig into the knots low on his spine. As he leaned forward, Steve’s hands skated down Tony’s legs, his fingers exploring the creases at the back of his knees, over the swell of his calves, then circling his ankles. Tony made a pleased noise and Steve rubbed soft swirls over the jut of Tony’s ankle bones, smiling down at the bubble-filled water when Tony hummed again.

Before the water could cool uncomfortably, Tony urged Steve up and out of the tub. He ignored his own dripping hair and wet skin to wrap a towel around Steve and start to rub him dry. Steve protested weakly, but Tony shushed him and continued to work the towel over him until he was warm and dry. Tony used a second towel for Steve’s hair, even though there wasn’t much of it, then gave himself a cursory once-over with the same towel before pulling his robe back on. He placed both hands on Steve’s back and drove him back into the bedroom and down onto the bed.

Tony leaned over and brushed his fingers through Steve’s hair. “Do you want something to wear?”

Steve thought he probably should - it was weird for him to be naked when Tony wasn’t, when they weren’t doing anything - but the ties of Tony’s silk robe brushed against his stomach when Tony moved, and he found himself shaking his head.

“What can I do for you?”

“You’ve already done enough,” Steve said, his fingers finding the edge of that silk tie and twining it between them over and over. But Tony just waited, so Steve opened his eyes again and found Tony’s. It was surprisingly hard to get the words out, after everything they had been through already, but after a moment, Steve managed to ask, “Will you just hold me?”

He blushed in advance, prepared for Tony to scoff or crack a joke, but instead, he smiled and said, “It would be my pleasure.” He shooed Steve fully up on the bed and bustled around for a moment, picking up the pieces of Steve’s uniform and folding them onto a chair in the corner.

“It doesn’t matter,” Steve muttered. “They’ll be back in my closet tomorrow.”

“Humour me, darling, they’re the -” Tony cut off sharply, and Steve rolled on his side to look over at him. He’d frozen.

“Tony?”

“What’s this?” Tony spun, the new GPS unit clutched in one hand. His face had gone oddly expressionless as he stared at it.

Steve shrugged with one shoulder. “It’s the GPS SHIELD keeps saying they’re going to give us. I never get the results because they say it’ll take a few weeks, which I obviously don’t get.”

Tony was shaking his head before Steve finished the words. “Nope. It’s really not. They’re not done with those yet. I know, because I’m helping to build them. This is something else entirely.”

Steve was suddenly awake. He sat up in bed and stared. “You mean that’s the thing that’s been doing this to me? I was carrying it on myself all this time?”

Tony’s face twisted. “Maybe… I mean, I can’t promise anything. But -” He popped the casing open and spread a mess of electronics over the bedspread. “Hmm.” He poked it for a while, his face falling deeper and deeper into a frown as he studied the device. “This could be it. Hardcoded to you, you’d only have to be in its vicinity for a few minutes each day to keep the connection alive. Your locker would probably be enough, even if you didn't always take it with you.” He sighed and stood up, his expression a complicated interplay of emotions. “Steve… this looks like Greg’s work.”

“So what do we have to -?” Steve startled out of bed as the beeper screamed at him. “Shit!” He hadn’t even checked the clock. He sat up in his own bed and threw his beeper violently across the room until it shattered against the far wall. Midnight had ticked over without him noticing, and now he was back to square one.

Though not really… Tony might not remember, but now Steve knew that the new equipment wasn’t SHIELD issued and that Greg was the most likely culprit. He jumped out of bed and tugged his uniform out of the closet. He grabbed his go bag, ignoring the broken pieces of his beeper on the floor.

The car was waiting for him as always, but instead of going right up to the briefing room when Steve arrived at SHIELD, he made his way down to the armoury first. He opened his locker and took out the GPS that wasn’t, turning it over in his hands before heading back up to where he knew the team would be gathered, waiting for him.

Nick was halfway through a sentence when Steve barged in, but he plowed right over him, tossing the unit in Tony’s lap. Nick cut himself off. “What’s that?”

But Steve turned to Tony. “Where’s Greg?”

Tony’s brow creased. “I don’t know.”

“Can you find out?”

“Alright… what’s this about?” But instead of waiting for an answer, he started typing on his phone. Steve dragged his eyes away from Tony, aching at the way he barely gave Steve a second thought. After last night… after all of the last nights, Steve couldn’t stand that Tony had forgotten about him yet again. He missed the warm way Tony had gazed at him, his soft hands soothing over Steve’s skin. His chest constricted, and Steve forced his eyes back to Fury.

“Gregory Stark planted that device on me, and it’s been forcing me to repeat the same day over and over, one hundred and eighteen times. Tony and I have been trying to figure it out, though Tony would forget after each repeat so it took a long time. But he - you -” Steve turned back to Tony “- you told me this wasn’t a GPS tracker.”

Tony picked it up. “It’s not. This is - huh. Yeah, I think it’s time we pay a little visit to my brother,” Tony pushed out through gritted teeth.

They landed two choppers on the roof of Greg’s New York condo building and filed down the stairs to his floor. As soon as they pushed through the door, Steve knew Tony was right. There were familiar robot parts all over the floor. Greg appeared in the doorway, eyes going wide as he took in the sudden appearance of the Ultimates in his living room.

Steve shoved past Clint and powered across the room to embed Greg’s teeth in his fist. Greg hit the floor, clutching his face, and Tony’s hand landed on Steve’s arm. “Can’t question a dead man,” he muttered low into Steve’s ear.

Steve breathed sharply through his nose and took a few steps back, letting the others prop Greg up and check his nose. It would be broken, but Steve had pulled his punch. If he hadn’t, his fist would currently be covered in drywall dust from the wall behind Greg. That Greg was alive at all, was a testament to Steve’s current control because the rage welling up inside him was enough to level a city block.

Tony was seething, as were the rest of their teammates, even though there was no way they could understand what had happened. Greg spat out his explanation through a mouthful of blood.

“Figured the only way to bring down the Ultimates was to study all the ways their leader would handle a battle. I set the looper up to repeat five hundred times and record the battle data while it was in the Captain’s belt. The bots record too, send it to the same device. By the end of it, I would only have spent a day on it, but I’d have 500 days worth of data.” He turned his cruel eyes up to Steve, flashing with something dark and depthless. “If it happened to drive the good Captain insane in the meantime, well. One bird, two stones, I guess.” He grinned.

Steve jerked forward again but stopped when everyone flinched in his direction. They hauled Greg to his feet and carried him off towards the chopper. He turned to Steve as they walked by. “How many days did you make it through before you figured out what was happening?” he asked. “Before you solved it? How many before you started to think you might be going crazy?” He spun in Clint and Thor’s hold by the door, eyes still on Steve. “How many before you tried to kill yourself for the first time?”

Steve said nothing, carefully controlling his breathing, giving the others time to clear the hall before he left. A noise behind him startled him out of his red-tinged thoughts, and he turned to see Tony still standing there. “You okay?” he asked. Tony’s relationship with his brother was beyond complex; Steve couldn’t even begin to understand it.

“No.” Tony wouldn’t meet his eyes. “You?”

“No.”

“Did you really try and kill yourself?” Tony asked softly.

Steve figured the others were probably clear of the hall, so he walked towards the door. “Nothing would stop it,” was all he said.

He and Tony took the other chopper in silence. With Greg safely in SHIELD’s custody, and the robots shut down for, hopefully, the last time, the team met up and demanded an explanation from Steve in more detail.

It took a while for Steve to explain everything, and even when he was done he wasn't sure if it came across as more crazy than anything. But everyone seemed to accept it, albeit with little understanding for how repeating the same day 118 times would affect Steve. He gave them a broad run down, leaving out the details of most of the repeated days, especially those he spent with Tony. He glossed over most of Tony’s involvement, explaining that once he’d figured out what was happening, he brought his findings to Tony every day, and they worked through it as quickly as they could with Tony forgetting every morning.

He caught Tony shooting him curious glances a couple of times, but he kept his gaze firmly fixed on the carpet in front of him, or the arm of Jan’s chair, and plowed through his story. At the end, Nick reminded him that SHIELD had therapists if he needed to talk about what he’d been through, and Clint patted him companionably on the back. They filed out, leaving him alone with his thoughts. And -

“Tony.”

Tony stayed in his chair, eyes fixed on Steve, elbows resting on the arms of his chair and fingers steepled in front of him. “Steve.”

Steve waited, tense. He didn’t know what to say to Tony, how to explain it. Now that there was every chance that tomorrow everything wouldn’t just start over, it mattered so much more how he explained it. Over the past 118 days, he’d approached it every way possible. He’d carefully laid it out, he’d skipped the whole explanation and crowded Tony up against a wall, he’d rushed through it, pushing Tony to work as fast as he could before midnight. But now that all of that was resolved - hopefully - all that was left was the echo of Tony’s hands on his back, the way he could still feel warm water and Tony’s ankles caught in his grip. Tony may have forgotten, but Steve never could, and he knew it would change their relationship forever. But how?

“I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me,” Tony said softly, not accusatory but not backing down either.

“It was four months of repeats, Tony. There’s a lot I’m not telling you.”

Tony saw the evasion for what it was. “Why won’t you look at me?”

Steve took a steadying breath, still unable to match Tony’s gaze. “Can we go back to your place tonight? I have a lot I want to tell you, but not here.”

“Of course, darling. Whatever you like. I assume Nick wants us both to fill out our reports while they’re fresh - as fresh as anything can be in my rather pickled mind -” Tony chuckled self-deprecatingly “- so I’ll come get you after?” He frowned. “Actually, with a hundred days of reports to write, you might need more time.”

“I’ll summarize.”

Tony smiled. “Alright.”

Steve left Tony in Fury’s office and made his way to his own. He opened his reports and grimaced when it was the same as it always was. He’d given up on writing anything down weeks ago, but this time… this time, he hoped it would still be there tomorrow. He typed up what he could without describing every repeated day in painstaking detail like he normally would for a mission. He remembered them - he’d always remember them - but it hardly mattered now. They were gone, and he’d be the only one for whom they’d ever been real.

He finished more quickly than he thought he would and found himself sitting in his chair staring blankly out the window. Tony was going to show up, offer him a ride home, and Steve was going to say yes. That they’d done many times; that, he was comfortable with.

But he had to explain to Tony what they’d - he’d - been through over the past 118 days. It wasn’t fair to him not to. There was no way Steve wouldn’t be affected by it, Tony had already noticed he was, so it wasn’t like he could pretend it never happened.

And he didn’t think he’d want to, anyway. He remembered the way Tony had eased the washcloth over his chest while he lounged, exhausted, in his extravagant bath. How gently he’d been, how soft, how easily he’d accepted Steve’s story. They’d had sex every way Steve knew of, but last night was something else. Last night was caring. And he wanted it again. A lot.

And, honestly, he wanted the sex more too. It was easy to write it off at the time as being the only way he could find some human contact in his ever-repeating world, some relief from Tony’s relentless flirting, at the time, but he’d kept coming back to it, eagerly even, and he couldn’t claim anymore that it didn’t mean anything.

This was a tipping point though. They could go either way. Steve could explain what had happened, why he’d made the choice he had. He could thank Tony for everything he’d done for him, even if he didn’t remember, then ask for some space from him for a while to recover, to get over it.

Or Steve could ask for more. Something real, something he’d wake up to tomorrow morning.

And Tony might say no.

In all the nights they’d spent together, Tony had never brought up what tomorrow might hold and Steve had always known it would be pointless to talk about. But now, now he wished he had so he’d have some insider information on how this conversation would go. A practice run.

A small noise pulled him out of his thoughts. He turned to find Tony leaning in the doorway the way he had for the past hundred days and for the first time, it filled Steve with a sense of easy contentment. It might not be so bad to see that for a hundred more days. Steve must have been smiling at him because Tony’s cheeky smirk slipped into something softer.

This car ride was different than the ones in the past. There was no decision for Steve to make; he was going home with Tony no matter what tonight. Tony shot no lines or flirty looks his way, instead, sitting quietly on his side of the seat and staring out the window as the city flicked past.

Steve followed Tony up to the front door, his go bag slung over his shoulder. He dropped it in the hall and led the way up to Tony’s room without hesitation. He sat down on the chaise in corner, swallowing hard when he remembered the last time he’d been on that seat - naked, with his fingers gripped tight in Tony’s hair - while Tony poured himself a drink. He shucked his suit jacket, as he always did, and collapsed languidly into the chair across from Steve, glass of amber liquid clutched in one hand.

“So,” Steve started, and then he found it strangely hard to go on. “I didn’t tell the whole story at the briefing today.”

“I figured.” Tony tipped his glass at Steve encouragingly.

“We were… together. For a lot of it. You and me.”

Whatever Tony had been expecting to hear, that wasn’t it. His eyebrow shot up and his glass paused halfway to his mouth. “But you said I didn't remember either.”

“You didn’t. Every day was the same. You offered me a ride home, then, when we were in the car, you’d make a pass at me. After a few weeks -” Steve half-shrugged, turning to look out the window at the tops of the trees of Central Park in the distance “- I said yes.”

Tony shook the ice cubes in his glass. “The way you said ‘together’…”

“I kept saying yes,” Steve said. “Day after day, you asked, thinking it was still that first time, and I said yes. Sometimes I explained, sometimes I didn’t. The yes days became more frequent than the nos. And then, sometimes, a-after,” Steve stuttered, “you’d go over everything I’d told you and try to solve it. You never made it by midnight.” He looked down at his hands. “Until you did.”

While Steve told Tony about last night, the details tumbling out of his mouth before he could stop them - the bath, the massage, the bed - Tony kept his eyes fixed firmly on his drink, refusing to meet Steve’s gaze. Steve stuttered to a halt when he reached the discovery of the not-a-GPS.

“That’s it?” Tony asked, making Steve startle; the only sound he’d heard in the room for nearly half an hour was his own voice.

“I woke up at home again, went right down to the Triskelion, and that’s when you saw me next. You - Thank you. You saved me.” Silence fell, settling over the room like a layer of fresh snow. Steve shivered. “So… anyway. Those nights meant a lot to me and -” He drew the words he needed to say up inside him and let them out in a rush. “I fell for you. I know it’s a lot - I mean, you don’t even remember so it’s not exactly fair of me to ask you to -”

“Steve.”

Steve stilled.

Tony set his drink down then rose and crossed the rug to stand in front of Steve. He reached out and rested his hand on Steve’s cheek, curving his fingers gently under the edge of Steve’s jaw. Steve lifted his chin and met Tony’s warm, gentle gaze. “Steve… I’ve wanted that for a long time. I never thought you’d get there - here. I thought maybe, maybe, I could manage to be your night of wild abandon. Sounds like maybe I was… but now? Maybe not?”

“Definitely not.” Steve caught the silk tie of Tony’s robe between his fingers and rubbed the pad of his thumb over the fabric. He remembered the way it had felt, brushing over his bare skin last night. This wasn’t where he ever intended to end up, but it was where he wanted to stay. “You’re so much more.” He tried uselessly to suppress the blush, but Tony smiled.

“Last night, the way you described it to me, is that what you want again tonight?”

Steve finally braved a hand on Tony’s arm. He stood, fingers curling around Tony’s wrist, bringing their chests close together. He could feel the warmth radiating off of Tony’s skin beneath the robe, beneath his shirt. “No, there’s something else I want tonight.” He skated his hand up Tony’s arm, his other matching on the other side and gripped Tony’s shoulders. Tony’s palms settled on Steve’s chest, fingers spread wide as if they were going to push him away, but somehow they were drawing him closer instead.

“You fell for me?” Tony asked, guiding Steve backwards towards the bedroom.

“I fell in love with you.” The words were easier to say this time than he thought they would be. “And you don’t remember.”

Tony sat on the edge of the bed and drew Steve in between his knees, pressing warm kisses over his stomach. He flicked his eyes up and caught Steve’s. “Remind me.”

Steve crawled over Tony, easing him back on the bed and pulling him into another heated kiss. “You like it when I do this,” he murmured, nipping at Tony’s lower lip and earning a soft groan. “You like my hands.” Steve slipped his hand, fingers spread wide, up under the hem of Tony’s shirt and stroked up over his stomach to cover his heart. The firm planes of Tony’s muscular chest and the dusting of hair had stopped making Steve’s breath catch unpleasantly with wrongness. He loved the way Tony felt under his hands. “You like it when I use my fingers to get myself ready for you while you watch, but eventually you can’t take it anymore and you push my hand away and take over.” Steve knew he was blushing but he didn’t care.

Tony hummed happily. “You learned all these things about me?”

“I did.”

“Steve…”

“You like telling me what to do, but you also like it when I take you hard.”

Tony moaned and ground up against Steve’s thigh.

Steve started to work Tony’s clothes off. “You like to sleep against my back with your arms around me,” he whispered. “You hum to yourself while you brush your teeth. You think Friends is funny even though it’s definitely not.” Tony laughed. “You have a crush on Posh Spice but she’s the only Spice Girl who won’t return your calls.” Steve started a line of kisses down Tony’s chest as he revealed it. “You get cold at night when you’re alone.”

Tony’s hands landed in Steve’s hair, and he let out a shaky breath. Steve worked Tony’s pants open and shimmied them down over his hips, brushing his cheek along Tony’s thigh. Tony kicked his pants the rest of the way off, and Steve leaned down and took the head of Tony’s cock between his lips, sucking lightly before sliding down. This too, he had learned. How it would make Tony swear and babble. When to stop - when Tony’s thigh started shaking - so Tony could still roll him over and take him without having to wait to get hard again.

Steve reached for the drawer he knew well now, and rummaged around in it blindly, still working his mouth up and down Tony’s cock, wet and sloppy like he knew Tony liked it. He wanted to show Tony how much he’d come to love him, trust him, and he could only think of one way to do that.

When Tony’s thigh started to shake and his moans turned into bit off gasps, Steve pulled back and kissed his way back up Tony’s body to his lips. He claimed his mouth in a heated kiss while he straddled Tony’s hips and slipped one hand behind him. The first press of his own finger to his hole made Steve’s breath hitch and Tony broke away, his lust-blown eyes meeting Steve’s.

“What are you up to, gorgeous?” Tony’s hands curled around Steve’s ass and found where his finger disappeared inside him. “Shit, that’s nice.” Tony’s finger pressed against his, pushing through the lube that Steve had spilled over his hand.

Steve moaned at the added pressure, his hips twitching to rub his cock against Tony’s abs. A fresh wave of pleasure washed over him when Tony took his cock in his free hand and pushed the finger that teased his rim in alongside Steve’s own. It was a little too much, faster than Steve would have worked himself, but that extra pressure only added more incredible sensation and Steve hid his face in Tony’s shoulder, his body telling him to just give in, rut against Tony’s hip while both fingers fucked into him, and come.

But he didn’t want to rush it, so he nipped at Tony’s skin and focused on the way he smelled and his hot breath against Steve’s ear and managed to swallow back the rush of arousal again. Tony was the one to add another finger, and the three was an amazing stretch, combined with the way Tony’s fingers moved independently of Steve’s. It wasn’t long before Steve was panting.

“Okay, Tony, please, I’m ready.” He rocked forward so his cock pushed through the ring of Tony’s fist then pressed back again so all three fingers sunk deep and hit the spot that set off fireworks. “Tony,” he begged, even though he knew he needed to move himself.

“Come on then, gorgeous. Take what you want.”

Steve fumbled for the bottle of lube, pushing Tony’s hand away and groaning at the loss when his fingers slipped free. He slicked Tony’s cock then sat forward and sunk down over him as quickly as he could without hurting himself. The way Tony stretched him open stole his breath and made his heart beat painfully loud in his ears. He closed his eyes and braced himself with a hand on the headboard. Both of Tony’s hands landed on his hips and eased him down, the slight twitch of his fingers letting Steve know how desperately Tony was clinging to his control.

When he was fully seated, Steve let out a long, slow breath then rolled his hips, making them both gasp.

“God, you feel incredible,” Tony breathed, his thumbs digging into Steve’s sides. He released his hold and ran his palms up over Steve’s ribs. He had a hesitant look in his eyes that Steve saw sometimes, like he wasn’t sure if Steve was going to have a breakdown and punch him in the face and walk out. And it was fair, the Steve he’d known yesterday might have done that.

But things were different now, so Steve tipped forward onto his elbows and pressed a kiss to Tony’s lips. “I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered when he pulled away, and Tony’s answering smile lit the room. Tony’s hand tightened around his cock and stroked hard, finding a rhythm together. They rocked that way, Steve rolling his hips in Tony’s lap, reveling in the stretch of Tony deep inside him, and Tony stroking his cock, time going fuzzy in a way that made Steve’s chest constrict. If they missed midnight, he didn't want to wake up up in middle of this and have it feel like a dream.

But he wasn’t going to this time. Not this time. A crushing wave of pleasure rocked into Steve out of nowhere, and he cried out as it built and built instead of ebbing again, until he came, shooting over Tony's fist and chest.

“Good god, you're amazing,” Tony said. Steve was suddenly jello, head still spinning, so Tony eased Steve up off his lap and rolled him onto his back so he could settle between his knees. He ran a hand over Steve’s stomach until he blinked up at him and smiled. “You okay?” Tony asked.

Steve hooked his ankle around Tony’s back and tugged him close. “Perfect.”

Tony beamed down at him, then bent to kiss him, hard, as he pushing inside again. They breathed into each other’s mouths. It was intense, feeling Tony rock against his prostate so soon after coming, but not uncomfortable. It was too much in the way that sometimes beautiful music was too much or a sudden memory could steal your breath. Steve held on and let Tony cover him and fill him up and take him away. Their fingers laced together next to Steve’s head, grossly sticky with lube, but neither cared. Tony pressed their foreheads together and pushed forward harder now, hips snapping. “Fuck, Steve, you feel so good. Fuck -” He pushed forward again with a groan and locked their bodies together as closely as he could, panting through his release into Steve’s shoulder.

Steve let out a shaky breath, eyes fixed on that crack in the ceiling, while Tony slumped over him, chest heaving. His arms fell to his sides, and Tony must have sensed his tension because he propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at Steve in concern.

“Are you okay?” he asked softly.

Steve met his eye and nodded. “We’ve been together over fifty times and this was the first time it was real. I hope,” he added fretfully.

Tony squeezed Steve’s fingers. “They were always real. Just because I don’t remember something doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. I wish I could remember.”

“Me too.”

“But we can make new memories, can’t we, darling?” Tony winked.

Steve hummed in agreement and pulled Tony close, but Tony only let him kiss him once before shaking his head and pulling away. He dragged Steve into the bathroom and they rinsed off together in the shower before brushing their teeth and heading to bed. It was soft and domestic in a way Steve had never been at Tony’s before, knowing he was going to wake up at home anyway, and it flickered something warm and alive in his chest.

They crawled under the covers and curled up together, hands wandering, still soaking in the pleasant warmth of the afterglow. But Steve didn’t feel completely safe just yet. He twisted to the side to catch sight of the clock - 11:46 - and Tony urged him over the rest of the way onto his side. Tony pressed up against Steve’s back like he had done in the bath, curling in to fill all of Steve’s negative space with warm skin. His hand settled over Steve’s stomach.

Steve tried to relax, but eventually gave in and snatched the clock off the side table, bringing it down to eye level. Tony pressed a kiss to the back of his neck.

“I want to be here with you, when tomorrow comes,” Steve said. “I don’t want to wake up alone again.”

“If it doesn't work, if I forget again, please don’t give up on this - on me. Try again. Keep trying.” Tony’s hand tightened around Steve’s middle.

“I will.”

Steve tensed as time ticked on, and Tony shifted his hand higher, weaving his fingers through Steve’s. At 11:59, Steve stopped breathing. It’ll be okay, he told himself. If you wake up in your own bed, it’ll be okay. You can figure this out.

But he didn’t.

12:00.

Tony smiled against the back of Steve’s neck, and Steve dropped the clock to the mattress. Hysterical laughter welled up inside him, and he couldn’t stop it; it spilled out of his mouth, shaking his body in Tony’s hold and hitching his breath into desperate gasps. Tony rubbed a soothing hand over Steve’s side while he laughed, pressing his face into the pillow to muffle the sound. It was over. It was really over.

“Shit.” He slapped his hand over his mouth.

“What?” Tony stilled into a marble statue behind him.

“I broke my beeper this morning. Fury’s going to kill me.” Steve snorted with laughter again, and this time Tony rolled him onto his back and crawled over top of him, kissing the sound out of his mouth.

“I -” Tony kissed him again “- will buy -” he kissed him between each word “- you a hundred new beepers.”

Steve’s laughter died down, and he pulled Tony tight against him, still smiling against his mouth. “If I fall asleep, you’re still going to be here tomorrow, right?”

Tony shifted down until he was sprawled comfortably over Steve’s chest, their hands wound together. “It already is tomorrow.” He nuzzled his nose into Steve’s neck. “But I’ll be here.”