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I want you to be mine

Chapter Text

Life was really unfair Steve thought when he saw the boy enter the restaurant brandishing the keys of the Ferrari that was illegally parked just outside. Some people had everything: looks, intellect, success, money, love... and some people had none of those, like him.

The boy's entrance had been boisterous. He came in, all flashy and brash, as if he owned the place, wearing sunglasses and casual but fancy designer clothes. He seemed the kind of person whom would look good with just about anything anyway. His dazzling smile matched perfectly his self-assured pace. All the customers stared at him which made him even more proud of his little show. He strode confidently to the table where a man - that Steve recognized as Howard Stark- and a woman, his wife probably, were waiting for him.

The boy kissed the woman on the cheek and nodded to the man before sitting down between them. It's Tony Stark, Steve though. Steve had heard about him. Howard Stark was rich and famous enough as it was - Stark Industries being at the top 10 of US corporations - and the fact that Tony was a handsome showy genius made him a gold nugget for the tabloids. 

Tony Stark was handsome indeed. He was tall, well-fit and a dashing smile illuminated his beautiful face. His dark hair and alluring deep dark eyes gave him a mysterious charm that Steve found utterly sexy. He was obviously not the only one, seeing how the girls giggled and turned around as he walked across the restaurant. Tony was self-confident and with his charms he could probably have anyone he wanted. He was smart too, or so they said. Those were precious qualities to succeed in life, that was for sure, but for a boy like Tony, it was just added bonus. He didn't even need to succeed in life, he already was revoltingly rich.

Steve didn't really care for that though. Money, fame, ephemeral beauty... those were not things that Steve found absolutely indispensable in life. No, the biggest reason he envied Tony Stark at that moment was because, on top of having all that, Tony was there, to eat with his family. Both his parents were obviously showering him with love and affection. His mother was caressing the bangs of hair that were sexily falling over his face to remove them from his eyes with a smile that conveyed all the love and affection that mothers had. His father wasn't that affectionate but the smile on his stern face showed how proud he was of his only son. Steve would have given anything for that.

Well, some people had everything... and that was really unfair.

He, on the other hand, had none of that. He was just this scrawny kid from Brooklyn who had graduated two years ago from arts school and was now struggling to make a living out of it. His mum had died of cancer five years ago, leaving him about just enough to pay for the school fees. His dad was never in the picture. He had spent most of his childhood in hospitals - hence the drawing - and therefore hadn't had the chance to forge himself the necessary social skills that could have made up for his pitiful physical appearance and sickly body. He regretted Nature had not been more even-handed and given him some of the boy's suave and sociable ways, in order to help him in the love and friendship department. Most of his friends were actually from Buck's circle. As for his love life, apart from one serious relationship that - let's be honest- had been a complete failure, it was limited to fairly disappointing one-night-stands with guys from dating apps because Steve was much too shy to approach anyone in real life. Yes, because on top of that, Steve was gay which wasn't like a bad thing or anything but it just took some time for him to get his head around it. It was not the life he had envisioned for himself and even though his mum had been pretty cool about it, he knew that deep down she would have wanted something else for him. Not that it mattered anymore anyway.

Actually, when you came down to it, Steve's life was pretty miserable but he didn't like to think about it too much. He was not the depressive type. 

He was wondering though, what the Stark family was doing in that restaurant which was absolutely not fancy nor good, whose only advantage was to be facing the huge and arrogant phallus that attracted all the tourists in that particular area - the Stark Tower. Well... It totally made sense after all. 

The man called for a waiter and their table was in his area. He didn't look happy. Maybe Steve had stared a little bit too long and had forgotten about actually going there for their orders. Steve went there. The man was angry and ordering around and throwing insults, the woman was complaining and agreeing with her husband and finding him excuses for his poor behavior. They were just regular rich assholes. Steve had already met a bunch of them. Disagreeable and disdainful, thinking the world was theirs and the rest of us were just here so we would comply to all their desires. Steve despised those types. People with no values. People with no courage. Steve didn't really pay attention to them much though. ... The boy was staring.

He was smirking, playing with a toothpick that he turned and turned between his perfect teeth, showing a sensual tongue from time to time. He was sitting on his chair in a very inappropriate way with a couldn't-care-less attitude. His left foot was almost resting on the chair next to him and his legs were spread wide, exhibiting proudly his virility. He was slightly rocking on his chair, pushing against the table with his knee and his gaze was locked onto Steve who couldn't escape the mischievous sparkles of his eyes and the brightness of his amused smile. He was staring and the world stopped around Steve for a few seconds. He was staring and Steve felt naked and awkward, just as he had always felt in this puny body.

"Why do we always have to suffer incompetence?" The man had grumbled, without even looking at Steve.

Steve was standing next to the table and blushing from uneasiness and anger. He didn't like confrontation. He wasn't good with words. He was just a simple waiter, facing the man who owned and had built the huge Tower in front of them, but he wasn't about to let those people bully him anyway. Just a matter of principle. Steve would not be rude though, his mother had not raised him that way. He wondered for a while if it wouldn't cost him his job. He really need it. His shift at the gallery wasn't enough. He also wondered if it wouldn't get Clint into trouble. He was the one who introduced him for this job and he was exceptionally covering Clint's shift today. It didn't stop him anyway. He hated bullies.

"I already apologized for the delay, Sir. You don't need to be rude. I will not accept disrespect. If you are not satisfied with our service, you can leave. Other customers are waiting."

The boy was still staring intently. When Steve stood up to the man, he chuckled mockingly. He was still chewing on his toothpick and looked at Steve in very provocative way. Steve didn't like that at all. He felt like the boy was going to challenge him for a fight. He didn't want that. He wouldn't back out of course but he'd rather not. He had been beaten up enough for a lifetime as a sickly gay kid at school. He looked away, trying to avoid the burning gaze. The boy kept staring anyway. He was making him feel inadequate and uncomfortable. 

"We're ready to order." The woman interrupted, ending the confrontation, while the man was internally fuming and glared at Steve. 

"Very well, ma'am." 

 

The boy kept staring. He had all along the course of dinner. His eyes were following him everywhere, undressing him, making him feel raw. He was still as nonchalant and bad-mannered, pouting to his parents like a whimsical kid. He was a kid tough, Steve thought. That kid however seemed to hold too much power over Steve. He never let go of him, almost touched him. Steve had felt something brushing his pants when he had brought his plate, which had made him blush furiously. 

Steve had nevertheless provided the best service one could ever be offered. He had been patient and attentive. He had dressed the plates perfectly with a quick efficiency. He unobtrusively cleared the table and cleaned their mess. He had attended to all their needs before they even asked.  He was proud after all and didn't like being called incompetent by someone who probably never did an ungrateful task in his entire life.

The man didn't give him any tip. Asshole!

Steve was relieved when they left. The boy gave him a last smirk and stared again before he flew out of the door, like a tornado.

 

When his shift finally ended Steve took his phone out of his pocket to check out his messages before going to the locker room and change. A small paper fell from his pocket and Steve picked it up to throw it in the bin. He looked at it first, in case it was important. It was scribbled with an energetic and irregular writing.  

Meet me at the back after your shift. Let's have some fun.

Steve felt warm at once, a blush starting on his face. He remembered those deep dark eyes he couldn't escape. His heart skipped a bit. He wasn't sure exactly if he was excited or scared. He looked outside but the Ferrari was gone. His shift had been fucking long, it would have been unlikely. He still headed to the back though, wondering what kind of fun was waiting for him out there. He really hoped it would not be the violent kind of fun. He would endure it anyway, he was kinda used to it now, sadly.

The boy was there, leaning against the wall, a phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, blowing smoke in the air. He didn't look up when Steve arrived. Steve stood there wondering what he was doing there, watching the puffs of smoke drawing improbable forms around the boy in the wind. The boy finally looked up and saw Steve standing awkwardly in the middle of the alley. He wasn't smiling anymore and his eyes were piercing with an aggressive glow in them. Steve's heart skipped again. He considered making a run for it but stayed there. He wasn't a coward.

The stare was feral but he walked slowly and quietly toward Steve, chest out, always keeping eye contact. When he was standing in front of Steve, he checked him out, from top to bottom and Steve felt naked again. The boy didn't say anything, he just blew his smoke on Steve's face. 

Steve looked at him too. He was not so much of a boy after all, now that he was standing close to Steve. He was tall and broad and very masculine. And handsome, and mysterious, and sexy, and dangerous. 

They stared at each other for a moment without moving or talking. The tension rising between them until he couldn't take it anymore.  His all body was tense and hectic inside, his skin burning. His heart beat faster in his chest, pumping in his ears. He was trying to focus on his own breathing which was becoming heavier and heavier until it was the only thing he could hear. Those eyes were piercing through Steve until they reached his heart.

Steve wasn't very sure how it had happened or who had started it, but suddenly he could feel the soft plump lips on his and the hot breath on his mouth. It smelled like cigarette and something else, something fiercely attractive that made Steve's head spinning and his heart beating faster.  The boy - the man - was holding his head in a strong inescapable grasp. The hands, on each side of his face, were steadying him firmly but gently, caressing his temples, descending down his neck and sending shivers down Steve's spine. The kiss was brutal and passionate, electrifying. Teeth against teeth. Tongues entangled together in a fiery fight. Their spit mixing together and running down their throat. The hot breath burning their nose.

Steve wanted to touch him too. He brought his hands to the boy's neck, pulling him closer to him. He wanted to feel him, to touch him, to possess that skin, to penetrate inside and intoxicate with that mesmerizing smell. His hands fondled his head, running through the boy's hair and messing them possessively.

The boy broke the kiss and laughed against Steve's lips. It was an erotic laugh and the lips brushing Steve's gave him a tingling sensation that spread in his whole body and down his belly. He felt the temperature rise and overwhelm him. The boy seized the collar of Steve's shirt and brutally brought him up closer to him. He snuggled in the crook of his neck, blowing hot air that tickled and enraptured Steve. His lips and teeth running along his throat, bit him softly and kissed delicately his neck. One hand grabbed him by the neck and hold him there firmly but without hurting, while the kisses were biting up to his ears. The other hand ran through Steve hair and pulled his head back, giving a better access to his neck.

"You're so hot..." The boy whispered against Steve's ear, while kissing and biting. It was the first time that he was hearing his voice, Steve realized. It was hoarse and sensual and made Steve's heart jump and his weak knees tremble. He thought they were going to fail him, maybe they did, but the boy was holding him firmly. He walked them both to the wall and leaned Steve against it. Then he let go of him and stepped back, and laughed again. 

He was still staring at Steve, eyes piercing dangerously and a devilish smile which hypnotized him. Steve was trying to catch his breath, his chest heaving jerkily. He was staring too. The boy was perfectly debauched, disheveled, hair in a mess, his sexy lips glowing with saliva. He had a hand clung to the waist of his back slim jeans. As if he was showing off the huge bulge between his legs that Steve couldn't take his eyes off, looking at it greedily. The eyes were diabolic, devouring Steve possessively and the moves were frenetic. Steve thought he was going to be eaten up. He bit his lips in expectation, slipping slowly his hand inside his own pants.

The boy rushed against him and pushed against the wall, invading Steve's space entirely. Their hands battled to touch their bodies, tearing the clothes off, running around, alternately caressing softly or grabbing firmly. Both of them wanted to touch, to penetrate, to possess. They kissed furiously, ardently. The boy was pushing his body against Steve, imprisoning him in his embrace. He rubbed his crotch against Steve's with strength and passion, until one of them finally pulled their cocks out of their prisons. The boy spat on them depravedly and they grabbed both of them in their hands, never letting go of each other's mouths. 

Steve let go of their cocks to grab the boys head and intensify their kiss. The boy squeezed on their cocks and accelerated in an eager frenzy, panting heavily. Steve's mind went blank. His arms embraced his lover and he rested on his vigorous body as he was indulging himself in pleasure, getting intoxicated by the musky smell. The pleasure was getting intense and his body was burning. He was close. He rolled his arms around the boy's neck and kissed him passionately, biting his sexy lips and searching for his tongue. He gasped and whined as his body tensed and spasmed. He spurted four times on his lover's hand. The boy laughed in his mouth and kissed him furiously before coming as well, in a quiet growl.

They let go of each other. The boy looked at him sidelong with a proud smile and mischievous eyes. He brought his soiled hand to his mouth and tasted both of them, grinning provocatively. He chuckled at Steve's startled face and got closer again, preventing Steve from escaping, his muscular body an impenetrable fence between Steve and the rest of the world. He wiped his hand on Steve's clothes and slipped his hand in Steve's pocket, grabbing something.

"This was hot." He said with the same devilish smile. "Let's do this again some times."

Steve was looking at him not exactly understanding what was happening. He was too busy admiring the beauty of his features and the perfection of his body, indulging in the post-sex haze. The boy, whose gaudy virility had entranced Steve completely, was typing something in Steve's phone and Steve heard a ring in the pocket of his black jeans. He got close to him again and slipped the phone back in Steve's pocket. He grabbed Steve's head delicately and before he could say anything, he shoved his tongue in his mouth and kissed him lovingly. "Call me" He whispered in his mouth and let go of him. He turned around and walked away.

"Name's Tony" he shouted without looking at Steve.

Steve watched the boy leave, admiring the muscular back that he could distinguish under his jacket, amused by the self-confident stride.

This was not the first time Steve had anonymous sex in a back alley, but it was certainly one of the hottest and most fascinating encounter he'd had in his entire life.

Chapter Text

When Steve came back to his place, he was welcomed by a familiar smell down the stairs which usually announced the presence of his friends.
He pushed the broken door open and let himself in. "Damn it guys!"

"Hi, Stevie!" Bucky said without looking at him. He was too busy making out with his lover on the couch to bother. The said lover only held two fingers up as a greeting. Steve rolled his eyes and let out a desperate sigh.

"I told you guys not to smoke inside. I've got asthma." He protested, knowing perfectly that it wouldn't change a thing. Bucky and Clint had a habit of making themselves at home a bit too much. They were always hanging out and smoking pot without his consent. He didn't really care anymore but he liked to remind them that it was still his place. 

"The window's open. Besides, you haven't had an attack in like ten years or something." Bucky remarked.

"That's no reason." Steve pouted.

"It's better inside. In case someone sees us or something... " Clint added, still focused on his boyfriend.

"Yeah, right. 'Cause this is so much better to have the smell spread down the staircase till three floors bellow."

"You're a spoilsport, Cap!" Clint teased while blowing smoke, joint in hand.

Clint had started calling him Captain Stick-Up-Your-Ass because he was always the one whining about the mess they would leave and making a fuss about doing drugs and stuff like that. He was the oldest after all, it was his responsibility to take care of them and it was his fucking place and they seemed to only remember it when there was cleaning to do. Also he suspected Clint to have an army kink. Somehow the nickname stayed and as time went by it got shortened to Captain or Cap. He liked it though, it gave him some kind of brave self-assurance which contrasted with his frail built.

Steve may have been the oldest, he was still the shortest among his friends. Only Natasha was a bit shorter and Natasha had this death stare that made her look taller and more impressive than Steve could ever be.

He let his body fall on his bed and sighed. He regretted doing that when his back touched the old mattress on the floor. Even with his height it was still too low to do that. He didn't have other choice though, his couch was taken. He couldn't really complain. Clint and Bucky were the only reason this couch was here in the first place. At the beginning, Steve only had a mattress, a whiteboard that he used as a desk to draw, a chair and an easel, and some indispensable kitchen stuff. He didn't even have a fridge. He used to put his goods out on the window ledge to keep them cold. Gradually, his friends had furnished the place, which made completely sense since they had decreed it to be their hang-out place. Steve was two years older and most of his friends were still living in the dorms. Clint had found the couch in the garbage and him and Bucky had carried it up the stairs. He would have never been able to.

He spread his arms and legs and looked hazily at the ceiling. There was mold and crusts of paint on it. Sometimes when he was tired or bored he would just look at it and imagined scenes: people, landscapes, scenarios. A couple exchanging rings. A battlefield. A plane crashing. A sunrise. Alien invading New York city. His mind was overflowing with imagination. Sometimes, he wished he wasn't so busy and so tired and fancied painting his ceiling for real. He'd had to have a stepladder too, of course.

He looked at his friends again. They were still making out, blowing smoke in each other's mouth. Their kisses and touch were becoming more passionate. Bucky was lying on the couch and Clint was above him, one foot on the floor, holding himself to the back of the couch with one hand while the other was sliding dangerously down Bucky's sides. Bucky dropped the joint and seized his boyfriend's face and shoved his tongue down his throat. Clint's hand started buttoning down Buck's jeans. 

"Guys, Seriously?"

Steve had already seen Clint and Bucky having sex -never penetrative though- several times and usually he found it pretty hot. He had always wondered if they actually had penetrative sex with each other or if they were both tops and only had anal with other guys. Curiously, he'd never thought to ask. 

"You're welcome to join us if you want." Clint said, his voice hoarse with lust, while biting his lover's lip. Bucky turned to him with teasing eyes and showed a wanton smile. He knew very well Steve would say no.

Not that the prospect of having sex now wasn't tempting and his friends were hot in a dirty punk kind of way. They were both hunks. Muscles and everything, tall, square jaws and sloppy look. Clint dressed like a heavy metal singer. His short blond hair were never styled, and Buck had long brown hair that he usually tied in a bun because he was the lazy type. He often hung around with worn-out tank tops so he could show off the tattoo on his left arm. It looked like a metallic arm and had taken Bucky two years to have it completed.  

They had often propositioned Steve but he had never accepted. He wasn't sure if it was because he didn't want to intrude or if it felt weird having sex with his friends - with Clint - or simply because he wasn't too keen on being sandwiched between the two of them. Somehow Steve was convinced that they would both fuck the hell out of him if he did accept and he wasn't sure it was what he wanted. Steve never had a threesome. He was rather a one on one type of guy. He was a bit of a romantic actually and he secretly dreamed of finding the one, getting married and settling in a monogamous relationship somewhere in New jersey with a house and a dog. A man can dream right?

Tonight Steve was in no mood for watching them having sex though. He was too tired and too depressed for that or maybe seeing them only reminded him too well that he hadn't got laid in like a month and his love life was miserable. It had been a very long day and Steve's drawings had been rejected again and he really needed to take his mind off things.

"Let go out tonight!" Steve suggested still hazing at the ceiling, his hands playing with his hair.

...

They found themselves in Clint's favorite gay bar. 

Bucky went for drinks and Steve regretted coming here all of sudden. It wasn't really his scene. The music was too loud and the guys were too tall and too muscular and Steve didn't know how to dance. He was all rigid and awkward and really lived up to his nickname. Clint tried to cheer him up by moving seductively around him. It was more teasing than seducing though. Clint liked to make fun of him.

Bucky came back with three beers and gave each of them one. He took Clint by the waist and brought him closer to him. Steve rolled his eyes and drank his beer. He wondered why he always went out with them. If he wanted to get laid, that wasn't the right strategy at all.

Clint freed himself from Bucky's embrace and pointed at the bar. He pulled Steve by the arm to show him too. "See that guy over there, slutting around? Guess who's that!" He announced proud of himself.

Steve looked at the bar and saw a young man, dark hair, stylish, chatting with men twice his age. It took him longer than it should to recognize him. His attitude was so different. He was still this tall handsome and magnetic man but somehow he was much more graceful and delicate. He was moving lasciviously around the men, batting his eye-lashes and touching always. His face was too close, his smile was too bright, his laugh was too loud, his eyes were shining lewdly and his whole body gave off a sensuality that he hadn't seen before. Steve was instantly drawn to him and couldn't keep his eyes away.

"That's Tony Stark, Clint answered rhetorically, he comes to the restaurant with his parents sometimes."

"Tony Stark? The Stark heir?" Buck asked for confirmation.

"Yep! That's him!"

"I thought he was straight. Didn't he date that blond actress - what's her name again?"

"I think he changes girl every month or something... But hey, maybe he's not that straight after all."

"He's hot."

"Damn yeah. You should see him close. He's got those eyes... It's like it's written 'fuck me' all over his face. And a fine piece of ass, too. I tell you."

Steve barely listened to their rambling. He was mesmerized by the boy again and somehow his friends annoyed him with their suppositions, but what annoyed him the most was those men who lusted after a teenager. Well, he was lusting too but he was much younger than they were so that should be fine he guessed. When Tony took one of them by the hand and led him towards the bathroom Steve was done for. He went back to his friends and decided to enjoy his night out despite everything.

After five rounds it was his turn to pay for the drinks again. He slinked towards the bar and as usual waited for ten minutes before the bartender noticed him and took his order. He asked for three shots and threaded his way through the crowd to where Bucky and Clint were busy dancing or making out or both, who knows?

He was focused on not tripping on his way there and held his glasses firmly. He was a clumsy head and didn't want to cause yet another scene by spilling his drinks on someone's shirt. This had happened too many times and had often cost him a black eyes and Bucky bruised knuckles. Too late.

He just bumped on a tight muscular chest. The man was tall and he smelled good. Really good. "Hi!" He looked up and intense dark eyes were staring into his own. The dashing smile made Steve's heart skip. Tony was radiant and so impressive his knees faltered.

Tony took one drinks from his hands and drank it in one shot before dropping the glass of the floor (That was rude! and dangerous...) "Thanks for the drink."

"Hey!" was all Steve could say. There went his drink. Tony looked at him with provocative eyes and chuckled. He was blocking Steve's way with all his bulk. Steve tried to slip away but Tony moved fast and managed to stand in his way every time. 

"I haven't come alone." Steve said, "My friends are waiting for me" and he instinctively looked towards Clint and Bucky. They were almost making love on the floor. Tony's eyes followed his gaze and he chuckled again.  "Looks like they're busy right now." He said with a wry smile.

His eyes were onto Steve's again and he was unable to look away. Tony moved closer to him, forcing him to step back. He made him cross the room like that, walking backward with his two drinks in his hands, their eyes locked into each other's, until his back bumped against one of the pillars that supported the ceiling and gave the bar a more intimate atmosphere.

Tony hit his right hand on the pillar above Steve, Asian style, and surrounded him with his massive body. Not that he was particularly massive, Tony was more the slender muscular type than the bulky one, but compared to Steve he was impressive.

"You didn't call me!" He said reproachfully.

"Neither did you." Steve snapped back, looking at him impudently. 

Tony smiled. Steve's tentatives at fighting back were rarely taken seriously. He stepped back and looked at him with incredulous eyes. "That's not how it works. I gave you my number first!" He protested and Steve found it really cute.

"What are you doing here anyway? Aren't you underage?" Steve tried to change the subject and avoid answering.

"Details." he said and the cute moment was passed. He was back to his animalistic pick-up technique. Both his hands were resting above Steve's head and his body was moving closer and closer, invading Steve's personal space and breaking down his defenses one after the other. His eyes were feral and his expression dangerous. Steve's chest heaved and he gasped for air. He was mesmerized again and couldn't look away. He thought he must have looked pretty stupid with his awe-face and his mouth open, almost drooling at the boy.

"What's your name Steeeve?" His voice had slurred his name sensually.

"How do you know my name?"

"I can read a name tag, can't I?"

Steve felt stupid again. Of course he had seen his name tag at the restaurant. Still, he was surprised that he remembered. 

He stuttered. "I'm err... Rogers. Steve Rogers."

Tony chuckled again. "Nice to meed you Steve Rogers." he said with a soft smile. "I'm Tony S-"

"I know who are." Steve blurted out before Tony could say his name. As if hearing it was somewhat offensive for Steve.

A glimpse of disappointment crossed Tony's face before he smiled at Steve aggressively again. "Of course, you know..." He said, his tone slightly bitter.

"So, little Rogers. Are we gonna have that drink or not?"

Steve realized his hands were still clutching the two remaining glasses firmly against his chest.

"First, don't call me 'little'. I'm older than you. And second, No! You're underage."

"Really? What are you? My mum?"

Steve felt his cheeks blush and felt stupid again. He hated being so powerless around that kid, and at the same time he thought it was incredibly arousing. He felt hot in his groin.

"No."

"How old are you then, little Rogers?"

"Twenty-four"

"You don't look twenty-four."

"Fuck you!" 

Tony laughed mockingly. "I'd rather fuck you, if you don't mind." and he forcibly took the glasses from Steve's grasp and drank one while holding the other to Steve. He drank it too. He really needed a drink.

Tony took the empty glass from him again and put them on a table nearby.  Steve attempted freeing himself from his metaphorical confinement but Tony was back against him and pressed him against the pillar with his body. He grabbed both his hands in his and pinned them above his head against the pillar. He placed one leg between Steve's thighs and made him lose balance with his knee. 

"Don't bully me. I'm five years older than you." Steve commanded with a challenging tone. Tony panted and whispered in his ear. "What I lack in age I compensate in brain." 

It made Steve smile. He was cute, he thought. So very cute, and funny, and unpredictable.

"You're so light I could carry you like that and fuck you against that pillar." Tony muttered lewdly, so sensually that Steve was already hard. 

His body relaxed as he abandoned the struggle. Tony loosened his grasp and let Steve ground his two feet on the floor. Then he kissed him passionately but gently and Steve let himself indulge in the kiss. Tony broke the kiss and looked at Steve with a smile.

"You taste like sperm." Steve remarked and Tony inched closer but let go of his hands.

"What one must do to get drinks!" He snapped back, pretending to be offended.

Steve wasn't sure if he should feel aroused or sad at that. Maybe he felt both.

"You could pay for them?" He suggested.

"Where's the fun in that?" Tony asked with a provocative smile and kissed Steve again.

"You're a slut!" Steve muttered against his mouth while grabbing his shirt firmly, trying to gain power over him.

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Not wearing protection is. You're gonna give me STDs..."

Tony tsked. 

"You don't have to swallow."

"I like swallowing." He whispered against Steve's mouth. "It's hot." It was hot Steve thought, but was it worth the risk?

"Take me to your place." Tony said - demanded. 

"You're a kid." Steve tried, as if it somehow justified why Steve couldn't take him home, knowing perfectly though that it wouldn't work as an excuse. 

Tony raised an eyebrow and answered with a smile. "I thought we were past that?" 

Steve looked down and knew he was going to take him home with him so why keep pretending.

"Take me to your place. I wanna fuck you."

 

 

Chapter Text

It was cold outside and Steve lingered on the sidewalk, his hands fidgety, not knowing what to do. Well, he knew what to do, that had been pretty clear. He was going to bring home the young man standing next to him and let him fuck him to oblivion. He just wasn't sure how he ended up there.

He turned to the young man. Tony was staring at him, eyes mischievous and a sly smile. He was pushing his hands down the pockets of his jacket and blowing white breath in the wind. He chuckled mockingly at Steve's confusion. He was nonchalant but his expression was intense, the eyes were ardent and devouring. He could almost hear his dominant boyish voice challenging him: Just you wait, little Rogers...

"So..." Steve asked. "Do you have your car?" 

The answer was quick and blunt. "No."

He hesitated, "Should we call for a cab, or..? " 

Tony raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Do you have money for a cab?"  

Steve avoided his gaze, feeling a little ashamed. It was stupid because there was nothing shameful about not having enough money to pay for a cab and Steve was certainly not someone who would be impressed by someone else's money or status. It was the intent, mocking stare that unsettled him. "Not really but..." 

"How do you get home usually?" Tony asked in a tone that let imply he knew the answer already. There wasn't any judgment in his voice or in his expression. It was more like Tony could see through him and was unraveling all his secrets with his stare.

"Subway." He admitted as if it was a bad thing and he hated himself for feeling like that even for a second.

"Okay, Let's go then." Tony chuckled. 

Tony had let Steve lead the way and followed him like a puppy. The more Steve walked on, the more he regretted this decision. Tony was just a kid. It was one thing to mess around in a back alley but to actually invite the guy over for a fuck was on a totally different level.

They were about to walk down the stairs, Tony got closer and put a firm and steady hand on the nape of his neck. He pressed gently as if to remind him Steve was gonna be his tonight. Steve stopped walking and indulged in the touch. The hand was warm despite the cold. Tony was fondling his skin with his thumb in a tender but completely domineering way and it sent shivers down Steve's spine.

Steve turned to him and saw Tony's eyes deeply focused on him. There was no mockery in them for once. No smile either, only concern. He could read the question in those eyes. Are you sure? 

Steve wasn't sure. Steve wasn't sure of anything anymore. Tony's hand had slid around his nape while he he had turned around and was caressing his neck in a gentle manner. He cupped Steve's jaw reassuringly while his thumb was brushing his cheek with the same tender touch it had his nape. The thumb ran up across Steve's face and came to his lips, brushing them delicately. A wave of warmth overwhelmed Steve. He was feeling hot in his loin and didn't seem to be able to move anymore. He opened his mouth slightly as if to say something but he didn't know what to say. Tony chuckled and smiled with fire in his eyes. Steve's heart started racing. Suddenly, the boy's hot demanding tongue was in his mouth, ravishing him in a wet messy kiss. Steve, forgetting they were in the middle of a subway station, moaned shamelessly and abandoned himself to the kiss. He brought his arms around his lover's neck and embraced him tightly. He was feeling like a teenager again. He didn't know what was so alluring and unsettling about that boy and it scared him a bit but he decided he wasn't ready to let go yet.

Tony broke away from the kiss after an indefinite time which may have been too long or too short depending on the point of view. He smiled at Steve with lewd eyes and a mouth glistening with saliva, still red from their hot battle with his. He was sliding his two hands up and down Steve's shoulders in a gentle, loving way, trying to reassure him or to hold him steady, never letting go. Steve wasn't really sure.  "Can you pay for me?" The body whispered with mischievous eyes.

Steve snapped out of his daze. "You're old enough to buy your own ticket." He answered annoyedly.

"I don't have my wallet..." Tony explained and threw a seductive smirk.

Steve raised his eyes to him in bafflement. "Did you lose it?" He asked with panic in his tone. Losing your wallet was a bummer, that had happened to Steve already and it was a real pain. However, Tony didn't seem worried. Actually, he looked more like he hadn't taken his wallet purposely. Steve's inner panic stopped while he saw the mocking smirky expression on Tony's face as only response.

"How did you even get in?" He finally asked, his tone much more blasé than he was feeling about this.

"I blew the bouncer." Tony deadpanned and looked at Steve with an amused smile, his expression contemptuous as if the answer was completely self-evident.

Steve opened his mouth in a horrified shock but Tony cut in before he could say anything. "I'm joking." He laughed and then his eyes turned serious again and he added an indifferent "Half- joking..."

Steve grabbed his arm without thinking. The consternation must have been obvious on his face because Tony's smile faltered and Steve thought he saw a flash of worry passing through those burning eyes. It didn't last long and Tony went back to his teasing expression and laughed a sweet sweet laugh.

"Chill out! I'm just messing with you. I'm Tony Stark, I get in wherever I want." He explained, his expression somehow resigned, almost rueful. Steve wondered why Tony would feel this way about having life easier than most people but it didn't last long enough for him to understand it. The bitterness was soon gone and he was back to his usual mocking nonchalance. "I might have let him think there was an opening though..."

Steve let out a sigh of relief as the tension in his chest ebbed away. They finally headed to the platform, Steve leading the way, Tony following close behind. "I don't understand you." Steve let out without looking at the other boy, scared his hypnotizing gaze would stop him from asking. "Why would you do that?"

"Do what?"

"You know..." Steve hesitated, "selling yourself out." He paused, wondering if he should look at Tony or not. He decided on not but wasn't finished. "I can't believe you actually sucked a guy off for a couple of beers."

"Hey. Don't be a judgmental prick!" Tony protested without much conviction. Steve stopped walking but didn't turn around to look at him. "For the record," Tony continued  "I wanted to suck those-- that guy off. If I can get free beer in the process that's all for the better. It's just killing two birds with one stone."

Steve waited for the weird thing that was churning his stomach to calm down before finally turning around and stared up at Tony. "I'm not judging." He said quietly. He bore his eyes deeply into Tony's who seemed to have dropped the condescending act and looked slightly annoyed. 

"Please. Your face is shouting disapproval." 

"I don't approve but I'm not judging."

"Whatever." Tony sighed bitterly.

He turned away from Steve and wasn't smiling anymore. Steve regretted saying that. Why would he say that anyway? How was this any of his business? He feared he had ruined the mood but Tony didn't seem to want to leave so he bought his fare and gave it to him. Tony took the ticket and smirked. Steve wondered if that constant mocking smug was really true or if it was a practiced face to hide his feelings. It was unsettling, and sad maybe.

They were waiting for the train to come, standing side by side. Steve was rocking nervously on his feet, playing with the ticket in his hands. Something bothered him. He finally asked, without looking.

"Was it really several guys?" He attempted to say, his tone as casual as possible.

Steve risked a glance. Tony turned to him and rolled his eyes. His grin spread on his face. "Does it really matter?"

"I guess not."

 

They silently sat next to each other in the train. Steve looked at Tony sideways. He looked so innocent suddenly. He was still smiling but his expression wasn't mocking anymore. It was a pure and honest smile tinged with genuine childishness. He was beautiful, Steve thought. He was so beautiful. Tony was watching all around with an amazed curiosity and Steve felt a pang in his chest. 

Tony noticed Steve was staring and turned to him with a gentle and reassuring expression. Had Steve looked worried? He put his arm around Steve's shoulders and brought him close to him in a masculine, almost fatherly way.

Then his eyes turned feral again. He stared at Steve with a wild and hungry expression before burying his face in the crook of Steve's neck, sniffing him like an animal. He started to cherish his neck with light kisses and bites, nibbling at the skin and sending shivers down Steve's spine. His skin was prickling and his heart was racing. Warmth spread from his groin to his entire body while pleasure and desire were taking over his brain. He tried to get free of Tony's grasp and opened his mouth to protest but Tony cupped his face with his other hand and kissed him wildly, his tongue forcing its way inside until Steve's body got hot all over and his mind went blank. He brought a trembling hand to Tony's face in an attempted caress but Tony seized it half-way and locked their fingers together. 

He finally broke the kiss and Steve could breathe again. He opened his eyes and looked around.

"People are staring." He said with an embarrassed smile. Steve wasn't fond of public displays of affection, he liked to keep intimate things private and didn't care much about shoving his sexual preferences at people's face.

Tony kept fondling and kissing. "Mmmh, So?"

"I don't know. It's embarrassing. Stop."

Tony looked at him with a sly smile. "Are you scared, Little Rogers?" 

Steve pouted. "I'm not. Just, I don't like making a scene that's all."

"Ahh. I see." Tony said, his voice full of innuendos and Steve let it go with a smile. He couldn't resist.

He rested his head on the boy's shoulder, indulging in the warm presence beside him. They were silent for a moment.

"So," Steve started, trying to fill up the silence. "I wasn't sure you'd agree to take the subway." He looked away shyly, the same awkward feeling of inferiority hanging over.

" 's hardly my first time." Tony answered in a cold and unconcerned tone that dampened Steve's enthusiasm. 

"Oh... I thought you'd be the kind of guy who hates public transport and takes a cab wherever they go." 

Tony turned to him and giggled. He brought his face close to Steve's and stared provocatively into his eyes. "Actually, ..." he whispered, so sensually on Steve's lips that suddenly Steve had forgotten all about the awkwardness. He was hypnotized again. Only the plump lips that were brushing his own mattered. "I never take cabs." Tony continued. "I have a chauffeur." He slurred on the last word and blew his breath on Steve's mouth. Then, he backed away and laughed at Steve's bewildered face.

"Really?"

"Yeah, really. Just have to call him and Happy picks me up and drives me wherever I want."

Steve awed stupidly as if he was Cinderella at the ball and pinched his arm to come to his senses. "Happy? Your driver's name is Happy? What kind of name is that?" He sneered.

"Hey, don't make fun of him. Happy is the best. I could never have a better driver. And it's not really his real name, not that it matters anyway."

"Oh, I see. Why are we riding the subway then?"

"Because it's fun. Besides, I'm not gonna wake him up and make him wait outside while we do the dirty. Poor guy... Have some sympathy!" 

Steve could really sympathize and something in Tony's tone led to believe that he was talking from experience and he felt something clutch in his guts. It made him feel awkward again. They were from two different worlds, their lives were too apart. Tony was a spoilt rich brat while he was an adult who couldn't get around his own life.

"Sorry but I'm not feeling the fun vibe yet."

"That's because you don't pay attention. Look at me! I'm enjoying myself like a kid in a candy shop. This is such an extraordinary experience. Mingling with the rabble. So exotic. It's like going to the zoo or something..."

Tony's expression was so serious and so honest that Steve wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic or not. Tony whined and discreetly pointed at one of the passengers. "See? Look at that guy, seriously. That outfit is an outrage. Seriously? No. I can't look at that. This is offensive. People should press charge or something. My eyes hurt!"

Now, Steve was clearly offended. There was something really indecent and repulsive in the way Tony was making fun of that poor man and his attitude revolted Steve to the point that he backed away from him with a disgusted face. Tony looked at him with a blank expression and burst out of laughter.

"Your face!" He exclaimed with his hand on his mouth to hide his laugh. Then he sighed and stroked Steve's head like he would a little kid. "Oh my. Oh my.... You're so naive, Little Rogers. I could literally read the outrage written on your disapproving frown. Your face is so honest, that's beyond cute." He cocked his head closer to Steve's and whispered to him with intense eyes. "Makes me wanna fuck you even more and make you blush."

Steve's heart started racing again while desire spread in his groin. He felt his cock twitch in his pants. He tried to shake off the thought and pouted. "I knew it was a joke."

"Yeah, right... You were so about to give me a lecture right now, weren't you?"

Steve crossed his arms and sank into his seat. "You're an asshole."

Tony looked at him with a tender smile and rested his head on Steve's shoulder. "I know." He admitted. "And a slut too."

The self-deprecating comment contrasted with the childish and carefree tone Tony used and it made Steve feel weird. He felt like Tony was unhappy with the situation but that somehow, it was inevitable so he had resigned himself to accept it. It was sad and Steve wanted to say something to comfort Tony but couldn't find anything so he remained silent and rested his head on Tony's. He took his hand and entangled their fingers together. 

"I meant it, you know?" Tony said while playing with Steve's fingers. "This is fun. But I don't mean the subway ride, or maybe I do when I can tease you and embarrass you in public but... I mean the wait... the anticipation... being here, with you, knowing that I'm gonna fuck you. It makes it all better." And he glanced furtively at Steve with a depraved and hungry look in his eyes. He moved his mouth close to Steve's ear and started biting and licking and made Steve hot all over. He gasped at the tingling, enraptured in pleasure. His heart was racing, his cock was getting hard in his pants. He whole body relished in Tony's touch. His mind was submerged with the burning desire. He could picture it vividly, Tony fucking him on his bed. 

Anticipating. 

 

 

They were half-way to Steve's floor when Tony stopped to catch his breath. "Seriously, twelve floors and they can't even fix the elevator? Damn it, you're definitely the kind of guy that is earned. I'm telling you, Little Rogers. You better be worth it." Steve chuckled but felt mushy inside. He was rarely complimented this way, even if that was a joke.

They finally arrived and Steve kicked the door open. Tony was startled but looked amused. "Lock's dead." Steve simply said.

"And you couldn't have it repaired?" 

"Can't afford it. Besides it's better like that, my friends can come and crash here even when I'm out." 

"Nice." Tony said with a suggestive smile "So I take it this is where all the sins are committed?" 

Steve turned to him and chuckled. "I guess, yeah."

"Still, isn't it like dangerous or something? You could get robbed or assaulted in your sleep or whatever."

"There's nothing valuable in here." Steve said with a discouraged sigh. "And frankly who would want to assault me?" And it sounded more self-pitying than he had intended to be and he worried it would be a turn-off. 

"I would." Tony said innocently and Steve recognized the sarcasm this time and he smiled

"Wanna have something to drink?" Steve asked out of politeness but he wasn't really thirsty. Tony roamed around the place, hands hidden in his pockets, and let out an uninterested "sure."

"Is beer okay?"

Tony nodded and laughed. "Do you actually have something other than beer?"

"hum... Water?"

"Beer's fine. I didn't come here to drink anyway."

Steve fixed them both a beer and joined Tony who was looking at the mess on the desk and the pictures of his friends scattered all over the wall. He took one of the last sketches he'd made. One of Bucky's tattooed arm.

"So, you're an artist, huh?" He asked without looking up from the sketch. 

"Sort of. Been to art school. Graduated two years ago."

"Cool! I don't know shit about art but... " He waved the sketch at Steve. "This is pretty nice. Is that your boyfriend? Your ex perhaps?"

"Hum..." Steve hesitated. "No. Just a friend. My best friend. You saw him? Earlier?"

"Didn't strike me. I guess my mind was somewhere else." He smiled suggestively. "Why did you hesitate?" 

"What?"

"Right now. You just hesitated..." Tony smiled sheepishly. "You guys have history, right?" 

Steve felt a blush spread on his entire body. "No. Not really. It's ju..."

"Whatever man, I don't care." Tony smirked and tried to ease the atmosphere by asking more questions about art. Steve wasn't sure he had done it on purpose but it felt like a rescue and he was grateful for that. His relationship with Buck was complicated and he didn't fancy going into the details right now. There were other, far more interesting, things he would rather do.

"So what do you do exactly? Do you draw? Do you paint?" 

"Hum. Both actually."

"Cool. Do you exhibit?" 

"Yeah. Sorta. I have a few pieces at the gallery I work part-time but... this isn't really my thing."

"Huh? What is your thing then?"

"Well, actually..." Steve started and then wondered why he was sharing so much of his life with this stranger but the genuinely interested eyes made him continue anyway. "My dream is to publish my own superhero comic book."

Tony's expression lit up. "Right! Now, you've picked my interest."

Steve could read the unspoken question on his lips. It was the first time a one-night-stand would bother ask him about his life so he answered."Well. I have a few boards ready already but I can't seem to find an editor."

"Shame. I hope you'll show me next time." Is there gonna be a next time?

"Yeah. Maybe." Steve said with a self-deprecating sigh.

Tony drank his beer and chuckled while looking at Steve sidelong with a seductive smile. "So, this wasn't bullshit. You really are an adult."

Steve rolled his eyes and sighed again. "Did you really doubt it?"

"I can't believe you actually have two jobs. This is sad..." Tony said with a shine in his eyes that was all but sad. 

"It's not like I have a choice." Steve said resignedly.

Tony smiled mockingly again, "Your life is sad, Little Rogers." and Steve was confused at how to interpret everything Tony said or did. Should he be offended? Amused? Angry? He couldn't decide so he ignored it and looked at the man with expecting eyes. They both knew what was going to happen but neither of them moved things forward. They both stared, showing their intentions and desire conspicuously, waiting, anticipating, enjoying the delay.

Tony finally put the can on the desk, took off his jacket, grabbed Steve by the arm and brutally pulled him close. He tore Steve's beer can away from his hand and put it on the desk next to his own. He was staring, his eyes dark and his expression murderous. He grabbed Steve by the neck with controlled brutality and forced a kiss on him. Steve had difficulty breathing. Tony was wild and rough, maybe too wild and too rough.

He was savage.

He maintained his mouth on Steve with an unbreakable grip. Steve was wavering between struggling against the violating invasion or indulge himself completely in the kiss that felt extremely hot per say. He took hold of Tony's wrists in an attempt to dislodge his hands, just for the principle or it, but they didn't budge.

Tony was kissing him furiously, mouth open and slick, forcing his tongue inside and Steve was losing his resolve. His heart was beating too fast and ached in his chest. He felt weak. He shivered, his limbs faltered and failed him, his entire body surrendered to the man. His skin was burning, electrified. Steve let the tongue penetrate him and kissed the man back. It was a hot, messy and brutal kiss. Tony was still holding him firmly by the neck. He almost heaved Steve which made him lose balance.

Steve couldn't get away, which was fine, because he didn't want to. He was already hard.

Tony finally released him from his grasp and stepped back while Steve was trying to find balance again on his trembling knees. His face was all flushed, he tried to catch his breath.

The boy wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket and smiled. He looked at Steve up and down, staring at his crotch and his smile spread, eyes dangerously wild. 

"You're hot, Little Rogers. So hot."

Steve had never been called "hot" before. He wasn't hot and he perfectly knew that. Tony was hot. Tony was handsome and mysterious, animalistic and dangerously magnetic. Steve was just okay-looking in a twink kind of way. Just transparent and awkward, rigid in his uncomfortable body. People would call him "cute" or "kind" or "nice" but not "hot." Never "hot."  and it unsettled him.

He raised his eyes to the boy--the man. Tony was staring again, piercing him with intense dark eyes, it made him feel like a pray.

Eyes burning his skin, his whole body ready for the hunt and the assault, Tony was ready to devour him. Maybe it wasn't really a joke earlier.

Steve felt extremely self-conscious suddenly, hard as a rock and cramped in his jeans. The way Tony was watching him hungrily made Steve feel hot and shaky all over. He was pulling on his shirt nervously, biting his lips and trying to stare back. He was clueless and didn't know what to do, or what to say, suddenly brought back to his teen years when he was still an innocent boy.

He didn't have the time to dwell on it because in an instant Tony was invading his space again, hot breath on Steve's mouth. He had moved with such a swift fluidity that Steve wondered if he was even human.

Tony pushed Steve on the bed with restrained violence. Steve was just a twig, he stumbled and fell on it but didn't have the time to protest because Tony was already above him, crawling onto him like a beast, imprisoning him with his body.

Steve may be small but he was not about to let the boy take advantage. He raised his upper body and sat up against the pillows. He pushed Tony away, not to refuse him but to signify him he would not let himself be violated. Tony got up on his knees and looked down on Steve with a gentle smile. His expression soft and reassuring. His eyes saying he would never hurt Steve and it was enough to submit Steve. He lay down on the mattress slowly, trusting his lover of one night to make this feel good for him. Tony was straddling him and he bent over to kiss him again, gently this time. His hand caressing his cheek delicately as he planted soft languorous kisses on his lips and jaw.

Steve wrapped his arms around him and pulled him closer. He searched his mouth with his lips and shoved his hungry tongue in Tony's mouth, taking control. Tony grunted against his lips and bit at his lips, trying to take back control.

The kiss was slow at first but rapidly turned brutal and messy. It was a battle of tongue, a mess of moans and spit, teeth hitting teeth until they couldn't breath anymore.

Tony cupped Steve's jaw with both hands and kissed and bit and licked furiously, grinding his hard crotch against Steve's pelvis, anchoring him in the mattress. Steve gasped and raised his hips to rub himself too. Both rock hard. Steve was getting intoxicated in Tony's masculine scent. He smelled man and sweat and sex, under the booze and cigarette. 

Tony let go of Steve's mouth and started biting and kissing at his neck, making him shivers. Steve buried his head in the crook of Tony neck, panting against the burning skin, inhaling the arousing scent.

He had never felt a desire so animalistic, so raw. He wanted to eat him. He ran his tongue up and down Tony's neck and bit his collarbone. His hands were stroking down the muscles of his back, feeling every curve and bump there. Tony was fit, athletic and defined even if slender. Steve ran his hand down Tony's flanks and slid them under the shirt. He felt Tony shiver while he brushed his soft skin. 

Tony grabbed his waist, holding Steve steady while he thrusted into his pelvis and rubbed their crotches together. The desire and the pleasure were overwhelming and Steve panted heavily, moaning in ecstasy, his cock hurting. He was about to come. 

"You're so fucking hot Little Rogers." Tony whispered in between pants. "I wanna fuck you now."

He took both Steve's hands and pinned them down along his body onto the mattress, then he straightened up. Eyes bestial again, his expression lustful and debauched. His nose was flaring like he was about to attack. Tony was scary, like he'd lost control.

Steve looked at him hypnotized, his whole body shuddering. He was worried for a second but his cock seemed to disagree with that feeling because the more ravenous Tony looked the more achy and hard it grew trapped inside his clothes. His chest heaving and his heart drumming, Steve felt a bead of sweat dripping down his temple and gasped at the cold shiver.

Tony was sitting upright on his knees, straddling him. A threatening shadow over Steve. He took his shirt off slowly and sensually, his stare lewd and hungry. Mouth slightly open, he was biting his lower lip in anticipation

Steve thought, it was the hottest thing he'd ever seen. Tony was so handsome, bestial and powerful. So hot Steve wanted to cry.

Tony ran his hand down his muscled chest, brushing his hard nipples and drove his thumb inside the hollows of his abs to finish its course on his fly. He was a fucking tease. He buttoned off his jeans and pulled the fly down slowly, anticipating. He ripped his jeans open revealing a huge bulge in his stretched underwear, spotted with wetness. Steve moaned and salivated at the sight.

He moved his legs and spread them wide on each side of Tony, raising his hip. Tony ripped Steve's pants off.

Steve's cock jolted free and sprung proudly between his legs, moist and burning. Tony smirked and bit his lips. 

Satisfied with the view, he dropped Steve's legs and started stroking up and down his thighs, rolling his thumb on the inside. Steve was breathing slowly, trying to swallow his pants. Desire rose up inside and his breath got struck in his throat. He gasped for air.

Steve wanted everything from Tony. He needed to feel his flesh, to breath his smell, to swallow him and penetrate inside his skin. He did and made Tony look debauched.

The boy bent down and crawled over Steve, clutching his hips with a strong grip. Tony was rough and brutal and moved with a certain restrained violence, mastered with experience. His movements were hard and strong but never hurting. 

He pinned both Steve's wrists with his left hand and fondled Steve's skin with his right hand. He reached his hard nipples and pinched them in domination, earning a cry of pleasure from Steve. Tony muffled those depraved erotic sounds with a dirty kiss. Tony caught Steve's mouth and ravished it, raped it, forcing his tongue in. And something else. Steve didn't notice at first, with Tony biting and spitting in his mouth, but then he felt it, something small and hard on the tip of his tongue.

A pill. 

He had even noticed Tony had taken pills - had pills period.

He muttered a muffled "no" in his lover's mouth but it was too late. Tony made him swallow it with his tongue.

He could have prevented it if he'd insisted but his resolve was not as strong as he thought it was. He let himself go with the flow, already regretting it.

"What the fuck? Tony! What did you give me?" He finally managed to ask breaking away from the kiss.

"Ecstasy." Tony whispered against his neck.

Panic rose inside of him. He'd never taken drugs before, other than smoking pot once or twice and alcohol. He felt a shiver running through his body and it had nothing to do with what Tony was doing to him. Tony sensed his fear and wrapped his arms delicately around him, holding him tight against his chest in a comforting and reassuring way. His hard cock was still burning and rubbing slowly between his legs. Tony's kisses were soft and gentle for a change.

"Shuushh." He whispered. "You're gonna be fine. It'll be amazing... you'll see. Don't struggle. Don't fight it." 

He held Steve so tight and so lovingly that he felt confused. His heart racing, his mind hesitating between anger and submission. Soon his desire for Tony, his desire to be fucked hard by the boy, took over and overwhelmed him.

Tony was already thrusting, rubbing a slick hard cock between his cheeks, brushing his rim. Steve was trapped under Tony, impossible for him to move but weirdly, the impossibility seemed to be imposed by himself. His mind wandered away and he forgot about everything else. Only the burning bulk of Tony over him mattered.

It was bad, he thought. Really bad. He tried to rationalize things, with difficiculty. His desire for the boy, too powerful. Steve wondered how he'd sunk so low. Doing drugs, sleeping with teenagers. What would he do next? He was spiraling down, dragged to hell by the young falsely innocent boy.

Tony had a dangerous side to him, but if Steve was honest, it was exactly what had attracted him in the first place.

Tony was licking his neck, his already pushing through, sending waves of pleasure and frustrated desire down Steve's body. He was past every reticence now. He wanted Tony inside of him and spread his legs welcomingly. Until he heard Tony's soft voice brushing against the soft skin in the crook of his neck and realization struck him like a cold shower.

"I wanna fuck you raw." Tony whispered.

He pushed Tony off. "NO!"

He didn't know how long it had been since he'd taken the pill, not that long he thought, but he was already feeling it. And the prospect of having bareback sex seemed already appealing. All his worries vanishing far away. It was bad. Really bad.

He quickly tried to reach for his stash of condoms and lube before he changed his mind and did another stupid thing. Tony straightened up shiftily, his moves abrupt with disappointment and anger. 

"Fine!" He surrendered while taking the lube and condom Steve was holding him. "But I'm not preparing you."

Tony didn't look angry anymore. He was smiling, a rather dangerous smile, and stroked up and down his long thick shaft a few times in order to entice Steve--It worked--before tearing the condom's package with his teeth and rolling it down on his red cock. He coated his hand with lube and covered his rubbered dick with it, sending sidelong lustful glances to Steve. 

After a moment which seemed like eternity, Steve's feelings enhanced, overwhelmed and confused, Tony finally gave in and stopped teasing Steve who could take it anymore. He lay down on Steve and pinned his hands down above his head.

His now-covered and lubricated cock was jolting and brushing against his pelvis and stomach. Steve arched up in need to intensify the touch of his own dick against Tony's skin.

He didn't remember wanting someone so badly and was barely the master of his own movements. With the effect of the drugs, Steve's senses were suddenly awake. Everything was more. His body was hotter, more wanting. Tony's scent was stronger, his voice was louder, his touches more palpable and Steve felt like his fingers penetrated through his skin, as if they were both merging to become one. 

Tony was still teasing and he couldn't take it anymore.

Every sense intensified, every feeling enhanced, Steve on alert, he was feeling fireworks in his brain and his chest. Not any rational thought left.

Tony finally complied and relieved him from his suffering and as promised he didn't prep him. He pushed inside slowly, waiting for Steve to get used to his thickness, shoving deeper and deeper at each slow and gentle thrust. Steve gasped at the intrusion and whimpered a long moan which turned into a cry when Tony pushed inside slowly.

He could feel everything. Sensations he had never felt before. Every little touch, every silent moan, every hitch of breath. Steve felt everything and ten times more.

Tony's ardent cock inside of him, every place it touched sent millions of prickles in and out of his whole body, Steve was shivering in pain and pleasure, overwhelmed by his emotions. Happiness, ecstasy, desire and fear. Everything was amplified and heightened and beautiful and Steve didn't remember where he was or who he was.

The only thing he could see were the stars and the only thing he could feel was his lover pounding into him with strength and vigor and brutality. He could feel him inside and outside like he was penetrating every pore of his body, sinking into his skin, piercing through his heart and seeping inside his very soul.

He felt a connection he had never felt before. Maybe he was crying. He had given up control completely. A mess of cries, keening and moaning. 

Sometimes he managed to voluntarily move and he looked up at his lover who was glistening with sweat, eyes feral and focused.

It was absolute delight, voluptuously carnal, pure sensuality.

Tony was incredibly handsome, amazingly beautiful. He was the most beautiful thing on earth. He could die now. Everything else futile and unimportant. Only the dick inside of him mattered. 

At some point he came, untouched, in a long and painful cry. His cock spurted long shots of white liquid and coated his abs. Tony slowed down then and pushed deeper inside, wanting to possess Steve completely. When Steve was done he thrusted slowly and regularly, as delicately as a caress but never stopped. His finger wiped the cream off Steve's stomach and brought it to his mouth. He cleaned the mess and when his mouth was filled with Steve's cum he came down to kiss Steve languorously, making Steve taste himself.

It was the hottest kiss he'd ever had. Not that he had never kissed his cum out of someone's else mouth before. He and Bucky always did it. This time it was just different. His mind wasn't clear enough to try to understand why though.

They kissed and kissed and fucked and he wasn't sure exactly when, or where, or how many times Tony had come, or even if he was still wearing a condom. He only knew that he had never stopped fucking him. He kept pounding into him in every position, manhandling him like he was a doll, never letting him relax or relieve himself, constantly pushing the right buttons and making him cry on the verge of orgasm.

He came three times. And untouched, something he had never been able to do before. The rest of it was all very blurry. It may have lasted five minutes or hours or a year. Steve wasn't sure of anything anymore. The only thing he was sure of was the deep connection he felt to his lover, like they were one, like they could read each other's minds, like they were bonded and tied to each other, body and soul.

He didn't need to speak. Tony just knew. Which was a good thing because he felt like he had lost the ability. He was just pants and grunts and moans. He was probably still on the old mattress of his apartment but he felt like on a flying carpet, as if he had visited the entire world while Tony was fucking inside of him.

 

It was already dawn when he woke up.

He was himself again, finally, which felt good and reassuring. Somehow, all of this had been pretty scary. He was trying to remember but it was too painful and he'd rather relish in the moment. Tony was spooning him, holding him close with an unbreakable grip. He tried to free himself but Tony's grip was too strong.

He looked around, trying to find a way to uncage himself. He didn't find it but he saw at least three used condoms so, there was that. He finally decided to give up and indulge himself in his lover's warmth and dosed off. He felt so good in Tony's arms. He felt wonderful. Sated and safe and relaxed despite the ache he felt in his entire body.  

That was some experience. Absolutely amazing and truly fearsome at the same time. He wasn't sure he'd loved it or hated it but he probably wouldn't want to do it again either way.

When he woke up again, Tony was up and about, getting dressed. When he saw Steve waking up, he threw his most dashing smile. He looked so innocent and cute in the morning light. "Hi!" He said and Steve's heart skipped in his chest. How could he be so charming and ferocious at the same time? Steve didn't answer, he just smiled in bewilderment. They looked at each other silently, smiles spreading, while Tony was putting his clothes on.

Suddenly, Steve remembered he was angry with him--for many reasons but mainly one. He sat up quickly and glared at Tony, pointing an accusing finger at him. 

"You!" He accused, "You never pull that shit ever again! Am I clear?"

Tony's smile faltered and he pouted. "You enjoyed yourself as much as I did. You were pretty into it actually."

"The fuck, Tony! I don't do drugs. You shouldn't do drugs either. And you're never to force drugs on me or anyone else again, for fuck's sake. I mean it. This? Never happens again. This is crazy!"

Tony didn't say anything for a moment, then he finally answered in an unconvinced tone. "Fine! I won't do it again, but you're missing out. It was amazing and you know it."

"I don't need this to have amazing sex, Tony. And you don't either."

Tony sighed and put on his jacket. "Whatever..." He took a cigarette and put it in his mouth without lighting it and walked out the door. "See you around Little Rogers." and he was gone, forever.

Steve felt a pang in his chest. Should he have called him back? Was it okay to let him go? Why did he feel so hurt right now? This fucking conversation, was that the last words they would say to each other? After the night they'd spent together?

Too many questions, too much ache. Steve was so confused he didn't do anything, he just stared at the door feeling his heart melt in his chest.

He tried to get up, he was hurting everywhere. He looked at his body, covered in bruises and kiss marks.

What the fuck?

He stood up and swayed his way to the bathroom. His ass hurt like hell. He was probably going to limp all week long, although he'd admit it was worth it.

Fuck. 

Chapter Text

It had been a fucking long day at work and Steve was exhausted. It was one of those days when he cursed the landlord for never fixing the elevator. When he finally was in front of his door, he was heavily panting. He held himself against the door, trying to catch his breath. His lungs were burning. Fucking asthma. He hated that body.

When he was breathing steadily, he kicked the door to get inside. It didn't open. He kicked again. Still very closed. He put his foot on the wall to get some support and pulled on the doorknob. Nothing. He pulled with all his strength like a maniac, still nothing. The door didn't move a millimeter. What the fuck?

He rested his head on the door. Shit... He was stuck outside of his own fucking apartment.

Today was definitely not his day. What was he hoping anyway? Was there ever a day that was his day?

And then he heard it. He had been so focused on wallowing in self-pity that he hadn't even noticed the music that came from his place. Someone was there. Why didn't they help him? He considered knocking and shouting but then it occurred to him. He took his keys out of his pocket and tried them. The door miraculously opened.

"Are you already trying to break it? I just fixed it!"

Steve had never thought he would see Tony again. Not after their last night together, their intense night of sex. The morning after had left a bitter taste in his mouth. (And incidentally, he had limped for a week after that.) And yet here he was, three weeks later, playing the guitar on his couch.

"Did you get my door fixed?" He asked, dumbfounded.

Steve remained on the doorstep, watching the surreal scene happening before him, as if it wasn't his place and he was intruding. Tony was still playing, methodically. He didn't look up to meet his eyes.

"Em, no." Tony answered without looking. "I fixed it."

"I told you I didn't mind." Steve said as if Tony didn't just say something so amazing as I fixed your door, because it was. And really, Steve might have had a weakness for handy men and maybe he had a little bit of a crush right now. But Steve wasn't used to people doing things for him, especially without expecting anything in return, so he didn't really know how to be grateful. Well, that wasn't really true, right now he had a pretty good idea of how he could show Tony how grateful he was. And maybe Tony did expect something in return. "How are my friends gonna get in now?"

Tony looked at him with suspicious eyes. He wasn't really annoyed or upset, more doubtful. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "You can still make them spare keys if you want. And this way you get to decide who can or cannot get in." He said derisively, but with a tinge of genuine concern and went back to playing.

He played methodically, handled the guitar like it was a curiosity, something to study, trying to understand the mechanism behind all this. Bucky was different. He held his guitar like a lover, worshipping it, like a piece of art, something that produced magic.

"Did you get one?" Steve asked.

"One what?" Tony said, focused on his playing.

"Spare key?" Steve snapped, as if it was obvious.

Tony finally stopped his studying and looked at Steve in the eyes. He was smiling, or rather smirking. He dropped the object and sat up.

"Oh little Rogers... Do you really think I would need a key to get in? That's cute."

Steve felt his cheek blush at that. He didn't know why but every time Tony said he was cute and called him little Rogers, it stirred something in him.

"You didn't need to do that." Steve said, looking down in an attempt to hide his blush from Tony. It was the only thank you he could give him. He was staring down but he could feel Tony's amused eyes checking him out. Tony was preying on him, again.

"I know." Tony said cheerfully, and then he stood up and started walking toward him, staring into his eyes, never letting go. "I just wanted to." And his voice got hoarser as he was getting closer. Steve needed to raise his eyes now to keep looking at him. "This way I'll know you're safe." And there it was again, the pang in his chest.

"Nobody would bother walking up the eleven stairs to get to me."

Tony chuckled. "Can't you just say "thank you" like a normal person? Or... I don't know. 'Hi,Tony. It's been a while. Thanks for stopping by. I'm happy to see you. Would you like something to drink?' "

"Would you like something to drink?" Steve pouted.

"No thanks. I helped myself with you coffee maker."

"Did you-- Were able to? I mean it's--"

"Yeah, I fixed that too." Tony put his hands on Steve's hips like a lover would. As if Steve had gave him the right to and it felt awfully intimate and domestic. Something Steve had wanted for so long. "And your toilet flush." Tony continued and planted a soft kiss on the tip of his nose. Just enough to make Steve blush furiously again. "And your microwave." His voice was very hoarse, with a tinge of desire and seduction. And now Tony was kissing his neck, slowly and very softly. 

Steve definitely had something for handy men.

He stepped back and pulled away from Tony's embrace. Too much, too fast.

"You fixed my microwave?" He asked incredulously. That microwave had broken months ago.

"Yeah, amazing right?" Tony said ironically. He showed a proud smile, but he wasn't proud at being so amazingly handy and helpful, he was mocking Steve again. "Now you won't have to eat cold food."

"I don't mind." Steve answered without thinking.

Steve was past fighting this, now. He was more interested in admiring Tony's perfect smile. Tony was always smiling and he eyes were shining with amusement. 

"Geez, you really can't say thank you, can you?"

Steve snapped out of it. And really, that was uncalled for, because Steve had plenty of ideas to say thank you. If only Tony knew, but maybe he knew because people can read Steve like a book. "Sorry I... Sorry. Thank you. It's just.. I... I was about to throw it away. I was just, too lazy to carry it down the stairs."

"Well, now you won't have to, anymore." Tony got even closer and tugged at his shirt with a finger, and did that thing he does, blocking the way and trapping Steve where he stood with his whole body. Steve still didn't know why it had so much effect on him but he felt really hot every time he did that. "You have your own personal handyman." And Steve really didn't feel his cock twitch in his pants at that. No really, he didn't.

He chuckled. "You don't look like a handyman." but his voice sounded more like a slur than a laugh.

"I am a man of many talent." Tony muttered. And walked forward, making Steve step backward until his back bump on the door. He couldn't let go of his stare, amazed and charmed by the boy's charisma. 

"Isn't that line taken from a bad porn movie?" Steve said, trying to escape Tony's grasp as if he could.

"I wouldn't mind shooting my first porn movie with you." Tony slurred, blowing his breath into Steve's mouth.

He grabbed each side of Steve's waist roughly and pulled him closer, grinding his crotch against his pelvis. He was about to kiss him when Steve inched back again, with a smile. "Can't you get anymore cheesy?"

"You like that don't you?" Tony teased, trying to nip at his the skin of his neck. 

"What are you doing here?" Steve asked, pretending to not be affected by Tony's ministrations. "Aren't you supposed to be in Boston studying or something?"

Tony drew back and bore his eyes into Steve's. "You're well-informed, little Rogers." He said sarcastically.

"Everyone knows that about you."

"I'm just here for my dutifully monthly visit to the folks." Tony said in between nibbling at Steve's neck and then added. "They insist."

Tony was definitely avoiding the subject, and Steve stubbornly wanted an answer. He didn't know why. He wasn't sure exactly what he expected. He just wanted some hope maybe. He wanted to hope that maybe, there was more to it than this. "Why are you here, Tony?"

"Why do you think I'm here?"

Tony stepped back and stared at Steve, or more like checked him out. He wasn't smiling anymore. He was devouring him with his eyes. Again Steve felt like a prey about to be hunted and eaten alive. Tony's eyes were nothing human anymore. The amusement, the teasing, the softness of his gesture was gone. Only remained the animal inside and it got Steve very hot. His mouth watered as he felt a wave of heat growing inside and invading his body. He stammered. "I'm just... Can I take a shower first."

And Tony didn't give any answers. He wrapped his arms around Steve again and held him tight. He sniffed and kissed and nipped at his neck. He whispered against his skin "I like the way you smell." Steve felt a shiver down his spine. His heart skipped in his chest at Tony's embrace, he considered letting Tony take him right here, right now but he needed to take control. Tony scared him. He always lost control with him. "I'd really like to take a shower." He slurred in the crook of Tony's neck, while inhaling a huge breath of his smell. He didn't want to go. It broke his heart to leave him there but he just needed to.

 

When he got out of the shower, Tony was sitting on the window frame, one foot outside, guitar in hand and playing the intro of "Nothing Else Matters." Steve felt something warm in his lower belly that ran throughout his whole body right to the tip of his cock. And Steve definitely had a soft spot for musicians too. And particularly guitarists. Tony was so hot like that. Eyes staring into space, fingers focused on the task at hand and his mouth curled up into a pout. He was so innocent and mature at the same time, as if Steve could read in his expression all the things he'd been through. He felt a pang in his chest. He felt for him and at the time he felt a surge of admiration. 

"Is there anything you can't do?" Steve asked with a smile of tenderness.

Tony turned to him and the innocence of his features and the pain in his eyes were suddenly gone from his face. He was back to his teasing smile. He smirked. "Is that your way of complimenting my music?"

Tony put the guitar on his side and Steve realized where he was and how dangerous it was. And panic rose inside of him. "Please get inside."

"Afraid of heights, little Rogers?" Tony teased.

"Please." He wasn't particularly afraid of heights. He wasn't really afraid of anything, or maybe one thing: losing people. He didn't mind doing crazy and dangerous thing but he hated others doing it. He couldn't help it.

Tony sighed and pouted but finally stepped inside. "Fine."

Steve finally exhaled, in relief, the breath he didn't know he was keeping inside. Tony walked to him and settled himself in front of him. He kissed him. Just a little peck. A boyfriend kiss.

"I didn't know you played the guitar" Steve said trying to ignore those feelings.

"Oh, really?" Tony exclaimed ironically. "Cause you know me so well, don't you?"

"I didn't mean it like that." Steve answered with a pout and maybe he sounded a little bit too sad because Tony dropped the attitude and stopped smiling sarcastically.

"I'm joking." He said with a soft reassuring voice. "Don't get all worked up." He added while removing Steve's wet hair from his face with delicate fingers. "I don't, by the way."

Steve was so absorbed by the affectionate gesture that it took him a while before he realized that Tony just said he didn't play the guitar. "Really?" He asked doubtfully.

"Really. I just looked up at tutos on my phone while waiting for you."

Again Steve acted like Tony hadn't said something absolutely amazing for the second time tonight. instead he focused on his own misplaced guilt. "Have you been waiting long?"

"I'd say about half an hour if I don't count the time I spent fixing your apartment."

And Steve didn't really need a reminder of that. He really thought Tony was already hot without all those marvelously added bonuses. "It's a... It's a.. You played it really well."

"Well I'm a quick learner." Tony deadpanned. You know, because it was such a normal thing to be able to do. "And it's a nice axe."

Steve looked at the guitar and felt pained as he recalled the reason the instrument was here in the first place. He felt a slump forming in his throat. "It's not mine." He said, choking on his words a little. "Bucky left it here. He can't play anymore since his accident. He used to be in a band. That's how he met his boyfriend, Clint."

Tony inched back and asked with concerned eyes. "Who's Bucky? You best friend/ex-lover/guy you got the hots for that you don't wanna talk about but never shut up about?"

Steve felt a blush spreading on his face and neck. He hadn't realized how much of him Tony had figured out. He hadn't said much and they had only met twice, and yet, Steve felt as if Tony already knew him so well. He wasn't that mysterious after all, not as much as he thought he was. 

Tony's face lit up as a lecherous smile spread on his face. "It gets you hot, right? A guy who plays the guitar."

It got him hot.

A wave of heat pooled in his lower belly and spread all over. He felt his cheeks burn and he swallowed when he saw the lust in Tony’s eyes. He regretted his poor choice concerning his clothes because the loose shorts didn’t hide anything of his sudden growing desire. 

He stood there, in front of Tony, all shaky and hot, waiting for him to give the start.

 "Why did you even bother putting clothes on. Take them off."

Steve parted his lips but his head was buzzing too much for him to understand what was happening.

"Off I said." Tony repeated with a dominant voice. And Steve stupidly obeyed, feeling so hot and wanting. "Now bend over the table" Tony said with the same commanding tone. Steve had never really liked that kind of sex but here and now, with Tony, it was the hottest things he had ever done.

Steve went to the table and splayed his two hands on it, when he was stable on his feet and found the right angle, he bent his upper body over it slowly expecting all the way Tony wouldn’t go through with it but never showing any sign of reluctance either. He looked behind him and searched for approval in Tony’s eyes. He was animalistic.

Steve kept looking while Tony was putting on a condom. He started dripping on the floor. "Please don't be rough." He pleaded when he saw Tony pacing toward him, hard cock in hand and eyes feral.

"You like it rough." He slurred and put his two hands on Steve's butt. He spread his cheeks and spat on his entrance. Steve shivered all over. Tony was going to fuck him without prep again, with only spit and condom as lube.

He squeezed his cheeks and Steve felt the hard rob breaching his entrance, tearing him apart. He gasped and moaned. Tony wasn't brutal but he was firm and solid behind him. He penetrated slowly inside of him until he was buried deep. Steve took it all without protest and wiggled his ass on the cock. He got used to it soon. Much sooner than he had thought he would at first.

He didn't like it rough, not really, or maybe he did, he wasn't sure, but he loved it with Tony. He loved sex with Tony.

Tony pounded hard into him in a steady rhythm, brushing his prostate every time. He gripped strongly his hips and his thighs clapped against Steve's. 

It was quick and eager. 

Steve never thought he would but he came, on the floor under the table, without touching himself. Soon after he heard Tony groaned behind him and his grip on his waist strengthened until it hurt. Tony came with a muffled moaned and stayed buried deep for a few seconds before pulling out and taking the condom off. 

Steve remained on the table, vanquished. When Tony left to throw the condom into the only bin of his apartment, he finally pushed himself up and wobbled his way to his clothes. He held himself on the table to bend his back and catch his shorts.

"Oh I'm not done with you little Rogers." 

Steve startled and dropped the pair of shorts on the floor. Tony was already back behind him and caught him by the arms. Then he led him to the bed and lay him down on it. He didn't even have a say in it, he just let Tony have his way.

Tony settled him on his back and tried to make it as comfortable as he could, placing all the cushions and covers he could find to rest Steve's back on them. When Steve was relatively comfy, Tony spread his legs. Steve's cock twitched at that but Tony hadn't intended to do something about it. He undressed and climbed on top of Steve, pushing his way in between Steve's thighs and settling there, fitting perfectly in the curves of Steve's frail body. He rested his head in the crook of Steve's neck and fell asleep, in the warmth of Steve's embrace. Only five minutes. Five little minutes. Five very little minutes during which Steve felt like he had a boyfriend, that he was loved and cared for.

Tony's body was very hot and his presence on top of Steve was comforting. He started dozing off but Tony woke up and started nibbling slightly at his neck, sending him shivers. Steve wrapped his arms around his lover and inhaled his enrapturing smell. Tony was still limp but  not for long. He started grinding against Steve and rubbing himself against his half-hard cock. Steve hummed and started breathing harder. Tony chafed instinctively, without meaning to go any further than that. He kept nibbling and started roaming his hands over Steve's body, caressing slightly, studying every curve and bumps and spot. 

His mouth captured Steve and he started kissing softly, lovingly, tenderly. They kissed forever, both of them stroking each other, caressing every part of their body. It wasn't sexual even though they were both very hard again. It was tender and affectionate until it wasn't.

At some point, Tony decided to let go of Steve's mouth and kissed his way down. He settled his head between Steve's thigh and grabbed them with his two hands. He kissed and licked Steve's inner thighs, his pelvis, his asscheeks and ran his tongue on his sore brim up to the tip of his cock. Steve gasped and arched his back in pleasure and brought on begging hand on his head, running it through his soft dark hair. Tony obliged and took Steve's cock in his mouth. 

He swallowed the head first and started licking around it, playing with the foreskin of Steve's uncut cock. He rubbed his soft and mellow tongue on the very sensitive spot under the head that tied the skin there, drawing little whimpers and gasps out of Steve. He licked and scraped it slowly with his teeth while he buried his fingers in the skin of Steve's inner thighs. Steve grabbed his head with both hands and gave a slight push. Tony closed his mouth on the head started sucking it, blowing hard. His plush lips slid down the shaft slowly, pulling Steve's skin down until Steve's cock touched the back of his throat. 

He was good. Tony sucked hard, sliding up and down and drooling over Steve's dick. His mouth was a over and Steve saw the stars. He let go of Tony's head and buried his own in the cushions trying to muffle his shameless moans. His body jerked and tensed and his hands abruptly grabbed onto the sheets.

But good wasn't even close to describe what Tony was doing to him. Tony was a fucking expert. Steve would learn later on that blow jobs were like a religion to him. He worshipped his cock like a god.

He kept sucking and sucking, swallowing deeper and deeper down his throat. He went past it, without even gagging and choke himself on it. He started face-fucking himself on Steve's hard rod while holding him with a strong grip on his hips. It felt so amazingly good Steve couldn't even do anything other than focus on his orgasm building up inside. Tony put him on the edge and squeezed hard with his hands to prevent him from coming and repeated that until Steve's head was spinning and he was a mess of cries and gasps and begging.

"I'm gonna..." He managed to say and came on Tony's tongue, coating the insides of his mouth. Tony swallowed it all with a moan and licked Steve clean.

He looked up at him with shiny eyes and a kinky smile. All proud of making a mess of Steve. And Steve was trying to catch his breath when Tony stood up on his knees and came above him, hard cock in hand and eyes blinded with lust.

He was all brutal again.

He settled himself on each side of Steve's head and jerked himself off above his head. With one hand he slipped his fingers into Steve's mouth and cupped his jaw to keep it wide open. Steve didn't do that. He didn't like the taste and he felt it was humiliating in addition to being dangerous, but with Tony it was different, he wanted to. He watched Tony's body tense above him. He was magnificent. His perfect body undulated over him, his dark olive skin was glistening with sweat and shined with each movement of his muscles. His nipples were as hard as his gorgeous cock, standing proudly above Steve's mouth. Drops of sweat were sliding down along the tight chest and abs. His eyes wonderfully in trance and his perfectly plump lips were parted and conveyed all the desire and the pleasure he felt. He was a work of art.

He stroked a few times before coming in long spurts, right into Steve's wide open mouth. He swallowed it all and licked him clean. Tony groaned and fell forward. He held himself steady by putting a hand on the wall behind Steve. He was catching his breath.

"Phewww.... That was hot." He said while panting heavily, trying to catch his breath and then he laughed.

He was back to himself again, to his carefree, mocking attitude. Always smiling and teasing. He looked at Steve with a glimpse of mischievousness in his eyes and he stepped back to bend over him and kiss him languorously, mixing both of their come with it.

Steve loved how Tony kissed. Tony was dangerous.

 

If Steve thought Tony would finally leave him alone, he was wrong. Tony didn't leave. He spent the night. They didn't leave the bed except to pay for their pizza order and ate them in it, not caring about the crumbs. Steve was not a cleanliness freak, he couldn't afford it with all his friends crashing there. They ate pizza and fooled around and and laughed at stupid jokes and talked, a lot, about everything and anything. It was intimate, so intimate and frighteningly domestic. Steve didn't think Tony would be the cuddling kind but he was. They fell asleep in each other's arms, spooning and Tony fucked Steve again that night, two more times. It was good to be so young. And this time Steve remembered everything. It felt so good and so intimate. Was it like this to be young and carefree and in love? Steve wasn't sure.

 

The next morning, Steve thought he would wake up alone with memories he would cherish for a long time. He did. The bed was empty when he woke up, but it was still warm. And he didn't. Because he woke up with the warm smell of coffee. Tony was there, watching him from afar, arms crossed around his knees on Steve's couch. He was smiling at him with his usual teasing expression. His eyes shining with malice, but so tender at the same time. Steve wondered how Tony could look so young and so old and experienced at the same time. 

Steve smiled back while observing the smoke of his cigarette dancing around him. He held his hand in the air with a certain mannerism that gave him composure and magnetic charm as well as a delicacy that was absolutely entrancing. He was such a beautiful man, Steve thought. A perfect balance between masculinity and femininity, between a brutal and instinctive passion and a sophisticated education. A man of paradox. 

"You can't smoke in here." Steve said with a hoarse voice. "I have asthma."

Tony smirked and raised an eyebrow. "You have a bong on your coffee table." He said as a justification while showing the open window.

"It's not mine."

Tony laughed mockingly again. "Right. Whatever." And he stood up with his warm mug in hand. "There's coffee for you." He added and headed to the window. 

He sat down on the ledge while staring at Steve challengingly. Steve felt his heart jump his chest. He was so close to the edge. So close and Steve lived on the eleventh floor. And Tony was teasing him, smiling mischievously. He did it on purpose.

"What... You're scared little Rogers?" He mocked.

"You know I don't like it."

"You think I'd fall?" He challenged. "I don't fall." He added with a smirk. "I fly."

And it happened.

Steve didn't even have the time to react. Tony had jumped out of the window. Steve froze in his shock for a few second before he panic rose inside of him and he snapped out of him. Then a whole range of emotion overwhelmed him. His heart sank in his chest and he could feel the tears prickle in the corner of his eyes. He found the force to get up in a jump but no sound came out of his mouth, desperately stuck in his throat. He ran to the window and was finally able to emit a sound. He screamed in panic and pain and shock. Maybe it was Tony's name, maybe it was a just a ugly and painful scream.

He rushed toward the window so panicked and desperate. As if it was not too late. Not too late to catch him. Not too late to save him.

He rushed toward the window.

And Tony was there, holding onto the fire escape. Laughing out loud. 

"I told you I'd fly." He said, still laughing mockingly as if Steve's heart didn't just stopped in his chest. As if he didn't just die a little right now.

Steve was breathing heavily, trying to subdue his lungs into calmness. He almost had one, an asthma attack. Tony stopped smiling when he saw the distress on his face. He silently checked Steve's health and looked relieved when he seemed to be fine.

Fucking kid! Steve thought. 

"I'll really fly someday, you know?" He started, looking like a little kid with stars and his eyes and a head full of dreams. "I'll build a flying suit or flying wings or something. And I'll fly." He laughed. "I'll let you fly with me if you want. You'll see."

Steve smiled, and Tony looked reassured and smiled back, but a tender smile this time. "You're an asshole!" Steve said.

Tony bit his lower lips and his eyes were shining with mischievousness again. "I know." He said and started climbing down the steps and saluted Steve, military style. "Captain." He said.

Steve startled. "How did you..."

"The pictures on your wall..." Tony explained before hearing the question. "I like it. It suits you. Your friends seem nice." Steve didn't have the time to answer. "See you around Little Rogers."

 

...

 

That's how everything started between them.

 

There was no promise, no commitment, no feelings. Or if there was they were left unsaid, hidden away, far away. They never called, never texted, never demanded. Once in a while Tony showed up at Steve's. Usually when he came to see his parents, sometimes when he felt depressed and needed comfort. 

Sometimes they fucked, most of the time they fucked, but sometimes they didn't. Usually they talked and cuddled and fooled around just like a normal couple, just like two people in love, expect they weren't. Or maybe they were but just during those few moments they shared. Steve was perfectly aware what he was to Tony. A source of comfort and a good fuck but nothing more, and he didn't expect more. He didn't dare hope for more. He didn't love Tony and Tony didn't love him but when they were together they did. He knew every time Tony would knock on his door he would open and they would fuck and else, until Tony stops coming.

Steve knew that day would happen, but for now, he was enjoying himself, with Tony. 

Chapter Text

Steve was in bed with the TV on without really watching it, his mind wandering, roaming in imaginary places, in the middle of adventures, of wars and battles to save the world. He was dreaming of good and evil, of liberty vs tyranny, of superheroes. Things that made his life more exciting, hopeful. Things that made his life worth living.

Steve had always been a dreamer, even when he wasn't a kid anymore. He had always had this whole world inside his head, a creativity that only needed a little push. Something that was in him, with him always and saved him from loneliness. He might be surrounded by friends now but he felt lonely most of the time, out of this world. He had always been a loner. Bucky was the one who had many friends, he had just followed Bucky around, like a puppy. Since their childhood he's been following the charismatic boy, despite being the older one.

He knew that it was time for him to find his own path and that tailing after Bucky was quite pathetic but that's exactly what his life had been like so far, even more so since his mum passed away.

On paper he had a great social life, went to parties, hosted them most of the time, had brunches or dinners with his friends all the time. But the truth was, even at parties, when everyone was there and had fun, he would keep his distance--waiting. For what? He had no idea. Maybe for something that would shake him up, someone maybe. Someone who would awake him from this boredom and draw him out, pull him into the real world.

And yet there he was, twenty-four, no boyfriend, no steady job, no-one interested in his art, watching his life pass by and never taking part in it.

Bucky, Clint, and all of his friends, they were gonna graduate soon and what then? They would move on with their lives, maybe move out of New York, start a real job, become adults. Some of them had already. And what then? What would he do when he is on his own? Would he still stay here, in this dump? Would he come back here at night, alone, lost, stuck with the memories of his young years, wasted on parties, on booze and drugs he didn’t even consume? chasing after some guy who was already taken...

He stared at the moldy ceiling, picturing yet again another scene featuring one of his superheroes. A battle against robots, in the middle of Manhattan. An explosion.

An explosion.

It took Steve some time to realize the noise he'd just heard wasn't in his head. He jumped out of bed and ran to the window with the strong will to save the world. Sometimes, when he was deeply lost in his imagination, he would just forget he wasn’t one of his superheroes. When that happened, he felt himself growing wings and would run to help people in need, without even a second thought. It was just a reflex, something he had always wanted, needed and  had nurtured all those years. He just wanted to help, be useful.

So when he heard the bang and felt the vibration, the first thing he did was checking if someone needed something, willing to do anything to help. That was always the first thing he thought about. And then he would rationalize. Let's be honest for a minute. In what world would anyone need help from him? He could barely take care of himself. He was just a failure. A burden to everyone, it was time he realized that.

Anyway, the said explosion wasn't really serious, or maybe it was too far, because the streets were quiet apart from the usual sordid that would happen on a Tuesday night. And anyway from where he was standing, there was very little he could do. He didn't even have any useful skill. He should just go back to bed, go back to his fantasy world and stop believing he was some kind of hero. No-one needed his desperate selfless acts of bravery.

Except the noise came back and it wasn't much of an explosion but rather a loud knock on his window. Then again, Steve had been far too lost in fantasy world to contemplate the facts with a completely rational mind. 

The thump on his window echoed again and made him startle. Steve jerked his head on the side, following the noise. He looked out the window, where the noise seemed to come from. He stared and remained still, jaw slack, for a few moments.

For a few moments he wasn't sure if what he was seeing was real or if he was still lost in between two worlds. He might as well still be in one of his stories right now, for what he was faced with was just coming straight out of one of the science fiction books he loved reading.  There was some kind of drone-like flying thing flashing lights and looping around. An actual drone sending him private redlight-written messages like: "Hi there, beautiful." or "What's up Lil' Roj?" or "Open up for me baby!" 

Past the surprise and the scare, Steve smiled--a fond and dopey smile--and his heart started doing a funny thing in his chest.

There was only one person he knew who was crazy enough to pull something like that. And he hadn't realized it but he really wanted to see that person right now. He hadn't seen Tony for a few days and sincerely didn't expect to hear from him so soon, so it was a surprise. But then again, he hadn't expected anything from Tony at all and yet he kept coming back to him again and again and had done so for the past six months already so...

Steve rushed to open the window as he had been ordered to and the drone flew inside. It was super weird and Steve felt like his home was being invaded. His heart too, considering how fast it was beating.

A British-like male computer voice came out of the thing and very politely greeted him. "Mr Stark had me tell you he will be here shortly, hoping you won't mind his coming." The British voice announced and had Steve laugh out loud.

Tony was not someone who would bother with such manners. He never cared whether Steve wanted him there or not. He was the kind of person who would come at anytime, intruded, interrupted your activities and expected you to jump at his beck and call, all that while thinking he was doing you a favor. Steve had always thought that Tony felt himself indispensable to Steve, or to anyone really. Maybe it was just a facade, a sign of insecurity rather than overconfidence, or maybe it was an annoying trait of his oh so complexe personality. Either way, Steve had always found this part of him endearing.

Maybe he was, in a way, indispensable. Maybe that meant that Steve needed Tony, more than he had actually realized, needed to see him, to touch him, to be with him.

Whatever it was, whatever the reason Tony kept coming was, Steve had his heart racing every time. He had come to long for those stolen moments, whenever Tony dared pay him a visit. 

Today was no exception. 

The flying object swiftly landed on the nearest table and shut down. Steve unconsciously headed to the front door and stared at it expectantly. He could feel his heart throbbing in his ears, beating so fast and so heavily that his ribcage almost hurt. Already his body was getting ready for the blazing tornado that was Tony Stark.

Usually Steve didn't have the time to get mentally prepared that Tony was already pushing himself against Steve, trapping his frail body with his strong bulk, but this time Tony knocked lightly on the door and waited. It was so unexpected that Steve only reacted when he heard Tony's voice speak softly through the door.

"I brought cake." He said in a gentle tone, almost imploring.

When Steve opened the door, Tony's eyes shone brightly and he could see his falsely innocent smile hidden behind a huge red velvet cake. 

He was grinning but in a strangely bashful way. It was so not Tony-like.

"Hi!" He whispered coyly. 

Steve nodded, trying to prevent a stupid smile from growing on his face and stepped aside as a silent invitation. He could already feel the beginning of a blush spreading down his neck. Stupid honest body, he mentally cursed.

Despite everything, despite their unspoken agreement, despite the lack of commitment between them that Steve wanted so much to find in a partner, Tony had a way of always making Steve's day better.

He never warned, would always come unannounced, disturb all of Steve's plans and never stayed long. He was a bother but he always made Steve smile one way or another. He always made Steve forget. For a while, Steve would ignore how dull his life was and feel like he was living in one of his stories. Tony was never short of ideas to surprise Steve, in the good sense. It was just small things, stupid things. Most of the time they would just fuck anyway but he always found a way to bring poetry in Steve's life.

Today though, Tony was different. He was... Steve wasn't sure... something more. 

Once allowed inside, Tony put the cake, along with the bag hanging from his left arm on the first surface he could find and ran to Steve. He grabbed his face with both hands and kissed him passionately. The kiss too was different. It was forceful and intrusive like always but not brutal. On the contrary, Tony was soft and slow and his tongue penetrated Steve's mouth vigorously but gently at the same time. He held Steve firmly with a delicate touch of his hands, licking and nipping tenderly at his lips.

It wasn't rushed and eager like Steve was used to with his younger lover, for the first time maybe, the kiss was rather driven by a need for affection than pure lust and it was, Steve had to admit, very refreshing. 

After one last tender kiss on the corner of Steve's mouth, Tony wrapped his strong arms around Steve in a sigh and rested his head in the crook of Steve's neck. Steve wasn't used to that level of need and affection so he remained still at first, a little unsettled by this new turn of event but finally wrapped his arms around Tony and held him tight against his chest. Tony held onto him tightly too, his body a furnace in Steve's arms, his heart beating so fast it echoed in Steve's ears. He could feel Tony's warm breath tickling his neck and slid his skinny hands up Tony's neck holding him there, warm and solid against him.

They remained like this for a while, in the silence, only their heartbeats resonating in the room. It was the sweetest hug Steve had had for a very long time and it was very pleasant. He had no idea where it came from, if Tony was doing it for him, because he felt that's what Steve just needed right now--it was--or if he was doing it for himself. Because after all, Tony would come here and take whatever he needed from Steve before leaving to live his exciting life. The life of the rich and famous, a life Steve was no part of. 

In the course of the last six months Steve had felt a little hurt at being used like this, and then he had overcome it. He was using Tony as well, exactly the same way Tony was using him. He was dishonest. He wanted Tony to love him and care for him, but he was incapable of loving Tony. Not the way he would want to be loved and cared for anyway. He loved someone else. He had for a long time, so long he didn't know what it meant anymore.

Tony let go of him and swirled around the small apartment like a dog coming home, running around, scenting and recognizing the familiar and safe environment. 

He took the stuff he brought out of the plastic bag and put it away in the fridge, acting like he owned the place. All of his friends acted like they were in their own flat, but with Tony it was different. When he came, no matter how long he stayed, no matter how short the time he spent with Steve was, it always felt domestic. It felt like they were a couple, living together, like Tony was home finally. 

Steve tried to refrain from feeling like he was important but this, the small bits of happiness he could steal from Tony, they were his. And he would hold onto them fondly.

Steve pretended to clean his place a little, in order to make it welcoming. Not that Tony cared really, it was more a way to distract himself and stop staring at the boy. Tony was beautiful, even more so that usual, or maybe Steve was in that kind of mood. 

He didn't have to pretend long. While he was putting his pencils in order, he heard the TV stop. He had forgotten it was on and just realized it when Tony turned it off. He didn't have to dwell on it though because shortly after he heard some music playing, coming from what seemed to be the drone. It wasn't Steve's music but it was good and slow, not at all the kind of music Tony usually listened to.

Soon he felt Tony's hands coming from behind and wrapping around his chest, enveloping him completely. The younger man leant his head against Steve's nape and breathed in his smell. Steve could feel the tip of Tony's nose brushing his skin, trailing along his spine to the small line of hair at the back of his head. The warmth of his breath tickling a little, making him shiver. Steve closed his eyes for a moment, lost in the sensation. Lips parted and body limp, he heard himself groan heavily. 

Tony was warm and solid behind him. Already hard and grinding softly. He tightened his hold on Steve, almost lifting him up. Steve expected to be bedded soon. After all, he didn't remember Tony lasting this long before pushing him down and tearing off his clothes. The slowness was nice though. New, unexpected and exciting.

The same way Tony had led Steve to wait for him, eager and impatient, desire and expectations building up inside, he was delaying the sex. Making Steve shake with desire, teasing him, taking away his rational thoughts. 

Tony deposited a gentle kiss on the nape of Steve's neck and released his grip on him. His hand slid up his torso and down along his arm until their palms touched. Tony squeezed his hand and gave a soft tug so that Steve was now facing him. His hand was so soft, fingers brushing the inside of his wrist.

Steve lifted his eyes and met shiny dark hazels. Tony's smile bright and taunting. His hold firm and frantic.

"Wanna dance with me?" He mouthed.

Maybe he actually spoke but Steve was entranced by the way his lips moved so sensually, petrified under his gaze. The dark eyes were deeply focused on him, a penetrating stare burning his skin. Steve forgot to breathe, what with his heart pounding so heavily in his chest.

Tony was waiting, smile growing uncertain, until he saw an okay in Steve's eyes. At least Steve thought he was able to convey some kind of answer because Tony confidently pulled Steve against his chest and curled his arm around the small of his back.

Steve didn't know how to dance. Steve didn't dance. Steve didn't like going to that sort of clubs. At parties he would observe from afar or join quiet conversations staying close to the bar, avoiding the dance floor at all cost. 

Steve was ungraceful and stern. His body rigid, moving unsteadily in uncoordinated movements, klutzy and awkward. Tony was the opposite, feline and lithesome, his moves effortless and voluptuous, like he was one with the music.

It didn't really matter, because this, dancing under the softened light of his apartment, it was the most romantic thing Steve had ever done. And it felt so nice. So nice to press himself against Tony's body, hard and hot and his to hold, to grab and to touch. So nice to lose himself in the soft fragrance of Tony's cologne, in the warmth of his embrace. A stolen, timeless moment. A moment that was theirs only.

"Are we gonna talk about this?" Steve's muffled voice said against Tony's firm chest.

"'bout what?" Tony mumbled. His head rested on Steve's shoulder, arms holding him tight. He seemed to drown in Steve's smell just as much.

Steve wiggled out of the young man's embrace and pointed at the drone. "This."

Tony grinned. "You like it?"

Steve laughed. Tony always made everything about him. "I do actually. That's pretty cool."

The dark eyes shone proudly. "It's my school project. It's not just a drone. It's a smart drone." 

"What's so smart about it?"

"You'll see." Tony said with a smug face. He let go of Steve and called "JARVIS?"

There was a whizzing noise and Steve jerked his head on the side toward the drone. Both startled and curious. The music stopped and the British voice came out of the thing again. "What can I do for you, sir?"

Steve smiled, a little impressed, though he'd never admit it. Again his heart did a funny thing. A mix of pride and admiration. What was someone like Tony doing in apartment? He was so out of Steve's league. Everything about this boy--man--was so special. What could Steve ever offer him?

"So basically, it's SIRI in a drone."

Tony laughed. A surprised laugh, loud and sexy. "Basically yes."

"I'll have you know, sir, that I am no SIRI." The British voice--Jarvis--replied, tone almost offended. Steve must be dreaming, or maybe Tony's scent is psychoactive who knows? That would explain how quickly Steve got intoxicated, and addicted.

"Awesome." Steve whispered on Tony's grinning lips.

Somehow Tony had managed to snatch him back and wrap his arms tightly around him, warmth surrounding him again."Told you so..." He whispered, voice croaky.

"I feel like I've upset him." Steve worried, but not that much with Tony hot and hard against him, blowing his warm breath on his mouth.

"He'll get over it." He replied, still smiling against Steve's lips. Then he said louder, not moving his lips away from Steve's "Put the music on J, will you?" and started kissing him. Softly at first and then he deepened the kiss until both of them were breathless. They resumed dancing, or hugging in some kind of rhythm with the music and Tony seemed to hold him tighter and tighter, face buried in the crook of his neck.

The sex happened of course. Like always. But this time it was gentler, more sensual, less angry.

 

Sated, Steve found himself staring at the mold on his ceiling again. Tony limp, half-asleep in the crook of his neck, breathing heavily against his sensitive skin, an arm lazily sprawled across his chest. Steve's legs felt heavy, spread and open, still slick with lube. He shivered as he started to feel the cold of the room on his naked chest, covered with his own drying spent. Tony had fucked him hard, split him open and made him come with skilled fingers, kissing him hard and deep.

Tony knew how to fuck him right. Even after all this time he still felt amazed at how good Tony was in bed. So good and instinctive and just exactly what Steve needed. Tony was just a kid though, he tended to forget that. 

The boy tightened his embrace, as if sensing Steve was cold. He snuggled against Steve, burying his face in the crook of his neck and rubbed slowly his arm, trying to warm him up. 

They remained like this for a while, in between. Steve wasn't sure Tony was awake but he kept stroking his arm softly, his whole body warm against him until his hand moved up to Steve's neck and grabbed him. The boy brushed a callused thumb up and down the line of his jaw and Steve felt a soft sucking kiss on his neck. It tingled and made him shiver again, but not because of the cold this time. 

Tony chuckled. Steve felt the boy's lips tighten into a smile against his neck. A trail of kisses along his jaw. A firm hand on the back of his head pulled him down for a languorous kiss. Tony's tongue, wet and soft, seeking entrance. Slowly Tony crawled on top of him again, settling himself between Steve's legs, spreading them apart with strong muscular knees. 

They cuddled for a moment, until Tony was completely awake. A hot nervous weight on him, making Steve feel safe, cared for and useful.  

"You hungry?" Tony finally said, pushing himself up on his arms. Steve took a deep breath, realizing how constricted he was under the weight of the boy. He looked at him, eyes soft, his fingers brushing up and down the tensed triceps of his arms. He wasn't really hungry no, mind still fuzzy, giddy with sex, and his brain was telling him how unreasonable it was to eat at this time of the night, but his lover was looking at him expectantly, happy and proud to make him taste the cake he brought. And it was one of Steve's favorite too.

Steve pinched his lips and muttered a soft "uh hum" while nodding slowly. 

 

Turns out Steve was hungry after all. The cake melted so perfectly in his mouth, the sweetness just rightly dosed. The soft clink of their spoons on their shared plate. A kiss tasting like chocolate. It was the best red velvet cake Steve had ever eaten and it was exactly what Steve had needed.

Tony wriggled beside him, trying to find the right position to eat without slipping down against the cushions. Steve licked at his spoon, making it warm, turning it around in his mouth until it was clean. His legs crossed, perfectly seated. It was really nice.

Tony poked at his light stubble and traced a finger down his face, touching his lips, wiping off some cream at the corner of his mouth. The finger trailed down his chest and pressed right where Steve's heart was beating erratically. "So," he whispered, flashing his sexiest smile, "good?"

"Great!" Steve answered, trying to ignore the funny feeling in his chest, his heart racing at every soft gesture Tony made. "Awesome idea, gorgeous." He put the crook of his spoon on the tip of Tony's nose to hide the proud smug growing on his face at the words. Tony laughed, a sweet and sexy sound, and jerked back. "What was it for? Celebrating something?"

Tony's smile faded, his eyes softened as he looked down, avoiding Steve's gaze. "Do we have to celebrate something?"

Steve turned to him, an open smile on his face that he couldn't quiet down. He brought a hand to Tony's face and caressed his cheek gently. Tony was perfectly shaved and his skin was still soft with baby fat. He was just a kid Steve thought.

"I suppose we don't." He finally said, voice almost a whisper. His voice stuck in his throat, his chest overflowing with funny feelings. 

"Good. 'Cause it's definitely not my birthday, today." Tony whispered back, a mischievous smile spreading on his beautiful face.

It took a moment for Steve to realize what Tony had just said but when he did he felt a whole range of different emotions invade him like a huge cold wave. Mostly he felt guilty. 

He looked at the cake and the empty plate on his knees, at his shabby flat, at the dry cum still covering his own chest, at Tony's black marbles shining bright and the fading smile on his lips.

"It's your birthday, today?" Steve asked, incredulous. The moment they shared was ruined and an awkward silence settled. Steve's realized how much he didn't know about Tony and how he hadn't cared enough to know and his heart started racing, but not happily this time. 

"Yeah, why?"

"Really? Like today, today?" Steve asked voice almost stuck. 

"Just google me if you don't believe me." Tony deadpanned. The boy stretched his arms and rested them behind his head, looking up at the ceiling. An impassive expression on his face, slightly inching away from Steve.

Steve didn't know what he should feel right now. It was all mixed up in his head.

It's not that Steve didn't believe Tony. It's just that he couldn't conceive the idea that Tony would want to spend his birthday here, at his shitty apartment, instead of having the party of the century. It seemed so--improbable, preposterous. 

Steve was sitting up on the mattress now, eyes avoiding Tony's.  He risked a glanced behind, at the young man who didn't look exactly hurt but he had definitely dropped the smile."Of course I believe you. It's just-- What are you doing here, then?"

"Do you want me to go?" Tony asked, nonchalantly sitting up on the bed as if ready to leave at Steve's demand.

"NO! No, that's not what I meant. I mean, I just imagined you'd have a big party or something."

Tony chuckled. "I will. Next weekend. Just wanted something more intimate today, I guess."

"I get it but why here? Don't you have a family that you'd rather spend your birthday with?"

Tony didn't answer right away, instead he traced a soft finger across Steve's back, following the lines of his muscles and down his spine. He scooted closer to Steve and deposited a kiss on the back of his shoulder. 

"My parents are the last people I want to see on my birthday believe me. They're away anyway."

Steve ignored the pang in his chest at Tony's spoiled rich kid's mantra.

"Friends then, a girlfriend or a boyfriend maybe?"

The tone might have been casual and the question trivial but it was no less genuine. Steve wanted to know. They have never approached the lovers subject and neither had ever discussed their status, relationship-wise. It was part of their unspoken agreement Steve guessed, but he wanted to know nevertheless because having Tony coming here, on his birthday, made Steve feel too important and he didn't want to get his hopes up. His heart was already racing in his chest. 

Tony wrapped his arms around Steve and surrounded him with his legs, pulling him against his chest. "Jealous, are you?" He teased, chuckling against Steve's ear. Breath tickling a little.

"Not Jealous," Steve pouted--lied. "Just curious."

He felt light kisses on his back. Tony was breathing hard and erratically behind him. He didn't answer right away. Instead he continued his ministrations in the appeasing silence. The gesture quieting down Steve's heart. 

"I'd rather spend my birthday here, with you." He finally whispered, breath tickling the skin of his back. Steve's heart leapt in his chest. He let himself go, body limp against Tony's chest, enraptured in the warmth of the younger man. His eyes fell upon the mold of his ceiling again. And he got lost in them again, lulled by the gentle kisses deposited on the skin of his neck.

Steve's question however remained unanswered and Tony's reaction quite equivocal.  

Chapter Text

The mouth was hot and wet on his cock, familiar. 

Steve arched his back and thrusted up inside the soft pit with a jerk of his hips. He ran his hands in the damp brown hair, pressing the head down a little and groaned in pleasure, pushing his cock deep in the throat.

He flipped his eyes open and was faced with the same moldy ceiling of his apartment. Although the scene he was witnessing there was new, like every time. He slowed down to catch his breath a little and got lost in the scene for a moment but soon, the ache in his groin called him back to what he was doing and he resumed pushing into the warm and welcoming throat, giving rapid little thrusts and pressing onto the head, slightly pulling at the long brown hair and earning a moan from the owner. 

It made him shiver all the way down, his whole body getting hot and sweaty. He gasped and opened his eyes again, but this time he wasn't looking at the ceiling anymore. He was just staring into space, focusing on the pleasure he felt. He wanted to be rougher and fuck brutally into Bucky's throat but Bucky wasn't really into that. Tony was. But it wasn't Tony who was giving him a blowjob today. It was Bucky. And really he didn't even know why it had come to this. Bucky tended to do that, when they were alone together. And Bucky had been here lot recently. 

He didn't know how he came to think about Tony while Bucky was on his cock. It had never happened before. Bucky was Bucky and no-one could surpass that. Not even Tony. Except, Bucky was never his. Or maybe Steve had thought he was for a little while, at the beginning, when they were still virgin teenagers, when Bucky took his first kiss and his virginity. Steve had thought Bucky was his then, but maybe Bucky was never really his after all. And maybe it was a sign. Maybe it was time for Steve to finally move on.

Bucky and Clint had been together for three years already. He kept coming back to Steve however. Never really letting him go. Holding on to him like he was his anchor, an unbreakable connection to their past. Steve wasn't sure who was holding on to whom anymore. The only thing he knew was that Bucky kept coming back. He kept giving him blowjobs. And Steve was always available. 

Bucky groaned onto Steve's cock and slid his mouth up. A little pause to lick at the head. His hand, firm and skillful, took over and squeezed onto his shaft, giving slow strokes while he licked and moaned appreciatively. Steve enjoyed every bit of it, relaxed on his bed and lost in his thoughts. 

Suddenly it all stopped and Steve felt cold air on the tip of his cock. He raised his head and looked up. Bucky was grinning between his legs, holding his shaft firmly.

"Are you sure you should keep doing that, now?" Steve looked at him startled and confused. Thinking something in between Is this a joke? and Man, shut up and make me come

"Don't reverse our roles Buck, you're the one doing something right now. I'm just enduring it." Steve let out with a sigh and dropped his head on the mattress, avoiding looking at Bucky as he had been on the verge of coming and Bucky was really being a killjoy. 

The brunette chuckled, clearly not convinced about the enduring part.

"Won't your boyfriend be pissed?"

"I don't know. You tell me, will Clint be pissed?"

"That's not the same. And Clint doesn't care..."

"You're right. It's not the same, because Clint is your boyfriend and I'm still fucking single."

"Please, you're so dating the Stark boy." 

"We're not dating." Steve insisted. 

"Yeah right." Bucky let out, unconvinced. 

"We're not. He comes by sometimes and we fuck, but that's all there is."

"That's all there is, huh?" Bucky teased.

"Whatever man" Steve let out, annoyed. He sat up and started pulling his shorts up. "I think I'm gonna jack off." Partly because he really needed to come but mostly to avoid this conversation.

The truth was. He and Tony had gotten closer since Tony's surprise birthday, and yeah, it looked like they were dating. But they were not. Nothing had changed. Steve was the guy Tony came to when he needed to release some stress or when he needed some peace and quiet. He came to fuck him sometimes but that's all there was to it. When Tony was done, he would still leave and he wouldn't call or text. He would continue his life as if Steve had never existed. Steve wasn't part of Tony's life. And Steve felt a little hurt by that, but he had never really made some space for Tony in his life either, so he couldn't really blame him.

Bucky tsked. "Alright, come back here. I'll finish you."

Steve was already standing and turned back to face his friend. Bucky was kneeling in front of him, a smirk on his face. He slipped a finger in his mouth and pulled it out slowly and then he swallowed the hard cock that Steve was pointing at him. He sucked on it vigorously, hollowing his cheeks and slid a slick finger up Steve's thighs, brushing at his rim. Steve took Bucky's face in his two hands and thrusted in brutally, not caring anymore. He came with a groan when Bucky's finger slipped inside.

His whole body tensed up and his cock spurted as he thrusted deep with jerky movements of his hips. Bucky held him steady and swallowed everything. After he had cleaned Steve off, he let go of his limp cock and grinned proudly at him.

They both collapsed on the bed and Steve turned to Bucky and mouthed a tired thank you before kissing him, tasting his own cum in his friend's mouth. 

Steve was exhausted and tried to snuggle against Bucky but he wasn't really into it. He had never really responded to Steve's marks of affection. Maybe that was the limit that he and Clint had fixed. Maybe that's just the way he was. A few months ago, Steve would have been pained at Bucky's rejection of Steve's obvious need for post-sex closeness. Today he realized he didn't really care. He was just thinking about Tony. Tony was very affectionate and always cuddled after sex and Steve missed that.

Steve still slid his hand down Bucky's stomach and sneaked it into his shorts, grabbing his dick. He was still rock hard. So Steve started to give a few strokes slowly, in an attempt to reciprocate but Bucky stopped him by clutching his hand. 

Steve startled and looked at him questioningly. 

Bucky turned to him and stared into his eyes. The baby blues were hazed with lust. Bucky leaned into Steve until their mouths were almost touching.

"I wanna fuck you." He whispered on Steve's nose.

Steve's throat went dry and he felt his heart leap in his chest, but not because the sentence made him hot, because he realized he didn't want to, although the word got stuck in his throat. He just shook his head.

"Come on, let me fuck you." Bucky insisted and rolled over Steve, trying to gain some points on his way to persuade him and ended up straddling him.

Steve stretched up and rested on his elbows, facing a seductive Bucky. "I'll let you fuck me, if you let me fuck you."

Bucky threw his head behind and laughed out loud. It was a bit forced. Then he looked back at Steve, expression serious. "Stevie... Come on."

"What? I'm versatile. Why doesn't anybody let me be on top for once! I'm fed up with that."

"See? I told you so!" 

"Told me what?" Steve asked clueless as what Bucky was talking about.

"You never refused me before." Bucky said, tone half amused, half disappointed.

"What because I want it to be about me for once?"

"Nope. You're different."

"What are you even talking about?"

"Does he let you fuck him?" Bucky asked, his head tilted on the side, ignoring the question and changing the subject, trying to make a point.

Steve looked away and pouted. "No."

"See? You're different."

"Different how? "

"I don't know. Just different." 

Bucky climbed down Steve's lap, lied down on his back again and stared at the ceiling. Steve imitated him and they remained like this for a moment. They often did that after sex. Usually they talked and shared a lot, but today they were unusually silent. 

"Nonsense." Steve finally said.

"Think what you want but I'm telling you, Stevie, you've got it bad."

Steve made a strangled laugh as a response, but Bucky continued. "You've got two toothbrushes in the bathroom. The coffee maker works and you have got actual coffee in there. You've got sketches of him everywhere--"

"I've got sketches of you everywhere too." Steve pointed out.

Bucky paused for a while then he took Steve's hand and intertwined their fingers together. "You're right, but you and me, we used to be special."

We still are Steve thought but kept it to himself.

"You know it feels weird." Bucky muttered, more to himself than to Steve. "In a few weeks, I'll be done with the student life. I'm gonna start adulthood. Do you think it's gonna change between us?"

"I don't know." Steve answered and squeezed on Bucky's hand. This moment he had dreaded for while now and it was only days away.

"I want to meet him." Bucky suddenly said.

Steve turned to him and looked at his profile. Bucky was still staring at the ceiling, a small smile on his face. "Why?"

"He's your boyfriend, of course I want to meet him. And he's Tony Fucking Stark, man!" 

"He's not my boyfriend and that's fucking rude."

"Why don't you invite him over to your birthday party?"

"What? No!"

"Why not? Everyone's gonna be there. It's the perfect opportunity for us to meet him and it's a party, it's not like it's gonna be intimate or something."

"I don't know. And I'm not sure he'll wanna come anyway"

"Maybe he won't. But maybe he will, you don't know."

Steve sighed. Truth was, he had already thought about it. But no matter how casual it might seem, it was still a new step towards commitment. It was the space Steve had never made for Tony in his life. And it was a step he wasn't sure Tony wanted to make nor a step he was actually ready for, himself. But then he remembered the little things Bucky had mentioned. Testimonies of Tony's blatant presence in Steve's life. Tony was everywhere around Steve's place and he was taking a bigger and bigger place in his heart. Big enough to overshadow Bucky's. 

They remained silent for a while. Deeply lost in their respective thoughts. Bucky worrying about the future probably, Steve considering inviting Tony over for his birthday. 

For the first time in his life, Steve contemplated the future with some hope.

Bucky did fuck Steve in the end. Because Bucky was Bucky and he'd never change and Steve had never really been able to refuse him anything.

 

Chapter Text

Steve snapped awake as he heard a ruffle and smelled coffee brewing. He was still half-asleep and could barely see the ceiling, it was already getting dark outside. 

"Buck?"

"If you're looking for the tattooed guy whom you've got the hots for, I just met him down the stairs." was the reply, tone amused.

Steve jerked up and saw a tall silhouette standing in the dark, a slender figure in a dark suit. He was leaning against the table, legs and arms crossed, a smirk on his face.

"Tony?"

"That's me."

"What are you doing here?"

"Making coffee?"

Steve collapsed on the bed, already tired of the conversation to come. As much as he wanted to see Tony, he'd rather he didn't see the state of him now.

"Rough day?" Tony asked, tone gentle and concerned.

Steve groaned, a bit confused and annoyed at the same time. Tony took his jacket off and paced to the window in order to open it. "Do you mind?" He asked and opened the window anyway, without waiting for Steve's answer. "It kind of smells sinful in here." He adds with a mocking tone. "You need to freshen up your living space, Rogers. It's bad for your health."

Steve sighed and wiped down his face with both hands, rubbing his eyes awake. When he opened them again, Tony was changing into a T-shirt and shorts that he had somehow left here without Steve noticing. Bits of his talk with Bucky came back to his mind and he felt something funny in his lower belly.

"Sure. Make yourself at home." He said sarcastically, while stretching his arms.

Tony turned to him and grinned. "Oh I will, don't worry about me."

Steve chuckled and sighed again, face hidden in his hands. He was not ready for this conversation. 

He didn't have the time to get prepared though, because Tony was already jumping onto his bed, snuggling against him. His arm slid around his chest and he gave him a peck on the cheek. 

"Hi!" He said, tone innocent and a flashy smile spread on his face. Then he sneaked under the sheets and rolled onto Steve, spreading Steve's legs with his knees and settling himself on top of him.

Steve was still naked and felt his face getting hot. He could feel the blush spreading down his chest. He caught a glimpse of Tony's smirk through his fingers. Tony could see his embarrassment, even if he was still hiding his face behind his hands, pretending to be tired. 

Tony wiggled between his legs, trying to find a more comfortable position. The thin fabric of his shorts the only barrier between their cocks. Tony knew that perfectly well, and Steve was self-conscious, feeling exposed. He removed his hands, in an attempt to push Tony slightly away so he could breathe, and Tony took this opportunity to grab his face with both hands and kiss him languorously. Caught by surprise, Steve let him deepen the kiss and spread his legs wider as Tony was rutting unconsciously against him. His hands, stuck in the air, fell down and rested on Tony's thin waist. His protests muffled by the skillful tongue in his mouth.

"Mmpf. Tony, Tony! Wait!" Steve managed to say while they paused to catch their breath.

Tony collapsed on him, warm breath tickling his skin. "I missed you." He whispered in the crook of his neck.

"Tony, wait." Steve insisted, hands slid under the boy's T-shirt and splayed on his chest. He slightly pushed Tony off of him. "It's not what you think."

The boy propped himself up on his arms and stared at Steve. Confused at first, or rather startled. "What?" He asked.

"Me and Buck. It's really not what you think."

Tony's eyes opened wide and then a smirk brightened his face. "And how would you know?" He said, smile growing. Then he lied down onto Steve again, facing him this time.

"I mean, we did have sex but he's not... We're not--"

"That's not what I'm thinking at all." Tony interrupted with a roll of his eyes.

"So what were you thinking, then?" Steve asked, skeptical. 

"That you're hot!" Tony replied with a husky voice. And he resumed kissing Steve.

Of course. What was he even expecting.

"I'm serious!" Steve protested, pushing Tony off with a bit more strength this time. "Me and Buck, we're just friends."

Tony straightened himself up on his arms again and stared into Steve's eyes. "So, am I."

"Look, I know that--"

The intensity of Tony's stare confused him for a moment. There wasn't an ounce of anger or sadness or even disappointment in there.  Just naive innocence. And a bright smile spreading warmth in Steve's belly.

"Steve," he started with a calm and steady voice. "I don't care." Each word was stressed and pronounced clearly. "I don't care", he repeated. "You can fuck the entire city if you want. I don't get why you want to make a big deal out of it. I don't care."

Steve stared at him, confused and not sure to understand, but Tony seemed to genuinely mean every word. "I know you like him. I get it. I mean, he's hot. I'd definitely do him, given the chance. Doesn't have to change things between us, does it?"

Steve wanted to agree but the words got stuck in his throat, somehow. He'd never admit it but as much as it was a relief, it was also a disappointment. 

They stared at each other in silence for a moment until Tony smiled gently and collapsed on Steve again, resting his head on Steve's chest. His clammy hands took Steve's and he intertwined their fingers together, rubbing Steve's palms with his thumbs. 

"I..." Tony whispered, warm breath tickling Steve's skin. "I've always known." His hands had somehow let go of Steve's and were now rubbing soothingly up his arms, thumbs unconsciously massaging Steve's biceps. "I'm just exhausted." He finally said with a sigh and stopped moving.

A few seconds later, Steve heard Tony's breathing getting heavier--sign of him sleeping--and he felt all the weight of his body slumped on him. Tony's weight made it hard to breathe, but the lump in his throat made it even harder.

Steve wrapped his arms around the young man and tightened his hold on him until he felt Tony's heart beating louder than his own. He felt a tear prickling at the corner of his eye and let it drop down his cheek silently, wrapping his arms even tighter around Tony, holding a sob in. 

He wasn't sure exactly why he felt so depressed suddenly. The fact that Bucky would never be his but somehow he couldn't let go of him. The fact that Tony had just casually said that they were just sex-friends but still came here to seek comfort and affection. Tony's loneliness. His pathetic life. He was turning twenty-five soon and felt so empty and useless and like he had already wasted  a quarter of his life. 

Steve remained like this until he was calm again. Until the pain in his heart was soothed enough that he realized how heavy Tony was on him and tried to squirm out of his grasp. Also, he really needed to pee. 

Tony grumbled in his sleep but didn't wake up. When Steve left the bed, he curled up into a ball and hid under the blanket as a scared little child. Steve watched him sleep with a surge of affection for the boy--the young man. He really needed to stop consider Tony as a boy. He was already twenty years old, but he couldn't help it. To Steve, Tony was and would always be a scared little boy who needed his protection. He wondered why he'd always felt this way, because Tony was just the opposite of that.

The coffee had gotten cold of course but he drank it anyway. Tony had brewed it for him after all. the kind of nice gesture that only Tony did for him. He sipped slowly watching Tony sleep, winding and rewinding every bit of their conversation again and again, and then he felt inspired. It was late, but not that late. Dark outside, but not too hot and the fresh breeze coming from the window mingling with Tony's peaceful breathing turned his place into some sort of stimulating atmosphere. So he settled down at his desk and started drawing a few pages.

A couple of hours later, he went back to bed and Tony unconsciously curled up around him, resting his head (only his head this time) on his chest again. And as Steve was starting to doze off, Tony set about giving him light kisses on his cheek and neck, snuggling against him, hard and hot against his thigh. Not seemingly trying to do anything about it however.

"Hey, Tony." He whispered, voice croaky with exhaustion. 

"Hey, little Rogers" Tony whispered back, a smile on his lips, sounding much more enthusiastic and refreshed.

Tony wrapped his arm around Steve and cuddled him close, burying his head in the crook of his neck and sighing back to sleep.

"You know, if you're gonna come here just to sleep, you could just stay home." Steve said and immediately regretted it. What did that even mean? 

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tony whispered against Steve's skin, a smile still stretching his lips.

"I don't even know myself, I'm sorry. I'm just tired."

Tony chuckled, still resting on Steve's shoulder. "I don't sleep well at home." He mumbled indifferently, which made Steve pause for a few minutes. Tony was still hard against him but not trying to push Steve into having sex. He was just cuddling him.

"You know what I think you are?" Steve finally said, half-asleep.

"No. What am I? Please say handsome."

Steve repressed a giggle. "Besides being handsome, I mean."

Tony lifted his head and looked at Steve questioningly, eyes still hazy with sleep. "Smart? Interesting? Funny? Skilled? Good at blowjobs?"

"I was gonna say, a leech." Although Tony definitely was all of those things.

Tony let out a strangled laugh. "Wow. That's the best compliment someone ever gave me."

"No, I mean. I don't even know what I'm saying but, you know. That's how I feel." Tony's eyes were intense on him, not angry, but curious and questioning. Steve was avoiding his stare and started rambling again, fixing the ceiling he could't really see in the dark room. "I feel like whenever you come, you suck out everything from me. You drain me of all my energy, my strength, my feelings. You take everything you need from me and I'm just left feeling empty and worn out. I feel like you're drinking the life out of me."

Tony straightened up, brown eyes brightening in the dark. Steve could still decipher the confusion in his stare. "Okay." He just said, tone impassive and remained silent for a while, looking at Steve in an attempt to read his thoughts. Tony had strangely always been able to see through Steve. Which was a bit scary, when you thought about it. Then he rolled over Steve and slid down between his legs, hands on his shorts. His eyes were shining with mischievousness. "There are so many other things that I could suck out of you, you know." He said with a kinky smile that Steve could barely see. 

Steve sighed. "Tony, I'm tired."

"What? You won't have to do anything. I'll make it good for you, I promise. You'll just have to enjoy yourself until you come into my mouth and then fall asleep peacefully." He paused, searching for approval in Steve's eyes. "I mean, do you want me... Do you want me to go?" He asked worryingly.

Steve propped himself on his elbows and looked down at Tony. "No! Of course not. But, if this is your way to try to make up for whatever you think I accused you of, just don't. Don't even listen to me. I'm just tired and I don't even know what I'm saying."

"This has nothing to do with what you said. I've been wanting to do it since I woke up next to you."

"Tony..." Steve protested, resolve already ebbing away.

"Please? Let me suck you off." Tony whimpered imploringly, lips already mouthing around the growing bulge in Steve's shorts. 

Steve dropped his head on the pillows with an exasperated sigh and spread his arms and legs on the mattress. "whatever." Tony was already pulling his shorts down and his cock sprung out in all its glory. 

Steve didn't have the time to think about how good it felt to have Tony's warm mouth on him that he was already moaning around it, worshipping it. "I love you cock." he whimpered. "It's so thick and fucking good in my mouth." 

Steve had to admit, Tony gave the best blowjobs ever. 

Slowly he was plunged in bliss, completely relaxed and enjoying every moment of it, already half-asleep and high on pleasure. Everything else didn't matter anymore.

Tony sucked the cum out of him and swallowed everything like promised. Steve doesn't even know which of them moaned the loudest. Tony loved sucking cocks as much as Steve loved having his cock sucked off. And he was fucking good at it.

Tony remained a while between Steve's legs, catching his breath and cleaning him off. Steve didn't really pay attention, he was floating, still in the haze  between sleep and consciousness, until he felt Tony snuggle on his side, cock hard and humping his thigh absentmindedly. 

A heavy arm slid over his chest and Tony's face came to rest in its favorite place, on Steve's shoulder. A relieved sighed escaped his lips, brushing warm air against Steve's skin.

Steve still wasn't completely convinced Tony hadn't done that out of guilt, willing to make Steve feel better at all cost, needing to give something in return for whatever he felt he was taking from Steve. He wasn't sure how he felt about that so he tried to ignore the thought.

"Tony?" Steve muttered, hands slipping down his stomach in an attempt to grab the hard shaft which had stopped moving against leg. "Don't you want me to reciprocate?"

"Mmmh. No." Tony mumbled, face hidden in the crook on Steve's neck. "I like being close you and fall asleep like that, still hard." Surprisingly, Steve was quite okay with that too. Having Tony hard and yet sleeping peacefully next to him was kind of comforting.

"You sure?" He still asked.

"hum uh." Tony confirmed, already falling asleep next to Steve.

Steve relaxed and closed his eyes. Warm and sated, safe with Tony's solid presence next to him.

He dozed off again, but before he was completely asleep, Tony talked.

"Steve?" He asked, without really expecting an answer. "I'm sorry you feel that way." He whispered. "I know, it may seem one-sided between us, but it doesn't have to be. I get why you feel like I'm just taking whatever I need from you and just leave when I got what I wanted but that's not true. I care and I'm here for you. If you ever need me, I'll be there. You know, whatever you need. I mean like, if you ever needed money or something.

Steve tensed. A  bit outraged. "I don't need your money, Tony."

Tony raised his head and looked at Steve in the eyes. "I know. I know, this is why I never actually suggested it. But you know, if you ever find yourself in a situation. Money or anything else, whatever you need. Just call me, okay? I'll be there for you." Then he dropped his head on Steve's shoulder again and tightened his arm around Steve protectively. "I hope you know that."

Steve remained silent for a while, trying to handle the wave of heat he felt invading him suddenly. "Thanks." He whispered gratefully, words almost stuck in his throat. "Speaking of..."

"Mmh?"

"What are you doing for independence day?"

"Hum," Tony hesitated. "Celebrating your birthday?"

Oh... And that what shockingly unexpected. 

"How did you--"

"Have you looked at yourself?" Tony teased. "You said you were twenty-four. I had to check."

"Hum. Okay. This is awkward."

"So, what are we doing?"

"Well, so.. This isn't exactly for my birthday, but... Most of my friends are graduating this year and, err, we're gonna have a small party at mine. You know, killing two birds with one stone. 

Steve didn't know why he was this stressed out over inviting Tony for his birthday, but his heart was racing like crazy.

Tony snuggled up closer against him and tightened his embrace. "Sure," he mumbled. "I'll be there."

Suddenly, Steve felt a huge weight he didn't know he had being heaved off his chest. 

He finally fell asleep. Light-headed and optimistic. 

Chapter Text

Steve was not, absolutely not stressing out over Tony coming at his birthday party. Nope. He wasn't. It's not like he cared if Tony were to come or not. He was Tony Stark after all, a free spirit. 

He was clutching at his pint of beer, almost untouched and getting warm in his clammy hand, trying to listen to Bruce's enthusiastic talk about the fascinating subject of his doctorate. It's not that Steve didn't care, he usually was a good and attentive listener, he was just feeling distracted. His heart was not in it. And certainly not because all of his friends were drunk or not far on the way there when he wasn't, that it was already long past eleven and Tony hadn't showed up yet. 

It's not like Tony was the most expected guest in his party. He had all his friends around him. It's not like he needed Tony. He wasn't even sure if Tony had been actually awake when he had agreed to come.

Therefore Steve didn't feel his chest constricted and heavy with a growing lump of disappointment because the boy hadn't showed his face. Besides, he trusted Tony, if he had truly and consciously said he would come, then he definitely would. 

Right? Right. Let's have fun!

Steve was sipping his now warm beer, watching without really looking Bucky and Clint dancingmaking out in the middle of Steve's apartment. The couch had been pushed on the side, underneath the window. His mattress was folded into a second couch against the far end wall. Even so, twenty people in apartment felt a little bit cramped.

"Why the moping face?" He heard Natasha say behind him.

"I'm not moping."

"Right. You're just tired." She said sarcastically.

"Yeah." 

"Because you've gotten so old, now." She teased.

"Fuck off." Steve replied, faking being offended. 

"So, it's not at all because Stark didn't come."

"Yet." Because, it needed to be specified. You should be accurate if you were going to analyze him. 

"Right. Let's be specific." Her tone turned into something softer, more concerned. She put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Look, I don't know him or anything about your relationship, so I don't want to judge. But you really gotta ask yourself if this is what you want in a relationship. From the look of it and from what you told me, it doesn't seem like a healthy relationship. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he's out of your league or anything but he's Tony fucking Stark. A fucking celebrity. Are you sure you willing to deal with everything that comes with dating someone like him?"

Steve turned to her, a bit startled. He definitely felt like Tony was way out of his league--although hearing it out loud so plainly kinda hurt--and he had never really seriously considered dating Tony. He just felt left out somehow, though he didn't really know why. He just felt frustrated, like something was missing from his life, but he wasn't sure it had anything to do with Tony. 

"We're not dating." Steve whispered unconcernedly.

"All right, I'll stopped meddling." Natasha smiled, backing off. "I just want you to be happy. You deserve it. But strangely I feel that you don't think that you do."

"I'm alright, Nat. Stop worrying."

"Alright. Wanna do tequila shots?"

Steve turned to her, she was smiling mischievously, as if she had a hidden agenda. Maybe she had, Natasha was always two steps away from you. 

"Sure." Steve agreed with a smile. "Why not?"

 

Steve was slowly walking down the path of a hell of a hangover when there was a knock on the door, so he didn't hear it. He did hear the voice though and he recognized it instantly. Tony's voice was suave and teasing. A smile always on his lips that you could even hear when he spoke if you paid attention. And Steve paid attention.

"Hello, gorgeous." Tony slurred and Steve stopped at once and stilled his hand which was half-way to his mouth with his third shot. His heart skipped in his chest and started racing furiously. 

He didn't turn around immediately, wavering between happiness and anger at Tony's late arrival. The compliment warmed his heart, however, and he finally turned to see him, a shy smile on his face. 

Except the compliment wasn't meant for him and Tony hadn't even noticed Steve yet. He was literally sprawled in Thor's arms, completely shit-faced, hands clutched to his neck and eyes focused on his square jaw. Thor was the one who had by chance opened the door, being the closest to it.

"Hum, hello." Thor answered, tone half-shy, half-amused. He was trying to hold Tony straight who, from the look of it, didn't seem to be able to do it on his own. 

Tony wavered a bit and held himself on Thor's chest, groping him at the same time before he fell onto him again and wrapped his arms around him, slurring sensually in his ear. 

"You're hot." He muttered, loud enough for everyone around them to hear, including Steve.

"You're not so bad yourself." Thor replied, obviously really amused by the situation, like everyone else witnessing the scene, except Steve. Even Natasha chuckled next to him, amused like the rest of them, Steve felt utterly betrayed by his friend. 

Tony literally giggled and nibbled Thor's ear. "I wanna climb you like a tree." He whispered lewdly and went on with a seductive laugh. He was actually trying to climb onto Thor, humping him, which was half-way between super arousing and quite pathetic. Steve had to admit, from an objective point of view, the two of them together looked really hot, but maybe that was because until now, Steve had never really imagined Thor with another guy.

Thor tried to push Tony slightly off of him without much success. "Okay, hot stuff, I--" He started but was cut off by Tony shoving his tongue in his mouth and giving him a really really hot and spitty kiss. Good thing it was Thor and that had just made him laugh. Steve, however, didn't laugh at all. He stared blankly at the scene, jaw slack and lost for words. 

Thor pushed Tony a bit harder this time and settled him straight. He seemed to stand on his two feet this time. Steve stared at him, baffled. He was dressed in black tight-fitted dress pants, a tight white shirt which suited him perfectly and a close-fit black suit. Simple but classy and high-quality, which contrasted completely with the way he was standing. Still wavering on his legs. Eyes half-closed and clouded with whatever substance he had abused of before coming. Face flushed and too relaxed, smile sloppy. A bit like the way he was when Steve had met him in that club the second time, but way more wasted. Steve didn't know how he felt about that, he was conflicted. A mix of anger, disappointment, sadness, pity and disgust.

"Okay, buddy," Thor started, "Not that I wasn't enjoying myself, you're a great kisser but--"

"I know." Tony interrupted with a slur. He was still smiling seductively, eyes unfocused and hazy. 

"I'm straight and my girlfriend, the gorgeous woman in a blue dress," He pointed at Jane who was chatting with Darcy. "is right over there." Although Jane seemed quite amused by the whole seen as well. 

Maybe it was really funny. From an outsider's point of view, but to Steve it meant two things: Tony didn't care enough to come sober and on time for his birthday. Tony was reckless, self-destructive, abused alcohol, and maybe drugs, and it was really early too. He made himself a joke and that probably was the saddest truth of all.

Tony leant a little to look at Jane then focused his attention back on Thor again. "I'm not jealous. I don't mind sharing." He glanced at Jane again. Actually, I'm all for sharing, I can totally do her too. She's hot." 

Thor burst out laughing. "Tempting offer, maybe next time though." He said, finally out of Tony's clutch.

Tony pouted. "Shame." He muttered disappointedly. "And I'd have let you fuck my ass in every position."

Thor chuckled. "I'll keep that in mind." He answered, still smiling with amusement.

"Yeah, do that." Tony said, eyes already focusing on something or someone else. "I'm Tony, by the way." He added, ignoring Thor.

Tony's eyes finally caught on Steve and he flashed him his best smile. "Rogers!!! The man of day!!!" He shouted and toddled towards Steve, waving a bottle of whisky in his left hand. "I brought a little something to hydrate."

He sighed exasperatedly. "Alcohol doesn't hydrate, Tony, and I think you've had enough drinks for one night."

"Don't be a spoil sport, Cap. I'd forgotten mother-henning's your favorite activity."

Natasha chuckled and turned to Steve with her He's got-you-figured-out look on her face. Steve rolled his eyes, he was so annoyed he just felt like kicking Tony out of his place right now. "Whatever, gimme the bottle." 

"Yeah, that's more like it!"

Tony's eyes scanned the room. Steve's flat, although crowded, was not too noisy. It was at that moment in the party when people were getting tired and drunk enough so they started quieting down. 

"God, that's boring!" Tony exclaimed. "It was time I arrived. I'm gonna rock this party." He lifted his arms in the air, barely holding on his legs, and shouted. "Hey everyone, I'm Tony!" That got him everyone's attention, then he turned on himself while all eyes were fixed on him, both amused and entranced at the same time. Because Wasted or not, Tony was just something else. He caught the light on him, and despite the fact that he was looking hazily down, eyes unfocused, he still had the sexiest and most charming smile ever. He stumbled backward but caught himself before falling on his ass and raised his hands in the air again. "And I brought candies." He shouted again. In his hands, there was two relatively small--again, matter of perspective--plastic bags, one with blue pills, one with white powder. "So, let's get this party started!!!" 

He was met with everyone's cheering and shouting. 

Steve felt a pang in his chest and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Natasha seemed very pleased next to him. "Oh, I think I like your boyfriend."

"He's not my--Really, Nat? You too?"

She walked towards Tony with a smile on her face. "For fuck's sake, Captain! Live a little!"

Steve wasn't in the mood to "live a little." On the contrary, the only thing he felt like doing right now was kick everyone out and just sleep for a whole week. He was already thinking how he needed to work the next day, and how he was going to be in trouble with his neighbors. And the thump of the music that had been turned up really loud was giving him a headache.

He went to fetch a glass of water and sulked in a corner. 

Tony was at the center of the attention. His usual self, flashy, extravagant, loud and promiscuous. He had stopped counting the number of his friends Tony had kissed or groped or both.

The jacket had been tossed away and the white shirt wasn't so white anymore. Tony was laughing and dancing seductively, with Natasha, then Darcy, and Peggy. Even buzzed and drunk off his face, Tony was still magnetic. Beautiful and sexy and so attractive. No-one could stay indifferent. Male or female. Gay or straight. There was just something about him. 

"So," Steve heard Bucky slur behind him. "Your boyfriend is something else." Steve turned to him. Bucky had an unusual glint in his eyes. He was stoned too. "He's hot."

"He's alright. And he's not my boyfriend, by the way."

"But he's funny."

"Yeah." Steve let out with difficulty.

"What's wrong, Stevie?" 

"Nothing."

"I told you he'd come."

"Yeah. Great."

Steve was sorry for the lack of enthusiasm but that wasn't exactly how he had envisioned his birthday party. Quite the opposite, in fact. 

His eyes were glued on Tony, as if Steve needed to torture himself a bit more. He only felt the disappointment and sadness growing and growing in his heart. He wasn't even sure what he had wanted from Tony. Maybe he had wanted it to be about him for once, but he had also said to Tony it was just a party to celebrate the end of college life.  

Tony was now dancing--or rubbing himself on Clint, who seemed eager to reciprocate. Steve felt his chest constrict. It was not jealousy. He refused it to be jealousy. Steve had not place to be jealous but it was festering in his heart. "I don't want to meddle but, Tony and Clint are almost making out in the middle of the room." 

Bucky chuckled.

"Okay, and now they are actually making out." Clint had grabbed Tony's face with both hands while Tony was giggling stupidly. They were both the same height but Clint supported Tony's weight as he still had trouble standing on his own so he had to lower his head to kiss Tony and Tony was looking up at him with hazy but still seductive eyes. 

Steve isn't sure which one of them started it but right now, Clint was licking Tony's mouth and nose while the latter laughed lewdly. Then Tony straightened up and grabbed Clint's face strongly, taking back control, and he shoved his tongue in Clint's mouth.

Bucky was quiet next to him, and didn't move a finger. Steve couldn't understand how his friend could remain this calm when he was internally getting enraged and panicking. That kiss was different from all the previous ones Tony had given during the party. This one was not a game anymore, it was turning serious. 

Despite the turmoil of emotion pooling inside, Steve didn't move a finger either. He was numbed. It wasn't even because the (rather small) amount of alcohol he had consumed was enough to annihilate his movements. He was just numbed. Dismayed and numbed.

"Doesn't it bother you?" He asked, voice shaking with hurt, and looked at Bucky who just looked everything but bothered. His lips were parted and his eyes deeply focused on his boyfriend eating Tony's face. His hands had somehow landed on Tony's ass and were grabbing his slender hips firmly which didn't seem to upset Tony in the slightest. 

"That is" he slurred, but not a drunk slur, a lewd slur. "the hottest thing I've ever seen."

"Aren't you gonna stop them?"

"You mean, join them? Of yeah definitely!"

Steve laughed mirthlessly. He grabbed his friend's forearm. "Buck! Buck, wait!" Bucky turned to Steve questioningly. "Seriously?"

"Seriously what, Steve? What's the matter? We're just having fun!"

"Wow. Like, you two making out with my boyfriend, is your idea of having fun?"

Steve knew Bucky and Clint were in an open-relationship. Even if he didn't really understand them, he'd always witnessed it and accepted it. He had never really thought about the consequences. But not now, not with Tony, not when he was this drunk. It was fucking wrong!

"I thought he wasn't your boyfriend."

"That's not the point, is it!" Steve shouted, much louder than he intended, considering he drew some of his friends' attention. Bucky looked at him, startled. "You know what? Whatever, I'm just gonna--" He didn't finish his sentence as he wasn't sure exactly what he was going to do. He wanted to leave, but it was kind of his party and his place and as much as he wanted to, he could hardly escape the sight of them making out in his two hundred square feet apartment.

He locked himself up in the bathroom and freshened his face for a long moment. Trying to settle down his racing heart. It was stupid and stupid and stupid. He wasn't a fucking teenager anymore. People his age didn't react like that.

When he went out, a few of his friend had left. It was long past two in the morning. Tony, Clint and Bucky had moved their making out session on his folded mattress/couch/bed and had moved on to the next step already.

Tony was sitting in the middle, legs spread and shirt disheveled, buttoned down half way. Bucky was on his left, he was holding his face and kissing him sloppily, groaning into his mouth. His fingers were brushing right underneath his jawline, exactly where Tony liked to be touched, the same way Steve knew made him shiver and gasp. Clint was on his right, kissing and nipping at his neck, his hand running down Tony's stomach and buttoning down his trousers. Tony had both his hands in their shorts.

"Wow, it's getting heated right there." Thor's amused voice exclaimed behind him. Steve turned around to face him. He was holding Jane close. Darcy was behind them, her bag on her shoulder. "Look man, it's getting late, we're gonna go. But what a party!!! Feel free to invite your friend again anytime!" He said while lifting his head towards the three men making out on Steve's bed. Most of his friends were used to seeing Clint and Bucky getting hot with other guys at parties. So it wasn't shocking anyone anymore. It was just him.

Steve nodded and managed a smile. He didn't know how, the corner of his mouth had politely turned up on their own, probably out of habit. Bruce was next and so were most of his friends. The others were getting prepared. Well, it was almost three in the morning.

Steve braced himself and strode to the couch with fiery determination. 

He stood in front of them, hands on his hips, glaring. "Tony, what are you doing?"

Tony let go of Bucky's mouth, not without giving him a wink and smiling seductively, and turned to Steve. "Little Rogers! Hey! Come up here! Let's have some fun."

"I'm serious Tony, what the fuck?"

"What's the matter Lil' Roj? Don't kill the mood! Come with us!"

Bucky and Clint looked both at him, eyes gleaming and smirking, silently inciting him to join them like they had so many times before. They also both knew that Steve wasn't into that. 

"And do what?" 

"Whatever you want." Tony purred, getting really handsy with Clint and Bucky. His eyes were shining with lust, promising the moon and the stars, so alluringly Steve almost said yes. "I'm gonna suck a dick." He glanced at Clint first and then at Bucky. "Or two. Wanna join me?" The harsh reality slapped him quickly though. 

"No thanks."

"You're boring, Cap! Live a little! You're twenty-five and you sound like an old man." He laughed and both Clint and Bucky chuckled. Then, he ignored Steve and turned to Clint, smiling mockingly. "He does live up to his nickname, doesn't he."

The three of them laughed at Steve's expense, whose heart was sinking in his chest. He heard Bucky add softly while kissing Tony again. "Told you he wouldn't want to. He's boring like that."

Tony ruffled into his pocket and took something out, then he rested his head on Bucky's shoulder and sniffed, then he wiped his nose and licked his fingers before dropping his head on Bucky's shoulder. Clint was stroking up and down his stomach, opening the last buttons down. Tony snuggled against Bucky and whispered. "I'm thirsty." in the crook of his neck.

Bucky stretched his arm and pulled a bottle, which did not contain water, out from behind Steve's mattress and spilled it over Tony's mouth who opened it wide and laughed as the liquid flowed down his neck onto his chest. Clint bent down to lick the drops up his chiseled abs.

Steve couldn't let it happen. He walked closer and grabbed Tony's arm in order to pull him out of Clint and Bucky's grasp. Tony yanked his arm away and pushed Steve's hand aggressively. "Let me go, Rogers. I'm not your fucking toy!"

Steve was stunned and opened his eyes wide. Tony went back to kissing Clint, giggling against his mouth. 

"Bucky can I talk to you for a sec?"

Bucky lifted his head. "What? Yeah, sure." He stoop up with difficulty and shuffled towards Steve while Clint lied down on the mattress-slash-couch, Tony sprawled out on him. 

Steve avoided glancing at them, because he had murderous thoughts right now. "What are you doing? What the fuck?"

"I think you already asked and the answer was quite obvious."

"I'm not joking, Buck. You can't seriously be doing this!"

"Why not? What's your fucking problem?"

"He's a kid! He doesn't even know what he's doing!"

"Steve, buddy, I love you punk, but you need to stop patronizing him. He's fucking twenty years old, he can make his own decisions. He wants this. the three of us do.

"He's wasted! That's what he is."

"Look! I get it. You're not into threesomes, fair enough, but he is. And he's under no obligation to you and you're more than welcome to join by the way, but even if you persist wanting to be with your own grumpy self, you don't have to ruin the fun for us."

That shut Steve up for good. He stared blankly at Bucky who was pacing backwards towards the mattress, shocked and hurt. 

It was happening. And there was nothing he could do to prevent that.

He stared at them, baffled, unable to process the fact that it was really happening. Right now, in front of him, in his flat, in his bed. He couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe his friends were that selfish and insensitive. 

Steve felt drained. It wasn't just Tony's rejection that hurt. It was also Bucky's. Neither of them cared about his feelings. Neither of them put him first, not even second. They were just using him, because he let them.

He kept staring, petrified, until he felt tears pickle at the corners of his eyes. He turned on his heels and left. Natasha came behind him and wrapped a comforting arm around him.

"You wanna get some fresh air?" She asked with a smile. Her eyes were hazy too but she seemed clear-headed enough so he nodded and let her push him out the door and down the stairs.

On the way down, Natasha cuddled him up. "Look, as badly made their decision might be, they're all adults and you're not their parent. You can't stop them if they don't want to, even if they're doing the biggest mistake of their lives." Steve knew that very well, it didn't hurt any less, or wasn't any less frustrating. He just hoped they would be safe, at least.

The fresh air and the noise outside was a distraction. Steve was able to hold his tears in. They joined a few of his friends who had kept the party going outside of Steve's apartment which had suddenly become a gay backroom. 

There was a lot of smoke and alcohol and shouting but it was keeping his mind off things. 

After a while, a long while, Bucky and Clint came down the stairs, laughing and hung up in each other's arms. Steve was having a chat with Natasha and Peggy who were the only ones left. 

Steve glared at them. 

They joined their little trio and Bucky brought a hand to Steve's head, ruffling his hair a little. Steve grabbed his fist and stopped his hand. "Had your fun?" He asked coldly and angrily. 

"Yeah. Was great."

A bad feeling ran through him. Why wasn't Tony with them? 

"Where's Tony?"

"Still upstairs." Bucky slurred. They were both plastered which didn't reassure Steve one bit.

"Wasn't feeling well." Clint added.

"Yeah, no. Isn't feeling well." Bucky confirmed while tightening his hold on Clint. "Well, losers. Off to bed. See ya." And they walked off.

Panic rose inside Steve's stomach. Ever since he's seen Tony stepping in his apartment, staggering and reeking of booze like he'd spilled a bottle on him he had feared this moment. Tony was reckless and self-destructive and Steve knew, and he had let it happen. 

He felt his face turn white and cold sweat at the back of his neck. He looked at Natasha. She tilted her head towards the building's entrance door and mouthed. "Go!" while looking concerned.

Steve had never climbed the eleven floors leading to his apartment as fast before. He was out of breath when he came in and almost collapsed on his wood-floor.

He took a deep breath and searched the room with his eyes. "Tony?" 

Shit!

His place was a mess. There were bottles, crisp packs and cups everywhere. It smelled like puke and booze. His eyes stopped at the back of his room, where his mattress had been laid out as a bed again, the unmoving form of Tony lying down on it.

Tony's body was rigid, petrified in a weird position. He was leaning on his chest, legs bent as if he'd been kneeling before falling down on the bed, arms pulled backwards, as if someone had tied them or held them behind his back and forced him down. 

Steve was horrified. 

Millions of thought came through his head but he ignored them. He didn't have the time to be mad at Bucky and Clint or outraged by what they had done or hadn't done. Tony needed his help so he braced himself and ran to his side.

Tony's head was turned on the side, resting on the mattress. His eyes were wide-open, staring into space, livid and empty. He was damp, cold and shivering.

Steve's heart clenched in his chest and he swallowed his panic inside. He checked his pulse and his breathing. His pulse was fast and his breathing erratic, but he was alive.

He delicately took Tony's face into his hands and made him face him. His eyes were still fixed in the air. Hazy and still. Steve could feel the slight tremor against his skin. He kissed Tony on the forehead and whispered slowly on his mouth.

"Tony, please, look at me!" 

"Tony! please!"

"Tony look at me, please."

He shook him slightly but got no reaction. He slid his arms around his slender form--Tony seemed so light and weak like that--and held him tight against his chest. 

"Please Tony, wake up!"

The shivering slowed down and he heard a groan. He took Tony's face in his hands again. His eyes turned up and he passed out. Steve could only hear the loud thump of his racing heart. Both their hearts. 

He shook Tony's head again and gave him a light slap. "Stay with me." He whispered. Tony startled awake and finally saw Steve, a glimpse of relief ran through his eyes and he passed out again and slumped in Steve's arms, drooling.

Steve took out his phone, willing to dial 911, he called Natasha instead. Reading that Tony Stark had overdosed after a sex party in his flat all over the news the next day was the last thing he needed.

"Steve?"

"I think he OD'ed." He whispered, voice croaky as if coming from beyond the grave. The words had come out of their own, because he wasn't in any capacity to spell them himself. 

"Did you check the pulse?"

"Yeah."

"Is he breathing?"

"Barely."

"Is he unconscious?" 

"He passed out but I was able to wake him up."

"Okay, that's good. Does he have fever?"

"He's cold, but he's sweating."

"Right. Keep him warm, will you?" She paused for a few second. "Okay, I know someone. Put him in recovery position, don't let him choke on his puke and keep him warm. I'll be there in 30..."

Steve felt a bit relieved but the weigh of guilt felt heavy on his shoulders. Tony whimpered and Steve let out another sigh of relief. He looked at Tony's limp body curled up on his lap. Tony was almost six feet tall with a broad and muscular body, although thin and slender, but he looked so fragile like that.

Well, at least, he still had some of his clothes on. 

He pulled the covers on him and slipped out from under him. He put him in recovery position, like Natasha said, and made sure he could breath before he went to the bathroom to fetch a basin of water and a clean cloth. When he came back, Tony had moved a bit and whimpered again. 

Steve set about cleaning his face, purposely avoiding to check what the stains on his face and his hair were. He didn't need to know. Tony opened his eyes briefly only to pass out again seconds later.

When he had cleaned most of his face and neck, Steve went back to the bathroom, emptied the basin and came back with it and a glass of water. He put the empty basin next to Tony's face, the glass of water on the nightstand and walked around the bed to lie down next to him. He curled his arms around Tony's waist and snuggled against his back, holding him tight.

Tony's body warmed up and the shaking completely stopped. His breathing calmed down for a while, before Steve felt his body spasm and heard him hiccough.

He rose up and ran in front go him, holding the basin to his mouth and supporting his face while he retched and threw up. He wiped his face clean again and managed to make him sip some water before he passed out again.

Tony vomited twice before Natasha came back with Helen, one of her friend who also happened to be an intern.

Helen And-I'm-on-holiday-too listened to Tony's heart-rate, checked his temperature and his blood pressure, looked into his eyes, asked questions.

"What did he take?"

"I don't know." Steve had answered and tried to wake Tony up and ask him. Thankfully he did, and was able to mumble something like cocain and aderall. Steve had sat him up and was holding his face. His neck was limp and his head heavy. He rolled his eyes up and grumbled before fainting on Steve's shoulder.

"It's mild alcohol-poisoning and maybe the beginning of cocain overdose. Stimulant drugs can provoke anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations. Thankfully he stopped before it became serious." Helen concluded. "He will be fine. He's been lucky. And lucky you were there too and called for help immediately." 

Steve let another sigh of relief escape. He watched Helen placing an IV on Tony's arm. "What is it?"

"It's just for rehydration. He could do without it, since he was able to drink. It's just a precaution, he doesn't need anything else. His temperature and his blood pressure are fine, his heart rate is low. He should stay under observation though, so if you don't want to take him to the hospital, you'll have to check on him, at least every hour. Make sure he can breathe properly and keep him warm. Don't give him anything else."

Steve nodded. Tony whispered 'no hospital' with fear in his voice. He will be there for him. 

"Do you want company?" Natasha asked kindly, out of concern. She looked exhausted but she was still there. 

"It's okay. I'll stay with him. Go to bed. You need it." Steve answered, showing his face and nudging his head towards her.

"Asshole!" She smirked. 

The girls left and Steve set his alarm every half hour. It was forty past four and Steve's shift started at noon. Then he lay down behind Tony and spooned him. Tony grumbled and mumbled an apology and a thank you before falling asleep again.

Steve didn't need his alarm. Tony woke him up at least three more times to throw up. Each time, Steve checked his blood pressure and was able to make him drink water.

After the last alarm he'd set up rang, at half past eight, Steve was able to sleep three hours straight, his arms wrapped around Tony, warm and solid beside him. He was breathing peacefully. 

Steve planted a kiss on his neck and fell asleep, finally relieved.

At half past eleven, Steve woke up again and ran to the shower. He cleaned the basin, brewed coffee and foraged for some left-over food from the party. His place was mess but it was something to worry about later. Just as everything else that had happened the night before that was going to need some serious talking. Steve didn't want to think about it now. Right now, he just needed to make sure Tony was going to be fine.

He knelt down next to his bed, put the empty basin next to the bed again and shook Tony awake. Tony didn't want to wake up but he grumbled and his muscles had strength again, because he was able to push Steve away and force his way down on the bed.

"Tony, wake up. I need to get to work. I need to make sure you're gonna be fine." He was going to be late anyway.

The brunette mumbled a protest again and refused to move.

"Tony, come on. Wake up." Then Steve changed strategy. "I made coffee."

Tony turned on his back and rubbed his eyes open. He stared at the ceiling, probably trying to determine where he was and maybe remember how he had come to be in that state.

"It's decaf." Steve said while heading to the kitchenette. "You're not allowed caffeine for now." Tony pressed his thumbs on his temples and wiped his face down. "You're not allowed ibuprofen either or any other drug."

Tony grumbled as a response.

Steve went back and crouched next to him while holding him a glass of water. "Drink this first." and put a smoking cup of coffee on the nightstand. Tony eyes were finally clear with their usual shine in there, even if he looked like shit.

Steve was so happy to see him looking (relatively) good that he had forgotten how angry he was with him. He smiled stupidly, and kissed the corner of his mouth. Tony was smelling like puke but Steve didn't care. He rubbed his hands down the boy's cheek. Tony fixed him impassively, too tired to show any emotion yet, he leant into the touch however. They remained like this for a short moment, Steve rubbing Tony's cheek slightly, and Tony being silently grateful.

"I'm going to work." Steve said. "Call me if you need anything. Keep drinking water, and there's orange juice in the fridge. Put something solid in your stomach and try healthy for once." Tony raised a shy smile that Steve took as a victory. He checked Tony's vitals one last time and finally decided on going. "You can sleep more. Helen and Nat should come by to check on you soon. Don't do anything stupid, okay."

Tony watched Steve leave with the signs of exhaustion on his face. "Thanks, Steve." He whispered before falling back to sleep. 

Chapter Text

Steve had had the worst of days. 

Having slept barely three hours and worried all night long, Steve was exhausted. Physically and emotionally exhausted. He longed for an extended night of sleep, a long shower and a pile of nachos and cheese while binge-watching Netflix. But mostly, he wanted to forget about the complete disaster that was his birthday.

Unfortunately, none of these things were even close to happening.

He had spent his whole afternoon sprawled out on his counter at the gallery, drained by the heat and lack of sleep and couldn't wait for his shift to end. It had been such a slow day, and no-one interested in his art, again.

Ten minutes before six p.m, he went to the back and got his bag ready. He wasn't staying one more minute in there. No-one was here anyway. Except, on his way out from the staff's office room, he discerned a familiar figure waiting at the counter. 

His first reaction was a leap of his heart. He still had a little crush on the tall brunette, despite everything. He gazed at the broad figure, the strong thighs barely hidden underneath his short pants, the long-brown hair tied in the way that he had always found sexy, the beautiful metal arm tattoo but he quickly remembered last night and his contemplative gaze turned into a glare. He felt the anger constrict his chest and all the pain he felt turn into a whirling ball of fury ready to explode at any time.

As he approached, Bucky turned to him and smiled. That fucker. "Hey, punk."

"What are you doing here?" Steve asked coldly. As cold as he could manage with the slight tremor of his hand which craved for punching that shithead cocksucker right into his crooked teeth. Steve wished for blood.

The harshness of his tone seemed to have unsettled Bucky a little because he hesitated. "Well, err... Your shift ended, I was kinda hoping, maybe... We could grab a bite before you start at the restaurant. Your shift's at eight, right?"

Bucky interpreted Steve's lack of reaction very accurately. 

"You're mad." He concluded.

Steve chuckled mirthlessly. Mad is not even the beginning of it, Buck.

"Look, I feel shitty enough, okay. I just wanted to see how you were. Heard from Stark, yet? How's he doing?"

Steve felt the bile at the back of his throat coming up to his back teeth. His heart started racing and rage was thumping at his temples. "What do you even care?" He shouted through gritted teeth. "Since you left him to OD in my bed."

Bucky's face paled and his features contorted in pain and guilt. "Oh man, fuck." He exclaimed and then whispered. "I'm so sorry, I had no idea, I'm so sorry. Is he...? is he..? How is he?"

Steve sadistically enjoyed the sight of Bucky writhing with guilt for a moment before he finally decided to end his misery. "He's fine."

Natasha had called right after she and Helen checked on him and removed the IV, Tony was sleeping like a baby and the basin was clean. They had him eat fruits and porridge before leaving him to rest again and Nat came back on her own later in the afternoon. Tony was still sleeping but really fine, so Steve was positive about that, at least.

A long sigh of relief escaped Bucky's mouth. He still ran a hand down his face in order to wipe the tears that had started to water his eyes and the sweat at his temple. His eyes were bloodshot. 

"I'm so sorry Stevie, you've gotta believe me. I didn't... We didn't realize until this morning, when we'd sobered up, what a shitty thing we'd done. I honestly didn't think it was that serious. I mean, he was doing fine one minute. And then after we... after we had... after we were done, he... We just thought he had drunk a bit too much that's all. I mean we were all shit-faced. He seemed fine enough. I mean, it's still kind of a blur." He rubbed at his eyes again with a sigh and wiped his hands down his stubble. "Man, I'm never mixing drugs again."

"Good decision." Steve deadpanned. If his friend thought he was going to feel sorry for him and accept his pathetic excuses, he was delusional. Steve had no time for half-assed apologies. He put his backpack on his shoulder and set about leaving. "See you."

"Wait!" Bucky grabbed his hand before he walked out the door, but Steve didn't turn to him. 

They remained like this for a short while, Steve facing the entrance door, not moving, and Bucky pulling at his arm behind him, holding him strongly but not enough to force Steve to stay. Steve just didn't make a move, still pondering what to do.

He finally turned around and faced his friend. He was surprised at how calm he had managed to be. "You're right." He started. "I've had a lot of time to think today. Let's talk."

Bucky nodded and let go of his arm. They both left the gallery and walked side by side in silence until they found one of Steve's favorite places, not far from the restaurant he worked at, where they could eat outside. They chose a table and sat down, enjoying the warm early summer sun on their hangover faces. Steve was quite happy to be able to wear his sunglasses and hide those huge dark shadows under his eyes that made him look like a corpse.

They remained silent for a while, animosity still in the air, not really knowing how to breach the subject.

Bucky threw him concerned glances that Steve had decided to ignore, until he finally spoke. "Did you sleep, okay? He asked, sounding worried and caring.

"I wiped off puke all night, but apart from that I slept like an angel."

"Man, I'm so sorry." Bucky repeated guiltily.

"For what? Fucking my boyfriend or leaving him out for dead?"

Bucky looked like he had swallowed a fish bone.

"Both, I guess. But we didn't fuck him, if that makes you feel better."

"You're right." Steve answered sarcastically. "I feel so much better now."

"I mean, I don't really remember but, it's more like he fucked the shit out of u--"

Steve turned to him and let escape a half-exasperated half-disgusted noise. "Argh. I don't need to know, Buck."

Bucky smirked. "Well, I thought you wanted to know, since you're always like 'boohoo, nobody lets me fuck them.' Your precious boyfriend's ass remained intact, don't worry, it's not just you. But I get why you're so hooked though."

Steve should have felt angry, but that made him laugh more than anything else. "Yeah, he does have the reputation to be good in the sacks." 

It was hard, to talk seriously with Bucky. He realized that they had never really talked seriously, not about things that mattered. He turned to his friend, a question burning his lips. "You know, I always wondered if you, you know... if you bottomed from time to time, or if you were an exclusive top, since you.... you never wanted to, with me."

"I do. Sometimes. I do it with Clint. He's the one who introduced me to it, you know, since he's versatile too. And sometimes I do it with other guys, when it feels right. I mean Tony was... I don't remember much but I do remember that he was good. Instinctive, you know. He's a pretty dominant top. And weirdly quite sub--"

Steve giggled. "Okay, way too much information." 

They shared a knowing smile and the waitress came with their order, which consisted of two freshly pressed smoothies and two veggie wraps.

Bucky took a sip of his green mixture and spoke out softly, still smiling. "Hmm, it's a beautiful day. I'll text Clint, so he can join us."

Steve ignored him but Bucky continued, eyes on his phone. "It's good to see you smile. I feel like you haven't been smiling a lot lately." He said pensively and then he looked up at him and grinned. "Does that mean you're not mad anymore?" He asked hopefully. 

Steve didn't answer right away, trying to find the rightest words for expressing how exactly the depth of what he was feeling. He spoke slowly, avoiding Bucky's concerned but curious look. "Oh no, don't get me wrong." He muttered softly, each word stressed out. "I'm more than mad. I'm pissed. I'm so fucking pissed right now I don't even know where and how to start." He was amazed to see how he was capable to remain so calm and indifferent when he had always had trouble with dealing with his emotions.

Bucky dropped the smile and straightened his back on the seat. Not longer in the mood for relaxed chitchat apparently, which Steve didn't feel particularly guilty about, or at all. 

He took out a pack of cigarette and pulled out one.

Steve stretched his arm and pulled out one too, under Bucky's questioning stare. 

"You're sure you should do that? With your asthma?"

"Since when do you care about my asthma? You and Clint always smoke pot right on my face."

Bucky let out an annoyed noise but didn't reply. He took a lighter out of his pocket and lit the cigarette hanging on his bottom lip. Steve waited for him to exhale the first puff of smoke and asked for the lighter, without looking at him. He had turned his seat on the side, pretending to want to get a better sun exposition, especially to avoid looking him in the eyes. 

Bucky glared disapprovingly but eventually sent the lighter across the table.

Steve ignored the burning in his lungs at the first inhale, as well as his friend's judgmental roll of eyes when he coughed. He sneezed and sucked in another puff of smoke. This time he didn't cough.

"So, it never felt right with me?" He asked, exhaling the smoke through his nose. He sounded much more hurt than he intended to.

Bucky looked at him with a startled face, slowly realizing what he was talking about. "Stevie, that's not what I meant. It's different between us. We have our own dynamic. It's our thing."

"And what is our thing exactly?"

The brunette hesitated. "I don't know... but it works out." And the worst part was that he was convinced of his own bullshit. 

"Well, I'll tell you what I know." Steve started, inhaling another drag. "You know I thought about... about why I was so hurt when you rejected me yesterday. You didn't," he explained, "and when I say you, I'm talking about you and Tony, both of you--You didn't only reject me physically, you rejected me, as a person. Me, with all my feelings, with everything I care, with all the values I defend."

Bucky strangled himself on the smoke and couched loudly. Steve glanced at him, he looked like someone had emptied a bucket of water on his face, which could have been funny, in other circumstances. Except Steve was too hurt to care about the obvious distress Bucky felt at the serious turn their conversation had unexpectedly taken.  

"We were drunk, to the point we didn't know what we were doing. I don't even remember how it started."

"I want to say 'I told you so.' but you know what? No! Fuck you! You knew what you were doing, Buck! I'm not giving you the right to escape your responsibility for this. I told you. I asked you not to do it, but you did it anyway, without any regards to my feelings at all. I mean you did it in my bed, in front of me."

Bucky looked at him, crunched up on the table. "I've got no excuse for that."

"Yeah, but you know what? I don't care. I don't fucking care anymore. Yeah, that was a pretty shitty thing to do, even for you. But that was just the action of three drunkards who were too high on drugs and alcohol and consequently made poor decisions. Even I can understand that. Approve no, but understand yeah. But it's not about that, Bucky." 

Steve paused in order to quiet down the turmoil he felt inside. He took a drag and looked at Bucky, who was listening carefully, a hurt expression on his face.

"It's not even about Tony," Steve whispered. "Tony is a slut. It's common knowledge. And he was wasted, way too wasted to fully give consent by the way, but let's not go into that for now, yeah? I mean, Tony hurt me, in more that one way, but Tony isn't my friend. He's not even my boyfriend. He's just a booty call, and you were right, he doesn't owe me anything and certainly not exclusivity. Tony is Tony, he's just a kid with a lot of issues and frankly, I'm not even surprised, coming from him. But you--" He stopped, feeling the tears coming to his eyes. "This has nothing to do with Tony, or with what happened last night. It's about you. About us."

Bucky stared at him, his figure blurred with the smoke surrounding him, a glimpse of pain in his eyes. Steve listened to his own heart drumming in his chest. It was painful, but also relieving to finally put words on his feelings. He had buried them inside for so long that he didn't even acknowledge them anymore. It was as much a surprise to him as it was for Bucky.

"I've known you forever. I loved you." He whispered with a trembling voice. His first confession ever, to his best friend. "I still love you." Bucky gasped and parted his lips but said nothing. Steve snorted, trying to hold his tears in and smiled mirthlessly, "But you know that, right?" He swiftly turned on his seat and faced Bucky. "You've always known," He kept on, tone slightly accusing. "and you took me for granted."

The pain in Bucky's eyes was very visible right now but he didn't lower his gaze when Steve confronted him, that was something at least.

Steve kept on. "You knew how I felt about Tony. You knew I would be hurt. You know I'm not comfortable with group sex. You knew and yet you chose to ignore me, to trample on my feelings, because you knew I would forgive you in the end, because you've always had me."

He wasn't holding his tears anymore, they were dripping down his cheeks. Thankfully, he had sunglasses on. He sniffled and wiped the tears off his cheeks, in vain, because they were still running down. Bucky's eyes were watering too.

"And you know what? I can't even get mad at you for it. You don't even realize it yourself. It's just normal for you. I've always been there, I've always loved you. I've loved you for so long that I don't even know what love is anymore. I don't even know how to open up to people. I don't know what it's like to be cared for and loved in return. I have accepted it. I've accepted to never come first." He sniffled and paused to catch his breath and take a last drag of his cigarette.

"You don't care how I feel." He mumbled almost to himself. "No-one cares."  He snorted, smashed his cigarette on the table and chuckled. "I'm just this guy whom you can go to anytime you need a fuck. This nice guy that everybody likes, because he's always there, trying to help. He's always going to open his door for you. This guy you can call in the middle of the night at any time and know he will answer you and roam around the city for you. So it doesn't matter that he's got to work his ass off at two jobs. Or that he is always the one cleaning after everyone's mess. No-one cares that he doesn't want people to smoke in his apartment, or that he'd like to rest at home peacefully sometimes. And it's okay to fuck me in the ass even when I said no, because in the end, I always yield. So this thing you're talking about, our thing, is just that. It's just you taking advantage and me letting you do it."

There was another sniffling but it wasn't his, this time. It was Bucky who wiped his eyes with a hand and choked a sob in.

"but you know what? No more." He decided. "This ends now." 

Steve sat sideways again, avoiding looking at Bucky. No matter how angry he was, it pained him, to see him like that. He heard Bucky gulp and went on. "I don't wanna see you anymore, neither of you. Not until I've sorted myself out. I need to move on."

"Okay." Bucky agreed, voice hurt. His breathing was heavy.

Steve brought the warm smoothie cup that had been clutched in his hand all this time and took a sip. A heavy silence settled and lingered. Tears were still running down his cheeks as if they had been contained all these years and were finally set loose. Bucky had his eyes fixed on Steve, unable to let go.

Clint chose this exact moment to step into their cold silence and walked to them eagerly. "Hey Guys! Hi Steve! How you doin'? Have you heard from Stark?" 

"Shut up, Clint!" Bucky snapped while staring at Steve, which was kind of harsh but Steve was grateful for it because he was in no condition to deal with Clint's never-ending enthusiasm right now.

"Well, that was uncalled for." Clint replied, clearly upset. "I--"

"Tony's fine, if that's what you're worried about." Steve interrupted, he was even less in condition to deal with them fighting. 

"Oh. Okay." Clint quiet down. He looked around at the two untouched wraps and three-quarter full smoothies on the table. Tension was palpable. "Are you guys okay?" He finally asked, sensing the animosity between them.

Bucky kept his eyes on Steve, willing Clint to go away or trying to make a point, Steve was not sure. Bucky and Clint shared everything, it was weird for him to be excluded from this conversation. 

"He OD'ed and Steve's spent the night looking after him." Bucky explained, trying to find a reasonable explanation for the tense atmosphere between them.

"Oh, shit man, I'm so sorry." Clint exclaimed apologetically. 

Steve sniffled again and contained a sob. "Please shut up, Clint." He slipped a finger underneath his glasses and wiped another tear out of his eyes.

Clint finally got the clue and sat down quietly next to his boyfriend, glancing at both of them and trying to understand what had just happened. He slid his arms around Bucky and started rubbing his lower back comfortingly and when his boyfriend relaxed and wrapped his arm around him, he rested his head on his shoulder.

Bucky kept looking silently at Steve, more out of concern than out of anger.

"When do you start your internship?" Steve asked, genuinely interested and willing to appease the tension with small talk.

"In three weeks." The brunette answered blankly.

"It's a good opportunity to take distance from each other."

"If this is really what you want." Bucky replied coldly. Clint glanced at them, finally trying to pick up the reason behind the overwhelming uneasiness. "But you know, if you distance yourself from your friends, you're gonna end up on your own." And it almost sounded like a threat. 

Steve turned to them, Bucky was halfway back to glaring at him, Clint was still looking confused and glanced up at his boyfriend questioningly.

Steve pondered his answer. Bucky wanted to hurt him? Fine, he could play that game. He knew how to hurt his best friend too. "If this is how friends treat each other, I'm better off on my own." Steve let out painfully. Those words had never been so true when he spelled them out.

"If you say so..."

"Well, you're all gonna move on anyway. So why do you even care? Student life's over for you, you'll have a job, your own place, you two will play daddy with a bunch of kids and a dog and you'll pay for a babysitter on weekends to look after them while you go down to sin city and fuck half the town. And I'll still be here, on my own, struggling, stagnating. I need something else." 

Clint burst out laughing. "Well, that's quite the life you're picturing for our future!" 

Bucky was not amused, he kept staring at Steve. "You don't give yourself enough credit." He whispered, voice hurt.

"Fuck you, Buck."

Clint quickly quieted down and squeezed his boyfriend's hand. Bucky's eyes were still wet.

"Look, I'm sorry Stevie. I never meant to hurt you. I never realized that you felt this way. If I could take it back I would, I swear. So if you want to stay away for a while, fine, I'll accept your decision. But I hope it's not forever, because I need you, I want you, in my life. One way or another."

Steve hiccuped and his chest heaved. "I want you in my life too, Buck, but not the way things are right now. I need a break from it."

Bucky stood up and pulled Steve into his arms. He hugged him tightly and rubbed his hands up his arms and onto his neck and he lifted his chin up to kiss him. A long gentle and passionate kiss. "I'll miss you." He whispered while ruffling with Steve's hair. "I love you too, punk."

"I'm still mad at you." was Steve's answer.

"Ahem" Clint interrupted. "Err, guys? Sorry to interrupt but, ahem, Steve, we kinda have to go to work."

They both looked at Clint. Steve glared. Bucky looked grateful and admiring at Clint who didn't make any fuss and didn't ask for a kiss himself, understanding and accepting that Bucky needed his moment with Steve.

Clint led the way and they both left, heading to work. Bucky waved at his boyfriend from behind and Clint waved back discreetly. On their way to the restaurant, Clint and Steve walked in an awkward silence. Unusual for Clint.

"You know," Clint broke the heavy silence between them. "For what it's worth, I feel really bad about what happened last night. All of it." Well, technically it was this morning but who cares, right? "And I feel like this is my fault, really."

"Don't even try to talk to me!"

"Okay. Fair enough."

The atmosphere between them didn't relax when they started their shift. On the contrary. And the awful thing was that Bucky was right, if he shut Clint and Bucky away from his life, he was gonna end up alone. He realized that night more than ever that everybody liked Clint, because he was fun, and relaxed and cool and suave and everything Steve wasn't. So not talking to Clint meant he antagonized the rest of the staff, even if Clint was being cool about it, probably out of guilt.

Steve thought this day was never going to end as the dinner hours dragged and dragged and he felt more and more like a zombie. A dead corpse, walking, talking (barely) and working in a diner. He carried his carcass out of work and back to his place with the sole strength of his will, dreaming about a week of sleep in his bed and no-fucking-one to interrupt him in the meantime. 

His heart still felt heavy about his talk with Bucky and there still was the Tony issue--Issues, with an S. He was divided over calling him, to make sure he was okay, and never seeing him again, because he was fucking mad and most of all not ready to deal with all his shit. Like Natasha had said, even if Tony were the relationship kind of guy, he wasn't sure he was ready to deal with everything that came with dating Tony Stark.

When he finally arrived in front of the building entrance leading to his flat, Steve felt like crying picturing the mess he was going to find in his apartment in his head. The stench of puke, cold cigarette and booze, the trash all over, the bottles and cups, the rotting left-overs, the cigarette butts, the used condoms scattered around his bed. (there were at least four or them, not that Steve had been counting.) He almost retched thinking of it.  

He hated his life.

After he cursed the landlord multiple times and coughed his lungs out climbing the stairs--He was already regretting the cigarette, stupid move--he finally arrived in front of his door and leant his head against it, refusing to open it, dreading what was waiting for him inside.

He eventually opened the door--because he really needed to rest and was almost falling asleep standing up, head leaning against his front door--and what was waiting inside was... actually a nice surprise. 

His whole place had been emptied of trash and cleaned up. He looked around a little. It was really clean, like cleaner than his flat had ever been. Everything had been put in order, even the clothes on his shelves. His bed was done, his sheets had been washed and changed. His kitchen was sparkling, as well as his bathroom. His fridge was full, of actual food. Healthy food. Only his work table and drawing material hadn't been touched.

He felt emotional again suddenly.

He thought about Natasha, who was the only one of his friends who had showed that she cared, but then Natasha was everything but a clean freak. Actually, Steve had never since her doing anything even remotely close to cleaning. There was only one person who could have done that.

Tony.

On the table, there was a note written with the same energetic writing as the genius's. Thank you for everything. I'm really sorry. T and next to it was an envelope, creased and stained, with Happy birthday Little Rogers written on it. His heart skipped, seeing this was probably written before the party. He opened it, not without having his heart skipping in his chest. There was just an address.

Another one of Tony's mysteries.

He put it on the side, he didn't have the energy to figure it out now and pondered calling Tony but decided against it. He was too exhausted, too angry and bitter. So he just walked to his bed which had never looked that tempting before and collapsed on it right away, already falling asleep. 

 

Chapter Text

Steve's (relatively) long sleep last night had been invigorating. It had been a while since he was able to sleep more than six hours straight. His sleep had been peaceful and undisturbed. No weird dreams, no unwelcome feelings, no lovers. Just restorative sleep.

He needed that. 

He wished he could have stayed in bed a little bit longer but his shift at the restaurant was early today. He still slouched on the cushions--which seemed much softer than usual by the way--until the very end. He jumped on his feet ten minutes before leaving, took a three-minutes shower and brushed his teeth that he had regrettably left out the day before, and ate fruits (his fridge was full of them now) before running down the stairs.

The walk to work was much easier than the previous days, and refreshing with the morning breeze but once in the restaurant, Steve felt drained again. Being back there really put him down. It was a good thing Clint's shift started much later today. They won't have to see each other at least. The last three days had been bleak and awkward.

While changing into his work clothes in the locker room, he caught a glimpse of his pale face in the mirror. He looked like shit. The dark shadows under his eyes were still there, his hair was a mess, he was paler than death itself and his eyes were puffed. He let out a sigh and set up for work. It didn't matter.

The restaurant was already full and it was barely past 10 a.m. People came here for a late breakfast. Being located in one of the busiest part of the city, this was not surprising, nor unusual. It's just that Steve wasn't in it. Until now, his nerves had hold him up, but since yesterday he really felt the aftermath of the whole thing and was already exhausted. 

He got into working mindlessly wishing for it to be over soon and go back to bed. 

He was wrong. 

His (relatively) long night of sleep was not even nearly close to enough. He was no longer in the young category now, being twenty-five and all. He needed much more time to recover from a hangover. Much much more time. 

The place quieted down about an hour later and Steve slumped on the counter he was cleaning under the amused eyes of Sharon, his co-worker. 

"Rough night?" She asked smilingly. 

"Don't even get started." Steve mumbled, chin on the counter.

Steve liked Sharon, even though they weren't that close. She was a nice girl and a good person. He had almost invited her to his birthday but chickened out at the last minute. Not that she would have missed anything. 

"Well, don't slack on the job, cause we have celebs in town." She said with a conniving smile and went back to wiping glasses clean, while giggling excitedly. 

Steve painfully raised his head and looked towards the entrance absentmindedly. He was faced with a very dapper and refreshed Tony, hopping about in his direction.

Steve sighed, the sight of him already wearying him down. Why?   He internally sobbed, and physically dropped his head back on the counter, burying his head in the sand in a very mature way.

Tony was about the last person he wanted to see right now, down on the list after Bucky and Clint. He had no such luck however, because he could already smell his cologne, and to be even more unfair, he smelled really good.

Steve tried to ignore his presence above him and pretended to sleep on the counter but Tony wasn't the patient type and he was soon woken up by an enthusiastic. "Hey Little Rogers!"

Steve mumbled a protest and turned his head on the side. His eyes met Sharon's and she made an awed you-know-Tony-Stark face, so he felt that he might have to face him, one way or another. Although he would have wished for it to be later rather than, well, now.

He raised his eyes slowly. Tony flashed him his sexiest smile. Goddammit, Steve had forgotten about that. How handsome he was. It was so unfair. Tony's smile was so bright his eyes almost hurt.

"Hi!" The brunette said softly. Innocently, like nothing had happened. Damn, he was good! 

Steve grumbled in response. "Go away, Tony!" Then he turned his face away from him, the blinding smile shining too brightly for his tired eyes. 

Tony didn't answer but remained standing over Steve's slouched form silently so Steve finally straightened--after all, he still had a job to do and people were starting to come in for an early lunch--and reclined on his elbows, glaring tiredly at Tony.

"You're still here?"

Tony was still smiling. Although it was shyer, he didn't lose composure. When Steve frowned angrily--well, at least he aimed for angry, but he was too weary to really feel it--Tony's grin turned into a pouting sorry face, wide kicked-puppy eyes and all, which told a lot about how seriously Tony was taking this. Steve was pissed, well more like, annoyed, because that was kind of cute.

He let out an exasperated sigh. "I need to work." He spat and set about welcoming the new customers while ignoring the goofy moron.

Except Tony didn't see things that way. And Tony was fucking persistent, and he was definitely wired the wrong way.

"You've been ignoring my calls." Tony said from behind while Steve was seating nice and very patient patrons.

To be fair, Tony had called in order to apologize, well at least Steve thought that was the reason behind Tony's calls--Tony never called--but he couldn't say for sure, since he hadn't answered any of them and had erased the rare messages he had left before listening to them.

Steve ignored him again. He was good at ignoring. He could do this all day.

And so could Tony. 

After a few minutes during which he worked with Tony tailing behind him and following his every move like a retard, he finally turned around and faced him.

"I don't have time for this."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, I heard. You said that before. Now move!"

Tony walked closer to Steve and stood there, looming over him. An impenetrable barrier between Steve and the rest of the world. Steve turned on his heels, trying to escape him but every time he moved, Tony was standing in front of him. Unmovable. Grinning to his ears. A sheepish and expectant grin.

After another five minutes, Steve gave up and sighed, resting his weight on one leg. "I don't have time for your games, Tony. Move!"

"Have lunch with me!" Tony commanded shyly, biting his bottom lip.

"No."

"When is your break?"

"For God's sake, Tony! Can't you just take 'no' for what it is? No!"

"Nevermind, I'll ask cute blondie over there."

Sharon giggled proudly and shouted. "His break's at half-past two." from across the room. Well, Steve hadn't realized how loud they were. They were making a scene and it looked really bad and unprofessional. Well, the customers looked more amused than annoyed, but still...

Steve sighed. "Whatever..." and went back behind the counter, ignoring the winning grin on Tony's face. He was just happy content to be finally rid of him.

Thankfully, the rest of his morning was really busy and he didn't have the time to think about it. He just wore himself down at work and was glad to finally be able to put his ass on a chair when it was time for his break.

He wasn't even done cleaning his last table that a tall figure was standing in front of him again. Steve startled and straightened his back. He looked up at the grin first, and then his eyes slid down onto the food container Tony was proudly holding in his hands. 

Oh shit... He had forgotten. Fuck! 

Well, it's more that Steve hadn't thought Tony would go through with it. That he would have gotten the clue. You know, that he'd know when his presence was unwanted. Well, Steve was utterly mistaken. 

"No!" He quickly said while wiping his hands on his apron and turning around in the opposite direction.

Tony followed behind him. "I brought your favorite."

And yeah, Steve had noticed. The package from his favorite Italian place and he'd recognized the smell. And it was so fucking unfair that Tony paid attention because, in spite of everything, that was a really nice gesture. Something no-one had done for him before.

Steve stopped in his tracks and hesitated for a while, and Tony took that opportunity to stand in front of him again and block his way out. 

He sighed heavily, exasperation pouring out of him. "I told you to go away, Tony."

The brunette cowered on himself and held the box higher, hiding an apprehensive, yet apologetic smile. "Just hear me out." He begged, looking like the Puss in boots, "Pleeaaase?"

Steve felt his whole body slump down with exasperation and weariness. He sighed defeatedly. "Fine..."

Steve led Tony in the changing room. The restaurant was still packed.

The room was small and dim, being lit with artificial light only. There were a few lockers, a small table on which the staff members had their lunch or coffee, some cleaning supplies, mops and buckets and a huge metal sink they used to clean the said mops and buckets.

Thankfully, they were alone for now. Steve gestured Tony to sit down at the table and sat opposite to him.

Tony pushed the food container slowly towards him as peace offering and Steve snatched it away possessively. He wasn't going to give Tony the satisfaction of offering him the food and being thanked for it. 

Tony chuckled lightly but closed his mouth and dropped the smile quickly. His eyes were shining bright though. Amused, or pleased or horny, Steve wasn't sure. Although, if Tony really was horny, then it was really creepy because, well, he still remembered how he looked this morning.

Silence lingered. 

Steve could only hear the crunches in his mouth and tried to repress the multiple foodgasm he was having. Tony looked at him hesitantly, biting his lips.

"You didn't come for your gift." Tony stated nonchalantly. 

"What gift?"

"The address, in the envelope?"

Steve sighed. "I don't need any gift."

"Well, you got one anyway."

"I don't care about your gift, Tony. If this is what you've come to tell me, you can leave."

"Okay." Tony said, but didn't move whatsoever.

Steve ate in silence while Tony was gazing at him. "Thanks for taking care of me." The brunette finally said. "You didn't have to."

Steve stopped in his chewing and looked at Tony in the eyes. "Of course, I had to."

"You could have dropped me at the nearest hospital. I mean... I'm not... I'm not your responsibility."

"You could have died!" Steve shouted. Still remembering the panic he'd felt then. He still felt the chills. Steve had not realized then, rushed on adrenaline and the sense of duty, but afterwards, the fear had settled down and left a bitter taste in Steve's mouth. It could have been tragic. In a way Steve didn't dare think about.

"I didn't." Tony protested.

"Obviously! You're looking well, by the way."

"Thanks. I can't say the same for you, unfortunately."

"Nice." Steve said sarcastically, although, he wasn't really upset. What was happening in his mouth was worth all the bad feels. 

Tony chuckled again, more amused by Steve's not so contained foodgasm than by what he had said. "I'm really sorry." He said, after a while.

"What for?" Steve asked, focused on chewing his food. He regretted it instantly. What kind of stupid question was that? They both knew what Tony needed to apologize for. That was open question, and open questions led to all kind of answers, openings, hope.

"Err... Everything?"

Tony hesitated. Obviously he didn't expect that, and it was just a tiny teeny hesitation, but still, Steve couldn't help a bad feeling spreading in his chest. An intuition. Something he hadn't thought of before but that he feared might actually have happened and that would explain, a lot.

Steve dropped the plastic fork and focused his attention on Tony, looking worryingly into his eyes. "Define everything." 

"Hum... Obviously, trashing your party, having you look after me, puking in your bed, worrying you, bothering your friends..." At Steve's lack of reaction, Tony became more hesitant. "Doing drugs? Showing up late at your party? Drink too much? Hum, spilling beer on your shirt? No? Err, getting naked in the middle of the room?" Steve frowned. "Okay, not that either. Hum, I don't know, whatever I did that upset you and made you mad at me?"

Steve let escape a mirthless laugh. "Tony," He said voice calm and composed. "Do you even remember?"

Tony looked like he had been caught red-handed. He smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, sure. I mean, most of it."

Steve let out a strangled noise at the realization. "You don't remember!" He exclaimed accusingly, and it was more a statement than a question. His fears had come true.

"Wow. Chill out, you make it sound like a bad thing!"

"It is a bad thing, Tony!!!"

"Well, I'd say numbers say otherwise. If you look at the statistics, when I don't remember, it means I had a great time." 

"This is not a fucking joke! I'm not laughing right now." Steve shouted scoldingly. 

Tony's expression slowly changed from a smirk to worried shame, and there was something else in his eyes that Steve couldn't really decipher. 

"Look, things are a bit fuzzy in my head, but you don't need to make a big deal out of it. It's not like something bad happened, right?"

"No," Steve replied with a sigh. "Nothing bad happened. Not exactly."

"What do you mean, not exactly?"

"What do you remember?"

"Err, having fun... dancing... Oh, and I remember kissing that hot guy who was built like a tree." Tony frowned, "Is that why you're angry?" and then smiled mockingly, "Are you jealous? It was meant as a joke you know, unless... he was interested and I still have my chances with him?"

Steve chuckled. "Nope. Thor is straight as an arrow."

"Shame. He was hot."

Steve smiled amusedly and bent over the table. He took Tony's hands in his and joined them in the middle. "Tony," He said softly, "I'm not mad at you because you kissed Thor,  I'm mad because--"

"I couldn't get it up!" Tony exclaimed, horror on his face. "Okay, I get it. But I'll let you know, Rogers, that this has never happened before." 

Steve giggled stupidly. "Stop joking, that's not even funny."

"So", Tony looked at Steve with a soft expression and asked with a gentle voice, "Why are you mad? Did I do something?" There was worry in his voice.

"I..." Steve started and stopped. He didn't even know why he was mad at Tony. He wasn't mad at Tony anymore. He felt sorry for him. He felt sorry that Tony cared so little about himself that what happened what a non-event for him. He almost died and he was making fun of it. As much as Tony's recklessness and insouciance scared him, it also saddened him. 

Tony looked at him expectantly, eyes intense on him. A bit of concern in his stare. His lips were parted and suddenly his expression changed into something else. Something deep and urgent.

"I don'--" Steve repeated but he was cut short by the intensity of Tony's gaze, dark eyes glittering with lust. Ruffling clothes, the chair scraping the concrete floor and his wet lips were on him. His heart raced in his chest and he was invaded by a wave of warmth which spread throughout his body down to the tip of his cock.

The kiss was slow and intense. Tony's lips against his, his teeth slowly biting his bottom lip. That made Steve gasped and Tony's tongue was soft and mellow in his mouth. He moaned into Tony's mouth before he snapped out of it and pushed Tony away.

"Stop, Tony, wait!" 

Tony stopped and inched back a little, his questioning eyes still intense on him, hazy with lust. "Come on, Steve," he muttered, voice lewd and husky, "you cannot look at me like that, looking hot and eager, ready to cry over my sorry life, and not expect me to kiss you in return." 

He was looking at Steve like he was a curiosity. His stare shifted from his eyes to his lips, drawn to him by invisible forces, and suddenly, there was something urgent and animalistic in those eyes. Steve felt Tony's hand on the nape of his neck, holding him tightly and his lips were hot on him again.

Steve lost himself in the kiss for a minute, never wanting it to stop. It felt so good, so right, like their lips belonged together. Tony was forceful but soft. His tongue dancing with Steve's while both of them groaned and gasped in each other's mouth.

It's when Steve felt his cock straining in his pants, begging for Tony's touch, that he realized what he was doing. He jerked back, escaping Tony's grasp. 

"No!" He almost shouted. "No, Tony, I don't wan--"

Tony bent over the table, hands on the edge, muscles flexed and chiseled under his loose shirt. He brought his face closer to Steve and put a finger on his lips. "Shhhh..."

He was still looking at him with a lewd, hazy gaze, avoiding his eyes, and he looked perfectly debauched, hair disheveled, mouth wet and flushed, his t-shirt crumpled. He leant into him, lips almost brushing his skin. "What is it that you don't want, Rogers?" He whispered with a bewitching sensuous voice that gave Steve shivers.

"You don't want me to kiss you?" He asked, lips almost touching the corner of his mouth. Tony was a fucking tease! 

Then he moved his mouth to Steve's ear. Electricity ran down his spine, Steve was already hot and hard with want. "You don't want me to bite your neck and lick you all over?" Steve gasped, shivering all over and felt Tony's breath on his neck, tickling his skin from his ear to his shoulder.

"You don't want me to bend you over that sink and fuck you and break you like there's no tomorrow?" His cock twitched. He was heavily panting, hung up on every word.

Tony chuckled seductively at Steve's bewilderment and traced a line from Steve's lips down to his crotch with his teasing finger. Steve's cock twitched again and he instinctively spread his legs to give him access. "You don't want me to get on my knees and sneak under that table, put my mouth on you until you come and swallow everything down?

Steve gasped again and bit his lips. His heart was thumping on his temples and his chest was ready to explode. "No." He managed to say, despite the fact his cock really hated him right now. "I don't want to have sex with you."

Tony straightened up at once. "Okay." He said nonchalantly and shrugged, his skillful and teasing hands down his pockets.

He wasn't moving but he looked at Steve like a predator on the hunt. And Steve really wanted to be that prey. Tony was intense, in everything he did. It was a lot to deal with, too much even, but fuck, it felt good. It felt so good to be worshiped and desired that way and Steve wanted that. He could have that. Why would he deny himself that? Why couldn't he have fun too, for once? Why did everything in his life had to be so serious? 

Tony was there and Tony wanted him. He was a fool to let that go. Who said Steve had to be the good one who makes the right decisions? Who said he could't use Tony as much as he was being used? They didn't have to bring feelings into this. 

It could be exactly was it was: Hot, no-strings-attached, mind-blowing sex.

"Tony?" He called with a weak voice.

They eyes met and something happened between them. 

In a matter of seconds, Tony had both of Steve's hands pinned against the wall, his mouth hot and wet on him again, kissing him breathlessly. Steve moaned into Tony's mouth, squirming, trying to find his balance on the tip of his toes, because, well, Tony was tall.

The brunette let go of Steve's hands to hold his face, deepening the kiss even more, groaning and biting at Steve's lips. Their hard-ons rubbing against each other into ecstasy.

"Tony, wait. I can't do this. Not at work."

The kiss stopped and Tony pushed Steve brutally against the wall, unbuckling his belt and pulling his pants down. He settled himself between Steve's legs, increasing contact, and ground against him, pushing him into the wall. His mouth brushing his ear, giving him shivers. "So?"

"So, I can't do this. Someone might come." 

"That's what makes it exciting." Tony muttered on his neck, making Steve gasp and tremble in his arms. Steve closed his eyes for a short moment and when he opened them again, Tony was lifting him, legs on his forearms and back against the wall. Tony's cock hard and rubbing between his cheeks. 

Steve wrapped his arms around Tony's neck and kissed him brutally, biting his lips hard and was rewarded with the sexiest whimper ever. They were both panting so heavily Steve was already out of breath. "Wait, do you have a condom?" He muttered against Tony's lips. Tony chuckled in between pants and whispered at the corner of his mouth, a dazzling seductive smile on his lips. "Relax, Lil' Rogers, I always come prepared." 

The brunette tore the condom packet with his teeth and Steve didn't know how he had done that but in a matter of seconds he was pushing against his entrance, all covered. Steve whined endlessly as the long thick shaft pushed into him, gasping for air, his eyes rolling up in pain and pleasure. 

Tony fucked him against the wall, supporting his small build on strong forearms. Steve had never been fucked like this before, he was clutching his lover, scratching his back and biting his neck, to hurt. Something Tony seemed to like actually.

They didn't last long in this position. No matter how small and light Steve was or how strong and hardy Tony was, it was still a very tiring position.

And a promise is a promise. 

Tony put him down soon and pushed him violently against the metal sink. He bent him over brutally, pinning one hand on the brim and the other against the wall and thrusted hard and fast, and came unexpectedly fast while pushing Steve's head into the sink.

Steve had his head into the sink, his ass stretched and wrecked, trying to breathe while the heavy form of the boy was slumped over him. It was a really humiliating position, but Steve found that it was surprisingly arousing and his cock was still rock hard. "I'm sorry..." Tony mumbled against his back. Steve whimpered and wiggled himself free. He swiftly turned around and glared at Tony. Tony was usually an attentive lover, he always made sure Steve enjoyed himself and came before he took care of himself. 

Tony looked a little ashamed, but Steve didn't care one bit about Tony's feelings right now. "On you knees, bitch."

Something flickered in Tony's eyes and he parted his lips before dropping on his knees.

Steve felt a wave of warmth invading his chest. This was new, and unexpected, and hot. He gripped Tony's hair and pulled his head to his cock, giving him a slap on the face which made him moan obscenely. "Suck on it!" Steve commanded, quite easily for someone who have never been into that before, but angry sex was exactly what he had needed and submitting Tony was exhilarating.

Tony opened wide and Steve shoved his fat cock deep in his throat and fucked his mouth relentlessly, pulling at his hair. Tony had always enjoyed being face-fucked, but he had never been that passive and obedient before. Steve thrusted hard and felt his orgasm build up. He pulled his cock out and came all over Tony's face with a groan, not without earning a long whimper from Tony.

It's only when he opened his eyes again that he saw Tony had come too, with Steve cum's on his face, in his mouth.

This had felt thrillingly good, but now that it was over, something clenched in Steve's heart. Maybe the sight of Tony so debauched and disgraced at his feet, wearing the marks of Steve's possessiveness on his skin. Or the fact that he had had sex at work, which was not something he did. Or the unspoken, unresolved issue between him and Tony. 

Tony wiped the cum off his face and rose on his legs. He spat the remains of Steve's orgasm into the sink and washed his face and hands and threw the used condom into the huge bin next to the sink.

Steve pulled his pants up and buckled his belt. 

There was no kiss. No shared moment. No affection. Tony usually kissed--always kissed--after sex.

They both slid down against the wall and sat there for a moment, in peaceful silence.

He had relapsed.

And what with him wanting to break things off with Tony? His resolved had lasted barely thirty minutes. He was ashamed of himself and pleased at the time, which was weird.

It was Tony who broke silence between them, before it turned awkward. "So... Are you gonna tell me what I did at your party or not?"

Steve pondered telling him or not. It wasn't fair keeping things from him. He deserved to know. No matter how indifferent he seemed about it, it must be agonizing not knowing what you did. But at the same time, telling him meant dealing with it. Dealing with unwanted feelings he had no place to have. He finally decided that he wasn't feeling anything anymore. He would not get emotionally involved with Tony Stark. Waste of time, and energy. Sexually though... that still needed reflecting upon.

"You remember my friend Bucky? Whom you said you would definitely do, given the chance?" Steve started, having decided he didn't care anymore. "Well, let's say, you had the chance."

Tony burst out laughing. "Oh my God! I had sex with Metal Arm Guy? That's fucked up... Well fucking done, Stark!" He shouted proudly, congratulating himself.

"And his boyfriend, Clint." Steve added.

"I had a threesome?" Tony asked, both disbelievingly impressed and pleased with himself. "Awesome! See, I told you, maths never lie."

No matter how prepared he was about this, Tony's reaction still baffled him.

"You okay, Baby Rogers?" Tony questioned, while glancing at him with a concerned look on his face.

"Baby Rogers? Really?"

Tony chuckled. "What? Do you prefer Tiny Rogers?"

Steve frowned at him. "You know what, Tony? Fuck off!" 

The boy laughed, throwing his head behind sexily, and poked at Steve, nudging him until he lost balance. "I'm just fucking with you. Come on, what's wrong?"

Steve crunched up into a ball, rested his chin on his knees, arms curled around his legs, and pouted. "Nothing, I just...  I guess I didn't... expect you to take it so lightly."

Tony's smile faded. "How did you want me to take it?"

"I don't know, Tony." Steve exclaimed, a bit louder and angrier than he intended. "Just, not like this. I mean, you had sex with strangers while you were so drunk and high that you don't even remember it. Luckily they were my friends and you were safe in my apartment. It could have been anyone. Can't you see how fucked up this is? I mean, is this something that you do?"

Tony's eyes flickered with anger. He straightened up, back resting against the wall.  "Yeah. Actually. And I like it. You got a problem with that?" He snapped, smiling provocatively. 

Steve chuckled mirthlessly, defeatedly, and shook his head in annoyance.

"Is this you judging me again?" Tony asked, anger still pervading in his voice.

"I'm not judging you, I'm worried. You may say otherwise, but I don't think this is what you want. So, I don't know what your deal is, and frankly, I'm done trying to find out but if you want to keep doing this, keep me out of it."

A glimpse of pain ran through Tony's eyes so quickly he barely noticed. Then anger came back, distorting his pretty face a bit.

Tony was pretty. Every emotion on him was pretty.

He ran his tongue on his teeth and snapped it in his mouth annoyedly. Then he snorted and looked away from Steve, bringing in knees to his chest and slumping over them. 

"Look, Steve I'm sorry, okay." He said after a while. "It was pretty shitty of me to do that with you friends, especially at your party. I don't usually do this. I came for you, not anyone else, so I should have been with you. I don't know what went over me. It was shitty and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was a prick. I'm sorry I showed up drunk and I'm sorry I ruined your party with my shit. But most of all, I'm sorry that I hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you."

He looked at Steve, eyes guilty and ashamed, expression apologetic. Steve smiled and nudged him with his knees until Tony smiled in return. The brunette leant into him, slipped a hand on Steve's cheek and bent over to kiss him gently on the neck.

He let go of Steve and lied down, reclining on one elbow. He took a hand-rolled cigarette out of his pocket and a lighter and lit it. Face away from Steve. 

"Is this a joint?" Steve asked. Tony looked at him, caught off guard. 

"Yeah." He said puffing thick smoke out.

"Give it to me." Steve said while taking it out of Tony's mouth. Tony didn't have the time to protest that Steve had put it in his mouth and was already taking a drag.

"Shit! Rogers! I thought you had asthma."

Steve coughed up hard. "If you cared, you wouldn't smoke next to me." He said, voice wheezing. 

Tony laughed. "Having sex and smoking pot while at work. I have perverted you. I'm so going to hell now." He joked. 

They both lied down on the cold, concrete floor and smoked the joint. Steve was buzzed but he was feeling fine. 

Tony nudged his arm. "Hey." He called. "Are you sure Tree guy is hundred percent straight? I mean he could be bi-curious, right? He did enjoy my kiss after all."

Steve giggled. "Why? Wanna have sex with Thor? He's straight!"

"Well, that's kind of the point. Besides, I've had sex with plenty of straight men, I have a reputation you know. I turn everyone gay."

Steve looked at him sideways, curious. "With all the cute available gay guys around, you pick the only one who's hundred percent straight!"

"You know, I love threesomes, but I usually prefer them with girls. And his girlfriend was really hot."

Steve made a strangled laugh. "You wanna have sex with Thor and Jane."

"Totally."

"Yeah, I don't get it! What does a girl have that a guy doesn't?"

"Hello, boobs!"

"I mean apart from boobs, what can girls do that guys don't?

"There's so much more possibilities with a guy and a girl."

 Steve rolled his eyes.

"Tony, I'm gonna tell you something, and I don't mean that as a compliment." Tony looked at him questioningly, a curious expression on his face. "You're a slut!"

The brunette smiled proudly. "Yeah, I know."

"And a sex addict."

"Maybe... but that's not such a bad thing, is it?"

"You need help."

"Aaand, you're not my mum."

"Happily. I bet she'd cry every night, if she knew."

"Bitch."

"Asshole."

Steve sat up painfully and looked at the time. "Shit!" It was almost four, his break ended at quarter past three.

"What?"

"I'm half an hour late for my shift."

"Are you gonna be in trouble?"

"Of course I'm gonna be in trouble, idiot!" Steve exclaimed annoyed but not that annoyed considering. "I'm late for work because I fucked a guy and smoked pot in the changing room."

"Don't worry." Tony smiled at him. "I'm a regular here, I'll speak to the owner. He'll understand. That's the upside of fucking Tony Stark." He said.

He walked out of the room while Tony remained and tried to get rid of the smell. He had a goofy smile and was still light-headed with sex and weed. Sharon came to him and discreetly covered for his late arrival, giving him something to wipe the closest table. 

"I made sure nobody bothered you in there." She whispered softly. A proud grin on her face. Steve quickly set himself back into work. Not without noticing a few knowing glances from his co-workers. "I can't believe you're shagging the Stark boy." She whispered excitedly, almost loud enough for the few customers to hear. 

Tony left a few minutes later and walked to the door in long determined stride and glanced at Steve, giving him a wink.

Steve watched him leave, not without having the sour impression that he had just escaped a toxic relationship and jumped right into another. And surprisingly, he didn't care. 

Chapter Text

Steve felt appeased since he had fucked Tony at work. His anger somehow had faded and his pain was ebbing away. He was fairly content with his decisions so far. 

It felt weird not having Bucky and Clint in his life anymore and he missed his best friend, tremendously. Besides, things were still very awkward at work, but it felt refreshing as well. He had more time to idle, more time to work on his art, more time to think upon his life and the changes he wanted to make. He felt like he could finally breathe again. He felt the range of possibilities offered to him extending, giving him choice and opportunities he had never even imagined before. 

It was a good thing. He was growing and he liked this new him much better.

He was still hesitating however, on what to do with Tony.

On one hand, he really liked him. He loved spending time with him. He loved the sex, of course, but he also liked Tony's wit and humor and enthusiasm. Tony was great company and a great way to rebound and forget about Bucky.

On the other hand, his feelings towards Tony were still undermined, and Tony had written toxic and dangerous all over himself, and not only emotionally speaking. Tony had given him drugs, lured him into having sex at work and smoke pot, almost had unsafe sex with him, multiple times. Steve was weak to Tony's charms and he kept making the wrongest decisions when around him. He was a tornado that had turned his life around, upside down, and in every possible way.

Being with Tony required emotional strength he wasn't sure he had right now, but now that he had tasted life with Tony in it, how could he let go and not find everything dull and unsavory?

It had been two weeks already, since his stunt at the restaurant. His boss had been angry, but he was able to keep his job and Tony had certainly had something everything to do with it. Steve wasn't even good at his job. He hated it, hated the people there, the customers, and didn't make any effort to hide it. 

Okay, no, maybe he was being a bit harsh. He didn't exactly hate everyone there, things were just a bit uncomfortable since his fallout with Clint and Bucky. And he was polite with the customers, even though he had to deal with a lot of assholes. Come on, he'd been raised right!

He did hate the job in itself though, or more like the job in those conditions. He didn't mind waiting on people, he actually liked working with people, it was a nice change from the solitary hours he spent drawing. What he hated was the thankless tasks, harassing and repetitive and meaningless, and the way the staff was being treated, by the owner and the patrons. In a big structure like that, it felt, anonymous. There was no gratitude, no recognition, no value given to their effort and Steve needed that. 

Quitting had been on his mind lately, but to do what? Steve needed the money and the restaurant hours allowed him to keep his job at the gallery and exhibit his art. Even though it wasn't paying yet, it gave him the chance to show what he did and that was already something. Not every artist had this chance, so he wasn't going to complain, but he was weighing his options and thinking about his future with a new light in a professional and personal way.

Tony had been on his mind those last two weeks. He hadn't heard from him. Well, he can't really say they parted on good terms either. They talked but there was a lot still unsaid, and a lot of dishonesty on both parts. If Steve thought it was hard talking about important things with Bucky, talking about feelings with Tony was much harder.  Tony ignored and avoided every conversation about feelings. Never showed his true emotions. And he always distracted Steve when the discussion turned serious.

Steve thought--hoped--that Tony might have been more affected by what happened that day than he let people think. He just had a weird way to deal with stuff, that's all. Or maybe Steve's instincts were wrong and Tony was just a big ass. 

Tony had showed he cared, multiple times, so there might be something there. But was it worth the trouble and all the pain?

Steve looked at the stained envelope and took the paper with the address inside.  He had been wondering what it was all this time. Tony had said it was his birthday gift. What could it possibly be? Had he prepared a surprise for him? Could it still be there? Or was it something temporary? Was it a show? An event? An object? Why an address? Was it necessary? Or was it just a way to mislead him?

He took his phone and his fingers hovered on it as he hesitated calling Tony. No calls, no texts, it was part of the unspoken agreement between them. But that's the thing with unspoken rules. How could he be so sure? Who had made them anyway? Tony or himself? Tony had said that it didn't have to be one-sided. What did that mean? Tony was the one who always came to him, did that mean he could take a step for once toward him?

He dialed Tony's number and decided that if Tony hadn't answered after three rings, he would hang up and never try to call again.

Tony answered before the first ring ended.

"Hello?" 

God, it felt so weird to have Tony on the phone right now. He had forgotten how sexy Tony's voice was and felt butterflies in his stomach like a stupidly lovesick teenager. He was already ashamed of himself. 

"Hi!"

"Steve? Are you okay?" Tony asked, voice tinged with worry.

"Sure."

There was a pause, during which Tony was waiting for Steve to talk about the reason of his call and Steve really didn't know what to say, or how to start. He really should have thought this through.

"Did you need anything?" Tony finally asked, losing patience.

"No, I... I was just... thinking of you, I guess. I haven't heard from you in a while..." 

That part was not exactly true, while he didn't have any news from Tony since his wink at the restaurant, there was no reason for him to worry either because Tony had rarely called on him more frequently than that. 

"Err, yeah, sorry... I've been busy."

Steve was a bit disappointed Tony felt the need to give him the "I was busy" excuse. They could be honest to each other. But then, were they ever?

"I just, I thought maybe, since you moved back to New York, that you might, you know, be available more often."

"I guess that's true, but I've just started working at my dad's company and I've got a lot to learn. I'm an engineer, not an entrepreneur. And I still have to finish my thesis in quantum physics."

"I thought you were studying engineering."

"I did. Got my PhDs in electrical and mechanical engineering. I just want to broaden my knowledge in general science."

Steve listened admiringly to Tony's voice, worshipping the young man. He tended to forget that Tony was a genius.

"You're amazing, Tony. You know that, Right?"

Steve heard a soft, slightly embarrassed chuckle--Tony hated compliments not sex-related--and then Tony breathing, silent in the phone.  "Did you want me to come over?" He asked after a while, and Steve's heart skipped and raced in his chest. He startled at Tony's reaction. He hadn't expected that. He hadn't dared hope.

"No, no. I was just... " He started to reply, but then he got curious. "Would you?"

"Of course, I would." Tony answered nonchalantly.

"It's past eleven." Steve noted.

"Do you want me to come?" Tony asked again, making it all about Steve and what Steve wished. And it was scary suddenly.

"No!" Steve answered quickly. "It's fine." He wasn't ready. He wasn't ready for this. For Tony to give him more. But he was still curious about how much Tony was ready to give. "But let's say... If I were like, horny or something and wanted to fuck, if I called you, would you come?"

" 'Course. If I can get free."

"Even in the middle of the night?"

"Sure."

"So, let's say, you're with someone, like, in a threesome with Thor and Jane. If I called for sex, would you come?"

"Yeah, don't push it Rogers." Tony replied with amusement in his voice. It was half a joke.

"Okay, I'll stop joking. This time it's a serious question, so you gotta answer me seriously. So imagine, you're with someone. Someone important. And you're having sex with them, or doing something important with them. If I were in trouble, or really depressed or something, and really needed you. If I called then, would you come?"

Tony's breathing was louder in the phone, and he didn't answer right away. "...Maybe." 

Steve's breathing accelerated. That 'maybe' was loaded with so much more than Steve ever hoped for. So much more he was ready to deal with. An embarrassed silence settled between them. "Where are you going with this?" Tony finally asked.

"Nowhere, it's just a stupid question. I'm just... wondering about the address..."

"What address?" Tony asked before realizing by himself with a chuckle. "Oh. That address." Steve could hear Tony's smile in his suave voice. "Well, come and see for yourself."

"What's your deal with that? Did you buy me an apartment or something?"

"I knew it." Tony replied with a laugh. "You're in it for my money."

"What can I say? I'm vain and self-serving, and you made it really tempting."

"I can't believe it. And all this time you've been trying to get your hands on my inheritance."

"You totally figure me out, I'm trying to get you to trust me but this is a long way process and, you know, your parents are still alive. Just saying."

"Well, I can accelerate the process if that helps."

"Don't joke about this." Steve suddenly exclaimed offendedly. He didn't want to take the joke too far.  "It's bad omen. Withdraw."

"Oh man, I'm sorry." Tony exclaimed apologetically, remembering Steve had lost both his parents. "I didn't think... I'm so sorry, Steve."

"Say you withdraw and touch wood."

"What?"

"Old Irish superstition."

Tony laughed. His sweet, guttural and sexy laugh. "I withdraw." He said amusedly. 

"Did you touch wood?"

His smile could still be heard in the way he breathed, and Steve could picture it like he were in front of him. It was a shy smile. The smile he made when he was listening to Steve when he talked about his passions, or when he was admiring his work. "I did."

"Good." He paused and then asked again, tone curious and interested.  "So, when can I come?" 

"Here?" Tony asked, the tone of his voice suggesting he was considering it as a possibility, which was absolutely preposterous. Steve didn't even know where Tony lived or even how he lived. Just imagining the kind of environment Tony was raised in gave him a headache. 

"To the address, Moron!"

Tony chuckle softly, not upset at all. "Whenever you want. Just tell me so I can come too."

"I'm free tomorrow." Steve suggested.

"Sure. I'm working tomorrow, but I'll be able to get free around four p.m, would that be okay with you?"

"Yes." Steve answered enthusiastically.

"Do you need me to pick you up?"

"I'll be fine. Thanks." 

"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow then." Tony concluded, voice tired and croaky.

Steve replied softly, voice charged with affection. "See you tomorrow, Tony. Good night!"

" 'Night, Rogers."

Steve didn't hang up. He waited for Tony to do it. But Tony didn't do it.

"Steve?"

Steve didn't answer.

"I'm glad."

Still no reaction. Steve had no idea what to say to that. It implied too many things he wasn't sure he wanted to acknowledge.

"That you decided to accept my gift."

He smiled. "I haven't accepted it yet."

"Yeah, but I'm hoping you will, when you see it."

Steve breathed out. "I'm hanging up Tony, Bye."

He heard Tony answering 'bye' from afar just before he hung up.

 

The next day, Steve regretted bitterly not accepting Tony's offer for a lift. He hadn't expected the address to be that far from his place and consequently, he found himself under time pressure. That and some transport problem, it was almost five p.m. when he arrived at the said address which wasn't fancy at all, by the way.

The building looked like a broken-down warehouse. Steve checked the address several times before going there. As he approached he heard the noise of drilling and hammering. It smelt like oil and sludge. It seemed to be some kind of garage, with no visible entrance for the public. He stood for a while in front of the small door, puzzled and hesitant, before curiosity took over.

He stepped inside, a bit afraid of trespassing and peeked. It was a garage. Full of old cars. Steve regretted making an effort about his outfit. It's not like he was wearing anything fancy, but he did put on some nice clothes. Maybe he had read too much into this and had misinterpreted the situation. He still had no idea what he was doing here and felt a bit stupid. Besides, it's not like Tony cared about the way he looked. He always came by in the middle night when Steve was half asleep in his pajamas with snot on the face.

He walked towards the noise, hoping to find someone who could tell him this was actually not the right place at all and he was completely mistaken. 

"Whatcha lookin' for, lad?" He heard a manly voice ask under the noise of screwers. He looked up, a sturdy man in his forties, looking like he had been in a lot of fights was looking at him questioningly.

"Hum. I'm looking for Tony?" He asked hesitantly.

"Oh, must be Steve." The man said while holding a greasy hand to Steve. The man had gentle eyes and a certain bonhomie that made Steve like him instantly. He nodded with a smile and shook his hand firmly. "Tony's over there, under the Aston Martin." He pointed at a beautiful 1964 grey Aston Martin DB5. 

Steve nodded and started walking towards the car, not without admiring the impressive collection that completely contrasted with the plain and decrepit exterior of the building. Boss Mustang, Shelby Cobra, Ferrari Dino, Corvette...  Steve had never seen so many collection cars in such good condition all reunited in one place.  At least, not belonging to one person.

As he reached the Aston Martin, he spotted two legs coming out from underneath the car. He recognized the way the legs tensed, flexed and leaning on the side despite the loose black cargo pants and black trainers.

Steve kicked him in the foot. "Hey!" He called nonchalantly, hands in his pockets. 

The legs jerked and he heard a small bang and a 'ouch,' before the creeper rolled out from underneath the car and Tony appeared all dirty and disheveled with a hand on his forehead. 

"You're late, Rogers!" He exclaimed, before looking up at Steve. He leant on one hand and pushed himself up, wiping the grime off his hands with his pants.

Then he tilted his head on the side and gave Steve a half-embarrassed half-happy smile while running a greasy hand in his hair, revealing a bit of his armpit. That was the hottest thing Steve had ever watched, right above Tony and Thor making out. He was instantly sent to gay fantasy land with a very sexy mechanic, coming straight out of a good porn. 

Tony's hair were tousled and lifted upright with grease. He had black stains on his face and arms. His shirt, a light gray Led Zeppelin Tee with the sleeves rolled on his shoulders, was loose but tight enough for Steve to decipher all the muscles underneath. It was lazily tucked in his cargo pants which hung low on his hips and outlined his thighs and shrinks the feet, making it look like trendy sportswear and showed off sexily muscled calves.

Even dressed for manual work, Tony managed to be stylish. And hot, and sexy, and edible.

"You're looking good, Rogers." Tony said with a bright smile and a shiny glint in his eyes.

Not to be smug, Steve was quite proud of his look which was not really classy but still much more dressed than what he usually wore. He had put on his best skinny jeans which made his ass look irresistible and was wearing a tight-fitted white shirt underneath a flannel he had rolled to his elbows and boots.

"And you look... tasty." Meaning I want to lick you all over, starting with you neck and down that sexy hairy armpit of yours and then I wanna get on my knees and blow you until you come undone and shout my name. Steve replied with lust and desire almost blinding him.

Tony chuckled.

"You gonna tell me why I'm here?" Steve asked nonchalantly, hands still in his pockets, which was an exploit considering the fireworks setting off in his stomach and down his pants.

"Let me finish this and I'll give you a tour."

Tony kicked the creeper under the car and looked at the engine with a wrench in hand. And something happened in Steve. A desire burning him suddenly, so strong it clouded his head. 

He had never noticed how round and shapely firm Tony's ass was, but that ass, in those pants, in that position made Steve swallow difficultly. Steve had never wanted to fuck Tony before. He was versatile and he loved being on top, despite the fact that not many guys wanted him to, but with Tony it had never been something he had needed. Tony was so dominant in bed he had never really thought about it, but right now...

Right now he just wanted to push Tony down, bend him over that hood and fuck him hard and raw and make him keen on his dick. 

He was thankful he wore tight jeans because he was already hard.

Tony quickly finished his work and straightened up. "My ass is off-limit, Rogers." He said, eyes still on the engine.

Steve was too out of it to understand what Tony was saying. His head was dizzy, his thoughts were numbed and millions of pictures had hijacked his brain. 

"What?"

"I know that look." Tony exclaimed with a smile.

"What? I'm not--"

"Whatever, Little Rogers." Tony said while walking up to him, the wrench tossed aside. "I don't bottom. Not for you, not for anyone. Keep that in mind in that thick head of yours." He poked a finger at Steve's head before planting a soft kiss on his nose and turned around to walk away. "Ready for that tour?"

Steve was excited by the tour, he loved cars, how Tony knew that he had no idea, but he only nodded as a response. He was still hazy with lust and a bit baffled.

Tony presented him some of his most precious cars and told him about the history behind them. Then the nice guy from earlier joined them.

"Steve, this is Happy. My chauffeur. Happy, this is Steve. Happy and I have the same hobby, we like fixing cars." Tony said with an affectionate smile and a gentle pat on Happy's shoulder. 

Happy nodded in agreement. "Right, Sir." and then he smiled at Steve. "So, have you seen her yet?"

"Her?" Steve asked confusedly.

"Not yet." Tony interjected. "I was just showing him around."

"Aaah. Nice collection, right?" Happy proudly said and gave a strong paternal pat on Tony's shoulder that made him lose balance. "Tony here is a connoisseur. Well, enjoy the visit, Mr Steve. I was happy to meet you." 

Happy shook Steve's hand and left. 

Steve looked at Tony with an affectionate smile. "Happy's nice."

"He is."

"Is he the driver you were talking about that first night?"

"Yep."

Steve and Tony watched Happy leave and Steve turned around on himself to look at all the cars one more time. "That's quite the collection you have. Are they yours? Or your dad's?"

"Some of them are. The others are Happy's. A few belong to Jarvis."

"JARVIS the AI in your drone?"

Tony chuckled. "First, I let you know Jarvis is an AI. He's everywhere. And, no. Edwin Jarvis. Our butler. Not JARVIS--although--I sampled his voice.  Jarvis used to look after me when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time here."

"You have a butler?" 

"We used to. He's retired now, in England. He's ill so I don't see him anymore. He's left his collection under my care. My dad doesn't know I come here."

For a split second, Steve thought he noticed a glimpse of nostalgia behind Tony's shiny eyes and smiley face. 

"Do you miss him?"

Tony looked surprised but gave him a gentle smile. "Yes. But I'm happy he spends his last days in his country. He always missed it. And he's got family there. Support. So it's okay."

Steve stretched his arm, put his hand on Tony's hip and slid it up his back comfortingly, giving silent support. 

After a moment he finally asked. "So, what's my gift about? Are you gonna take me for a ride in one of those?"

"Yeah. Actually. That's the idea. Picked one you like yet?"

Steve's heart leapt in his chest. Excitement growing exponentially.

"I like them all." He exclaimed. The weight of choice upon his shoulder. "This is so hard."

"Well good, 'cause I chose a special one for you."

Steve looked up at him, curious. Tony winked and gestured him to follow him. "Follow me."

Tony led him into a smaller space they probably used to clean and polish the cars and Steve's eyes opened wide. 

In the middle was the motorbike he had always dreamt of touching. It was the motorbike his great grand father had rode during World War II, a 1942 Harley-Davidson 42WLA, he still had the photograph he had spent days looking at as a kid, dreaming of wind in his hair and the thrilling of speed.

A wave of emotion overwhelmed him and he almost shed a tear. He felt his heart heave in his chest, already imagining himself in La Dolce Vita, riding behind Tony on the bike, clutched to his waist and resting his head on his back. 

"How did you know?" He whispered, almost out of breath.

"It's on all your drawings. And I saw the picture."

Steve was lost for words. The way Tony paid attention to little things like that, it was overwhelming. There were so many things he wanted to say to Tony but he could barely manage an "it's beautiful."

"Wanna take her for a ride?"

"Yeah." Steve said while brushing his fingers on the shiny spotless leather. It was exactly the same model but all brand new. Beautiful and perfect.

He startled when Tony threw the keys at him. "It's yours."

"Do you mean, you want me to drive? I can't drive this! It's fucking huge."

"No. I mean. It's yours."

Steve felt suddenly weak in the knees, not believing a word, and his legs almost gave out. "What?" 

"Here's the registration and insurance documents. I only paid for the first year though. Sorry."

Steve felt a lump growing in his throat. "Tony." He whispered, voice stuck. "Tony I can't accept this."

"Yes, you can."

"Tony I--" He stopped, flabbergasted. Both incredibly happy and insanely panicked.

"I know you have your license." 

True. Another one of Steve's stupidly childish dreams he'd never be able to fulfill. He had passed his motorcycle license with the hope he would be able to buy himself one of those one day. Five years later he had never rode a bike and had completely gave up on that foolish dream. He had spent the last of his inheritance money and unfortunately didn't have enough for the general driving license. Hence the walking, and the joy of public transportation.

At Steve's lack of reaction, Tony went on.

"You don't need to be scared, it's quite an easy ride. Actually I bought it in an auction. You should have seen the wreck it was. Everything was falling apart. I fixed it and customized it. It's basically the old design with the power, efficiency and safety of today's vehicles. It's very practical and adapted to your size and weight. It's gonna be like sliding on cotton."

Steve was still unable to utter a word. Lips parted, jaw slack and heart racing, Steve didn't know where he was anymore.

"Tony, that's..." The best gift someone ever did for me.

Tony took him by the arm and moved him next to the handlebar. "Come on, I'll show you."

Steve climbed onto the seat. Everything was perfect. He ran his hand on the smooth metal, mentally screaming. He touched all the commands, remembering his lessons. Everything came back quickly in his mind as if it was innate.

Tony left him make acquaintance with this baby and left the room. He came back a few minutes later, wearing a leather jacket--and Steve was way too overwhelmed to notice how sexy he was with it--and carrying one for Steve as well as gloves and helmets for both of them.

Tony climbed behind him, making the bike bounce lower, and slid his arms around Steve's waist, holding him firmly. He leant on his back, resting his whole weight on Steve and put his chin on Steve's shoulder. "You ready?" 

Steve felt a rush of adrenaline. "Yeah." He said enthusiastically.

"Let's go then." Tony said while giving him the helmet. The gate Steve hadn't noticed at the back of the room opened and Steve turned on the ignition. The engine roared and his heart skipped in his chest.

He laughed euphorically and sped on.

Steve was completely euphoric for the first half hour. He tested everything, gave huge accelerations when the lights turned green, roamed around the city, not without giving Tony a bit of a scare. He did master the vehicle perfectly. So smooth and easy it was almost driving itself. He was just being a jerk on purpose. Retribution. It was fair, with the rollercoaster of emotion he had felt lately.

After the discovery of it, Steve wanted to see what it could do and headed for the highway. He didn't have any specific direction in mind. He just followed the road.

It was amazing. The rush of adrenaline. The thrilling. The overwhelming speed. The feeling of splitting the wind. Tony. Warm and Solid against his back. Holding him tight, arms around the waist. Trusting. It was like speeding into another dimension.

Freedom was taking new infinite proportions for Steve now.

They didn't exchange a word. Impossible with the speed, the wind and the helmets. But it felt like the unresolved issues between them were figuring themselves out.

Steve rode south. The landscape changed, the sun light changed, but the thrilling remained.

After an hour, he needed to stop for gas. And it felt good moving their legs again.

He filled the tank. Tony was reclining against the gas station wall, leg flexed and foot leaning on it nonchalantly, smoking a cigarette. He didn't say anything about Steve's little escapade. He was staring into space, lost in his thoughts. He was beautiful, Steve thought, and felt a pinch in his heart.

After Steve came back from paying the gas, Tony followed him silently. Steve handed him a bottle of water he had just bought and gulped down the one he bought for himself. They threw the bottles without a word and put on their helmets.

When Tony was perfectly settled behind him, he finally opened his mouth. "Where are we going?" He asked. 

"South." Steve answered.

Tony didn't protest. He left Steve in charge.

They rode for another couple of hours until Steve felt like stopping. They were in a small town by the ocean called Sea Isle city. 

Tony jumped down first and left Steve turn the engine off and went for a piss, in silence.

The silence wasn't uncomfortable but it was heavy, charged with overwhelming emotions. Whose emotions? Steve wasn't sure. Maybe his, maybe Tony's, probably both of them. It was quite an emotional day and Steve felt like their relationship had taken a new, completely different direction today. 

Steve stretched and walked to seashore. He didn't go too far. No wanting to lose Tony. It was quite late but there were still people there, families, kids running around. He rested against a low wall, elbows leaning on the concrete and watched the ocean from afar, breathing the sea air. It wasn't the same as in New York at all.

Steve realized he had never left New York before. He had spent his whole life in fucking Brooklyn, and now Manhattan. He had never been on holidays. Never seen anything other than skyscrapers and the city that never sleeps.

He heard Tony walk behind him but didn't turn around, neither said a word.

The boy wrapped his arms around him and breathed him in, a sigh of relief and appeasement in the crook of his neck. He started kissing him lovingly on the nape and in the crook of his shoulder, planting kisses along his neck up to his jawline.

He smelt like metal and oil.

He stopped before it turned Steve on and rested his chin on Steve's shoulder, arms still wrapped around him. They both looked at the ocean in silence. 

"What are you gonna do with me, now that you've kidnapped me?"

Steve turned around, realizing how crazy this was. He had rode Tony one hundred and fifty miles away from home, without even asking if he had any plans. Tony sounded amused though.

Steve looked up at him, admiring the sight of him. He was still grimy with sludge. On his face, on his arms, in his hair, on his clothes. His hair was sticking up, all messy. He was still beautiful though, and looking at Steve with adoring eyes. 

Steve slipped his hands under Tony's shirt and slid them up his chest while breathing him in. His hands ran all the way up to his neck and slipped out from his collar to pull Tony's face down and kiss him. 

They kissed. And kissed. And there was nothing sexual about it. It was soft and slow and perfect. It was Steve giving the pace.

Steve stopped to look at his lover. Tony wasn't smiling anymore but his eyes were soft.

He was falling in love, hard. 

So much for not getting emotionally involved. He was falling in love, had fallen in love. Now that he had space in his life, in his mind and in his heart for Tony, Tony was filling them all.  Tony was taking much space. Needed much space, too much space.

It was mistake and he knew it, because he knew Tony wasn't available. On what level? He wasn't sure, but he knew Tony could never give him what he needed in a relationship. As much as he seemed fond of him, as much as it seemed like love. He knew deep down that it wasn't it. They were never gonna be boyfriends. It was a mistake, but it was one that he wanted to make. Gladly.

"I was thinking," Steve answered. "I might take you to a motel, blindfold you, tie you to the bed and have my fun with you all night."

Tony smiled, showing his perfect teeth slowly. "Mmmmmh. Tempting." He muttered. "I don't have my wallet though."

"Tony," Steve protested. "Jokes aside, I'm not that broke that I can't even pay for one night at the motel and a couple of burgers."

His lover's eyes lit up. "Is that an invite?"

"Definitely an invite." Steve smiled, not having planned this at all but rather glad about the outcome anyway, and caught Tony's lips in his teeth, licking and giving him little pecks on the mouth. 

"Does that mean you like the gift?" Tony asked, tone surprisingly insecure.

"I love the gift, Tony." Steve answered, giving him another kiss. Deeper and more sensual this time.

Tony broke the kiss. He caught Steve's hands and pushed them down and out from under his shirt and then pulled Steve into a tight hug, resting his head in the crook of Steve's shoulder. 

"I'm hungry." He whined and sighed tiredly. 

"Let's take a swim first." Steve said, freeing himself from the hug. 

He took off his boots and walked on the warm sand near the water. He didn't pay attention to the people still there, even though he realized it was rather the family kind of beach. He stripped off of all his clothes but his boxers and swayed to the water, making sure Tony got a good look of what Steve had to offer.

Tony imitated him and joined him into the water. 

 

After a light dinner, they found a room, some place which didn't look like much but was still practical and relatively cheap. They both took a shower, separately, and lay down on the bed, in silence.

Tony had been unusually quiet all day. It was weird for him, and different.

After a moment, Tony rolled around and climbed onto Steve. He settled between his legs and wrapped his arms around his waist, his head carefully put on Steve's stomach, wiggling, and once he was comfortable, he sighed and stopped moving.

Steve looked at the ceiling, searching for familiar moldy forms and found some unfamiliar ones while he combed Tony's hair affectionately. This was really a cheap motel and he felt bad suddenly. Had Tony had his wallet he would have taken him in a five star hotel, with cocktails and room service, surely. He felt ashamed, and hated himself for it.

"I'm sorry for the place." He said.

Tony mumbled in response, his breath tickling against the sensitive skin of his stomach. "If I cared about that I would have bought you a new flat."

Steve chuckled, feeling the weight of Tony even more. "I wouldn't have let you."

"Which is precisely why I like you."

"Oh, I did notice that you're stingy! You keep coming to my place, drinking my coffee, eating my food, using my shower and you never even once paid for any take out we ordered."

"I know, that what's cute about me, though. I need to be nurtured and I always wanted to have a sugar daddy."

Steve nudged him. "Ass."

At the insult, Tony jerked and propped himself up on his arms. The look in his eyes turned animalistic. Menacing above him, ready to jump on him and devour him. He flexed his arms down with strength, looking hungry and dangerous, and kissed Steve forcefully. Making the whole thing serious again.

Steve held him up. "I don't want it rough today." He said, voice tinged with hope.

Tony stopped and straightened up on his arms. He looked startled. "I can be gentle." He said, offendedly, ready to prove Steve wrong.

He flexed his arms down again but this time it was slow, and soft, and considerate. He kissed Steve softly, tongue mellow in his mouth, enjoying the slow pace and lay down delicately onto Steve.

Steve spread his legs instinctively and ran his hands down his lover's back, caressing the strong lines of his muscles. They ground against each other, giving each other pleasure without tension. It was a slow, comforting pleasure building up into ecstasy. They were both panting against each other's necks. kissing each other sloppily. Exploring every part of their bodies.

"I wanna be on top." Steve said, slowing down the pace a little bit. He didn't want to come too fast. He wanted to enjoy this. They so rarely made love, if ever. 

Tony slipped his hands underneath Steve's back and rolled him around on top of him, so swiftly Steve felt like a child. He lifted himself up on the bed and rested his back against the pillows as Steve were sat on his crotch.

"You wanna tie me to the bed and blindfold me?" Tony asked.

Steve smiled. "You know, I didn't really mean it."

"I know but, would you like to?"

 Steve relaxed on Tony's legs. He hadn't really thought about it, but now that it had suddenly become a possibility, he liked the idea very much. "I think I would." He said. "You?"

Tony shrugged. He looked away, mouth into a pout. "I don't know."

"Have you done this before?" Steve asked, cupping Tony's cheek into his hand. 

"No."

Steve's smile grew wider. "Really? I found something Tony Stark has no experience of?"

"I'm only twenty years old." Tony protested. "There's plenty of things I've never done before. Have you?"

"Once or twice." Steve slid his hand down Tony's arms and wrapped them around his wrists in order to push them up and hold them above Tony's head. He wanted to give him a glimpse of what it could be. Tony gasped and swallowed. A shiver running down his entire body.

"Are you scared Tony Stark?" Steve teased.

"No." Tony denied, averting his yes.

"You are!" Steve said, still smiling but benevolently. He let go of his wrists and sat up. Tony propped himself up on his elbows. "It's hard for you, right? Giving up control..."

Tony didn't answer but his eyes turned menacing.

"Tony," Steve whispered, face close to him. "I would never try to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."

"It's okay." He replied. "I trust you."

Then he lay down on the bed again and spread his arms high above his head, next to the bedhead. Eyes challenging Steve to go through with it.

They had to be inventive. The only possession they had were the clothes they had on them during their bike ride. Steve tied both Tony's hands with their belts and blindfolded him with Steve's shirt.

Once his hands were tied, Tony's breathing accelerated. "You okay?" Steve asked softly before he put the blindfold on. Tony nodded and bit his bottom lip, so Steve went through with it. "Just tell me if you want me to stop. Anytime." Tony nodded again and gasped at the first movement Steve made. 

Tony was very sensitive, Steve's realized, and the restraints and blindfold heightened his senses. He was going to make it good for him. He wanted to make it all about Tony. To give him pleasure, to teach him about pleasure, about tenderness. Everything in sex was about domination or submission with Tony, he wanted to make it about exchanging, about feeling. He was convinced Tony had never had anyone making it about him. Tony was always the one in charge, favoring Steve, caring for him, he wanted to reciprocate. 

He put on finger on Tony's lips and traced it down his neck and his stomach, slowly, enjoying every jerks and heaves Tony's body made. At every touch he arched his back and pulled on the restraints, his body tensing like a ball of nerve. 

Steve was soft, gentle. He kissed and licked delicately. He brushed his fingers on his skin like Tony was the most precious thing he had ever touched. Maybe he was. He caressed him all over, worshipping every part of his body.

Tony gasped and jerked his body up, his breathing accelerated and slowed down. And he started moaning softly, shy and withholding, while his pleasure built up and up and up, relentlessly. Steve teased him until he whined and begged to be touched. Cock hard and leaking.

He took him into his mouth and sucked softly, rolling his tongue around the head, into the hole, teasing him, exciting him, making it last. 

He was rock hard too, and took himself in hand. He wanted to ride that cock, but they didn't have condoms, so he sucked him hard, pushing him down into his throat and deep-throated him while Tony panted and gasped and groaned, arched his back and pulled on the restraints

Tony came in his mouth while he jerked himself off. He spat it into the bin and collapsed on his lover, trying to catch his breath. Tony stopped struggling. He waited patiently until Steve recovered his senses. Then Steve uncovered Tony's face and kissed him tenderly. 

When Steve took off the restraints, there were small marks on Tony's wrists. He caressed them softly. "Are you okay?" He asked, a bit worried.

Tony nodded. 

"Did you like it?"

Tony smiled and turned on the side to kiss Steve on the mouth and take back control. "Yes." He said. "Very much."

Steve smiled and looked at his lover who had slumped on the bed. Exhausted. 

"What time is it?" Steve asked, concerned about the next day.

"Don't know. Don't have my phone." Tony mumbled, already half-alseep.

"What? Why not?"

"I don't know!" Tony said louder. "Left it at the garage probably. I didn't think you were gonna take me to fucking New Jersey." His tone was more amused than angry however.

Steve still grumbled and stood up to fetch his own phone. It was already way past midnight. He had work tomorrow. Shift at twelve.

"Do you work tomorrow? 

"Yes." Tony answered voice muffled into the pillows.

"Oh, I'm sorry Tony. Should we go now?"

"It doesn't matter." Tony muttered and caught Steve by the arm pulling him into the bed, in his arms, and spooned him.

Steve let himself doze off in his lover's warm embrace. 

Tony had shown a vulnerable side today. Something Steve had expected but didn't really know how to handle yet. As he discovered new sides of Tony, he felt even more drawn to him, fascinated but the mystery that he was but there was still this huge red-light flashing 'danger' on his forehead.

Tony was gonna break his heart, and he knew it.

Chapter Text

Steve was looking at job offers when his phone rang. He was seriously considering quitting now. Clint didn't get the job he applied for and still worked at the restaurant, and beyond that, he needed a change. He couldn't keep being a part-timer his whole fucking life. 

"Natasha." Steve answered nonchalantly.

"Rogers." She teased.

"It's been a while." 

"Yeah. Exactly, too long!"

"I've been busy!" Which was not exactly a lie, because he was spending a lot of time with Tony, in lieu of having an exciting and fulfilling job. He did work longer shifts at the gallery too. There were more potential clients on summer time. He had even almost sold one of his pieces, before they were discouraged by the price. It wasn't even that expensive, even for him. 

"Bullshit, Rogers! I know you and Buck had a fallout, doesn't mean you have to avoid the rest of your friends. I know the Stark boy is pretty demanding, but come on."

Steve laughed out loud. "What does that even mean?"

"You know what I mean... Love is in the air." She said joyfully, tone teasing.

"I don't know what you're talking about. Me and Tony are just friends."

"Who fuck!"

"Well, fuckfriends then, If you want..."

"You don't do casual, Steve. I know you. But whatever, I'm not calling about that."

"What do you need?" Steve asked with a sigh.

"Nothing, jeez. I don't call you only when I need something from you!"

"You're right," Steve deadpanned. "You don't call at all."

Natasha remained silent and sighed in the phone. "You're unfair Steve, we've all been busy this summer, between graduation, finding work, a new place to stay..." She explained calmly. "And in my defense, we used to see each other all the time. I never needed to call. You're the one who shut us out!"

Steve couldn't argue with that. Not talking to Bucky meant not talking to his friends either. They were all from Bucky's circle. He was just an optional extra.

"I'm sorry Nat. You know, things are awkward with Buck and Clint."

"Yeah, honey, I know, but that doesn't mean you can't keep in touch with your other friends. We all miss you."

Steve chuckled disbelievingly. "Yeah right." He let out sarcastically. 

Natasha paused again. "Steve," she started with a serious tone. "The fact that we met through Bucky and Clint doesn't mean we're not friends. I'm your friend. And I miss you. We all do. And I get that you may want to keep your distance for a while, but that doesn't mean we can't see each other. I wanna see my best friend. I wanna know how you doing!"

"I thought Clint was your best friend."

"Okay, my second best friend, then." Nat said with a laugh. "I still wanna know what's up in your life." She paused and asked with a gentle tone. "How are you?"

"I'm err... I'm doing okay, I guess. I'm fine, actually. I've got more time to think, more time to work on my art. It's been okay."

"And more time to suck Stark's dick." Natasha teased.

"Yeah that too." Steve answered with a shy laugh.

There was a short pause and Natasha's tone turned serious again. "Look, I'm having a party at my new apartment to celebrate my internship at the hospital."

"You got your internship!?" Steve exclaimed, both impressed by his friend and happy for her.

"Yeah, I'm glad."

"It's great, Nat! I'm proud of you. You've been wanting this for so long."

"Yeah... " Nat, confirmed embarrassedly. She never liked showing her emotions but Steve could hear how the compliment had touched her in her voice. She quickly changed the subject. "So, you coming?"

Steve hesitated. "I don't know, Nat." He wasn't ready. "When is it?" But he wasn't ready.

"Next Saturday."

"Okay. I'll think about it."  Meaning, I'm trying to say no without hurting your feelings. Which was vain, Natasha had always been very perceptive. You couldn't bullshit her.  

"Come on, Steve. I know it's your free Saturday. It's going to be a small group. Just me, Bruce, Darcy, Helen, Thor and Jane. The boys aren't gonna be there."

Steve hesitated for a while and thought about Bucky's kind of threatening advice about losing his friends. Maybe he was right, maybe he was selling himself short. Maybe his friends actually cared a bit about him.

"Okay, I'll come." Steve agreed with a defeated sigh.

"Yes!!!" Natasha yelled winningly. "You can bring Stark, if you want."

Steve chuckled. "Why would I want to bring Tony?"

"Because, you like him?" She said as if it was obvious.

Steve sighed exasperatedly. "Again, we're not dating."  

"Do what you want! Bring him, don't bring him, it's up to you. Just know that I actually like the guy and that I think it could be great that we meet him in other, more appropriate, circumstances."

Steve smiled. "Okay, okay." He said, giving up. "I'll ask him, if you insist." He had never won an argument against Natasha anyway. "But he'll never come, he's got better things to do than coming to one of your charade parties." He added, teasing her.

"Wanna bet?" She asked, excitement in her tone. "I say he'll come. Next lunch is on me if he doesn't." She suggested and then added threateningly. "And you can't tell him, or discourage him. I'll know if you cheated."

"I'll never risk cheating you." Steve laughed. 

"I know, poor thing, you're terrified enough." She cooed. "I just like to remind you, that's all."

"Alright, I'll ask him." Steve sighed.

"Good!"

 

It's on Tuesday night that Steve actually asked Tony. 

That evening, when Steve came back from work, he was sitting in his bed, glasses on his nose, a lollipop in his mouth and a computer on his lap. He was focused on his laptop and was turning the lollipop over and over in his mouth, flicking the tip of his tongue out. In a very, very sensual way.

Steve felt his heart skip, Tony managed to be sexy and seductive even when he didn't mean to. And should Steve add just how good the glasses were on him? The nerdy look suited him perfectly. Or maybe it was just Steve who found him hot no matter how badly he was dressed and groomed.

When Steve shut the door, Tony looked up to him and smiled happily.

"Hey," Steve greeted. "What you doing?"

"Working for SI." He answered nonchalantly.

"Interesting, but you know, I was actually asking what you were doing here." 

"It's a good place to work."

"On my bed?" Steve asked suspiciously.

"It's as perfect a bed as any other. And on the plus side, it smells like you." Tony teased and the compliment startled Steve a bit.

Tony's eyes went back to the computer and he turned the lollipop in his mouth, pulled it out with a pop and shoved it in again, rolling his tongue on it.

Steve was feeling hot suddenly. He contemplated his lover for a moment before he spoke again, trying to distract himself from the sight.

"And can I add something?" He asked, nonchalantly.

Tony lifted his head and stared into his eyes with a questioning look. 

"I think those glasses look really hot on you." He whispered, voice exaggeratedly seductive and taunting. Tony chuckled. "Since when do you wear glasses anyway?" He asked with a more serious tone.

"Since forever. It's a small prescription though. I only wear them occasionally. When I work on computers, or when I drive, go to the theatre, that kinda things."

"Oh. That explains. We never went to the movies together." Steve said, falsely indifferent, before he set about putting away the groceries he had bought on the way back from work. 

Tony turned his focus back on his computer. "Would you like to?" He asked, tone casual but curious anyway.

Steve stopped in the middle of filling up his fridge and looked up towards Tony who was still sitting on his bed, typing on the keyboard. "Err, I don't know. I thought we didn't do dates." The question was much more serious than it sounded.

Tony chuckled. "Says who?" He said with a smile while raising his eyes, expression slightly confused.

"Me. You. Wait-- Are we...?" He looked at Tony incredulously. "I thought we were just fucking."

Tony smiled with a funny expression on his face. Something ran through his eyes but Steve couldn't decipher what it was. "Alright," he said defeatedly. "No dates. We could still go as friends, though."

Steve unexpectedly felt the disappointment grow in his heart. "Yeah, we'll see..." He muttered, aiming for casual but not sure he was able to keep the hurt from his voice.

He resumed putting groceries in the fridge and went to the bathroom to clean up a bit and change into clean, more comfortable clothes.

When he stepped out wearing a T-shirt and workout shorts--Not that he actually worked out. He just liked them because they were comfy. So it was basically his everyday outfit at home--Tony was back on his computer, looking sexy.

Steve loved Tony's sexy focused look.

He joined him to the bed, took the computer off Tony's hands and put it away on the side of the bed. Then, he climbed onto Tony's lap, squirming a little in order to sit comfortably there and took the lollipop out of his mouth un order to put it in his own and gave it a swipe of his tongue.

"Hello, Mr Stark." He said seductively, putting his relaxed arms on Tony's shoulders. Lollipop in hand.

"Hello, Lil' Rogers." Tony answered with the same tone, smile growing on his face. His hands slowly curled around Steve's hips, stroking his lower back affectionately. 

"Ooh. Someone's happy to see me." 

Tony let out an embarrassed chuckle. "You're literally wriggling on my dick." He said as a justification for his growing hard-on.

"I wasn't!" Steve exclaimed defensively and put the lollipop back in Tony's mouth. "Not on purpose anyway." Tony smiled amazedly, giving Steve butterflies.

"What'you working on anyway?"

Tony played with the lollipop with an enticing look in his eyes and took it out. "I'm working on new directions I'd like Stark Industries to take. My father doesn't really want to develop SI, so I'll need to be really convincing."

"Oh. Right. What kind of directions?"

"I'd like it to take a green turn. I've had some ideas for developing new green energies. Something revolutionary. I think we should be pioneers in that department. The world is changing and companies do nothing to prevent that. I mean Apple has done a few thing but we could do so much more. I want us to be the leaders on the market."

Steve's smile grew proudly. Just like every time Tony impressed him with his ideas. He felt both amazed and depressed in those moments, when he realized how Tony was way, way out of his league. What could Tony even find possibly attractive in him? He was still wondering.

That didn't mean he wasn't actually dazzled like a fan girl every time Tony mentioned what he did at work.

"That's amazing Tony. I really hope that you convince him. I'm sure you'll be able to make the world a better place." And it might have sounded childish and naive, but somewhat, Steve actually believed it. He felt that, deep inside, Tony might have the potential to change the world. 

Tony was gazing at him, a glint of amusement in his eyes but also something else, as if he had been moved by the compliment, but didn't know how to react. The confusion in Tony’s eyes made him feel strangely warm.

"These need to go." He said, trying to distract himself from the staring and took Tony's glasses off.

"Hey, I need th--" Tony protested, lollipop still in hand, but he was cut short with a passionate kiss. 

Tony pouted. In a really cute way. Or a sexy way. Or both. Or maybe Steve was just aroused.

"If you're gonna crash here, you'll need to follow the rules." He explained.

Tony didn’t say anything, but the lollipop was back in his mouth and he played with it, unintentionally enticing.

"Rule number one says," he continued. "You're not allowed to look that sexy in my bed and work before you've sucked my dick first."   

Tony chuckled and Steve kissed him on the side of his mouth.

"Rule number two, if you keep sucking on the lollipop like that, you're gonna get your throat fucked. Like, right now." Steve added, voice husky with arousal.

He straightened up on his knees and arched his back, pushing the thick hard-on in his shorts onto Tony's face.

Tony gave him a slight kiss on the hip but pushed him away slowly, looking up and smiling to him.

"Okay." He agreed with a dazzled smile. "Can I finish this first?" He asked and then added "It's important." while he reached for the computer and put it on his lap again, leaving little place for Steve.

"You can finish this later." Steve protested, tone teasing and really horny.

"Please?" Tony begged childishly, the same grin on his face. Obviously not in the mood.

It turned Steve off instantly. He sat down on his heels and sighed defeatedly. "You don't need to beg if you don't want to have sex with me. It's not like I'm gonna force you." He said without thinking.

"I never said I didn't want to have sex with you. I just said I wanted to finish this first." Tony argued, not smiling anymore.

Steve pushed himself up. "Don't listen to me, I'm just tired. I'm gonna make something to eat. You hungry?" He asked, his heart still low, his voice still pervaded with anger and disappointment.

He turned his back on Tony and stepped off the bed annoyedly. As he was heading to the kitchenette, he heard the clap of a laptop being folded closed.

"Fine." Tony said with a surrendering tone. Steve halted, startled. 

He turned around slowly on his heels, anger sparking at the bottom of his stomach. Tony was now standing next to the bed.

"Did you just agree to have sex with me although you don't want to?" The question was cold and reproaching.

Tony pinched his lips and put his hands on his hips. "I don't wanna fight." He sighed defeatedly, looking down.

It was like a cold shower.

"Sex doesn't solve everything, Tony." Steve spat, seeing red.

Tony smiled sheepishly, the smile that made Steve weak and forgiving.  "Doesn't it?" He asked with amusement and sarcasm in his voice.

Steve's anger deflated like a balloon. He could never really stay angry with him. It just didn't work.

"Yeah, well, I don't want a blowjob from a guy who doesn't want to have sex with me." Steve said, smiling in return, teasing a little. "I'll leave that to the old geezers you like so much to get on your knees for."

The last words came out from his mouth on their own. It was just a jibe and Steve expected to see the same provocative smile on Tony's face as he made a snarky remark in reply, that they would go back to their usual banter and would forget about this insignificant incident.

Except the only thing Steve saw was Tony's crestfallen face, the smile fading quickly to leave place to shame and self-hatred. And the pain in his eyes.

It was just a few seconds before Tony regained his composure, just as fast as he had lost it, but it would remain in Steve's memory forever, because his heart had sunk at that moment.

"Tony, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. It was just a stupid joke."

Tony's smile was wide now and the glint in his eyes was back. He shrugged. "That's kind of true though." He said indifferently, grinning. "Except for the unwanting part, of course." His grin grew even wider. " 'Cause I'm always willing." He said provocatively.

Steve rolled his eyes. And Tony chuckled at his own provocation with his usual smug face. 

Steve was only a few feet from the kitchenette, he reached for a towel and whipped Tony's ass. "Finish your work, tramp." Tony laughed out loud and swayed his hips to avoid the whip. Then he stuck his tongue out, looking back at Steve as he walked back to the bed, giggling. "I'll make us some pasta."

The incident was closed. They had both shrugged it off with a joke and had fallen back into the same dynamic. There was nothing more to say. Except it didn’t feel like that to Steve. It felt like there was something more to it than that. It was their first domestic quarrel and it was really trivial, and it shouldn’t bother him but something lingered, looming over them.

Cooking was appeasing. Steve glanced at Tony a few times. The brunette was back to work, leaning against the pillows. He was typing furiously, laptop laid on his lap, legs crossed at his ankles and a focused pout on his face.

It was so peaceful suddenly, Steve thought. Peaceful and domestic. 

When dinner was ready he laid the table and sat on his desk chair, Tony hadn't moved his eyes away from the screen and Steve had given up trying to stop him from working. Tony was so absorbed he hadn't even noticed dinner was ready. Therefore, Steve abandoned the idea of dinner altogether and took his notepad and charcoal, willing to sketch him. He wanted to capture the intensity of those eyes. The seriousness of that pout. The enigmatic beauty of him.

When he was done, more than half an hour had passed, dinner was cold and Tony was still obsessed with his work. So Steve ate in silence while watching his lover deeply lost in the intricacies of his work. Then he cleaned and prepared a warm plate for Tony, wondering why he had come here. It still felt peaceful though, a glimpse of what his life could be like if the boy was more than just a fuck-buddy.

Tony startled when Steve knelt down next to the bed with the plate in his hands. 

"You should eat."

He raised innocent eyes to him. "S-sorry." He mumbled, looking at the time on his computer. He almost blushed embarrassedly, which was very cute by the way. "I--"

"Eat!" Steve commanded and left the plate on the nightstand before rising on his feet to fetch some water. When he came back to the bed, Tony was eating without thinking and scrolling on the pad of his laptop, checking his work. Steve only got a glimpse of the complex equations and schematics and it already gave him a headache. He fled, he put the glass of water on the nightstand as well and left again.

Tony stopped him halfway, grabbing his wrist. He looked up to him with a grateful expression. "Thanks." He said before letting go of Steve's hand. There was a glint of apology in there. His eyes said so much. Whatever grudge Steve was holding against the boy, it was gone, vanished at the sight of those eyes.

Steve cleaned the mess a little before going to the bathroom and brush his teeth. It was already past ten p.m. and he was still wondering why Tony had come here only to work on his computer. He wasn't sure if he should feel good or bad about it. Should he feel praised that he could provide Tony with the necessary calm and safety he needed to work in peace? Or should he feel like he was being used? The leech metaphor came back at the back of his mind. Tony came here and took whatever he needed from Steve, be it sex, comfort or attention, or even food, but what was in there for him? He thought about his stupid bet with Natasha and how that stupid party suddenly felt like the turning point of their relationship.

Steve was exhausted, physically and emotionally, when he came out of the bathroom and he stopped there, startled, as he saw Tony washing the dishes. He gazed at his moving back for a moment until Tony felt his presence and looked behind him with a smile. If Steve had been told he'd see Tony Stark doing the washing up in his kitchenette one day, he wouldn't have believed it in a million years. Or if he did, he'd have checked himself in at the psychiatric hospital.

He went to bed and opened a book, decided he wasn't going to wait for Tony anymore tonight. The boy was doing his own things and waiting for him was exhausting.

Tony joined him later, however, shower taken and teeth brushed. He slipped under the sheets next to Steve and kissed his temple. Then he wrapped his arm around Steve's shoulders, pulled him into a hug and kissed his forehead before lying down on the pillows and looking up at the moldy ceiling.

Steve curled up on Tony’s shoulder and stroked his chest up and down, tracing the lines of his muscles through the fabric of his shirt. Tony tightened his hold around him and snuggled against him. Steve's hand wandered higher and lower on Tony's chest and down his stomach, fingers slipping under his shirt and sneaking into his shorts, getting closer and closer but never touching the growing bulge in there.

Steve was already half-hard too, but neither of them did anything about it. Their touch was more affectionate than sensual. The silence lingering and heavy between them.

"Do you want to have sex?" Steve finally asked, tone uncertain and shy. His nails brushing delicately Tony's skin and making his breathing erratic.

The brunette turned to him and kissed him voluptuously this time, hands delicately brushing the line of his jaw and tongue warm and vigorous in his mouth.

Tony's hand slid down his neck and shoulder, pressing against his arm and finished its course down Steve's stomach. Tony wasn't subtle, he slipped his hands inside Steve's shorts and stroked his shaft.

"I'll suck you off." Tony whispered in Steve's ear.

Desire spread into his entire body and he gasped and let Tony touch him, until something felt wrong and left a bitter taste in his mouth.

"You did it again!" Steve interrupted, grabbing Tony by his biceps and pushing him off.

Tony looked at him confusedly. "What?"

"You're not into it."

Tony chuckled mockingly. "Of course I am." And to prove his point he pushed his now full hard-on against Steve's leg.

Steve rolled on the side and turned his back to Tony, feeling the hard cock against his thighs, pressing into him. It common for the boy, horny teenager and everything, to be hard and not do anything about it. Steve didn’t know but he could tell Tony wasn’t in the mood.

"You're not into it and I can feel it." Steve pouted.

"This is ludicrous. I do wanna have sex with you, Steve. Come on!"

Steve rolled again and lay on his back. Eyes back on the reassuring pattern of his ceiling. He shifted away from Tony's warm presence.

"We don't have to have sex if you're not in the mood."

"I am in the mood." Tony insisted, cock still rubbing against his thigh and hands fiddling with the cotton of Steve's shirt.

"Well, I'm not anymore." Steve let out and pushed Tony's hand away.

"Fine." Tony spat, not as angrily as he wanted to sound, and gave up, not without relief. He still turned on the side to give Steve a non sexual kiss before he lay down next to him silently on the hard mattress that was Steve's bed.

Steve wasn’t really disappointed. He wasn’t sure he actually was in the mood himself. It was just weird. He was still lost in a blurry area where Tony’s real feelings and motives were completely indecipherable.

"I just--" Steve said after a moment. I just don't understand what you want from me. "Why did you come here tonight, Tony?"

"Do I need a reason?" He replied softly, not looking at Steve, not answering the question. Everything was brushed off with a innocent smile and a naive question. Tony was ever impenetrable. Out of reach. The essence of him volatile and evanescent.

"Were you able to finish what you were doing at least?" Steve finally asked, too tired for this fight.

"No." Tony said, without further explanation.

"Do you want to watch a movie or something?" 

"Yeah."

Tony’s voice was tired and sluggish though and the movie sounded like the last thing he wanted to do right now.

Steve took his laptop anyway and started Netflix, choosing the first movie that seemed relaxing enough. Tony was already half asleep on his shoulder. He thought about Nat’s party again and how she was convinced Tony would come.

"By the way," Steve said as the film started. "Are you free on Saturday?"

"Not really, why?" Was the instant reply.

And the involuntarily growing ball of hope in his chest deflated instantly.

"It doesn't matter, if you're not free..."

"Depends for what, when and how long. What it is?

"It's okay, it's not important."

Tony was already turning his face away from the screen light, eyes closed, ready to fall asleep. "Spill Rogers!"

"Well... My friend Natasha, who looked after you after... you know..."

"I know who Natasha is. Kind hard to forget, actually."

"Well, she's having a party to celebrate her internship, a small thing, and she wanted me to invite you. So... but it's okay. It's not like it's important."

"Did you want me to come?" He asked, curious. Although his tone was numbed by the tiredness of his voice.

"It doesn't matter, if you're not free. We can do this another time."

"I've got this charity thing on Saturday night, my mother--" Tony muttered, voice apologetic.

"It's okay, Tony. It doesn't matter."

"Okay." He whispered before falling asleep, face buried against Steve's shoulder, his arm around Steve's waist.

Steve hadn't known he would, but he felt the disappointment crush him again. Which was stupid, if Tony had already something planned, it had nothing to do with him. Still, he couldn't help thinking it was just an excuse. He should learn how to never expect anything from Tony. He should know and accept he would never come first, never be part of his world.

Steve watched a bit of the movie, trying to distract himself in vain. There was nothing worse than feeling so lonely with someone warming your bed. He pushed a heavily breathing Tony off of him—The latter turned his back on him and curled into a ball—and sent a text to Nat.

<You owe me lunch>

His phone buzzed instantly, Steve swiped his hand to answer and ran to the bathroom without waking Tony up. 

"Are you okay?" Nat said.

"Just tired."

He sat on the floor and curled up against the wall, arms around his knees.

"So, what happened?"

"Nothing. Apparently he's got a charity thing this Saturday."

Natasha gasped in the phone. "Of course, I should have known. It's all my fault. That's Maria Stark annual school charity. I didn't even think about it. I'm sorry."

"What is it?"

"Come on, it’s one of the tenth biggest events of the year. You know, one of those parties where rich people annually relieve their conscience by pretending they care about the education of underprivileged kids, but mostly go there for business and network. Everybody who's somebody is gonna be there. Of course he'll be there."

"How do you even know that?"

"Everybody knows that, Steve. Maria Stark is one of the biggest philanthropists of this century. Her associations bring in hundreds of millions a year."

"Okay." Steve said, defeatedly.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Natasha questioned. 

Steve had no intention at all to speak about anything that weighed on his heart that night, but Natasha had this way of asking... he did it anyway.

"What does that mean when your sex-buddy doesn't want to have sex but still come to see you and does nothing with you."

"That it's not only about sex. But you already knew that, right?"

"What am I supposed to do with that?"

"I don't know, what do you want to do with that?"

"I feel like there is this impenetrable wall around him. I feel like I can never know him, not completely. Like there are facets of him, of his life, I will never be part of. He shuts me out every time. And this is scary. But on the other hand, he's got so many qualities. He's funny, kind, caring, surprising. He pays attention to little things, you know. I mean if only you knew what he gave me for my birthday, Nat. It was so amazing. He did not just threw his money at me. He thought about it, he spent weeks on it. It's just... I don't know what to think of this and part of me wants to keep going, but another part of me doesn't want to be hurt. And I feel like he's gonna hurt me eventually."

"He will hurt you, Steve. Tony Stark comes with a lot. He's self-destructive, an addict, an emotional wreck... He will hurt you, one way or another, even if he doesn't mean to. It's hard to witness someone you care about destroying themselves and be powerless about it. So, you've gotta ask yourself if it's worth it, or not." She paused for a while, letting Steve process everything.

"People can change, as a psychologist I remain convinced that they can, even assholes can change. Whether he will evolve or not, it's up to him and you can only support him. But if you feel that you're not strong or stable enough, he's going to break you."

"What would you do if you were me?"

"Honestly? I'll flee. But I'm not you. I've got enough baggage on my own to carry some else's. And I'm not protective and selfless, like you are. Would you be able to leave him in the ditch and keep going?"

"I’ve got enough baggage too."

"Yeah, you do but maybe he can help you with that too. You’re a lot stronger than you think."

Steve thought about it for a while. Every thing she had said he was deeply aware of. Tony coming drunk to his party wasn’t an accident. Tony was like that and Steve knew that. He had always been like that and had never pretended to be otherwise.

"You think it could work with Tony?"

"I think you're in it too deep already. And I think that no matter what I say, you already made your decision. I just want you to know that I'll be there if things go wrong."

"I don't think he's an asshole." Steve whispered. "I just think he's lost..."

Natasha sighed sympathetically over the phone.

"Of course you’d say that and I hope you're right."

Steve chuckled. "I thought you liked him."

"I do like him, Steve. He's fun, he's smart, he's interesting and you're right, he pays attention... but I don't know him enough to see if he’s genuine or if it’s just a facade."

At that moment, Steve heard some noise coming from outside. Ruffling. Someone whimpering and gasping, like they were terrified. And a shout. "NO!"

His heart skipped and raced in his chest. Fear and surprise churning his stomach.

"I've gotta go, Nat. I'll see you Saturday. Thanks for calling."

He rushed out of the bathroom and saw Tony sitting up on the bed, breathing heavily and staring wide-eyes at the front door. He ran to him. "Tony?" 

Tony didn't answer, he just kept staring into space, trying to catch his breath and Steve noticed the slight tremor of his hands. He didn't dare touch him.

"Tony, are you okay?"

The boy jerked his head towards him, terror on his face. "Steve?"

Steve saw the instant relief on his face when he finally realized where he was and who he was with. He regained his composure quickly, like always. Smiling reassuringly. Steve dared put a hand on his shoulder and pressed it comfortingly. 

"It's okay. Just a stupid nightmare."

"It didn't look like a stupid nightmare to me. Are you sure you're okay?"

Tony flashed him a wide smile. "You worry too much, Rogers. I'm fine." He said, teasing Steve. "I've always had them. They mean nothing. They're just stupid nightmares that don't make sense."

"Maybe they do? What did you see?"

"Don't remember." Tony sighed and lay down on the bed, hands behind his head, avoiding Steve's worrying and questioning eyes.

Steve knew that Tony wouldn't talk. He never did. So he gave up, trying to comfort Tony anyway. And soon, Tony's warm and solid form under him lulled him into sleep washing away all his doubts And fears. His breathing had quickly appeased and his heart was now beating at a reassuringly steady rhythm.

With Tony's strong and protective arm wrapped around him, Steve finally found sleep.

Tony didn't though. 

At some point during the night, Steve snapped awake and got a glimpse of a working form sitting at the table, face lit with blue light before he dozed off a few seconds later.

When he woke up the next morning, Tony was gone. Which wasn't surprising since it was already nine a.m. Steve's shift started at ten thirty while Tony started work much earlier. 

The only thing he noticed was that his computer had been moved. He looked for it everywhere before spotting it on his desk. When he checked his emails for job hunting news, he realized Tony had saved an encrypted file called "tramp" on his computer, which made him smile first and worry later. Also, his computer was much much faster and it seemed to have a very efficient antivirus and firewall as well, which, yeah. That was kinda nice.

It wasn’t the only nice surprise of that day, because a few hours later, at ten twenty-three exactly, just ten minutes from starting his shift, Steve was at work, drinking coffee and he got a text.

He looked at his phone without thinking, as always when he was at work. There was rarely something worth reading sent to him on these periods of time. Steve wasn’t the type of guy glued to their phone. It was just something practical he used to communicate. Nothing more so he wasn’t particularly excited about the text. That is, until he realized it was from Tony and his stupid heart leapt in his chest like a lovesick teenager’s.

<I'll be there on Saturday. Which time should I pick you up?>

Steve’s stomach churned. He answered with a trembling hand. < :D 6:30?>

<Perfect. Which ride do you want?>

Another leap and Steve hesitated.

<The Corvette?>

<Got it!>

When Steve texted Natasha to tell her, she sent him an "I told you so." And apparently, since Tony had cancelled on his mom's charity event for him, he owed her a whole week worth of lunch.

 

Saturday came much faster than he thought. They both had been busy and Steve hadn't had any news from Tony at all. He was a little worried Tony had forgotten and had already checked the journey by subway to go to Natasha's new apartment. Frankly, at this point Steve estimated at about 20 percent the chances of seeing Tony arrive on time in front of his apartment building.

This whole thing had felt like a dream, and Steve still found it hard to believe. He was still wondering if he hadn't dreamt the whole thing and needed to check regularly that yes, Tony had sent those texts and it wasn't all in his head. 

Riding to Natasha's in a Corvette was still completely unconceivable to him.

Well, let’s say, until he met with Tony down the stairs, outside his apartment building. The whole thing became suddenly a reality he couldn’t really grasp entirely. 

Tony was stunning as usual. Dark blue skinny Jeans, black leather jacket, a red dominant colored t-shirt with Comic strips themed pictures and golden Stan Smiths. 

Casual, stylish, elegant. Hot.

He was smoking a cigarette while leaning on the car, which was unsurprisingly parked somewhere forbidden. The smoke was dancing around him and the early evening sun was reflecting on his sunglasses. The old school car, vintage look and rebel attitude, he looked like James Dean. Which wasn't unpleasant. Like at all.

Steve was a fan of old classics. Every artist should.

His heart raced at the sight of his lover. It always did that when he saw Tony outside of his shithole. Like he was meeting him for the first time and it was love at first sight. Maybe that was it, and Steve was falling for Tony, over and over again. Natasha was right, he was in it way too deep. At this point the question didn't even need to be asked. He would remain by Tony's side, even if it was going nowhere. He would be hurt, he knew, but for the time being, he would make the most of it.

He stepped out and contemplated the glorious sight of his young lover. It felt like a date. No, worst, it felt like fucking Prom and the first time Bucky came to pick him up at his mom's wearing a suit and a flower in his pocket. And Steve was propelled several years in the past. An awkward freshly-out-of-the-closet teenager, still innocent and already so broken by life at the same time.

Steve was more confident today, and much more comfortable with himself, but he still felt awkward, and not enough, and like he didn't deserve Tony, that he should feel so lucky to even get a glimpse of him. Failures like him shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near that genius.

He pushed his hands down in his pockets and rocked on his heels. He was wearing almost the same clothes he had worn that day when they had driven away to New Jersey. His shirt was different but quite similar in style and he was wearing a brownish worn out leather jacket instead of a flannel. His favorite. Well it's not like he had that many outfits, and Steve wasn't interested in fashion at all. 

"Hey!" He called shyly.

Tony turned his face to him and flashed him a smile. "Hey, Rogers."  So beautiful, Steve thought.

Steve ran a hand on the curves of the car, amazed and not completely conscious it was actually in front of him and that he was going to get a ride. He avidly wished he had his driving license. Tony might have let him drive.

"Hop in!" Tony said, pulling him out of his daze. The car was absolutely gorgeous, almost as much as the driver.

While inside, Steve was as amazed by the beauty of the luxurious interior as he had been of the exterior. He brushed his fingers delicately on the dashboard, appreciating every little detail that made it so beautiful. When the engine roared and Tony sped up, Steve felt his heart heave and his excitement was at its paroxysm.

The drive had been jerky. Tony trying to take revenge on Steve. Fair. Although, he hadn't really cared. It was impressive at first, it was always like that with old cars, you felt the speed more, but Steve was not easily scared. On the contrary, Tony's rough driving was thrilling. 

By the time they hit the main road, traffic put a stop to their race and the rest of the journey went smoothly. Well, almost, if you didn't count the lively chitchat, teasing and bickering for any trivial thing they usually shared. Tony glanced at him from time to time, the joyful glint in his eyes and his dashing smile illuminated the small space. Steve actually wondered if Tony got jaw cramps with that amount of smiling but that didn't displease him. Tony's smile was the most beautiful thing ever. All of his smiles were, because Steve had noticed Tony smiled in every situation and he was starting to see through them and decipher some of them, almost reaching the true feelings they were hiding.

That smile was pure happiness smiling though. Steve was almost hundred percent sure of it. 

"Can I ask you something?" Steve asked, while they were stuck in traffic.

Tony nodded, focused on the road. 

"What's in the file?"

Tony didn't answer right away. The question was a bit out of the blue, but apparently he knew what it was about. When he did answer, his expression had turned serious. "All of my work on clean energy."

Steve felt baffled, what with what it implied. "Why would you do that?" He said, voice trembling a little.

"Backup data storage"

"You've put the secrets of some revolutionary green project into my computer? SI industrial secrets?"

Tony smirked. "Well, it's not like you could read them anyway, even if they weren't encrypted." He teased.

"No." Steve pouted. "But I could give it to someone who would."

"Yeah, I know, but you wouldn't do that." Tony stated, pretty confidently. 

"No, I wouldn't." Steve admitted. Because he would never do that. "I could lose my computer though, or have it stolen, or broken."

"Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. I put a tracker in it. It a sort of AI, not as sophisticated as JARVIS but efficient in term of computer security. It's got a safety protocol in those cases. I'll be able to get the data back."

"Couldn't you do that with your computers?" 

"No. Not really. I don't trust the company's computers, neither the people." 

"But you trust me?" Steve asked incredulously, feeling warmth spread into his body. Tony nodded. "Why me?"

"Because you're the last person they would expect me to trust." Tony answered nonchalantly. "Nobody knows about you except for Happy." He explained. "You know I've got a lot of enemies inside. Some people don't like that the boss's kid comes around and tries to change things that have been in place for decades. Some of them have worked with my dad for more than thirty years. They don't trust me, and they don't respect me either. I'm just a playboy to them, a daddy’s boy who likes dicks and playing with his toys. I have no legitimacy, not yet anyway. So they despise me, they look at me sideways and whisper behind my back, laughing at my face. They are waiting for me to fail and would exult at the first mistake I’ll make." Steve noticed the slight anger feeding the glimmer in his eyes and tensing his jaw. "I'll make them see what I'm worth."

Steve was amazed at the vivacity in Tony's eyes and the determination in his voice. So much he almost forgot how scary it all sounded. His heart started racing inexplicably, stressing out for Tony. Steve had no idea what the business world was like, but it sounded like a gang of sharks. He couldn't even imagine the pressure Tony had on his shoulder at such a young age and was impressed how he was handling it. He was still a kid, and yet so mature and responsible on some aspects.

"You will." Steve whispered. Confident. If anyone could do it, it was Tony, he supposed. Despite all his faults, relationship-wise, Steve had seen what Tony was capable of during all those months. He had it in him. He was driven, competent, smart, cunning. He would learn how to play their games and he would outsmart them all, Steve was sure of that. That or he was just a pathetic fan boy. Lovesick and blind.

"Can you promise me something?" Tony asked.

"Sure."

"If anything were to happen to me, sell it to best bidder. Apple or something."

Steve felt his chest constrict with fear. "Your life's in danger?" He choked out.

Tony laughed mockingly. "Of course not, don't be daft." Then he turned serious again. "Just... Anything can happen, you know. I could die in a car accident tomorrow, or from an overdose, or from fucking alcohol poisoning. Who knows? If something like that were to happen, promise me..." He muttered, almost short of breath. "Promise me that you will."

Steve looked at him with concerned eyes. "I promise."

Tony turned to him, smile relieved and innocent again. He almost laughed, teasing Steve for being such a worrywart. 

Steve didn’t feel any better though. He had the awful sensation that Tony was hiding something from him, something big.

He looked outside the window, avoiding the undying smile on Tony’s face. The traffic was flowing smoothly again and Steve stared at the lights moving faster and faster, deeply lost in his thoughts as the Corvette sped up, until an abrupt halt woke him up from his reveries. He looked around. There were parked in a dark alley.

"Are you sure this is the right place? I’m not s—"

"This is not." Tony cut him short. 

Steve jerked his head on the side, Tony was not smiling anymore. His eyes were hard and intense, glimmering with hunger, dangerous.

He didn’t get the time to ask why they had stopped before Tony leant into him and put his mouth on him, holding his head with a strong and unbreakable grip. The kiss was intense and urgent and Steve couldn’t breathe.

"There’s just something I’ve been wanting to do ever since you got into that car." Tony explained, voice rasp and out of breath, as he let go of Steve’s mouth. His hands were already fiddling with Steve’s belt.

"What’re you doin’? We gonna be late!" Steve protested while Tony was kissing his neck, despite his lower body liking this idea very much already. 

Tony lifted his eyes up to him and chuckled teasingly. "Don’t tell me you expected me to give you a ride and not arrive fashionably late at least, did you?" He smirked. "I don’t do on time."

Steve rolled his eyes but didn’t have the time to sigh because Tony was already kissing him down his stomach.

"I wanna suck your cock." Tony whispered on Steve’s very hard crotch. There’s no way I’m going to this party without drinking your cum first."

Steve shuddered and gasped as he pushed Tony’s face down on his cock and arched his back. There was no way he wasn’t gonna let Tony do just that. 

He ran a hand in Tony’s sticky hair, ruining his stylish hairstyle, and pushed his mouth onto his shaft, burying himself deeper and deeper down the brunette's throat. He thrusted hard and slow holding his head in place, making Tony moan. It was amazing. 

He came faster than he had ever had with a blowjob before.

He filled Tony’s mouth and throat, forcing him to choke on his cum and the boy swallowed everything eagerly, happily licking Steve clean.

Tony took a few moment to catch his breath and raised his head, wiping his mouth with a hand. He was staring lustily at Steve with a mischievous smile on his face. 

"You taste so good, Lil’Rogers." He whispered, gazing at Steve’s mouth. He bent forward and kissed him on the mouth before Steve had a chance to respond. Steve melted into the kiss, he tasted himself and slipped a hand down Tony’s stomach in order to reciprocate.

Tony abruptly stopped his hand half-way, however. "Don’t! We’re gonna be late."

"But, don’t you want to—" Steve protested, still in a post-orgasm daze.

"Of course, I want to. You’ll get your chance, when we get back."

"Assuming you’re sober enough to drive." 

Tony glanced at him and gave him a knowing smirk. "Don’t worry about it." He teased.

 

Steve was still a in daze, grinning stupidly, when Natasha opened the door.

"You're late!" She grumbled, glaring at the both of them.

Steve looked down sheepishly. "Something happened." He tried to justify shyly. 

Natasha checked them both out and smirked. "And we probably all get an idea of what might have happened." She deadpanned.

He blushed, and glanced at Tony who looked utterly debauched, hair disheveled and clothes rumpled. He didn't look embarrassed however, quite the opposite.

"Hi Nat," The brunette greeted innocently with a chipper voice and held her a bouquet of flowers. When did Tony bring flowers? Were there flowers in the car? "Congrats!"

Natasha smiled and swiftly stole the bouquet from his hands. "Thanks." She said with a happy voice and then she turned menacing again. "But watch out, little brat! I've got my eyes on you."

Tony smiled in return. "I'm sure you do."

"Looking great, by the way." 

"So are you! Dazzling as usual."

"Flatterer."  She chuckled and finally turned to Steve. "Come on in, everybody's there."

Steve came in first and was warmly welcomed. Tony followed, deceptively bashful, and Steve wondered when exactly he had become everyone's best friend.

Helen had hugged him heartily. No without scolding him a little. "Next time I'm on holidays, don't ruin them for me."

"Well, next time you're on holidays, my dear," Tony replied with a smile, jokingly but dead serious at the same time. "You'll be sipping cocktails on the beach in Hawaii, all expenses on me, of course."

Thor had given him a strong pat on both shoulders. "You okay, pal?"

"Thor, right?" Tony had flashed his best smile. "So, I've been told you and I have history?"

Thor had burst out laughing. "We could say that." and Jane had interrupted, glaring threateningly, "Next time you kiss my boyfriend, I'll kiss yours." and she had glanced at Steve.

Tony had laughed too. He had put an arm around Steve and given him a complicit smile. "Not a chance." He had answered. "He doesn't do women. I, on the other hand..." And he had checked both of them out openly and unashamedly. "Offer still stands." He had said with a lascivious smile and a wink. His hold around Steve was strong however, strong and possessive. And maybe protective too.

Bruce had walked to them timidly, a little impressed by the raging tornado in front of him. Tony was sunlight and warmth, fire and wind. 

"You must be Bruce." Tony had smiled shiningly. The way he did that melted everyone's heart, Bruce included. "I've been dying to talk to you." At Bruce's confused expression, he had added. "I'm a little familiar with your work and I've got so many questions."

Tony had fanboy stars in his eyes and smiled innocently, full of expectations, and Steve's face probably mirrored Bruce's dumbfounded expression.

"How do you know what I've been working on?" Bruce asked at the same time Steve asked. "How do you even know about Bruce?"

Tony went from Bruce to Steve to Bruce again with a confused look. He smiled embarrassedly. "Steve, come on." He started, as if the answer was stupidly obvious. "You talk about you friends all the time. Of course I know about them and what they do. I do listen, you know..."

Turned out, Tony was familiar with Bruce's work, as in, he had actually read his theses. Bruce was, as Steve and everybody else was, completely charmed.

That's how Tony had, for the second time and in a completely unexpected way, won all of Steve's friends' hearts. 

At dinner, Tony had been shy and attentive, listening more than talking, letting Steve be at the center of the attention for once. And Steve was at the center of the attention, despite the party celebrating Natasha. Now that Steve was no longer hiding under Bucky's shadow he had suddenly become interesting and everyone wanted to know what was happening in his exciting life. Must be the Tony effect, Tony shone so brightly he had brought the light on Steve. Bucky, too, had always been at the center of the attention, but he had never shared.

Tony had made himself small, in order to let Steve's light shine on its own. It might have been on purpose but Steve thought it was more instinctive than planned. Tony did everything on instinct, when Steve was concerned at least. In the course of dinner, he had sneaked his hand under the table and slipped it in Steve's hand, caressing it softly with his long callused fingers.

Steve had felt his heart race at the touch and he had blushed a little. He had turned to Tony who looked completely indifferent. His hand though, never stopped. He had fondled his hand and smiled surreptitiously when they had asked about them--they're just friends by the way. He had squeezed it comfortingly when they mentioned Buck and Clint. He had caressed it lovingly and kept his intense dark eyes focused on Steve every time he opened his mouth as if Steve had discovered the secrets of the universe. 

"So, what's going on with your life?" Natasha asked, sipping her red wine. Everyone turned to Steve with curious stares, Tony included.

"Nothing much. Been thinking about quitting."

The curious stares remained focused on him, Tony even more.

"Oh. Really?" Natasha asked doubtfully. "At the restaurant?"

"Yeah, I need a change. I don't want wake up one day and realize I've lived through half of my life and I'm still a fucking waiter."

"Bad atmosphere at the restaurant?" Thor interjected. 

"That's an understatement." Steve sighed. "It's been really awkward with Clint."

"We can only imagine." Darcy agreed.

"So what you gonna do?" Bruce asked. "Do you have any options?"

"Not really, I'd like to find something more permanent. Maybe full-time."

There was a blank when everybody knew what it meant but nobody said anything, a glimpse of sympathy running through their eyes.

Tony's hand squeezed his.

Tony had drunk one glass of wine altogether and had politely refused all the others, keeping his implicit promise. Steve however, was already sipping his fourth and wasn't far away from being drunk. He felt already tipsy and hot and Tony's warm presence next to him was both comforting and infuriating at the same time. 

"How are you going to keep your job at the gallery?" Natasha finally asked.

"I'm thinking about quitting that as well." Steve deadpanned.

"Oh man, that sucks." Thor exclaimed. "How are you going to exhibit, then? 

Steve had been thinking about it a lot lately. Especially after Tony's gift, which had made one of Steve's childhood dream come true. It had also changed Steve's perspective. He could live his dreams differently, perhaps. Living off your art wasn't a life for most artists. He needed to face the facts, he wasn't one of the chosen. He hadn't planned on telling his friends right away though, it would feel definitive and final.

"Well, I'm thinking about changing my career path. Find something stable, maybe go back to school a little. Leave my artistic days behind me."

Tony, who hadn't really said anything until now, dropped Steve's hand and turned to him, a serious expression on his face. "You can't do that!" He exclaimed, outraged as if Steve was putting a cat in the microwave. 

Steve turned to him slowly, Tony's face was flushed and his eyes bore sadness. 

"Why not?"

"This is your dream." Tony protested whiningly. "Don't give up!" He begged.

Steve chuckled mirthlessly and sipped the last of his wine. He was already drunk. "It's just a foolish dream. It's time I start my real life now."

An awkward silence settled.

"I can't let you say that." Tony whispered after a while, eyes looking away. "You're fucking talented."

Steve felt heat burning his face and anger roiling at the bottom of his stomach. How dared he? How fucking dared he, minding someone else's business and making it his. 

"What would you know about it? Are you a fucking art critic now?" Steve snapped, jaw tense.

No-one other than his mom and his arts teacher in Junior high had ever told him he was talented. His friends didn't really understand or cared about his art. They thought it was good. Or pretty.  And, Oh I like this one. What's that's supposed to be? This was something that belonged to him, and him only. Something he had seldom shared with others.

Tony pouted. "I don't know shit about art, Steve, and I don't fucking care about art either, but I know what I feel when I see yours. You're talented. Your approach is different, fresh."

He was confused.

Very confused.

How did Tony know so much about his art? Most of it was stored at the gallery. And as far as he knew, Tony hadn't set a foot in there.

"I haven't sold a piece in months." 

"Because you don't know how to sell yourself. You're too naive to think talent is the only thing that makes an artist succeed. People who buy art don't want a piece. They want art. They want the talent, the genius, and you need to sell them that. What it takes is one asshole who suddenly decides you're good and you're in. It has nothing to do with your talent. Don't belittle yourself! You've got so much to offer! You should never give up on your dream, because you've got it in you and I believe in you."

Steve felt the tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. It had taken hearing it from Tony's mouth to realize that no-one, since his mom had died, had supported him in his choices. What he had done so far he had done it on his own. Chasing his dreams, it was something he had done because he had believed in himself and he had stubbornly decided to follow them. Hearing Tony compliment him tonight, he realized how much he had needed it and it was so fucking unfair that it should be Tony, self-absorbed egotistic Tony who didn't know shit about art, who would tell him not to give up. 

Steve hated him a little for that. Tony wouldn't understand of course. Because Tony had never had money problems. It was so easy for him to pursue his dreams. He had nothing to lose. No regrets to have.

Steve was twenty-five but felt like he was ninety already. He had no money, no time, no social life, no prospect. Pursuing his dreams was a shitty outlook for his future.

"That's so easy for you to say." Steve muttered, voice stuck in his throat with the growing lump there. "Us, average people can't play around forever. At some point we need to put money on the table. What good is pursuing my dreams if I've got nothing to eat at the end of the day?"

"If this is money you need, I can give it to you. I've got money, connections. I could help you. My dad is a great patron." Tony suggested, not without feeling a little bit ashamed though.

Steve saw red.

"I am not a charity case, Tony!" He yelled, making everyone in the room uncomfortable. "I don't want your fucking money! There nothing worse than getting recognition only because the Stark boy likes my ass. Fuck! I'd rather never draw again than being known as Howard Stark's son's plaything. If you wanted to feel better about being revoltingly rich then you should have kept to handing out scholarships tonight."

Steve's anger was boiling inside. The frustration, the injustice, even the jealousy he had felt since the beginning of his relationship with the boy were all flowing out of him in abrasive verbal lava. He couldn't help yelling at Tony, taking it out on him, and he felt the heat of rage and shame burning his cheeks.

Tony stopped talking, face pale and expression hurt. When Steve was done he looked away, ashamedly. He took out his pack of cigarettes and stood up abruptly, heading for the door.

Steve was shuddering, voice trembling and out of breath. "Where're you going?"

"Out for a smoke."

"Tony wait! I'm sorry. I didn't mean that." Steve let out, realizing how unfairly harsh he had been. He started following him but Natasha stopped him by grabbing his arm.

"Let him go."

Jane ran after Tony shouting, "Wait for me, I wanna smoke too!" in the stairs.

After he had calmed down, Steve felt the side effects of his fourth glass of wine and started feeling dizzy. His friends had moved the conversation to the couches in the living room and asked a little about Steve's plans, careful not to mention what they had all witnessed.

Tony and Jane came back up about fifteen minutes later, arm in arm, shouting and giggling in a deep and animated discussion about astrophysics and astronomic anomalies. Of course they would hit it off.

Tony went straight to the bathroom and Steve wobbled there, willing to corner him somewhere more private and apologize. What he hadn't planned though was to find himself face to face with the boy, sexily looking like James Dean. And fuck, Steve had forgotten about that and his heart raced again at the sight, butterflies having fun in his stomach. His mouth was drawn to him like a magnet. No apology was uttered. Instead Steve had wrapped his hands around Tony's neck and pulled him down for a filthy kiss, alcohol talking, and his dick, not him.

Tony's arms welcomed Steve enthusiastically. He fitted perfectly there, as if they had been made for him to slouch into them. He did and Tony caught him and held him tight. Tongue soft and warm into his mouth. A smile on his lips.

Between kisses and gasps, Steve was finally able to apologize. "I didn't mean that, Tony. What you did tonight, what you said earlier, it was the nicest thing anyone had ever said about my art, about me."

Tony answered with a genuinely shy smile. He bent his knees to be at Steve's level and closed his arms around the small built of Steve, burying his face  into his neck. "You do know, I'm your first fan, right?"

Steve chuckled. "When did you ever have the opportunity to see it anyway?"

"If you think I didn't check out the gallery you work at several times already, then you really don't know me at all."

Steve awed and felt dazzled.

"I get that you want to slow down a bit and think about what you could do with your life. I get that being an artist sucks sometimes. I just... I love what you do, Steve. I love what you draw. I love what you write."

Steve inched back a little from Tony and looked at him questioningly. "Are we still talking about my paintings?"

"I love your paintings, Steve, but I don't know shit about art. I do know a thing or two about comics though and I can promise you that you're talented. Don't waste it." Tony whispered on his lips, ready to catch them into a dirty kiss again.

Steve felt weird suddenly, a mix of happiness and fear. "Tony, Tony, Tony, wait." He plunged his eyes into the boy's dark marbles. "Did you read my drafts?"

"All of them."

"You... you weren't supposed to, nobody was. I just... I just sent a few of them. The rest was... It was kind of private."

"I'm sorry Lil' Rogers," Tony apologized not sincerely at all. "but waiting for you in your shithole is quite boring and I loved every one of them, by the way. Your stories are amazing, original and so unexpected. Your artwork is outstanding. Your characters are bold and refreshing."

Steve wanted to be angry at Tony again for trespassing, but he just couldn't. Tony was just too cute, stars shining in his eyes and a loving gaze. Steve couldn't help the corners of his mouth curving up into a grin.

"I have been refused publication seven times already." Steve said with a smile. Having Tony as his one and only fan was enough for tonight.

"Because you don't know how to sell yourself. Your draft aren't fancy and if you're lacking imagination you could miss out on their potentials. You know what's missing though? Your characters... They're great, but they lack... substance. You should give them a story, even the background ones. More feelings, more interaction, more pain, more fears, more love. People need to be able to relate to them."

Steve gazed up at Tony, wrists lazily resting on his shoulders. Tony was beautiful when impassioned. Dark eyes shining brightly and energetically. Why did everything seem so simple and so possible with him?

"Wow. Great Speech Mr Stark. You do know your shit, right? That was so inspiring." Steve joked. "Makes me want to kiss you."

"You can kiss me. But don't call me Mr Stark, that's my dad." Tony ordered, the tone of his voice unexpectedly harsh.

"Okay, Anthony Edwards Stark, I won't do it again."

Tony chuckled. "Since when do you know my middle name?"

"Well, I too, know a thing or two about you." Steve replied with a smirk. "Kiss me, handsome." 

Tony did and it felt amazing and Steve was really really drunk now and his dick had taken control of his actions now. He slipped his tongue inside the warmth of Tony's mouth and ate him up. Fuck it, being short didn't mean he had to wait passively to be kissed and manhandled. He could do that to, and apparently Tony liked the bold side of him.

"Well, that's a lot of macking for "just friends." Darcy interrupted, smile wide, exaggeratedly making air quotes. 

Steve smiled on Tony's lips and gave her the middle finger while grabbing Tony's shirt and pulling him towards him, away from the bathroom door, in order to let her pass.

Tony stumbled forwards and pushed Steve against the opposite bedroom door. He was hard as a rock.

"Wanna get out of here?" Steve whispered against Tony's neck.

"Yeah."

 

Steve gave his first blowjob in a moving car on the way back to his place and then he got roughly assfucked on the hood of the Corvette, parked illegally in a not so dark place, after all.

It was a good thing he couldn't see Tony when he came all over the bodyshell, because he let out three forbidden words. I love you whispered without thinking, soft and warm against the hot metal, while Tony thrusted hard and deep into him.

Chapter Text

The strawberry blond girl pushed the door open with a ding and paced elegantly to the table at the back of the room. The lounge table, where two guys Steve hadn't see coming in were sitting, their back turned to him, smoking coffees in hand.

She was a regular at this shop. Steve had seen her once or twice before, she was extremely polite and a great tipper and smiled beautifully every time Steve brought her something. It was really nice to have customers like that. Those never came to his former job, but this little coffee shop only had that kind of customers. Pure New Yorkers, most of them regulars. Always polite and happy for the good service. They paid the high price for the homey atmosphere. Somewhere warm and cosy and delicious homemade food and pastry. 

It was a small place, only five of them working here. The shifts were really flexible and the open hours were reasonable. The owner, Sam, a forty something guy who volunteered at a rehab center, was really nice and accommodating. Steve had been able to choose his own weekly schedule--he worked eight hours a day, from Monday to Saturday, and never finished after seven p.m. Some regularity would do him good and the pay wasn't half as bad for a waiting job. The tips were good too. It was still a modest job but Steve didn't feel like he was being exploited and the people were nice, both his co-workers and the patrons.

It had been only three weeks that he had started but he already felt like he had been there since the opening. He had quickly learnt the ropes. It wasn't that different from what he did before, but at the same time, it completely was. 

The blond girl bent over to kiss one of the guys on the mouth and snuggled next to him. Steve smiled internally, thinking how cute they looked and went back to work. The coffee shop was full at lunch time. They were also selling a few snacks and could make basic dishes if ordered. Many dayworkers came to eat the simple but original and tasty food they were serving here. He didn't have the time to slack on the job, and he didn't want to, being good at it was rewarding in this place. 

"Steve?" Wanda called from behind. "Can you get these to table four? I need to pee."

"Yeah, sure."

Table four was strawberry blond's table. If Steve was good, he could expect a really large tip at the end. He wasn't gonna screw it up. He took the hot coconut latte with extra whipped cream and three menus, just in case. 

Steve's stride was fast, efficient and unobtrusive. He quickly reached the table, not without noticing a familiar smell. Strawberry blond was smiling, her boyfriend had his arm around her thin shoulders and snuggled into her neck.

He had the time to observe the three of them. The girl seemed to be a little embarrassed by so much public display of affection but didn't have the will to push her lover away. The other guy, an uptight, quite handsome black guy, was rolling his eyes at the scene. 

Steve stared blankly at the scene too, befuddled. For a moment he was like paralyzed at the sight. 

He had recognized the hands first. Energetic, long fingers, thin and callused. He recognized the way they dexterously rolled the spoon around. He recognized the smell too. Tony's cologne was unmistakable, mingling so perfectly with his own smell.

He recognized the clothes, casual but always chic, when in public.

He recognized the laugh, the affectionate gestures Steve had stupidly thought were only directed at him.

Steve had never really thought about Tony's other partners. He never really asked himself what kind of relationship he had with them. He hadn't dared. He hadn't wanted to know. He had fucking hoped. 

It's not like it was a complete surprise. Steve had always known where he stood with Tony. He had always known Tony had sex with other people. He knew he liked girls too. None of it should disconcert him. It had always been there, the elephant he had decided to ignore, wrongly thinking that he didn't mind.

He fucking did. 

He had only stupidly thought it was just sex with them. He had only stupidly thought that he was special.

Steve felt the urge to spill the hot latte on Strawberry blond's face. He refrained. The poor girl had nothing to do with it, she might not even know. Then he felt the urge to spill it on Tony's crotch. He refrained too. He wasn't going to stoop to that and he had no wish to lose his job over some guy.

Instead, he put it delicately in front of the girl and gave her a softened smile. "Coconut Latte, extra cream." He said, tone falsely lively but with quite a good acting nonetheless.

It was weird how he felt. Knowing his propensity to anger, he had thought he would turn berserk into that kind of situation, or hysterical, violent maybe. He felt none of that. He was feeling numb, impassive, as if all of this was happening to somebody else.

Tony's hands were fiddling with hers, intertwining their fingers together in a delicate, affectionate and completely instinctive gesture.

"Can I get you anything else?" Steve asked like a robot. "We're serving a delicious potato gratin and French cheese toasts today." He had done this so many times, he didn't even force himself to smile or sound chipper. It had become a reflex.

The girl's green eyes shone brightly, mouth already salivating at the menu Steve was handing her. Steve knew he would be able to tempt her with food. She seemed to hesitate but didn't have the time because her boyfriend straightened up and looked at Steve, straight into his eyes, bewildered.

"Steve?" He asked with a raspy confounded voice.

Steve felt his poker face crumble and his cheeks burn. He was stupid again to think he could remain impassive in front of Tony. The second their eyes had met, the second he had heard his voice, Steve's heart had started racing, thumping hard in his chest, until it was the only thing Steve could hear. He struggled with all his will to control his breathing and clench his jaw.

He hated his body at that moment, for being so fucking honest. It was pathetic, he was not a fucking child anymore. They were just a bunch of kids, and Steve felt so small and inadequate next to them.

Tony smiled. "Okay... this is awkward." He had said, half-joking, half-embarrassed. "I didn't know you worked here."

"Got a new job. It's my third week. I quit at the gallery too." Steve deadpanned. His heart was finally settling down in his chest, although he could still feel it beating at his temples.

Tony had the nerves to look disappointed and sad about it. Steve wanted to smack his face and make him bleed.

"Oh, you worked at a gallery?" Strawberry blond asked, tone curious and excited. "That's great! I'm sorry you had to quit though."

"Oh, right." Tony interjected. He looked away from Steve, at the girl. His smile warm and loving. "Pep, this is Steve. A friend. He's the one who worked at the gallery down the eighth. You know, the one with creepy statues."

Strawberry blond smiled. "Oh, I remember." She said innocently, expression adorable. "That's nice."

Tony gazed at her like she was the moon and turned to Steve with the same dazzling innocent smile. "Steve, this is Pepper, my girlfriend."

Steve felt like he was being shot right through his heart. He felt himself fall backward, his head hitting the floor, the room around him fading until everything was black, and yet, he was still very much standing, a fake smile on his lips.

Girlfriend. 

Not a shag, not a one time thing, not a booty call... His girlfriend.

His number one. The person he went on dates with. The person he took to art galleries. The person he would meet in broad daylight, in public places. The person he actually talked to, about his life, his friends, his parents...

The person who called everything Steve and Tony had shared into question.

Tony then gestured at the other guy who was smiling at Steve embarrassedly but very politely, and looked at him fondly. "And this is Rhodey, my best friend. We went to MIT together but he's breaking up with me to marry the uniform." He explained while giving the guy a wink.

Rhodey rolled his eyes and shook his head desperately. "I'm not breaking up with you, Tones. Stop fussing about it."

Tony pouted. "I can't help it. I'll miss you. Traitor." He whined. 

"It's not like we're not going to see each other again. And I'm pretty sure you'll still call me at ungodly hours to complain about your parents."

Tony looked offended. "That was one time!" He protested, defending himself. "And it was only 2 a.m." 

"This week!" Rhodey corrected. 

Steve was witnessing the scene detachedly, emotionlessly. There was something between the three of them. Something deep and solid. A beautiful complicity built over the years. A strong friendship. Steve could feel it. Tony had never been so laid back with him.

Steve realized Tony had never told him about his life, his friends, or anything even remotely personal. He knew nothing about him, about them. Nothing but little bits he had stolen here and there. He had never asked either. 

"Steve," Tony called, "don't listen to him. He's a liar. I don't call in the middle of the night to complain about my boring life. I'm a good friend, aren't I? And my life is everything but boring."

Steve cringed but managed to force a smile anyway.  "Have you chosen?"

Girlfriend looked apologetic. "Oh, I'm sorry we've been keeping you here. You must have so many things to do. I'll take the salmon salad and the gratin. It sounded so appetizing earlier, I wanna taste that. And the boys are gonna taste the veggie burger."

"She wants us to eat healthier." Tony explained. "She's despotic."

She smacked the back of his head affectionately and ran a hand in his hair softly. Tony took her hand in his and squeezed it lovingly, smiling provocatively at her. He planted a kiss on the soft skin of the back of her hand. Steve's heart clenched. 

"Anything else?"

"That'll be all. Thank you Steve. Sorry again. You should definitely come with us later though, if you like art. We're going to see that impressionist exhibition at the MoMA."

Steve smiled at her very professionally and took the menus they were all handing him out. "I don't think so. I'm working."

She looked absolutely devastated. "Oh. That's a pity. Another time then."

"Sure." Steve said and flashed his best smile. "I'll be right back with your orders."

"It was nice meeting you, Steve." Girlfriend said before he left, Best friend nodded in agreement.

Steve ran to the bathroom with the urge to throw up. 

He knew Tony was gonna hurt him. He had been prepared. This, however, was nothing like he had anticipated. He had thought about everything, everything but that. He had been million years from imagining that. 

He didn't throw up but his stomach was a mess. There was a pain in his chest that needed to get out and he didn't know how. He almost cried but wiped the tears our of his eyes as soon as they appeared and contained them. He braced himself, inhaled deeply and wiped a hand down his face. He freshened up and got out. 

Sam saw him walk past his office and stopped him. "Are you okay, Steve?"

"Yeah. Sure."

"Did anything happen with table four? If there's a problem with a customer, you need to talk to me about it, I'll handle it. I want my staff to be treated right."

Steve looked at him puzzled for a short moment. "Nothing," He replied nonchalantly, "Just my ex and his girlfriend. I didn't expect to see them here, that's all."

Sam raised a suspicious eyebrow at him and crossed his arms. "If you need to take a few minutes. I can cover for you." 

"I'm fine, thanks. I can fight my own battles." 

Sam gave him an amused smile. "Alright, strong head, don't want to keep you from that. Just remember that we're all allowed to have downs from time to time. It's okay not to be alone in those moments."

Steve nodded. It felt weird to have his boss care about his well-being. Steve wasn't used to people considering his feelings. "Thanks."

He joined Wanda who looked apologetic. "I'm sorry I dumped them on you. I had no idea. I can take over from here if you want."

"No, it's fine. It would be weird."

"You sure?"

Steve smiled. Genuinely. "Sure."

" 'Kay." 

Steve served the food discreetly but efficiently. He enthusiastically attended to their needs and watched them from afar. Tony was very affectionate with his girlfriend, not as openly as he had been before he saw Steve but still very attentive and caring. All his gestures soft and full of fondness. But when Steve got close he laid off and glanced at him longingly. His fingers inconspicuously attempting to touch Steve's, which was infuriating and left Steve puzzled. What was he playing at?

When they finally left, the coffee shop was almost empty--too late for lunch, too early for a snack. Tony paid for everyone and went outside with his best friend while his girlfriend went to the bathroom. 

Steve watched the two of them joke outside the window while he cashed in the latest customers. He was sorting the money when he heard Strawberry blond's expensive high heels click on the floor determinedly. 

"Did you think you were special?" She asked softly, tone sympathetic.

Steve raised his head confusedly. Strawberry "Pepper" Blond was facing him. All elegant and pretty. She didn't smile anymore, neither did she look angry or contentious, however.

"What?"

"Don't take me for a fool." She said matter-of-factly. "Tony doesn't have any friends. Jim and I are the only people he's been close to in years. And he's never given shit about art before." 

Steve stared at her with his don't-know-what-you're-talking-about face.

"You're far from being the first one you know, or the last one for that matter. You're probably not even the only one right now." She said indifferently. "Tony always loved his boys." Steve thought his lips might have parted a little because she rolled her eyes. "There were girls too, don't get ahead of yourself."

He really wasn't. 

"He's a sex addict but he's always needed to form some kind of emotional bond with every one he was infatuated with." Her gaze shifted and she didn't really look at him anymore, as if she wasn't talking to him but to herself. "It bothered me too at first, but he kept coming back to me every time. That's just the way he is, I accepted it. In the end, he always comes back. It's always me and him, the two of us. We're childhood sweethearts, you know. We've been together since forever." 

Steve didn't speak or move, she turned to him again and stared into his eyes.

"He makes you feel important, doesn't he? The way he's treating you like a treasure. All the small things, the gestures, the bits of his attention. The way he listens to you and the way he remembers everything you say. Everything he notices about you that no-one else does..."

Steve's heart leapt in his chest, not in a good way. She had nailed it, every time. He looked away, glancing at Tony and his friend outside the window pane.

"He's handsome, isn't he?" She said with a fond smile. "He's got this innocent smile that makes you forgive him every time." 

Steve was in no mood for forgiving, though. He turned back to her and stared at her. "I want you to leave."

She looked at him in a passive-aggressive way and pouted apologetically. "I'm sorry you didn't know. Tony doesn't care about anyone but himself." She paused before asking again. "By the way, do you work here everyday? When does your shift end?"

Steve glared at her and took a deep inhale before he answered. "Look, Pe--"

"Virginia." She interrupted. "Tony's the only one who calls me Pepper."

Steve sighed exasperatedly. "I don't mean to be rude, Virginia, but that's none of your business."

"I don't mean to be rude either, but I love this place and I'd hate to have to give up on that too. There's a difference between knowing and having it shoved to your face in your favorite coffee shop."

Steve sighed and looked down.

"I don't work on early mornings." He finally said, voice conceding. 

Virginia looked disappointed for a second but then she gave him a soft smile. "I guess that'll do. Thanks Steve."

She put her bag on her shoulder and set about to leave. "Oh, I forgot." She exclaimed while turning around to face him again. "This is for you!" 

She handed him a couple of notes. Hundred dollar notes.

Steve looked at them confusedly. "What's that for?"

"Your tip. You deserved it, the service was impeccable."

"I can't accept this." 

"Of course, you can. You just quit your job at the gallery. I'm sure you'll make a good use of it."

Actually, if she hadn't been a nice regular Steve would contemplate tearing them apart and throwing the pieces to her face. His fingers stank of money but Steve took them and put them into the tip jar. "Thanks." He said, glaring at her.

"Don't be too hard on him!" She added. "He's got a lot on his plate."

He glanced at Tony and Rhodey outside, he didn't look like he had a lot on his plate. On the contrary, he look cheerful, secure and carefree.

Steve wasn't sure how he was supposed to interpret that last sentence. Was it a threat? Implicitly demanding Steve to let Tony go but nicely. Did she genuinely cared if Tony was hurt? Or was it acceptance? Complacent acceptance? 

Either way, there was no way Steve was obliging. The idea already made him feel nauseous.

He watched her thin waist undulating away. She was stunning. Beautiful, delicate, elegant. Perfect for Tony. That's when it struck him. How come everybody knew about Tony's antics but no-one knew he was gay--or bi--or whatever? Tony had never hid it, for all he knew.  Was it what it was?  What future was awaiting him?

 

Breaking up was a bitch. (Not that Steve could even pretend to a break up.) 

Breaking up with Johann had been brutal and dangerous. His relationship with the German student had ended exactly the same way it had started and the same way it had been all along. With violence. There were shouts and scattered glass on the floor. Flying chairs, a few broken ribs and a nice black eye. Steve had gotten out anyway. Safe and almost sound. Not without Bucky's help though. He had cried a lot in the car ride to Bucky's parents, but he had gotten out, both physically and emotionally.

Breaking up with Bucky had been a different kind of pain, but it had been painful all the same. Heartbreakingly painful. For both of them. There had been a lot of crying, a lot of hurt. Hateful things had been said. Things that hurt much more than blows. Bucky had been crying and Steve had been this close to stop things because he couldn't handle that. It still hurt thinking about it. Him and Bucky, it wasn't over. It would never be.

Breaking up with Tony, in comparison, was much much easier. There were no tears, no hate, no violence. Nothing but indifference and emotionless banter.

But let's go back to that day, at about six thirty. That is to say, half an hour before the coffee shop's closing time.

The whole afternoon was a blur after the Strawberry blond episode. Steve had no idea how the rest of the afternoon went, his memory was blank. He did remember all the conversations he had imagined to have with Tony. He remembered slapping him a few times, in his head, but what he did exactly, it was all a blur.

Exactly the same way what he was doing now was a blur. He had been counting and recounting the money in the cash register for the fourth time already. He didn't hear the entrance bell. He didn't hear the steps coming closer to the counter. He didn't smell the cologne, didn't feel the presence in front of him.

"Hey Gorgeous, need some help with that?"

Steve jerked his head up and was suddenly face to face with a smiling Tony. His lips were close, much too close and his smell was entrancing. Steve looked over the boy's shoulder trying to make eye contact with Wanda or Pietro and silently ask for a rescue. No-one was in sight unfortunately and it was too late anyway, because Tony had pushed himself on his toes and leant over the counter to kiss him on the mouth, right there, in the middle of the coffee shop, while Steve was at work.

There was a tiny teeny second during which Steve had forgotten Tony had broken his heart today, a tiny second during which his heart raced and ran riot. A tiny teeny second during which Steve melted into the kiss. One last time.

He quickly snapped out of it though and then he remembered where he was and who was kissing him right now. He jerked back and pushed Tony off of him.

"Are you out of your mind?" He spat angrily.

Tony chuckled mockingly and looked around. "What? Nobody's there."

"What are you even doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at the MoMA, enjoying impressionism?"

The boy was still smiling, looking guilty. "Yeah but, seeing you earlier, with your apron and everything, made want to fuck you, just like that time at the restaurant." He bent over again, whispering in Steve's ear. "I've been thinking about it all. fucking. day."

Steve looked at him skeptically. "You're insane."

"I'm not." He whined, mouth still much too close to Steve's ear. He could feel his warm breath tickling his skin. His voice was raspy as he whispered again against his temple, half-kissing, half-chuckling. "I'm crazy about you, though." And if that wasn't the cheesiest pick-up line ever just hang him! Except it worked. 

Tony's fingers fondled Steve's hand that was resting on the counter. Steve felt the electricity running through his body at the touch. He withdrew his hand immediately, as if Tony had burnt him, and stepped back away from him. The boy looked at him confusedly. 

"Steve?" Sam's voice resonated behind him. "I'll take it up from here. Why don't you two finish that conversation in my office, huh?"

If Steve still believed in God he would have prayed now, thanking him for his guardian angel.

He glared at Tony. "Yeah." He said while heading towards the office and gesturing at Tony to follow him.

The brunette followed and closed the door behind him. "Wow. Your boss is nice." He said with a happy smile, his hands were splayed on his jeans and he wiped them down nervously. "Handsome too, is that why you applied for this job?" He joked.

Steve frowned at him and replied coldly. "He's straight."

Tony looked towards the door with a mischievous smile, "for now."

"And more than twice your age."

"Detail." He whispered sensually, eyes still riveted to the door. "I'd bend over any time for a stud like him."

"You don't bottom."

"Well, I can always make an exception for a BBC."

Steve rolled his eyes and sighed desperately. "Gross. Offensive."

"What? It's a joke. I'm joking!" Tony protested and turned to Steve, but his expression changed when he saw Steve's face. He looked at him silently for a moment, worry shadowing his dark eyes. "What's wrong?"

Steve burst out laughing, but turned serious a second later. "Seriously? You're asking me?

Tony looked confused and completely clueless, which was almost funny.

"You have a girlfriend!"  Steve exclaimed, voice loud and clear, stating the obvious. 

Tony didn't seem to get it. "Yeah. So?"

Steve was internally fuming. "So? Fuck, Tony! You have a girlfriend! You have a fucking girlfriend and you keep coming here, what the fuck!"

What bothered him the most was Tony's lack of reaction. His indifference. Steve's words and feelings were just passing through, without ever reaching him.

"My relationship with you has nothing to do with my girlfriend." Tony deadpanned detachedly.

Steve felt it like a blow. He stared into Tony's eyes. "What relationship Tony?" Tony looked down and up again, silent. "No!" Steve spat angrily. "Explain to me exactly what kind of relationship do we have? You have a girlfriend and you never even told me!"

"You never asked."

Steve let out a mirthless chuckle. "Wow!" He let out, he joined his hands together and brought them to his face, hiding his outrage.

Tony stared at him silently. Steve wasn't sure he had ever seen Tony so smile-less before. His expression was empty of any sort of emotion. He sat nonchalantly against Sam's desk and looked down, up at Steve, and down again, face blank.

"What are you even talking about?" Steve continued, feeling like he was in another dimension. "Since when is that something you need to ask? Oh hey," He started mimicking a stupid voice "there's this guy I fuck on a regular basis. He fixes my apartment, he offers me gifts. I should really ask him if he has a girlfriend, just in case."

"Why do you make such a big deal out of it?  It's not like you didn't know. We've never promised each other exclusivity."

"There's a difference, Tony, between casually having sex with other people, and having a girlfriend!" 

Tony kept staring, devoid of emotion. It was weird, so weird to see him like that. He had always a smile on his face. A smile for everything, but here and now, he was blank and impassive.

It made it easier. It made it so easy for Steve to detach himself too.

"I thought we had something." He regretted. "that we shared something special. And all this time, you've been cheating on her, with me. All this time," he repeated louder, "I was just the other woman!"

Tony didn't reply right away. He stared, sat against the desk, both his hands supporting his weight, clutched to the edge of the desk with unnecessary strength.

"I didn't cheat." He muttered. "She knows."

"Does she, now?" Steve rhetorically asked, tone sarcastic. "Did you tell her about us? About the things we do? About that trip to New Jersey? About that day when you said you wanted to spend your birthday with me?--I asked you that day, by the way, if you had someone, but you dodged the question, as usual, but whatever--Does she know all of that?"

"I don't need to get into the specifics." 

"Of course not. Let's keep the intimacy private, right?" Steve ironized. 

"She knows and she's cool with it. What more do you want?"

"Yeah, keep telling yourself that. Keep living in fantasy world, where you do whatever you want without suffering from the consequences. You're a fool if you think she's cool with it, Tony. She's not--I'm not--cool with it. She doesn't have a choice. Like I don't have a choice. Because you're a selfish bastard who doesn't compromise, who never talks. You just take whatever you need from us without ever committing yourself. We don't have a choice, because if we want a relationship with you, we've got to accept all of your shit."

There it was. The smile Steve had been expecting. Wide, flashy... acid.  "Whatever, man." He said nonchalantly, readjusting his position on the desk. "You don't know shit about me or Pepper. So don't pretend you understand anything about us. Pepper and I have been together since we were fourteen, how can you even try to compare yourself with her?"

"You're right. It's none of my business whoever you fuck. I'm not your boyfriend, I'm not your lover, I'm nothing. There might even be others, for all I know."

A glimpse of something ran through Tony's impassive eyes and he bit his bottom lip nervously.

Steve laughed, mirthlessly. "Ooh oh." He scoffed. "There is someone else." He realized. "My God, Tony, you are such a whore. I can't believe it. Just how many people are you fucking at the same time?" Tony's eyes were shining, a glimpse of anger, or pain, ran through them. "No, you know what? Don't tell me! I don't even wanna know."

The boy looked away, ran his tongue over his teeth and swallowed. His back was slumped, weight supported by his palms on the desk. His smile gone, his expression impassive again.

Steve looked at him, the real him and had an epiphany. 

He had never truly committed to this relationship, for fear of being hurt again. He had been mentally prepared to hurt again. He had unconsciously kept his distance and now it was so easy to let it go. He hadn't thought he could have let it go so easily but Tony disgusted him right now. His insouciance, his indifference, his insensitivity, his selfishness. 

He deserved better

"I'm so fucking done with you."

Tony parted his lips, still staring into his eyes, expression empty. He tipped his tongue against his teeth.

"You know I used to think that you were lost, just a poor kid with daddy issues and too much pressure on his shoulders, that may or may not have been neglected as a child, something like that. But you're really just an asshole. An egotistic self-centered deviant asshole.

Tony glared at him, hatred showing its face in his beautiful dark eyes. Just for a second. Steve had never been so uncaring before. He didn't feel anything, anything at all. Just plain indifference.

"I haven'--" Tony started, maybe trying to justify himself. What did he care?

"No, you're right. This is my fault, I'm sorry.  I really thought I could do this. But I can't. I can't stand it!" Steve explained, spilling his guts. "I can't stand that you have a girlfriend! I can't stand that you have other fuck-buddies! I can't stand that you fucked my friends on my bed! I can't stand that you give blowjobs to old geezers in gay bars for fucking beers!!! I thought I could do it--this whole casual no-strings-attached relationship--but I can't stand it. This isn't me. This isn't what I want. I deserve better than that."

The hatred was gone from Tony's eyes, replaced with apathetic curiosity.

"I deserve to love someone who will love me back. Someone who will think I'm enough. Someone who will care for me, the same way I care for them. Someone who will be there for me when I need them. Someone, who'll put me first. I want a relationship where we is enough. I wanna go on dates, make plans, share secrets, watch movies in bed and hold hands and fucking know that I'm loved and trusted, that I matter. I deserve it. I deserve to be happy."

Tony chuckled sarcastically. "And you think I'm the one living in fantasy world?" He bit his lips again, wetting them. "Well, good luck with that!"

"Plenty of people have that. You're the one with a skewed vision of relationships."

"Give me one example." Tony asked, voice impartial. "Just one example of a happy everlasting faithful couple."

Steve hesitated just a little too much.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Tony sighed bitterly. "I do hope you find that guy, Steve. I really do wish you to find him and be happy. You're right, you deserve better." He straightened up and wiped his hands on his back pockets. "And you deserve better than here. Is that it? Your new career prospect? I thought you had ambition. Find love, whatever, but don't waste your talent in that shithole."

Steve opened his mouth to say something but didn't have the time because Tony was already leaving, hands on the doorknob. "Take care, Steve Rogers."

That was it. That was the easiest break up in history. In his story, at least. Nothing more needed to be said. Steve watched Tony's back walking away from his life with an indifference he did know he could have. 

"Wow. Your boyfriend is such an ass!" Wanda exclaimed, head popped at Sam's office's door. Steve was pulled out from his reveries instantly. "You okay, honey?"

"Have you been listening?"

She shook her head guiltily. "Nope. I'd never do that."

Steve chuckled. "He's not my boyfriend."

"Yeah. Obviously. Good Riddance."

"No, I mean... He was never my boyfriend. Just someone I used to fuck."

She raised her eyebrows disbelievingly and pouted exaggeratedly. "Yeah, whatever you say, baby. Good riddance all the same."

Steve laughed. 

"Hey! Me, Sam and the guys, we're heading out for an afterwork drink, wanna hang out?"

"Err... yeah. Yeah sure, why not?"

"Great!"

 

"Why do we have to hang out at a gay bar?" Sam protested without really meaning it. "No-one's gay, except for Steve."

"Ahem." Carol protested.

"You don't count, you're married." Carol raised her eyebrow. "Okay, almost married. Plus, you're bi, that's different." Carol didn't have the time to protest more because Wanda cut her short answering Sam's useless question.

"Because it's fun!" She explained mischievously. "And because we're celebrating Steve's break up. Be nice!"

"How am I supposed to find my other half, here?" Sam whined.

"There's plenty of women here." Carol said gesturing at herself and Wanda. 

"Yeah, lesbos." Pietro sighed disappointedly.

"Or, fag hags like me, desperate to find a hot open-minded straight guy who got lost in here, like the two of you." Wanda teased. "Steve, don't pay attention to those losers, this is your night." She told him, nicely. "And for the record," She said, targeting Sam again, "if you weren't a loser, with the way you look, you'd be already married with a bunch of kids at your age. Not hanging out with people half your age at gay bars." She stuck her tongue at him.

"Thank you, Wandy." Sam replied amusedly. "That's really nice of you."

She pouted. "Just stating the obvious, that's all."

"Right. Thanks."

"She's right." Steve interjected, willing to enjoy himself tonight. He deserved it. "This is my first night out with you guys, so the first round's on me!"

"Yeah! That's the spirit! Beer for everyone." 

Everyone cheered.

At the third round, tongues loosened, secrets were spilled, laughs were too loud and the table was sticky and smelt like beer.

"Okay," Wanda slurred, head falling on her pint, eyes hazy. "Don't look, really cute guy, ten o'clock. I'm positive he checked you out, Ste!"

Steve lifted his head towards the bar, his eyes met soft-looking blues and a crooked smile. The chestnut guy with a denim shirt raised his pint at him. Definitely cute. Definitely checking him out.

Steve returned the smile and turned his attention back to his new friends. 

"So?" Wanda asked eagerly.

"So what? Yeah he's cute."

"And?"

"And nothing. I just--"

"What happened to finding someone who would put you first?" Pietro interrupted.

"I--What?" Steve shouted, offended. "Did you guys all listened to our conversation?"

Sam cringed and seemed to mouth a yeah but no sound came out of his mouth. "Juuust a liiittttle." He managed to utter, emphasizing his words with a gesture of his hand.

"In our defense," Carol justified, "you spoke really loudly."

"Yeah, very inspiring speech by the way." Pietro added. "A lesson is self-esteem. You're my new hero."

Steve chuckled. "Pfff. You guys are full of shit."

"Well, there was some high level of assholeness, though." Wanda added. "On your boyfriend part, I mean."

"Not my boyfriend--"

"Hey," Carol cut him short. "Am I the only one who thought he really looked like the Stark boy?"

"Oh my god," Wanda agreed, "he so does, and his name was Tony too, so funny... "

The girls started a heated discussion about the hottest celebrities and Pietro was desperately trying to participate, in vain.

Sam took that opportunity to wrap a drunken arm around Steve and shift them away from the others. "Hey, since you and I are the oldest ones in the group, I'm gonna tell you a secret."

Steve wasn't a fan of people who casually touched when he barely knew them, but he had a good feeling with Sam and didn't feel like he was overstepping boundaries. 

"Carol is twenty eight."

"I mean, in here." He slurred, eyes not looking straight, and tapped on his temple with a finger at the same time.

Steve chuckled amusedly.

Sam leant close and whispered in his ear, breath smelling alcohol. "I won't tell them about Stark."

Steve startled and turned to him, Sam gave him a wink and smiled.

"I..."

"Look, Steve. I haven't known you for long, but something tells me you have a nice history of assholes in the dating department. I see a pattern here."

"What? No!" He denied, at first. "Yeah. maybe..."

"That's what I thought, but you know. It's fine, what you did today was a great step towards taking better care of yourself. Don't let assholes get the better of you."

"Nope. No more." He promised Sam, or himself, he wasn't sure. What's a drunken promise worth anyway?

Sam took a sip of his beer and held a finger at him, giving him wise advice. "Stark boy is bad news. Stay away from him."

Steve was almost offended. As if he was going to let Tony mess with him again. "Not a chance. He's out of my life, for good."

"Yeah, you say that now, cause you're still high on standing up for yourself, which is a nice feeling, I admit, but tomorrow's hang over won't be that easy, believe me. I've been there."

Steve felt a bitter taste in his mouth. "I'm done with him." He repeated, his mouth dry.

Sam gave him a doubtful roll of eyes and snorted. "Don't fall into his web again and let him catch you." He insisted, which was, yeah, the spider metaphor suited him well Steve thought.

Steve reflected upon what he would do if Tony were to try to get back with him but he was too drunk for that, or not enough, depending on one's point of view. Tony wouldn't try to anyway. He was much too proud for that, or maybe he hated himself too much.

"He's right about one thing, though."

Steve looked at Sam, trying to remember what Tony had said and try to find something that wasn't complete bullshit, he admitted he was having a hard time.

"Don't waste your talent in this shithole." Sam quoted, seeing Steve didn't find out the answer on his own. 

"This shithole is your fucking coffee shop, Sam." Steve pointed out, mouth much too close to Sam's face.

"Yeah, and I'm quite proud of my little business. I've got my little team of superheroes. It works for me. I'm forty-three. I've done my part working for my country, I'm quite happy with I've got now. It's enough for me, but it's not enough for you, you're too big for this place, Steve."

"You've known me like five minutes." Steve noted, trying to make sense with all this nonsense.

"Let's say I'm a good judge of character. You're fucking twenty-five Steve. It's okay for a temporary job but don't settle for this. You're too good to do that for the rest of your life. You know, I hired you on the spot, seeing your potential, and I must say you've never disappointed me, even once.

"I haven't even finished my third week yet." 

"Three weeks is plenty enough to see if you suck at your job or not. I've been hiring a lot of people and I can't promise you, two hours are enough to be big a disappointment to your boss, believe me."

Steve took another sip, only to realize it was almost empty. "If you say so..." Steve said, unconvinced

"Damn right I say so. It's not about the job in itself, it could be any job. It's the determination you have, the effort you put into it, your dedication. You're a great employee and anyone should be happy to have you, and if they didn't see your value before, their loss."

Steve chuckled and finished his pint. At some point in their conversation, round four had miraculously appeared and he had a new, fresh, full pint before him and was seriously starting to feel dizzy and great.

Sam kept going about how great Steve was but his words came out more and more difficultly and his eyes were unfocused. 

"Don't misunderstand me, Steve. I'm really glad to have you with us but he's right, don't waste your talent. I don't know about your artistic talents but I'm pretty sure you could do anything if you were to put your mind and your energy to it, so don't waste it. You can stay as long as you need, but don't stop doing what you love for this job, and don't let anyone put you down."

"You know I wanted to join the army when I was a kid. It was our dream Bucky and I. Bucky enrolled but his accident put an end to his career in the military. I was just too sick and too small."

"Don't talk shit about yourself, you'd be a great soldier. But don't go there, this is shit. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about." He tapped on his chest. "Fifteen years in the USAF, Pararescue unit. Lost my best friend. It kills you inside."

Sam was lost in his thoughts for a moment. Steve drank another sip and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "In retrospect, it probably was more Bucky's dream than mine anyway."

Steve and Sam finished their beer in silence, confident they both had formed a new bond tonight. Steve thought a bit about Sam and why he was still single at forty-three when he was such a great guy. He wondered if he suffered from PTSD like many veterans and if volunteering at the Rehab center helped. For a moment he looked at the crowd of pretty boys getting heated, lost in his thoughts.

It was Carol who snapped him out of his reveries. 

"Hey!" She threw a couple of twenties to his face. "Stop daydreaming about Prince Charming and go get him for real! My round." 

It took him a moment to realize she was talking about the cute guy from earlier who was still at the bar. He rolled his eyes but complied anyway. He took the money and went to the bar for the fifth round. Not planning to talk to cute guy, but not closing the door either. He had nothing to lose after all. 

The bartender had lazily dropped the five pints in front of him and turned his back on him as soon as he got the money, even before Steve had the time to say thank you.

"Need help with that?" 

Steve startled. It wasn't the first time a handsome guy sensually uttered those words to him today. He froze, not moving a finger for a moment, but decided that fuck, he could do this. The five pints were oozing on the counter, he turned slowly toward the voice and flashed a (drunken) smile. 

Cute guy with a crooked smile was very close, leaning on the bar, his hand clutched to beer. His denim shirt half-revealed a decent-looking body. Not too muscular, but not too flabby either. He was tall, almost as tall as Tony, maybe less athletic though. His blue eyes were soft and his expression gentle. Steve needed gentle tonight.

"Hi! You look nice." He slurred, fingers already reaching for the guy's shirt. "I like your shirt."

Cute guy answered the smile and glanced at Steve's hand fiddling with his clothes. "You look nice too." Cute guy answered. "You've got beautiful hands."

Steve giggled. "Are you a fetishist?"

Cute guy chuckled, and shook his head. "No-one told you that before?"

Steve felt warmth spreading in his body. "Nah, I heard that before, but not as a first compliment."

Cute guy's voice was raspy and low. "Really? What do guys usually say to pick you up?"

Guys didn't pick him up. He was a loser.

"That I'm cute." Steve answered, eyes staring at cute guy's soft eyes and gentle smile. He was trying to stand straight but it was getting harder and harder. "That I've got beautiful eyes... and a pretty face."

"You're pretty cute." Cute guys noticed and brought a gentle hand to Steve's cheek. He stared into Steve's eyes, implicitly asking for permission, and his fingers started tracing the line of his jaw, lifting his chin up a little. "And you've got really beautiful eyes."

Steve leant into the touch and giggled again. "I'm Steve."

Cute guy smiled. "Well, you've got a really pretty face, Steve. And I'm Scott."

"I like the way your name sounds when you say it." Steve slurred again, voice husky and sensual. "Can you say it again?"

"I'm Scott." Scott repeated, voice particularly rasp and low. 

Steve tried to get closer but stumbled on his feet. "I like you, Scott. Would you like to fuck me in the ass?"

Scott made an embarrassed chuckle and caressed Steve's cheek softly. "You sure you're not too drunk for that?"

"I am drunk, but I'm sure."

Scott took a step back, pondering the proposition. He ran his tongue on his lips and his teeth, hesitating. His soft blue eyes shone with lust now. His bit his bottom lip. "You're really cute, Steve." He whispered, voice husky with desire.

"I broke up with someone, today."

Scott startled and frowned. "That explains the drinking." He gestured at the five seeping pints of beer still on the counter.

"I still want you to fuck me." Steve retorted determinedly, fearing Scott might bail, out of concern for him.

Scott laughed fondly. "Don't you want me to kiss you first?"

Steve glanced at his friends who were pretending they hadn't been staring at them the whole time. "I think I need to get that to my friends." He tried to--but failed--gesture at the pints.

He turned on his feet and hooked a finger in Scott's denim shirt. "Wait for me?" He asked looking up at him, biting his lips with hunger.

"I think I'm gonna help you carry that and meet your friends." Scott said instead. 

Steve wobbled to the table but the two of them managed to carry the five pints without spilling them on the floor. (well, almost, in Steve's case...)

"Guys!" Steve exclaimed, much louder he had intended to at first. "This is Scott. Scott is--" He turned to Scott who was standing just behind him. "What is it that you do?"

Scott looked puzzled but smiled at him. "Err, nothing much at the moment."

Steve turned back to his friends. "--currently out of a job. And he's err... " He looked up at Scott again. "How old are you again?"

"I haven't told you yet." Scott answered with an amused smile. "I'm twenty eight."

"He's twenty-eight." Steve repeated and looked up behind him. "I'm twenty-five by the way, in case you were wondering. People tend to--" He stumbled on his feet. "--do that."

Scott caught him before he fell and held him straight with a strong hand on his hip.

"Guys!" Steve called again, raising a finger in the air. " 'm gonna go over there." He tried to point at the bathroom. "And make out with him a bit." Everybody chuckled. "Don't worry about me," He raised his finger in the air again. "He's got condoms. You've got condoms, right?"

Scott was still holding him straight, hands warm on his hips. "I've got condoms. Although, I'm not sure we'll make use of them tonight."

Steve giggled. "You're nice. He's nice, right?" He said to the four amused pair of eyes listening attentively to his rambling. "Can I trust you?" He asked, looking at Scott again.

"I don't know. I do have a criminal record." He smiled gently.

"Huh, I've never had sex with an ex-con before." Steve said out of the blue. "Guys! Thank you, for tonight. Let's do this again."

Steve freed himself from Scott's grasp and headed to the bathroom, pulling Scott by the hand. He did ignore Sam's frown and turned to him with his finger raised again. "I won't" He stammered. "let the spider catch me."

Finding Prince Charming could wait until toworrow. Meanwhile, he might as well have some fun. 

Chapter Text

"Okay, problem solved! I've found a new supplier. He can deliver in the afternoon, no charge. We'll have our organic potatoes." Steve exclaimed winningly.

Sam was focused on his computer, busy with remodeling the Coffeeshop Website's homepage. He looked up to him and smiled softly. "Thanks Steve, you're an angel."

"You're welcome." He replied in a chipper tone and remained awkwardly in the room, not sure what he should do next. 

Sam looked up again and teased him gently. "Don't wait for me, I'm not even nearly close to finishing this. It's probably gonna take a while, so you can take your lunch break." Steve nodded.

Sam had been giving Steve more and more responsibilities in managing the coffee shop. With only the five of them here, he supposed it wasn't that illogical. They all had to do more and go beyond what their initial position required of them. They were a good team, and Sam could count on everyone of them. Steve, however, had in practice already climbed a few ranks in the little business, in only three months. He had been helping Sam with paperwork, with purchase orders, with dealing with wholesalers and delivery people. He was starting to get the bigger picture now and it was far more rewarding than just waiting on the patrons, even if he still kind of liked it too, from time to time. He appreciated being given responsibilities, being trusted. It was what he had needed, people acknowledging his efforts and his values. 

Steve was already at the door, hand on the frame when he spoke. "You sure? I can wait." he suggested although he didn't really mean it.

Sam looked up again with an amused smile, seeing through him. He pretended to hesitate for a moment, but finally tilted his head on the side. "Nah. I'm good. Go for it!"

"Oh, thank god!" Steve sighed relievedly. "I'm starving." It was already past two p.m.

Sam laughed and shook his head amusedly.

"What's Carol prepared for us?" Steve asked interestedly. 

"I think she wanted to try some hot Spanish soup with potatoes and spicy sausage..."

"You mean chorizo?" Steve corrected, with a tinge of excitement in his voice. He loved chorizo.

"Yeah" Sam confirmed, pointing a finger at him. "that's... exactly that."

"God, I love that she's using us as her guinea pigs!" Steve toddled off enthusiastically. 

"Enjoy!" Sam yelled from his office. 

Steve just held two victorious fingers at him, his back turned to the man, walking off to the main room.

He was about to head to the kitchen for his lunch but Wanda stopped him half-way there.

"There's a guy waiting for you at the back." She said inexpressively. 

Steve's heart skipped a little. It was very unlikely Tony would come to see him here, he hadn't heard from him in months, but still...

"Stop making that face. It's not Tony." Wanda confirmed his thoughts. 

God, was he really that much of an open-book? He looked at her questioningly. "Who?"

"Don't look at me like that, I don't know." She snapped with an amused tone. "Some tall hot metalhead blond guy." Then she smiled mischievously, expression full of innuendos. "I didn't know you had such an exciting sex life." She teased.

Steve opened his mouth offendedly and threw his arms backward in a powerless gesture. "I don't." He really didn't. In three months he had maybe shagged with three guys, at the most. One of them was not even a shag, barely a making-out session, albeit, a very hot one. He protested. "I didn't fuck any metalhead guy. Or anyone." which was, sadly, true.

Wanda walked backwards to the main room with a plate in her hand and grimaced at him.  "That you remember of," she said while striding off, "just saying."

Steve chuckled and rolled his eyes. He wondered what kind of fantasy she was making in her head about his sex life. She had always imagined him hosting sex parties and waking up in the arms of a stranger very day. She was just a kid. He followed her, skipping the kitchen where Carol was busy, not without feeling a little bit of excitement at the mystery guy waiting for him and strode off to the back to meet metalhead guy. He didn't notice, however, that metalhead guy had seen him and was walking in his direction.

He got startled and almost bumped into him. He saw the huge bulk first and raised his head slowly. "Clint?"

Clint had a hand behind his head and gave him a nervous smile. His hair was messy and stuck up as if he hadn't had a shower in three days. "Hi, Steve." He said shyly, which was very unusual for Clint.

"What do you want?" Steve asked without any tint of anger in his voice. Water had flowed under the bridge. 

Clint nervously scraped behind his head and smiled sheepishly, a little embarrassed. "I was hoping that I could catch you on your lunch break and that--maybe we could talk?"

Steve looked around for Wanda and she gave him a wink. He did wonder if that was appropriate or not. Usually he'd take his lunch in fifteen minutes in the kitchen--even if his official lunch break was half an hour long--eating Carol's food and he really wanted to try that chorizo soup too... but obviously his co-workers didn't see any problems with that.

"Sure." He agreed, wondering where they should go.

Wanda swiftly walked past them and brushed him slightly with her hand. "Go to the seven, I'll take care of you." Steve startled at the touch and looked at the table. Table seven was a two seats table in the corner, next to the window. It was currently the only free table in the coffee shop. He motioned Clint to the right direction and looked back at Wanda who made her a winning dance and mouthed him 'Have fun' with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

Clint sat down silently, put his elbows on the table and his chin rested on his two thumbs while his hands were joined in front of his face. Steve sat opposite to him. 

Distance had been the right thing to do. He hadn't talked to Clint in about five months and hadn't seen him for almost three. Whatever grudge he had against him, it was completely gone now and he was actually happy to see him, he realized.

"This place is dope." Clint noted, looking around, not ready to look Steve in the eyes, yet. "You didn't lose out by quitting, you coworkers seem really nice."

"Yeah. It's been nice. The pay is better and I've been given responsibilities. Customers are much nicer and my coworkers are awesome. I don't regret it."

"Cool." Clint whispered softly with a gentle smile. "I'm happy for you." He whispered shyly. "It sucks that you had to quit at the gallery though."

Steve raised a suspicious eyebrow at him, eyes questioning. "Nat told me." Clint let out, answering the unsaid question.

He shrugged. "Yeah, well. I guess I've turned a new page, that's life. In retrospect, I don't think that was for me. I don't regret it."

"Well, you certainly don't look like you do." Clint said with a happy smile. He was staring openly now. "You look good!" He exclaimed. "Changed. More... more mature." He brought a hand to Steve's face. "Your hair is shorter..." Then he brushed his hand down Steve's cheek and dropped it on his own knees while he slumped back on the chair. "It suits you. The whole--" he gestured at Steve. "--mature self-confident comfortable-in-your-own-shoes thing you've got going on, I mean."

Steve smiled genuinely. "I guess that's what freedom tastes like..."

They shared a knowing smile. 

Wanda appeared with two lattes and two smoking bowls of soup. She deposited them discreetly on the table and left giggling, not without giving Steve some silent encouragement.

"Wow! That's super nice!" Clint exclaimed, "I didn't see that on the menu. Is it a special?"

"Staff lunch. Carol's using us to experiment with food." Clint's eyes opened wide. "Don't worry, it's on the house."

"It's okay, I can pay. I didn't come here for the food anyway." Clint smiled.

"Nah. You're good. It makes them happy." Steve deadpanned.

Clint chuckled. "Yeah, what's her deal by the way?" He leant his hand in Wanda's direction. "She's been making sexual innuendoes for like five minutes."

"Yeah, she thinks we fuck..."

Clint burst out laughing. "Really? Us?" He pointed at the two of them and calmed down. "That's funny," he said with a smile tinged with something like bitterness. "all those years, we've actually never fucked. I mean I fucked your boyfriend, you fucked mine, but the two of us never had the chance to."

"I've never been into threesomes. With Bucky it's... It didn't feel right to intrude on you two."

"Yeah, well... We've could have fucked without him. Just the two of us, to screw them over."

Steve looked at him confusedly, eyes opening wide. Was Clint propositioning him? "I never thought about it..." He said, not exactly sure if it was something he wanted to do.

"Yeah, no, that would be weird. No offense." 

"None taken." Steve answered with a slight laugh. Partly relieved, partly disappointed. There was a part of him who liked the idea of screwing Bucky over by fucking his boyfriend. He felt like a bad person, suddenly. Clint smiled and Steve realized that they used to be friends but they never truly were in fact. There was always Bucky between them. But they could be... now.

"This spicy soup is amazing."Clint exclaimed. "I want that Carol's number." He hummed on the smoking spoonful. "You know I've been... trying to cook since we moved in together. Like, I wanted to be a good little wife and all that. I actually like it."

"You cooking?" Steve exclaimed disbelievingly. 

"Yeah, I know, strange right? I just... I don't know, I'm trying new things..." Clint explained embarrassedly.

"No, that's... it's great! It's good that we're trying to broaden our horizons." Steve said without further explanation but they understood each other perfectly and Clint didn't add a word.

They ate in silence for a few moments, appreciating the food, but keeping eye contact. It was, indeed, delicious but Steve was an easy target. He loved chorizo.

"How are you?" Clint asked after a moment, staring at Steve attentively. The question wasn't just basic politeness, it was genuine and meaningful and Steve hadn't expected it. 

"I'm err... I'm good, actually." Steve answered, honestly. "I've been... working on this new project, hanging out with the guys at the coffee shop." He hesitated, trying to find the words to express his feeling about his new life. "I'm having fun. Like I haven't had for a while. It's been... liberating, I guess." He looked up to Clint who seemed happy for him and slurped a spoonful of soup. "You? Still at the restaurant?"

Clint's smile faded a little. "Yeah, I've been taking extra shifts. I kinda need the money, right now. I'm stuck and I don't know what I'm gonna do. I just... All the interesting internship proposal I got were not paid and I really can't afford that. I feel like I'll never be able to find work in the branch I want. Life sucks."

Steve could sympathize, really. He nodded silently and attempted an understanding gesture. "Yep." He finally agreed. "It does." and he changed the subject quickly to make him feel better. "How is everyone? Still fighting over the Saturday afternoon shift?" He asked on a lighter tone.

"Yeah... Things kinda deteriorated since you left, actually. The mood is awful! And, Sharon's left too. That new girl is a bitch. You quit at the right time."

"I kinda felt that I needed to" Steve explain, trying to justify his sudden departure by something other than I couldn't stand seeing your face everyday anymore.... "and I must admit that I don't regret at all. Even if I had to give up on the gallery. I haven't given up on being an artist though, I'm trying to... maybe try something new, a little different."

Clint gave him a sympathetic smile and slurped another spoon of hot soup. "You'll succeed. I trust you. You've got it in you." He said nonchalantly, which was kind of new. Clint had never really shone any interest in his art, like most of his friends. "Still seeing Stark, by the way?" Okay, that was completely unexpected too. Steve did wonder for a bit how Clint had come from talking about his art to asking about Tony Stark but interesting stream of thoughts.

"Oh no." He exclaimed, defensively. "The Stark episode is definitely over. Haven't heard from him in months and I can't say that it's a bad thing."

Clint shrugged and gave him a naughty smile. He grimaced a bit. "It's probably not, that guy was crazy. I liked him, though." he said regretfully.

"We all do. That's why he gets away with everything all the time." Steve replied, insightfully. "Did you know he had a girlfriend all along? A fucking girlfriend!"

"No way!" Clint exclaimed excitedly. He was always the one to gossip. "On second thoughts, that doesn't really surprise me. It kind of is a Stark thing to do."

"Yeah." Steve agreed. "Just discovered that by chance. He was like "Hey Steve, what's up? Oh and by the way, I've been fucking you for like a year but I totally forgot to introduce you to my girlfriend. Say hi!"

Clint burst out laughing. "Son of a bitch. You're polyamory okay, but fuck, you don't just drop the news after a year."

"Yeah, well, almost a year... And it's not that I didn't know, right. It's just, the way it was between us, I was zillion years away from thinking there could have been somebody else. I just-- couldn't get my head around it, I guess. I don't get it."

Clint shrugged, smile fading and sympathetic. He probably could, he had always been in open relationships.

"And it's not even about that. I mean the lies. He was always hiding something. I mean, I thought we.... we shared something real, beautiful but in fact I was just-- a fling. He's been with her since they were fourteen or something. Can you imagine? Gross!"

"Err... You and Buck were totally touching each other's dicks at that age."

"That's not the same thing. And by the way, I was older." Steve denied but Clint didn't look convinced at all.

"But Bucky was younger." He noted.

"Okay," Steve admitted, "It's totally the same thing. Still can get my head around it, though."

Clint chuckled lightly "Are you being intolerant with straight people?" He teased and patted his shoulder in a friendly and comforting way. "Don't worry, Pal. You'll find your loving, and faithful, Prince Charming. If you exist, there must be someone else like you in the whole universe, right?" He said jokingly but still genuine about it.

"I'll drink to that." Steve said, while taking his mug and showing it to Clint before taking a loud sip of the warm and creamy liquid. "Talking about Prince Charming," he sucked in a cold breath at the hotness of the drink. "How's Buck?"

Clint's smile shied. He hesitated a moment, caught off guard. "Err... He's... alright, I guess. Busy, with work and everything. You should definitely go and see him. He'll be very happy. He misses you like crazy. He was... devastated when you... you know. I mean, it took him a while to process everything you said, but I think he finally got it. It'd be great if you could talk to him too. I think he's ready now."

Steve reflected upon it for while. He did miss Bucky too. His new crowd was fun and thoughtful, but he and Bucky had been friends since they were in diapers--for Bucky at least. "Yeah, I'll think about it." He said sincerely and then asked more lightly, smile on his lips. "What are you two up to these days, anyway? All lovey-dovey in your new love nest?"

"Hum." Clint hesitated, grimacing a little. "Actually," he bit his lips embarrassedly. "We're kinda on a break, right now." Steve almost choked on his latte. "I'm crashing at Nat's for the time being. It's just temporary though... I think we both needed some fresh air."

And that was... unexpected. Steve couldn't help feeling a pang of guilt.  He had wanted to free himself from all of this, but he had never intended to hurt their relationship. Although it might be completely unrelated to him, he felt guilty about it. "I'm really sorry." He whispered softly, voice hurt and genuinely sympathetic.

Clint was still smiling, however. "It has nothing to do with you though... " He said, detachedly, looking lost in his thoughts. "I mean, the whole thing was kind of a huge blow to our relationship but in the end it was for the better. I think." He hesitated a second. "Like pulling the arrow out of the wound or something."

Steve chuckled to soften the sudden heaviness in their conversation. "The arrow? Is that even a thing?"

"Of course it is... " Clint exclaimed confidently, smiling. He didn't seem angry or resentful, which felt quite relieving actually. All this time, without realizing it, he had felt guilty about ending their friendship, but talking about it now was lifting the weight he hadn't know he had off his chest.

"My point is," Clint went on, "it hurt like a bitch at first--Bucky did at least--but then it was the opportunity for us to rebuild our relationship on new, healthier, more stable grounds. We're still in the process of doing that by the way, it's just that... It's a lot, the whole thing. We used to have our little habits, life at the dorms, no responsibilities, parties and fucking guys and having fun... Now moving in together, Bucky who's got a job, working overtime and paid like shit. Me still trying to get by, wondering what to do... It's a lot to handle. Being adults suck! The whole transition has been hard on us, I guess. We've lost our bearings, and I think we need time to adjust, you know. Take some time to redefine our relationship. Maybe, rediscuss the terms, talk away the things we're not comfortable with anymore. I don't know. I'm not giving up on him though. I..." Clint stopped and his expression softened. He looked away. "He's err... He's the one." He whispered fondly. "I know it's stupid to talk like this at twenty-three, I don't even believe in it but, I really feel like he's the one for me."

Steve felt his heart melting. He had never seen Clint expressing his emotions like that. He had always thought of him as a shallow and laid back guy, but he actually loved Bucky so deeply and so sincerely that he almost felt jealous. He craved for that.

"It's not-- stupid, if this is how you feel. Nobody knows what the future's planned for us. Maybe it ends tomorrow, but if this is what you truly feel today, then it is worth fighting for."

"I'm not giving up." Clint said determinedly and then he stared into Steve's eyes. "None of it is your fault though, if anything I think you helped us." He repeated as convincingly as he could. "You know, I've been thinking about it a lot. And it occurred to me that... it bothered me. When I met Buck, I didn't question it. If I wanted to be with him, I needed to take you along, the whole package, and I think I just-- accommodated. I accepted it without ever questioning it and I buried my feelings deep down. I've always agreed to the open relationship but we had rules, boundaries and Buck, he transgressed them all with you. It was always more with you and we all ended up stuck in that fucked-up threesome that none of us really wanted in the end. I've been wondering, you know, if fucking Tony wasn't just unconscious payback. I just... I'm sorry you know. I should have never accepted to settle for that. I should have put an end to it earlier and avoid us this fucking mess."

Steve felt like he didn't care anymore about all of it. No grudge, no resentment, no sadness. A new page had been turned. But he wasn't gonna let Clint take the whole responsibility for it.

"We all should have ended it sooner. What's done is done. I'm really not mad at you, not anymore."

Clint gave him a soft understanding smile. "He loves you, you know, I guess it was... I think it was... his own fucked-up way to keep you around, or something.

"Maybe." Steve answered, pensive. "Is that why you came here? For him?

"No. I'm here because I wanted to talk about it with you, to take it off my chest and... I know it may seem weird for you, but I actually came because I want us to be friends again. I can't believe it's been almost five months and we haven't talked to each other. You were my friend too, and I miss you. We used to hang out all the time and I think it sucks that it ended over something stupid like that. I figured, one of us should make the first step, right? I mean... I should have tried to talk to you earlier. I feel lousy that I waited until you actually quit to come and talk to you but..."

Steve felt his heart warming. He thought he had lost his friends, but actually he had made one. He chuckled warmly. "I can't say that I've been helping."

Clint laughed too. "It's alright, I get it." He said understandingly. "It's been weird five months."

"Definitely." Steve agreed.

"I still wish you'd hang out with us again. I guess you've got new friends and everything but... It's been moody since you left and I know you kept in touch with the others but, it's not the same anymore." He sipped his latte pensively. "I guess I just want things to go back to the way they were--well obviously not on every aspect-- but, I don't know...  Maybe I'm just delusional, and this is just pathetic me unable to let go of our student lives..."

Steve put a comforting hand on Clint's arm. "You're not pathetic. You're right. I've been thinking about it too and I completely understand why you'd want to hold on to your friends. For people like us, friends are the only family we have. They're important. I missed you too, you know."

Clint smiled softly and Steve realized they were actually really close, he could almost feel Clint's breath on him.

Clint's smile turned mischievous. He ran his tongue on his upper teeth erotically and leant a bit closer. "I think you friend has been staring..." Steve shifted his head a little and saw Wanda gazing excitedly at them, giggling with Pietro. "Wanna mess with her a little?" Clint asked voice husky and sensual.

Steve chuckled, breath almost touching Clint's lips. "yeah..." He said with the same amount of sensuality, eyes dazed, gazing at Clint's mouth. They both leant forward until they lips touched and kissed tenderly. It felt great. Not sexual, more like affectionate and friendly, but it was soft and enough to get Steve in the mood. That was pathetic, he really needed to get laid.

Clint ended it quite quickly, grinning against Steve's lips. He moved back, smiling mischievously, a bit proud of his little stunt, and he licked his lips, looking into Steve's eyes. "I should probably go."

Steve looked at the time, and yeah, he should definitely go, Steve was already late on his shift. Good thing that Sam was pretty cool about it. Not that it was something Steve did on a regular basis but Sam was pretty flexible, they were too and it worked. Give and take. "You probably should."

"How much do I owe you?" Clint asked, looking in his pockets.

Steve stopped him with a hand on his arm. "It's on the house." 

Clint looked at him doubtfully. "You sure your boss agrees with that?"

"Don't worry about it." Steve said reassuringly. "Sam's pretty cool."

"Okay." Clint nodded. "Thanks." He put on his beanie, his fingerless gloves and his coat but didn't make a move.

"I'll walk you out." Steve suggested, not willing to extend it any further. Once outside, they both looked at each other feeling a bit awkward. Steve was a bit cold but he ignored it.

"Thanks for the lunch." Clint said, smiling embarrassedly. "It was really good. Give my compliments to Carol." 

"I will."

"I'm really glad we had that talk." Clint muttered shortly after, smile fading and expression honest. 

"Me too." Steve answered sincerely.

Clint held him a hand. "Friends?"

Steve agreed and accepted the handshake. "Friends!"  Clint shook his hands firmly and smiled happily.

"You know there's this new club in town that I've been wanting to check out. Wanna hang out tonight?"

Steve thought about it. "Who's gonna be there?"

"Just me, and this guy who's been crashing at Thor. He's gay too, or bi, whatever... we've been hanging out."

"Yeah." Steve agreed and it was really sincere.

 

Steve went dinner-shopping with Wanda before joining the guys at a bar. He needed to upscale his look a little, now that he was on the market again, and he had no clue as to how to do that. 

Wanda took care of that and he showed up with slim dark blue chino pants and white dress sneakers, a loose dark T, tucked up in his pants and a dark blazer.

Steve had never worn something even remotely looking like a suit other than to funerals or job interviews. He had always thought it was a piece of clothing made for tall broad guys only. Maybe that was because he had never found the right size, or the right cut. He was feeling pretty good about his look. He didn't look like a teen for once.

He spotted Clint at the bar, talking with a tall dark-haired guy with a mischievous expression on his face. Clint waved at him and the other guy looked at him haughtily, checking him out from top to bottom, or bottom to top, to be more accurate.

He was thin and leaning lasciviously against the bar, facing him. There was a seeping pint next to him, almost touching his forearm resting on the counter. He was wearing tight-fitting black jeans, chelsea boots and a dark green close-fitting shirt with rolled-up sleeves that was highlighting his thin silhouette. His shirt was slightly open at the collar, with a silver pendant hanging from his long neck. Steve was a bit dazzled for a moment, the guy wasn't really handsome but he had some kind of dark erotic aura around him. 

Clint was his usual self: laid-back, grubby look. Motorbike-style boots and brownish leather pants, a sleeveless denim shirt tucked in and some kind of jacket knotted around his waist. He was leaning against the bar too, lazily sitting on a tool and turned on his side. His elbow was on the counter, beer in hand and he gestured at Steve to join them.

Steve walked confidently to the bar. He liked his new clothes. 

"You look good." Clint teased with a hand on his shoulder.

The other guy smiled maliciously but didn't make a move. Up close Steve could see he had beautiful blue eyes with a glint of darkness in them. "Hi!" He said while raising his right hand without moving his arms which were still resting on the counter. "I'm Loki." 

Clint stepped down of his tool and held his hand in Steve's direction. "This is Steve." He said, talking to Loki.

The dark-aired man finally stood up and got closer. He leant forward, put a hand on Steve's shoulder and kissed him on both cheeks, lips really close to his mouth. Then he whispered next to his ear. "Nice to meet you, Steve." He had a strong accent and that was... very sexy, Steve thought.

Steve was so stunned at the kissing that he didn't move an inch. He looked at the guy, puzzled. Loki was leaning back on the counter again and smiled mockingly.

"You've got an accent." Steve observed. "Where are you from?"

"I'm French." Loki answered, the same mocking smile on his lips. Steve awed, not without feeling a little romantic right now. Oh, hence the kissing. 

Loki's smile was constant, tongue playful in his mouth, and Steve felt like he was laughing at his expense the whole time. It felt disconcerting.

Clint chuckled. "He's totally messing with you, he's from Norway."

Loki turned to him and tsked annoyedly. "You ruined my best move."

"Come on," Clint teased. "That move's so cheesy."

"Works every time." Loki said proudly. "It's Europe all the same."

"Ass." Steve said to Loki, who chuckled as a reply. "What are we doing here anyway?" He asked, talking to Clint. "I thought you wanted to check out that new club?"

"Just warming up a bit, wanna a beer?"

"Yeah."

"Let's find a table."

Loki was actually fun. He was also very seductive and a bit of a drama queen. A little like Tony. A little too much like Tony, actually, but it felt great to be with his crowd again. The guys from the coffee shop were cool, but he hadn't known them for long, and they weren't his crowd. They couldn't really relate, or truly understand him. Steve wasn't trying to put people in cases and be communitarian but it was nice to hang with gay people from time to time. Wanda was fun, but she was just a kid with an overly enthusiasm for gay men. Carol was in a long-term committed relationship with her girlfriend and their kid. Sam was a great friend but he was also his boss, and almost twice his age, and he had never truly formed a bond with Pietro who was pretty shy.

Rekindling his friendship with Clint felt good, talking about sex with people who actually knew about it was great, chilling out around handsome men was great. Steve was glad he had decided to go out tonight. Plus, he was really in the mood to get laid.

Loki was a bit mysterious and Steve was an inquisitive kind of guy. "So, what it is it that you do?" 

"I'm on extended vacation." Loki had answered cheerfully. 

"And you're staying at Thor?"

"For the time being, yeah. That huge dork is adorable. Shame he's straight."

Steve and Clint both nodded in agreement.

"Seriously, have you, guys, never dreamt he would fuck you brainless into the couch?"

Steve and Clint looked at each other, mouths on their beers, and then at Loki again. They both nodded. "Yeah."

"So, how do you know Thor?" Steve asked.

"He's my brother."

Steve almost choked on his beer. "Really?" They looked nothing alike.

Loki had this mischievous glint in his eyes again. "Yeah, we're all relatives in Norway." He moved his hands closer to each other. "Small country."

Steve chuckled and Clint threw his head backward, laughing.

"The brother thing is kinda true." Loki said. "We were neighbors. My mother died when I was fifteen, my father was often traveling for work. His parents looked after me all the time. Thor was, like, eleven or something. I was like an older brother to him. He's grown big, right?

There was a moment of understanding and empathic silence. Both Steve and Clint understood what is was like to lose a parent. Clint was a foster kid. He never knew his mother.

"So you're twenty seven?" Steve asked, feeling great that he wasn't the oldest one in the room for once.

"Yep."

"I always wanted to have a brother." Clint whined regretfully.

"Me too." Steve said, although he kinda had one. Bucky was like a brother to him, in a fucked-up way.

"Well, I have a brother. A real one. He's four years older than me and he's an annoying bigoted pain in the ass. Straight. Married. Three kids. Never really accepted me. Always bothering me like..." He mimicked an annoying voice, with an exaggerated pout. "When are you going to look for a proper job? It'd be great if you could find someone stable. Don't you think you should settle down at your age... God, let me have some fun!" Loki sighed angrily, movements overly dramatic.

"Loki here is a bit of a trouble maker. " Clint explained, pointing at him.

"No, but I won't let breeders rule my life!"

"Say that to Thor." Clint teased.

"Thor is a sweetie." Loki said in a fond, protective tone.

After a couple of beers, Steve was just the right level of tipsy and felt great. He started having a heated discussion with Loki who was sitting really close to him. Loki was an interesting guy. He had travelled around a lot, been to many exciting places, met plenty of fascinating people.

Clint interrupted them. "Wanna move the party to some place more lively?"

Steve and Loki both nodded enthusiastically. Steve wasn't usually the clubbing type but he really was in the mood tonight. It would be great for a change.

The way to the club was animated in a fun drunken way and when they arrived at the club is was already packed. They almost got rejected but managed to get in thanks to Loki's foreign charm. 

Inside, the atmosphere was smokey and hot. The lights were subdued and reddish and the music really loud. Steve felt already too hot and clammy and soon dropped the coat and blazer in the cloakroom. Keeping extra-short-sleeve t-shirt loosely hanging on his shoulders, showing off his scrawny but no less muscular arms.

They found a table in a quiet corner of the upper lounge area. From there they could see the whole venue but keep some kind of privacy. Steve sat down and gazed around without really looking. The smokey ambiance, the loud music, the half naked bodies sweating against each other, the gogo dancers shaking their asses under the spotlights, it was too much for him. He needed some time to adjust.

"Shit man. Crap, I'm sorry. I don't think this was good idea. Let's go somewhere else." He heard Clint say behind him.

He turned back his head jerkily and looked at Clint. "No, it's fine. We just got here."

Clint was staring down at the dance floor and nodded, seemingly showing Steve something. "You sure?"

There seem to be someone who attracted more attention than the almost naked logo dancers. Steve looked properly. It was a kid. He looked like a high-schooler, wearing skinny black jeans, a torn rock-band t-shirt and a colorful spiderman hoody jacket with the sleeve rolled up to his elbows. It could have been funny, spider metaphor and all, but it was everything but funny. How did he even get in, looking like that?

The guy, that Steve had recognized instantly, was dancing slowly, drunkenly shaking his hips out of rhythm but still very sensually, arms raised up lazily and moving in a very erotic way, giving open access to every part of his slender perfectly-shaped body. 

He looked wasted. Eyes half-closed, lost, almost hidden by his damp dark bangs, unstyled and falling on his forehead, lips lasciviously parted. Barely twenty years old and looking like fifteen the way he was dressed. 

Steve stared in shock for a moment before bile rose up to the back of his throat. He felt sickened. There were three lecherous men, much older, lusting around him, groping him, sliding their pervy hands under his shirt, down the curve of his ass, on his slender hips. There were five of them now, turning his face to catch him in a dirty kiss, slipping their thumb in his mouth. He didn't kiss back, didn't lick on the fingers, just kept undulating lazily as if nothing was happening to him.

He wasn't even responsive, he just let it happen, numb and apathetic. He let those guys touch him, undressing him, groping every part of his body as if it was public property. He still moved seductively, alluring, keeping the attention on him but he was unresponsive, absent. One of the guys grabbed his hands and held them while drawing the boy's back to him. Another one, fat, bold and sweaty, started kissing his neck and slept a hand down his jeans, fiddling with the buttons to open them. The boy's hands were eventually forced down on their crotches. 

It was nauseating.

"We don't have to stay." Clint said. 

"No." Steve snapped, eyes fixed on the boy. He swallowed his bile and braced up. "No... I'm not gonna let him ruin my night out. Fuck him!"

Loki got curious too and approached the edge staring down, looking for the reason for all that fuss. "Ooh," he cooed amusedly, "someone looks like they're gonna get lucky tonight, they're gonna take good care of him. Who's that guy? Are they letting teens into night clubs in America? "

"My ex." Steve said blankly, still staring at the boy. He had attempted to push one of the guys but put no will into it. He didn't really try. He just let them do what they wanted with him and kept alluring them.

"I didn't take you for the kind of guys who would hunt in kindergartens." Loki deadpanned.

It wasn't even funny, but Steve guffawed anyway and Clint snorted. "I'm gonna need a drink." Steve said while turning around and sprawling on the sofas. 

"I'm on it." Clint said enthusiastically and ran down the stairs to the bar.

Steve glanced at the boy one last time. He had dumped the old geezers and was making out with a thirty something, lean, shirtless guy who was humping him. Another guy was trying to slip his hand down his pants. He let him.

"Why does he let everyone touch him?" Steve let out, feeling disgusted. He didn't mean to, it just flowed out without him knowing. He realized he had said it out loud when Loki spoke.

"Some guys are into that." He answered in a jaded, indifferent tone. "They like being used. There's nothing wrong with that when everyone's willing."

"They're twice his age. He doesn't even look like he wants it or enjoys himself. He just... lets them." 

"Well, some guys are into that too. I knew a guy who got his kink out of being forced by random guys. Went to parties and got barebacked for hours, then he went home satisfied and kissed his husband good night. He was a pretty decent guy in his day life."

"That's appalling." Steve deadpanned, internally shocked. Loki smiled, proudly subversive. "Tony's not like that. He doesn't even get fucked." 

"Well... Maybe you don't know him as well as you think you do." 

Loki didn't mean no harm, he didn't really know Steve, neither Tony, but the sentence had touched a sensitive subject in Steve. Something he refused to admit. Something he had ignored all the while they had been fucking. He knew nothing about Tony. He thought he had figured him out and understood him better than anyone but he had been wrong all along, and hearing it now, so bluntly and matter-of-factly, felt like reopening an old wound Steve thought had healed. He felt raw. 

"God. Let's talk about something else, please." He sighed, forcing himself to forget about the boy.

Clint soon came back conveniently with three glasses, shouting energetically. "Vodka tonics."

Loki was in the process of talking about his previous experiences. "I dated a high-schooler once. Seventeen. Lasted a month. He was an annoying virgin brat, I couldn't take it any longer. I really don't get those guys who would go for teens. They're boring."

"Tony's not boring and he's no virgin" Steve said, defending his ex-lover at all costs. He pouted. "And he's twenty by the way, hasn't been in high school for a while..." 

Loki laughed. "Well, sounds like the perfect guy." He snarked. "I thought we weren't talking about him."

"We're not." Steve whined. "We're not talking about him. The Tony topic is officially over!"  

Clint sat down and raised his glass. "I say, no talking about our exes tonight. Let's enjoy single life."

Loki turned to him and smiled, he raised his glass in support. "Amen."

Steve agreed. "No talk about exes." He raised his glass as well and drank it in one go, under the shocked staring of Clint and the amused smile of Loki. He rose abruptly, feeling dizzy. "Let's go dance!"

Clint almost choked on his vodka but seemed really pleased. Buck and him had always tried to drag Steve to the dance floor and never much succeeded. Both Loki and Clint finished their first drink quickly and the three of them went to dance.

Steve quickly remembered why he hated that kind of place. He was short.  

Being short in a crowded, hot and sweaty place was a pain. Thankfully, Clint and Loki were both tall--Loki even taller--and commonly decided to make space for him acting like two bodyguards. Loki was a good dancer, sensual. He took to teach Steve, taking his hands, turning him around, in a style of dancing that didn't suit the music at all but Steve didn't care. They had fun and for the first time, he thought, he was enjoying himself without being self-conscious. He knew he was clumsy and stiff but he didn't care, he just moved to the music, listening to the loud thump resonating in his heart, forgetting about everything else. Maybe for the first time, he thought about enjoying himself without trying to seduce and didn't mind others. He just let everything go.

Once or twice, with the movement of the crowd, he stumbled and fell into Loki's arms. Loki was very tall, but thin and had something seductive about him. If Steve hadn't mind that much, nobody needed to know. It felt good to be pressed against another warm body. Even if it wasn't going anywhere else. 

Clint flirted around, as usual, and got pretty handsy with another guy, same built, so Steve stayed with Loki until the music slowed down and they fell into each other's arms in a slow, tenderly hugging dance. Steve didn't think about Tony's birthday when they had danced in his apartment. Loki was no Tony anyway. He was taller, thiner, a little bit more delicate. Tony's hold was strong and solid, unbreakable.

The dance wasn't any less good nonetheless and Steve lost himself in it, to the point he didn't notice Clint had left the guy he had been flirting with and was surprised when he came back with three new drinks. The hard thumping music was back on again and Steve and Loki had let go of each other, dancing a little less energetically than before.

"Here you go, guys." Clint said with a mocking smile and handed them their drinks.

Steve thanked him and leant against him, feeling sensual with the buzz of the alcohol as well as his dance. "It's not fair," he slurred. "You've been paying for our drinks three times already. It's my turn."

"Nah, it's fine. I got a large tip last night. Besides, you looked busy." He answered, tone full of innuendos.

Steve looked at Loki, who was still dancing, lost in his thoughts. He thought about what Clint was insinuating. "Nah. We're not... It's not--"

"Whatever man, do what you wanna do. You're allowed to chill out and have fun." 

The three of them took a break from the dance floor and sipped their drink a little more quietly. They met other guys and chitchatted a little bit until Steve needed to pee and left them.

The toilets were unexpectedly clean at that time of the night. A few guys were pissing and/or checking each other out in the urinals. Two guys were making out at the end. Or rather, one guy, fifty-ish, gray hair and leather outfit was pushing a younger one against the wall, forcefully kissing his neck, trying to pin his hands on the wall behind them.

"Come on Greg, let me fuck your ass." Steve heard him mutter in the young man's neck.

The younger guy pushed him away, without much conviction in the gestures but the tone, however, was harsh and irrefutable. "Go down on your knees and suck me off. If you're good I'll wreck you and split you open."

At the first words, Steve shuddered and felt his heart drop. He would recognize that tone anywhere and now he could see him. Expression hard and domineering. He recognized the slim jeans, the rock-band t-shirt, the boots. The jacket had disappeared however.

Steve turned around and left.

He quickly slithered his way through the crowd and found his friends.

"That was fast." Clint noticed.

"I'm gonna get some fresh air." He answered and left without waiting for Clint or Loki's reaction.

Greg? Seriously? Were these guys that ripped they didn't know who he was? 

Never fucking mind if he got a ticket but there was no way he was peeing in those toilets.

Luckily, he wasn't arrested and Clint had joined him outside.  "You okay?" He asked, as Steve was breathing in fresh air, eyes closed. He kind of hated not being able to wash his hands afterwards but he would have to bear with it.

"Yeah." Steve answered, chilling a bit. It was fucking December and he was only wearing a t-shirt.

"Wanna bugger off?"

"He's using a fucking fake name." Steve said, ignoring the question, still digesting. 

"Oh." Clint exclaimed understandingly, tone low and unsurprised. "Stark. Again..." It wasn't even a question. 

"How do they not recognize him?" Steve asked, his back still turned to Clint, staring at the street in front of him. He was freezing, he felt the cold piercing his skin.

"Maybe he knows how to keep a low profile. He's a public figure after all, it's not really that surprising. He's go enough bad publicity as it is... Maybe we recognize him because we know him, but his face is actually not that famous, not as famous as his antics anyway."

It wasn't that absurd, thinking about it. The first time Steve had met Tony, he hadn't recognized him either. He knew it was him because he was having lunch with his father. It was just a guess. People recognized him where they expected to see him. Everybody expected to see Tony in trendy clubs drinking champagne and doing coke with models. Female models. No-one expected to see him on his knees sucking off old geezers in the toilets of a sordid gay club.

Steve reflected upon it, hands in his pocket, trying to get them warm and he finally took a deep breath.  "Let's get inside. I'm freezing."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure." He said determinedly. "I'm not gonna let Tony Fucking Stark cock-blocking me. I'm getting laid tonight." 

Clint burst out laughing and put a warm hand on his shoulder. 

The thermal shock made him feel dizzy but it was good to be back inside, in the moist heat of the club. Clint pulled Steve in the middle of the dance floor and he followed without any protest. He had decided he didn't care tonight. They danced zealously, having fun. A few guys tried to dance with him a little and he didn't push them away as hard as he would usually have. 

At some point, he spotted Loki who was flirting with some guy. Their eyes met and he smiled to him. A few minutes later he had joined them on the dance floor. "I got us a little something for tonight." He said proudly, body pressed against Steve and face really close. He held his closed hand up between the three of them and opened it. There were three pills inside. He and Clint shared an excited smile. "Ecstasy!" Clint mouthed enthusiastically. Loki took a pill between his fingers and put it in Clint's slightly open mouth, then he nodded to Steve. Steve looked at the two pills in his hands, hesitant.

He felt Clint's hand on his shoulder and heard the reassuring tone of his voice. "You don't have to do it."

Steve hesitated. He'd taken ecstasy once, with Tony, and he had had the fuck of his life then. As much as he didn't like drugs, it was tempting. You only live once for fuck sake. He looked up at Clint and then Loki, who smiling at him reassuringly and was in no way trying to force his hand. "I'll be with you." He whispered.

Steve took the pill and swallowed it. 

He felt warm and good and handsome and sensual, and maybe a bit promiscuous too. Ecstasy made him a good dancer, and wanton, and he had already been propositioned a few times. Loki and Clint were still acting protective with him, which was both comforting and annoying. 

Fortunately at some point--or unfortunately--Clint found some guy to make out with and laid off of him a little bit. One very persistent guy took the opportunity to make a move and irritatingly kept coming on to him until Loki needed to rescue him, by wrapping an arm around his waist and bringing him close. He kissed him softly on the corner of his mouth until the guy pissed off. 

Loki's body was firm and his shirt damp under Steve's touch. He smelt man, sweat and booze and sex, the good combination kind, and Steve felt warmth spread in his body. He was getting hard. 

Right, it was just a peck on the lips and he was hard, but fuck, he was high and drunk, sexually frustrated and obviously emotionally lost. He was entitled to that. Give him a break. 

Loki might have felt it and he ground his hips against Steve, keeping contact without taking things any further however. It was a bit much for Steve who had difficulties to handle the high kick and euphoria the drugs made him feel. When Loki left him for the restroom, he went back up to the lounge area. He was surprised to find Clint there, quietly observing the dance floor.

Clint gave him a shy smile. "You okay?"

"Yeah. I just need a break." Steve answered and slumped on the sofa next to him. He rolled on his back and rested his head on Clint's lap. The latter ran a hand in his hair affectionately. Comforting. Understanding. He had never felt so close to Clint before. It felt like they understood each other, like they were connected.

Clint's hands ran their course down to his chest, fiddling with his T-shirt. The gesture was friendly but not less rousing. His skin prickled, he felt hot and good and horny.

"God, I need to fuck." He declared, while bringing his hands to his face. He rubbed his eyes and looked up at Clint who was chuckling. "Where is your guy?"

Clint answered indifferently. "Don't know. Gone, probably. I wasn't much into it."

"Well, that's new." Steve said while looking at his hands, trying to see how the light shone through their shadow. The lights were beautiful, he had noticed. He felt like giggling stupidly. He felt light-headed and so fucking good.

"You? I've noticed quite a lot of guys who've picked an interest in your little rounded ass. Didn't know you could be so slutty." Clint teased.

"Yeah. All tops. They still think I'm eighteen or something." Steve whined. "I'm fed up."

"What's wrong with a good fuck with a good top?"

"Nothing's wrong. I'm just fed up. I keep running into them. For some unknown reason, all the guys that are interested in me are tops."

"That's because you're screaming bottom."

"I'm not. I'm verse." Steve whined, almost shouting, and he straightened up to sulk.

Loki joined them at that moment. "Fuck!" He exclaimed laughing mockingly. "I went for a piss and heard those two guys having fun. Man! Someone was getting their ass sweetly loved. The fuck of his life!" He exclaimed a bit envious. "I definitely wanna meet that Greg person." He whimpered, then asked. "What you guys doin'?"

The name Greg rang a bell but Steve had forgotten where he'd heard that from. He just felt like giggling stupidly again.

"Steve was refusing to admit he's a bottom." Clint joked.

"Don't like your ass being fucked?"

"I do!" Steve cried. "It's just that I can't seem to find anyone willing to bottom for me. I just want to be on top too, sometimes, what's so fucking wrong with that?"

"That's because you're a sub bottom and you're only attracted to dominant tops." Clint said, keeping the joke alive.

"Wrong!" He protested. 

"Well, let's see...First Bucky, then Johann, Tony... Want me to write down the list of all your exes?"

Steve crossed his arms in a sulk.

"Let's do a test. Show us the guys you find attractive."

The three of them snuggled in the sofa, gossiping with another drink in their hands. Steve sat in the middle, Clint was on his left, Loki on his right. 

"I like that guy." Steve said sipping his vodka tonic. He was pointing at a brownish-haired guy, simple outfit, dark expression, rather tall but not too much either. Average body.

"Top!" Clint and Loki exclaimed in unison. Steve felt a pang of disappointment. He hated that they were right. 

"What about this one, then?" He showed them a thin youngish blond with a pretty face and expressive eyes, wearing a tight t-shirt.

"Top!" Clint said and Loki agreed, "Definitely top!" he added.

"And this one?" Steve tried, feeling a little less confident than before.

"Verse top." Clint deadpanned in a sigh. "He'll bottom for the macho dominant type, he'll never settle for you." He looked at Steve sideways with a mocking smile.

"Fuck you! I can be dominant too. You don't know me!!!" Steve spat angrily. "And I've got a pretty decent cock too, by the way, ask your boyfriend!"

Clint chuckled, a little startled by his tantrum. Steve regretted it immediately. That was mean and insensitive and he felt guilty, until he felt Loki's warm hand stroking his thigh, rubbing up and down, closer and closer to his crotch.

"Alright," Clint said after a short moment of silence. "So what do you thing of this guy? Definitely a bottom." 

"Too muscular!" Steve exclaimed. "I like normal guys."

"Ahem," Clint disagreed, "Err...  Tony?" 

"Tony's different. How can you not like him? It's more than just his perfect body, he's super hot!"

Clint guffawed. "Okay. Sure. Whatever."

"Wow, I'm curious. Can I get his number?" Loki asked, being provocative on purpose.

"I don't have it and Steve burned his number with a voodoo doll along with old forgotten briefs and his spare toothbrush." Clint joked.

"Ah ah." Steve grumbled. "Very funny."

"Watch out, Captain! You turning boring again! What about this one?"

Steve ignored the comment but jerked his head in the direction Clint was pointing.  "Too feminine." If he wanted feminine, he'd be with a girl.

"This one?"

"Too... hairy." Steve exclaimed, a little disgusted.

"Now, you're being difficult." Clint noted with a scolding tone.

"Look at this one, probably verse too, he's perfect for you!" Clint was pointing at a cute dark-haired skinny guy with glasses and a cute face.

"He's too small!" Steve protested.

"Really?" Clint exclaimed disbelievingly. "You're small! What's wrong with you?"

"I like tall guys, what can I say?"

"You know what, Cap? You're exasperating! I'm done helping you. You're a hopeless case!" Clint griped. 

He heard Loki laugh softly against his shoulder. He was snuggling up against him and his hands was still on his pants, running along his thigh and up to his flank, then his arm, fingers softly brushing his naked skin. And for some reason, Steve let him, indulged in it, and enjoyed the warmth spreading in his body, electrifying. 

Loki's face was now really close, his breath tickling the skin of his neck, his lips brushing their way up to his ear. "I wouldn't mind bottoming for you." He whispered in his ears. Softly, erotically. While his hand slid down his chest to reach between his leg. Desire shot and spread in his entire body to the very tip of his cock. He was instantly hard. He gasped and turned to him. Loki was smiling, mischievous, blue eyes shining in the dark reddish light. His smile was kinky and his eyes playful but he seemed serious. Steve stared at him, expressionless for moment, millions of thoughts in his head. 

Loki and him had more or less flirted all night long, but it had never really felt real. Until now. The offer was so fucking tempting. Loki was really attractive and it had been almost two years since he had fucked a guy all the way. He returned the smile and bit his lips. Cock hard in his pants. Loki had noticed. He was hard too. 

Steve sat back when he realized he had turned his back on Clint who was still sitting next to him and took a swig of his drink. The three of them finished their glasses in friendly silence, still high on drugs. Steve's body was burning next to Loki. He liked that moment, when both of them knew what was gonna happen but let it stretch, waiting patiently.

"I think I'm gonna go." Clint announced later on.

"What? It's still early." Steve protested. "You haven't even found someone yet."

"Yeah, I know." Clint sighed. "I'm not really in the mood. It's not that fun without him." He whispered, eyes lowered and shy. Then he stood up awkwardly and Steve felt a surge of affection for his friend. He had never seen Clint so down before. He had always been the positive one. He felt his heart squeeze a little bit and yanked a hand to him, grabbing his wrist. "Wait for me. I'm gonna go with you." He said, feeling protective. 

"Nah, it's fine. I'm just gonna go back to Nat's, we'll have some ice cream in front of the TV or something."

"You sure? I don't want to let you leave on your own. You're still high."

"You're high too. I'll take a cab, or ask Nat to pick me up. I'll be fine. Stay! Have fun! It's your night out, Cap! You took fucking ecstasy! Buck will kill me when he knows. Enjoy, okay!?"

Steve looked at him, gauging, and smiled. "It's not my first time." He said. "I used before, with Tony." Loki was silent next to him, one arm around him, the other holding his drink, his fingers running down Steve's shoulder. He was listening to them, staring at them alternatively.

"Stark again, uh?" Clint said, hands on his hips. "Forget about him. He'll break your heart. Again."

Steve slipped in his hand between Loki's legs and rubbed up and down his thigh. "I'm not thinking about him. And I know exactly what to do to forget him." He replied with a smile.

Clint chuckled. "Sure." He agreed, unconvinced. "Look, Steve, this whole talk we had, it's all bullshit, alright. Top, bottom, verse... Those are just boxes we put ourselves into. It's not that easy, happily so. You are what you are, you want what you want. Don't let people label you. There's plenty of guys who'd be happy, and lucky, to enjoy or discover anal sex with you. Just saying... "

Loki and Steve shared a knowing smile and waved Clint good night.

As soon as Clint was gone, Steve and Loki got drawn to each other like magnets. Until then, they had been timid in their approach. Now it was urgent, uninhibited. Drugs made Steve confident and good about himself. And fucking horny too.

Loki tightened his hold around Steve until his face fell onto his shoulder. Steve lifted his head and looked at Loki in the eyes. The glint in them was not longer amused, there was lust and an urgency that made Steve feel warm all over. He felt drawn, attracted by every part of him and needed more contact.

Loki's mouth was soft and playful, his kisses firm. He brought his two hands on each sides of Steve's face and held him close. Their kiss was aggressive, on both sides. Soon Steve held Loki's head too and pushed against him until he fell down on the sofa. Steve needed and he took. He ran his fingers through his longish dark hair. His hands explored and touched, feelings the shape of his arms, of his chest, the skin of his neck. 

Steve quickly ended up on top of Loki who was lying on the sofa, one leg bent against the cushions, the other onto the floor. His long thin legs were spread enough for Steve's body to lie down on him. Loki had really long legs, but lying down, Steve didn't feel the size difference that much, what he felt was Loki's hard-on pressed against his own. Hot. Burning. Eager.

Steve could be dominant in bed. In this position, Loki was at his mercy and he took advantage of that. He gripped his head with both hands and kissed him hard, vigorously, urgently. Loki moaned against his mouth, his hands slid down and grabbed his hips firmly, thumbs trailing a path around the curve of his firm, rounded ass. Steve ground against the tall man, pressing his buried cock against his body.

"I can't wait till we get home." Steve whispered in Loki's mouth. Loki groaned. "Me neither." 

"Got a condom?"

"No. You?"

Steve shook his head and slumped over the dark-haired man, feeling like the world was against him. Loki kissed him again. It was less urgent, more tender. He smiled against Steve's lips.

"They've got a vending machine in the restroom."

They rose up to their feet, adjusted their clothes, Steve moved his hurting hard cock in his jeans, until it felt bearable to walk, and walked down the stairs to the restroom.

There was indeed a vending machine and they took a pack. Because, yeah, why not?

In the light of the room, they both looked at each other, smiling stupidly. Now that they were standing, Steve could see how much Loki was tall. He didn't care. He liked tall guys and Loki pushed him against the wall to steal a kiss, and another, and they were grinding against each other again, lustful and eager. 

The thing was, with their size difference, there was no way Steve would be able to fuck Loki in the ass without a bed. He was still thinking about all the positions they could try. He might bend him over the toilet bowl, that could be a possibility. Although, he wasn't really sure this was what he truly wanted. He wanted to fuck yeah, but not over the toilet bowl. They were probably gonna have to wait. There was some ruffling and moaning at the end of the room but Steve didn't pay attention to it. It was quite common in gay night clubs. He wrapped his arms around Loki and kissed him breathless, shoving his tongue into his mouth. He didn't see the first guy walking off the last stall, nor the second one. He did hear the third one, however.

"I'm done with him. You guys can use his slutty mouth too."

Steve didn't immediately pay attention to the words, but it bothered him after a moment, when he realized what they meant. He glanced towards the last stall in between Loki's kisses and saw motionless boots lying on the floor. He didn't even recognize the boots at first. It's the position that got him worried. He felt he needed to check on that guy. 

"Loki wait." He whispered, pushing the tall man slightly away from him. Loki looked at him questioningly. "I need to check on that guy. See if he's alright."

Steve walked over to the last stall and opened the door. 

There was a guy barely conscious, sprawled on the floor, between the wall and toilet bowl, head on the trashcan. He wasn't moving. His eyes were closed, his face was covered in cum. It was Tony. 

After feeling so amazingly high tonight, he painfully dropped.

"Loki?" He called loudly, not realizing Loki was actually just behind him, staring blankly, making absolutely no comment whatsoever, which was great under the circumstances. "I can't." He whispered in a sigh, his heart racing until it hurt in his chest. He felt Loki's face shift next to him and glanced at him. Loki was staring at him questioningly. "I can't do this. I can't leave him here." He justified something that was clearly self-explanatory, trying to hide his internal panic. Loki just nodded understandingly.

He knelt down next to the boy, almost quivering, and took his hand. It was limp, but warm and he could feel his pulse. He bent onto him and slipped a hand behind the nape of his neck, lifting his head a little. "Tony?"

Tony groaned slightly protestingly. At least, he was conscious, he was unable to move however.

"Tony, can you look at me?" 

The boy made another protesting noise that may or may not have meant "no."

Steve tried to sit him down, leaning his shoulder against the wall, holding his head up. It kept falling down, limp and heavy in his hands. Tony grumbled a few times. "Can you wet some paper towels and bring them to me?" He asked, addressing Loki who was still in the room. He hadn't seen that Loki had anticipated and was already holding out some wet paper towels to him. "Thanks."

Steve cleaned his face while Loki distracted a few curious guys who had needed to take a piss and had fallen upon the scene. "Need some help?" He heard one of them ask.

"It's alright. We're handling it." He answered, outstripping Loki. The last thing he needed was for someone to recognize him and take a picture. Then he turned his attention back on Tony again. "Tony." He called, hoping the boy would be able to respond a little more lively than he had until now.

"Don't call me Tony." He mumbled, his eyes still closed, his body still limp, leaning against the wall. "The guy's a loser. I'm Greg."

"I'm not calling you Greg, Tony. Over my dead body."

Loki came back and bent over, hands on his knees. "What are we gonna do with him? Should we take him to the hospital?"

"Bad idea." Steve answered.

"Should we take him home then?"

"I don't even know where he lives." Steve exclaimed, realizing it as he said it.

"Wasn't he your boyfriend or something?"

"It's... " Steve hesitated, then went on. "complicated."

"I see." Loki said in a tone Steve was much too preoccupied to try to decipher. 

Steve patted Tony's pockets to find a wallet, or his phone, something that could help, but couldn't find anything. "Where's you phone Tony?" With his phone he could try to call his girlfriend or Happy or maybe the Air force guy and let them handling him. And then fuck Loki.

Tony mumbled something that sounded like "lost." and his head slid against the wall. Steve caught him just before his head hit the trashcan.

"Do you have a wallet or keys, or... or a cloakroom ticket, anything?"

Another mumbling sound.

"Do you know where you left your jacket?" 

This time Tony didn't say anything. He had passed out again. They rummaged his pockets and only found chewing gums, drugs, condoms and lube packets. At least that was something. He did try to ignore the number of used condoms littered around him, however.

Steve tried to sit him up again and with Loki's help they managed to put him on his feet. He grumbled. Steve pulled one of Tony's arm around him and leant his body against his. "Can you walk?" He asked and didn't get any answer but the boy managed to move his feet a little, led by Steve's energetic pace. He was almost completely limp and very heavy in this position and Steve wasn't sure he would have been able to get him out without Loki's help.

Loki went to the cloak room to get their coats back. He gave Tony's his own because he was only wearing a T-shirt. They had looked for his stuff everywhere but came up empty-handed.

Once on the sidewalk, Loki asked Steve what he intended to do now. "I think I'm gonna take him to my place." He answered. He did think about dropping Tony off in front of the Stark Tower and drive off to fuck Loki brainless for like one second though.

They waved at a cab and loaded an almost unconscious Tony in it and then took a few moments to say good bye.

"I'm so sorry." Steve said, hands clutching at Loki's dark green shirt. Loki had his hands in his pockets, trying to get warmer. "I really wish this could have gone to plan."

"Me too." Loki answered with a smile.

Steve stripped off his coat and gave it to him. "Here, take this." 

"In what world did you think I would ever fit in that." 

"Take it anyway, put it on your shoulders or something. You're freezing."

"I'm fine. I'm from Norway, remember? I can handle the cold."

"You're high!"

"And so are you, and you're gonna need this more than me.

Steve insisted. There was no way he was leaving Loki in that state on a December night. "I'm gonna be in the cab. Take it, I said. So you'll have an excuse to see me again." He gave him a smile, rose on his tiptoes in order to put his coat on Loki's shoulders. It wasn't that small after all, Loki was a thin guy. Then he clutched to his shirt and kissed him.

"Thank you, for tonight." Steve said while flattening his feet.

"You're an interesting guy, Steve. I like you."

Steve smiled, feeling a little proud at the compliment. "See you around." He said, definitely planning to see him again.

Walking Tony to his apartment was a pain even though the elevator had been repaired. Finally. He had to hold him steady on the way up there because he kept falling on the side.

Once inside, Steve tried to undressed him a little--understand, he took off his boots--he had him drink some water and put him in recovery position, out of precaution, a basin next to his face. Then he drank some water himself, took a shower and jerked off, went to bed and fell asleep next to Tony, almost instantly despite being still a little high on drugs.

When he woke up the next morning, it was in a sudden panicked jerk, shaking and gasping, feeling his heart beating fast. It was morning already but still completely dark. At first he didn't see anything but when his eyes got accustomed to the darkness, he understood why he had felt weirdly scared. There someone in his room. They were standing still, their back turned to him, head lowered above his working table, maybe observing his latest work although he didn't know how they could see anything in the dark. It took him a moment to remember who it was who had spent the night with him. His head felt dizzy and was hurting like hell. And all the while, the form hadn't moved an inch. It's the lean silhouette that helped him get his memory back. The form was holding one of his sketches in his hand.

"Tony?" Steve whispered.

"Did you know, it's been exactly a year, day for day, since the first time I came here?" The boy asked, standing still, his back turned to Steve, unmoving and lurking in the shadows.

Steve opened his eyes wide, or tried to anyway. Puzzled.

"It was a Friday. December 7th. And it was freezing in there." He paused, staring at the sketch in his hand. "What am I doing, here?" He finally asked, he didn't even remember.

"You were passed out on the toilet bowl. I didn't know where to take you so I brought you here."

"Been following me, Rogers?" That was such a Tony thing to say, except this time, the tone wasn't playful. It was harsh and reproaching.

"I was in the restroom, making out with a guy. We saw you." Steve justified annoyedly. "Are you still fucking high?" He asked, half-angered, half-concerned. 

Tony finally turned his face and Steve was able to decipher the glow of his eyes in the dark. He sniggered evilly.  "You should have left me there." He snapped, almost shouting, tone reproachful again. "I was probably having a lot of fun." He added provocatively.

"You had lost your jacket, your phone, your wallet... You were barely conscious."

"I'm none of your fucking business, Rogers."  He shouted.

Steve was fucking angry suddenly, despite feeling numb and weak with the hangover.  "I was supposed to fuck that guy but instead I had to wipe the cum out of your face, drag you out of the club and carry you back here, and by the way, that's his coat you're wearing. You know what? I was this close to dump your unconscious ass in front of the Tower, but whatever Tony, have a nice life." He let himself fall back on his bed, party out of exasperation, partly because of his heavy headache.

Tony kept silent for a while and his expression softened. "Thanks." He finally muttered. He took off the coat and headed for the door. "See you around, Rogers." He said, tone calmer, as he walked off the flat and shut the door.

Steve went back to sleep. He was never touching drugs again.

Chapter Text

It took him five days to get over his fucking hangover. He dragged his sorry ass to work and suffered Wanda's giggling. She was still convinced he was banging Clint.

He saw Loki again. They met a few times, they had sex, great sex, but it didn't really work out. Loki wasn't really the relationship kind, too unstable, and he reminded him too much of Tony, which was, now that he was thinking about it, probably what had attracted him in the first place. He needed a change. They ended it before it really started and then Loki went back home for Christmas, with Thor. It had been nice, but that was just it. A nice fling.

He did think a lot about his conversation with Clint however, and about seeing Bucky again. Bucky probably needed support right now. His friends were also Clint's friends, and Steve's friends, and right now, they were rather taking their sides over his. 

It's only five days before Christmas that he finally found the courage to go and see him. He asked Sam for an afternoon off and called Bucky's work to ask for an appointment, as a joke. He wanted to see him in a different way, and he wanted to see him in person. According to Clint, Bucky was spending all the time he wasn't sleeping at home at his new job so it kind of felt like it was his only option.

When he arrived in front of the building where Bucky's office was, he was a bit surprised. He had imagined something a little bit more fancy, what with the amount of time and energy Bucky was putting into his job. Steve had thought he was trying to build himself a career in the firm, but now he was a little doubtful.

The office was on the fifth floor and there was no proper advertising. It was just one floor in a ramshackle building in a Western Midtown Manhattan neighborhood. 

The interior was much more fancy and modern than the exterior might have suggested but it was still unimpressive and plain. A cute tall blond welcomed him and had him sit in the waiting area. She offered coffee and led him to Mr Barnes' office after a while, saying he had an important reunion that had stretched and that he would be here in a minute or so. Steve looked around Bucky's office. His office was quite big actually, for an intern. There were cupboards all around his walls, filled with books and files. Seemed like a lot of boring work and Steve already had a headache thinking about all the sorting Bucky probably had to do. His desk, a long L-shaped office desk was surprisingly big and you could definitely fit three clients opposite him.

The desk was cluttered with files, some of them with the SI logo by the way--not that he had been looking or that he cared--and the computer was on, showing lists of names and numbers. It seemed like a lot of work for an intern, Steve felt a bit guilty now. He hadn't thought Bucky would be given any important task to do, but seeing the state of his office, he feared that it might have been a bad idea to come here and intrude. He thought about leaving, while looking at the few pictures on the walls but stayed anyway.

The whole decoration was stern and bleak, Steve would have redecorated the place as soon as he had walked in if it were him but Bucky had never really cared for that he supposed. He was glad the environment he worked at was cosy and welcoming. It was important, he thought, for the mood. People sometimes don't pay attention to little details, details that can change the whole thing, but maybe it was just him and his artist's eye.

Steve finished his coffee while he heard voices and steps outside and threw the cup into the trash.

"Your appointment is in your office." The cute secretary said.

"Why did you do that, Karen? I've got confidential information in there." He recognized Bucky's voice but the tone, cold and reproaching, was new.

"He didn't seem like the type to snoop around." 

"You don't know that!" He said harshly. 

"I'm sorry, James. I won't do it again."

"What's his name again?" He asked, exasperation in his voice.

The blond girl, Karen, didn't have the time to answer because Bucky had already his hand on the doorknob and was pushing the door open. It already was actually but he hadn't noticed. 

"Mother fucking cunt!" He exclaimed when he came in, happily surprised. "Stevie, you punk! Whatcha doing here?"

Steve turned slowly toward the entrance, smiling happily. It felt good to hear his voice again. "Hi Buck!" He said shyly before he laid his eyes on him.

Bucky was stunning, wearing a blue suit, a white close-fitted shirt with long sleeves that hid his tattoo and dark brownish dress shoes. Last time Steve had seen him in a suit was at his mum's funeral and before that, it was at prom.

He was gorgeous.

Steve didn't have the time to contemplate him however because he was soon wrapped up in a strong embrace. Bucky held him tight and almost lifted him off the floor. He buried his face in the crook of Steve's neck and inhaled him happily. "God, I missed you, punk! What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you."

"You should have called! We'd have met after work. I don't have much time for you, now." Bucky said regretfully.

"I wanted to surprise you." Steve whispered, wrapping his arms around his strong bulk and breathing him in. He smelt a whiff of his cologne, mixed with his natural scent. This was new too and disconcerting.

Bucky put him down and took a good look at him. "You look amazing, Stevie. You look... changed. More confident. Sexier."

Steve chuckled. "Thanks. You're very handsome too." He brought a hand up to his face and brushed his fingers into his hair.  "You cut your hair." He noticed softly, eyes still contemplating the face of his best friend.

"You like it?" Bucky asked enthusiastically.

Steve hesitated a bit. "I liked your longer hair, but it suits you, I guess. It goes well with the suit." He smiled gently. Hands embarrassedly hanging on his hips.. "You're an adult now." He whispered again, as the realization came through. A new page had been turned for Bucky too. "I can't believe you're a lawyer."

Bucky's enthusiasm lessened. He put his hands on his hips too, feeling the awkwardness. "I guess yeah. I'm taking this job really seriously, you know."

"Yeah, I can see that." Steve said with a smile, a bit proud. "I must say that I didn't expect something like that when you told me about this amazing law firm you had applied to."

"What did you expect?"

"I don't know... Bigger. Fancier. More... I don't know. Not this."

Bucky's expression hardened. He seemed to be upset and set about defending his choice at all cost. "Nelson & Murdock is a pretty big name in the lawsuit business. Sure, we don't have the same budget that your boyfriend's lawyers have, that's for sure. We don't have the same clientele. We're... We're a bit like David against Goliath, I guess. We may not make tons of money but our cause is just. We're defending the poor, the reject, the people our society has left behind. We have filed quite a few lawsuit against Stark Industry, by the way. This company is a pile of shit. You can't even imagine what's going on in there. Howard treats his employees like dirt." 

Steve understood perfectly that Bucky was proud of his new job and wanted to defend his cause. What he didn't get was why suddenly he had brought Tony into the picture and felt the need to trash him and his family, even though it probably was true.

"I wasn't critical, you know." Steve said, a bit startled at the flow of words. "I was just surprised that's all. I didn't mean to be offensive." 

Bucky calmed down. "I know, I'm just... impassioned about it, you know. I'm actually trying to help, like we've always wanted to do. This is great, right? I really don't want a repeat of what happened to me. I don't want anybody else going through what I went through."

Bucky wasn't able to get proper treatment for his arm after the accident, because the guy who had run him over was a rich daddy's boy asshole with a bunch of overly paid, zealous lawyers and he got away with it. He would have been able to recover its full capacity otherwise. Steve understood Bucky's anger and motivation perfectly. It made sense.

"I can see that." He said with a proud smile. It felt great to see his friend really enthusiastic about his new job.

Bucky hugged him again. "God. It's so fucking good to see you." He said, face buried in Steve's neck again. He quickly let go of him this time. "Sit down!" He said energetically. "Do you want coffee or something? I can make you some." He was back at his desk however and started sorting the mess of files scattered on it.

"I'm alright." Steve said with a sigh as he sat down on one of the client's chairs. "Just had some, actually. Your nice secretary took care of it."

"You mean Karen?" He asked, looking at his computer. "Yeah, she's really nice."

"You've been a bit harsh with her though." Steve deadpanned, not meaning it as a reproach really. It was more like a remark.

Bucky looked startled at first but then he shifted his eyes down, ashamedly. "You're right. I shouldn't have done that. She meant well. It's just... I'm under a lot of pressure lately, this job is really stressing--"

"That's no excuse!" Steve cut him short.

"That's no excuse." Bucky repeated, lower. "And this is exactly the kind of behavior we condemn here. I'm trying to change that. I'm gonna try harder. I promise."

"Good." Steve said, satisfied.

Bucky started writing on his computer. "How are you? I heard you got a new job?"

"Yeah. It's been great. I work with great people, I'm learning new things. It's cool."

"What's things? Serving burgers?" Bucky teased, eyes still on the computer. "You're not gonna do that for the rest of your life, are you?" The condescending contempt there was in his tone disconcerted Steve again. He dropped the smile.

"I don't know. Maybe. You got a problem with that?" He asked, tone a bit harsh, trying to look at the screen and see what was so important that his best friend couldn't take five minutes to have a chat with him.

Bucky dropped the smile too. "I didn't mean it like that."

"What did you mean it like then?"

"I thought you wanted to be an artist."

"Well, I don't anymore. What's so wrong with that?"

"It's been your dream ever since we were in high school." Bucky protested. 

Steve replied really harshly. He didn't know why but Bucky kept rubbing him the wrong way. Maybe it was too early after all. The wound was too fucking deep. "I guess we don't all get to live up to our dreams. You should know that by now."

Bucky instinctively rubbed his bad arm and looked down. He moved his hand away from the mouse and stretched his arm. "I'm sorry, Stevie."

"No, Buck. I'm sorry." Steve apologized with a sigh. "That was unnecessarily mean. I don't even know why I said that."

"I guess... things doesn't always go according to plan. It's just... It feels weird. One day I had a best friend, who was fighting to make his dream come true and the next I'm facing a completely new person, who's changed everything about his life, who doesn't care about art anymore.  I'm kinda lost. But you're... It's cool. If you're happy doing what you're doing then, it's alright I guess... You're looking great, actually."

"This is not what I had planned for my life, Buck, but it pays the bill and it's kind of rewarding. I've taken on news responsibilities. It's interesting. I mean, it's the same for you, right? It's not like the pay here is great..."

"I'm just an intern for now, but yeah, you're right, I've earn my bosses' trust. I've been given responsibilities too. I mean, right now, I'm basically doing the same job as any other employee here. It's a great experience. I'm learning to be a good lawyer and I'm also learning to do things on my own, to take initiatives. It's a great opportunity for me and I really feel like I'm participating into doing something good in this world.

Steve smiled, happy to see his friend growing.

"And apart from that, anything new in your life? How are things with Stark boy."

"Over." Steve answered dryly, not willing to discuss the matter any further. Too soon.

"I can't say that I'm sad about it." Bucky deadpanned, referring to his earlier talk. He looked briefly at the files on his desk.

"That didn't seem to bother you not that long ago." Steve noticed, nodding at those same files. "You were the first one to spur me on about him."

Bucky raised his head and leant against the chair back, flattening the chair a little. He raised an eyebrow at Steve.

"Well, let's say I changed my mind. You should stay the hell away from him. Stark Industry man? A lot of shit going on there, believe me."

"Tony's not his father." Steve pouted, wondering why he had stooped to say that. He had come to make up with his best friend and seemed to keep falling back into futile quarrels over his ex.

"You know the saying, the apple never falls too far from the tree. Those guys are all the same, all they're looking for is profit, and they're ready to do anything for it. He might be still innocent and idealistic because he's just a kid but when he truly enters the game, he'll be just like the rest of them. At the end of the day, he's still fucking loaded and we're still fucking broke. It can never work. He'll never understand what it's like to be us."

Steve felt his hackles raise. An irritation slowly growing in his heart. He had never seen his friend so condescending and judgmental before, his words were tinted with hatred and he hated that. He remembered all the conversations he had with Tony, about money, about the company. Money had never been something he was interested in and, yeah, maybe that was because he had never lacked, but he had never judged anyone. He had never been negative about anyone. He was passionate, driven, enthusiastic, educated. He had knowledge about so many different things, and he was curious and open-minded. And suddenly, Steve remembered how great a person Tony was. He was so much more that booze, drugs, sex and partying. He was so much more than that. 

"You don't know shit about him." He snapped, anger pervading his voice.

Bucky dropped the mouse, the keyboard and raised his eyes, staring into Steve's, expression startled. Suddenly, he burst out laughing. "You still got the hots for him."

Steve felt his face blush. He hadn't put words on what he felt about Tony but now that Bucky had said it, he realized that, yeah, he still had the hots for him. He had no idea however about what to do with those unwanted feelings. Tony and him would, could, should never happen.

"So what are you up to these days, still trying to find the perfect guy?" Bucky continued on a lighter tone, eyes back on his computer, which annoyed Steve again.

"Nothing much... I saw Clint."

This time he had finally picked his interest but Bucky pretended he didn't care. Steve noticed the way he tensed though, and his change of attitude. "Did you, now? I supposed he told you about us, then..."

"He did." Steve confirmed, falsely indifferent.

"How is he?"

"Depressed." Steve deadpanned. "Heartbroken." Steve saw how his words affected his friend but pretended he hadn't noticed. "Crazy in love with you."

Bucky's fake smile completely faded and he grimaced a bit, moving his tongue over his teeth, mouth still closed. "I supposed he told you it's all my fault, that I'm a jerk and everything."

"Actually, no, he just said that you both needed fresh air and that it was a common agreement, but that's interesting that you'd think that way. Is it just me or you actually agreed to it more that he did?"

His friend chuckled mirthlessly and tsked.

"What are you doing, Buck?"

"He's the one who left." He protested defensively. 

"Because you pushed him away."

"I didn't... I don't... Fuck, you don't know what it's like. I've just been working my ass off those past months. I get home, fucking exhausted and he keeps going on and on about shifts and customer shit and what do I think about his fucking cooking skills and what we should wear at the fucking next party we're going to. I'm trying to do something meaningful with my life and I feel like he's pulling me down. Lazying around all fucking day, stuck in that lousy part-time job with no ambition whatsoever. I just want some peace and quiet when I get home. I don't have time for those futilities. I'm fucking exhausted, stressed out, dealing with important shit all day..."

Steve sank into his seat, unable to believe what he was hearing. He remained silent for a moment, taken aback, before he felt the rage burning his cheeks. He had thought he might help the two of them to get back together, but at this point, Clint was much better off without a jerk like him. 

"Lazying around?" He asked coldly. "Do you really think he's lazying around? Working full-time at a shitty diner? When exactly did you do any rotten job in your life?"

"I had to work part-time too." Bucky said defensively.

"Tutoring kids, your mum pulled the strings! Clint had to work at two jobs to pay for college." He paused and stared at his friend's pathetically sad face. "What is it, Buck? You're too good for him, now? Is that what it is? And you're too good for me too? Can't be seen hanging out around ambition-less waiters anymore?" He felt his heart thumping in his chest and his blood boil in his temples. He stopped again, trying to calm himself down and looked at his friend who had tears in his eyes.

"I never said that." He muttered, clenching his jaw.

Steve rose up to his feet and leant over the desk. Hands splayed on the glass pane. "You didn't have to. I can see right through you. All smug and self-important. You think your boyfriend is shallow and lame because he doesn't have a great job like you do, but you know what? You're a fucking hypocrite. You pretend to want to do the right thing, to defend a fair cause? Well, start by acting like a decent person because right now, you're just a selfish, arrogant, patronizing asshole! To the point I'm actually wondering if I've been fucking blind all those years and never saw your true nature or if you're just losing it!"

Bucky looked at him and bit his lips, expression taken aback.

"You've got an amazing boyfriend, Buck." Steve continued, tone bitter and sarcastic. "who's ready to do anything for you and who, by the way, earns more with his tips than you do at your 'meaningful charity job'." He stressed on the acerbic comment by making air quotes. "and still pays for your bills and half of your rent so you can keep playing the good Samaritan." He paused to catch his breath and calm down. "Did you actually try to devote, like, ten minutes of your time to him and actually listen to what he had to say? I'm guessing no, because you'd realize how shitty and lost he feels about the whole thing and how much thought he puts into your relationship." Bucky looked down, ashamed. "You know what? I always thought you were the mature one in this relationship, but I was fucking wrong. You're just a spoiled child who takes everything and everyone for granted, me included. Keep doing that and you're gonna end up on your own Buck, and I truly hope that your great cause will be enough to fulfill your life then." 

Bucky kept silent, back slumped on his chair and looking down. Steve felt like he didn't have anything else to say or do. He had no reason to be here anymore, so he turned on his feet and left without a word.

His friend ran after him and stopped him before he reached the elevator. He caught him by the arm. "Steve wait."

Steve turned around to face him. "What?" He snapped angrily.

"Did you just come here to give me a lecture about Clint?"

Steve's anger faded and he sighed. "No."

"Cause this is really not any of your business." Bucky said, calmly. 

"I actually came here because I missed you and I wanted to see you and I wanted to give you some support, as a friend, because I thought you might need it, because I thought you actually cared..."

"I do care." Bucky said, expression soft and forgiving.

"Do you? Did you truly love him? Or was he just convenient because you could be with him and fuck everyone else around?" Steve felt his heart clench for Clint who was in love with an ungrateful asshole and was still hopeful nevertheless. "Did you truly love him," he whispered, "or was he just an excuse not to be with me?"

Bucky's hands was still clutching his skinny arm. He felt him press harder around his bicep. "You say this is about Clint, but really this is about you, right?" Steve opened his eyes wide, puzzled. "You say I'm a hypocrite, but what about you? You keep giving everyone lectures but you accept everything and anything when it's about Tony. You say I'm should treat people better, but you keep blurting incentive jibes, out of nowhere. I never thought Clint was shallow, you did. You always thought you were better than us, that you were above everything we did. Guess what, you're just the same as everyone else." He paused, breathing hard, chest heaving. "I never said I was perfect," He went on more calmly. "and everything you accuse me of, it's true and you're right, I'm a selfish bastard sometimes and I'm lucky I have a boyfriend and friends who keep reminding me when I'm being a jackass and help me be a better person. I’m sorry you had to give up on your dream and break up with your boyfriend but stop projecting your frustration and insecurities on me and Clint. What’s going on between us is really not about you!"

Steve listened to his friend talking, confused, trying to see things through his perspective. He was breathing slowly, with deep and ragged inhales. Maybe he too needed a friend to remind him when he was being a jerk.

They stared at each other in silence. The atmosphere heavy between them, charged with emotions. Tears prickling at the corner of their eyes.

"I really missed you, Stevie." Bucky finally said.

Maybe he had been a bit harsh with him.

He wanted to say it back but instead he asked what he had come here to ask in the first place. "What're you doing for Christmas?" He blurted out.

Bucky looked at him confused, startled by the sudden change of his tone. "I'll go to my folks', like every year." He muttered with a sigh that meant 'obviously.' "Wanna come? My mom would be delighted. She's been nagging me about inviting you for months."

"I can't." Steve answered softly, feeling appeased. He saw disappointment in Bucky's eyes though. "I'm working."

"On Christmas day?" He asked, disbelieving. 

"I was the only one with no family to spend it with so I volunteered to keep the shop open."  Steve explained. "We sell pastries to the latecomers, and keep the place warm for people like me." 

"That's shitty." 

"It's alright." He didn't mind actually, spending Christmas in the shop felt okay with him. He would bring his notepad and charcoal in case it's empty. He'd chat with the regulars. He liked the place, he felt good in this place. It fit him. "You should take your boyfriend to your parents' anyway, not me."

A glimpse of sorrow shone in Bucky's eyes. He lowered his gaze. "Err... Clint and I--"

"are gonna get through this." Steve interrupted, a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. 

"I do love him, Steve, I do. And I feel like shit since he's gone but I also feel... free? Living together is... It changes things. I know I've been a shitty boyfriend those past months and I know how lucky I am to have him in my life but I'm not sure I'm ready to go back to the way we were yet. I might need more time."

"Say that to him. He'll probably understand." Steve said with an encouraging smile. "You two need to work this out together. You need to talk together." Bucky answered with a shy smile, looking sideways. "Actually, there was another reason why I came here today." Steve went on. "I wanted to invite you."

Bucky opened wide, curious and questioning eyes.

"Me, Clint, Nat and Peggy are gonna have a party on Christmas Eve. Would you like to come?"

"Isn't Peggy going back to England to spend Christmas with her family?"

"She doesn't have the money to go home this year. It's gonna be the four of us who don't have anyone other than friends to spend the holidays with."

His friend hesitated. There was a glimpse of guilt in his expression. "I... I would love to." He finally said, bashfully. "But I'm not sure... Is Clint gonna be okay with it?"

"Well, you better come up with a hell of an apology if you want to walk through that door."

"I don't know what--" Bucky started, hesitant.

"Set your priorities straight, Buck!" Steve yelled annoyedly. "Clint isn't gonna wait forever. He's a great guy and when he's decided to move on, he's gonna give all his love, his devotion, his energy and positivism to someone else. You know it!  So you better make a choice and soon."

His friend nodded in surrender. Silence settled between them again. They were both calm and quiet but Steve did not forget what Bucky had told him, the good and bad alike. Maybe he needed to put his own house in order too.

Anger, bitterness, pain were ebbing away, slowly, until only closeness and affection remained. The two of them had always been and would always be. No matter how much of a jerk they could be to one another. They would remain as close as two peas in a pod. Different but together always. 

"Okay." Bucky finally said, in agreement and they both laughed until Bucky interrupted it with a kiss. A long, soft and deep kiss. A best friend's kiss, but with tongues. Steve moaned and relaxed into it and realized something.

He was over him.

It's Karen and her shocked staring who made them broke the kiss. It had been sweet and affectionate but Steve had felt nothing. Nothing more than a deep friendly connection. He had finally moved on.

Steve got back home feeling light-hearted that day.

 

Christmas Eve happened quickly. It was a Christmas party like Christmas should always be. 

There were stupidly ugly reindeer jumpers, Maria Carey singing, warm woolly stockings and stuffed-animals slippers, egg nog, apple cider, delicious butter tarts Clint had made, gift-opening, movie marathons, snuggling and cuddling on the couch, a Christmas pudding (a courtesy of Peggy) and an amazing dinner that Steve had cooked with Clint's directions (he did have great cooking skills, after all) that everyone appreciated and complimented.

It felt like nothing--and everything--had changed. 

Bucky's apology had sucked but Bucky had never really been good at apologizing anyway. He was quick to throw to your face what you should be apologizing for instead. He did make an effort, however, and came back with the mixer (really?) Clint had apparently been whining about as a Christmas/Apology gift. Personally Steve would have thrown the damn thing to his face right away, but it seemed to be enough for Clint. He welcomed him with open arms and a hot kiss. Subsequently a lot of cuddling happened but it was still shy and awkward between them. 

They needed more time and more talking and Christmas was not the best time for it, but Clint accepted to go to his parents-in-law the next day. (It's not like Bucky had told them about his break up anyway...) And hopefully they were going to work this out.

Bucky still cornered Steve at some point.

"Thanks Stevie." He had said looking sideways, a mischievous smile on his lips. "Thanks for calling me on my shit!"

"What are friends for, uh?" Steve had replied with a soft chuckle. "You'd do the same for me, right?"

"I could try, but you're a stubborn motherfucker who won't listen to anyone anyway."

They had both laughed it off, but it meant one thing. They were still best friends. More than ever. Friends that could count on each other. Friends that were there in the good and the bad. Friends who were not afraid to speak when something was wrong. It felt like their friendship had grown.

Steve was also given a lot of time with Nat and Peggy, his two female best friends and it had been really amazing to spend that day with them.

The five of them had a really peaceful time together. All in all, it was a great, memorable moment, a lot of fun, a lot of emotions, and Steve wished this would never change between them. Even though they were all moving on with their lives and he was still a bit lost with his own.

 

On Christmas morning, Steve woke up happy and light-hearted. Tired but happy. The previous night was still hot in his memory. He felt a bit lazy and stayed in bed longer than he should have. It didn't really matter, Sam hadn't even planned to open the shop today. He had insisted so he guess it wouldn't really be a problem if he were an hour--or two--late. Right? (As if he was ever gonna show up at work two hours late...)

He rubbed his eyes for a moment, silently cursing himself for insisting to go to work on Christmas Day. He could have been working on his art project instead, but yeah, whatever...

He forced himself out of bed, shuffled to the kitchenette, made some coffee, scratched his back...

Wait. There was something different about his place.

He walked back a few steps and now he knew what had felt different. There was something on his work table that hadn't been there when he had gone to bed the night before.

Steve paced quickly to his desk, still a mess of pens, charcoals, paint brushes and tubes and sketches he hadn't taken the time to sort and put away.

There was a small package on it.

A gift. A gift that Steve was sure hadn't been there yesterday.

It was wrapped up in red and gold paper. Steve felt his heart race in his chest and tore the paper away. There was a black card box inside. No tag. No logo. Nothing. He felt the thumping of his heart at his temple when he opened the box. 

Inside there was a little figurine. A toy version metal replica of one of the new characters he was working on. A man in a flying suit of armor. The portrait Tony had been staring at three weeks ago, on that same work table. The replica was astonishingly accurate and so beautifully made. All the details were there, all the things Steve had been sketching over and over again until he felt they were finally perfect. 

He hadn't thought of a name yet, neither had he chosen the colors, but the figurine was already perfect, so real, so alive. In his head at least. It felt like part of his dream had come true. Like one of his characters had made it out of his head and thrived on his own.

Steve felt his heart clench and took the little figuring in his hand, squeezing tight. He needed to feel it for it to be real. 

There was also a note inside the box. A little scrap of paper, stained with grease, smelling like metal and oil, and a writing Steve would recognize always. 

Don't give up.

 

 

Chapter Text

The first time it happened was a few weeks after Christmas. Steve had been home, working on his last project when he got the call. Since then it had kind of become a recurrent thing. Well, recurrent like, it happened a few times, like once a month or something.

Steve was concentrated, deep in his thoughts, working on the design of the shield. It was a bit late but not that late. Still much too late for a phone call however. He startled at the first ring and his paintbrush slipped. He almost jumped on his seat and ruined his painting. Seriously though, who would call at this hour in the night?

He looked at the caller ID on the phone. It was Tony. It was a surprise, but not really surprising either.

Steve really really didn't want his heart to start beating so fast and so hard. But it did. It was racing in his chest as he looked at the little figurine on his shelf. Fucking heart. It's not like he even intended to do anything about it if he actually saw him. Him and Tony, it was over, once and for good. Despite the thoughtful gesture that Steve still felt guilty about. Offering Tony a gift had been the last thing on his mind at Christmas, and yet Tony had thought about him.

He ignored it.

Except it was Tony, and Tony doesn't give up. Ever.

At the third call, he prepared himself mentally before answering the phone, not without using the best version of his annoyed voice. "Yes?"

He was already anticipating the harshness he would put into his words when he would scold him. Tony, it's the fucking middle of the night. We don't call people at that time. I was sleeping. And if Steve wasn't really sleeping, well, nobody really needed to know, right?

The voice at the other end of the phone was hesitant. "Hello?" And Steve could only think of two options: option one, Tony had recently started taking hormones and/or intended to undergo a sex-change operation, and really that was a hell of an efficient treatment if that really was the case because, Steve would have never guessed. Option two, it wasn't Tony on the phone. "Who's this?" The unknown voice asked.

Steve could hear loud music in the background and the noise of the streets, and frankly, if that was a fucking joke? It wasn't funny at all. 

Past the first emotion of seeing Tony's name on the screen of his phone, Steve felt anger rise up. He looked at his ruined painting, it's not like he had been on that painting for like two fucking weeks. He tried to control his fits of rage and control his breathing but that was hard. "Who am I? Are you fucking kidding me? You're the one calling me in the middle of the night! With Tony's phone, no less. Who the fuck are you? What the fuck do you want?"

He heard whispering and sighing at the other end. "I'm sorry... I'm Claire. I'm with... Greg? You're the first emergency contact on his phone."

"Greg?" Steve exclaimed, feeling that the joke was going a bit too far. "I don't know any Greg-- Wait, what?"

"I'm with Greg. I'm calling with his phone. You're his first emergency contact. Is this a mistake?"

Steve's anger deflated like a balloon, replaced with concern, his heart racing again. "Who did you say you were again?"

"I'm Claire. I was out with my friends--"

"When you say Greg, are you talking about twenty-year-old, six feet tall, brunette, dark eyes, pretty face, possibly shit-faced Greg?"

"um... yeah? Sounds like him... Do you know him?"

"Yeah." Worries were confirmed. Steve felt his heart quieting down however. Now that he knew Tony was involved and possibly needed rescuing, he needed composure and self-control. "Sorry, you caught me at a bad time. I'm Steve, I'm a friend. Is he... Is he okay? Is he conscious?"

"Yeah, don't worry. He's bleeding a little bit but it's not deep. It's just... he's kind of raving, uncontrollable. I think... I thought maybe it'd be great if someone could pick him up or something, before someone calls the police. He doesn't have any money, or papers on him. I didn't know what to do."

"He's bleeding?"

"Yeah, no, it's okay don't worry. I checked him up, I'm a nurse. He didn't really let me touch him but I was able to see anyway, it's just few scratches. He's gonna be fine."

"What happened?" Steve asked, trying to keep his breathing low, difficultly. 

"He got into a bar fight, I think. He was messing with people, looking for trouble. Got kicked out." 

Steve could already imagine it. A drunken Tony, riling people up, provoking them, laughing when the first blow would touch him. So high on drugs, he wouldn't even feel the pain. His mind was already on his bike, speeding through the city to get him out of there, safely.

"I'll be there." Steve said, resolutely.

"Great. It's nice, for him, I think. He doesn't look really well, I'm scared he might do something stupid. We'll stay with him until you get there."

"Thanks. Thank you very much."

 

The bike wasn't the best option, he might not be able to carry Tony back on it, but it was the easiest and fastest option he had at the moment. He would see what he would do when the time came.

He was surprised to see that the address he had been given wasn't anything he had heard from before. Not a gay bar, not a trendy club, just a shabby local pub, in Brooklyn no less. What the fuck was Tony even doing there?

When Steve pulled over, he saw Tony crouched on the sidewalk. Eyes empty and expression lost. He walked closer to him. He had blood on his face and clothes, it contrasted with the dirty white of his t-shirt. Probably a heavy nosebleed, seeing the amount of blood. His face was scratched too, he might get a black eye tomorrow, and his knuckles wore the marks of punching. He was barely wearing a hoody jacket, open on a torn white t-shirt, stained with grease and sludge, while they were in the middle of winter. It was freezing outside.

"Ton... Greg?" Steve called, careful of the people around them.

It seemed to snap Tony out of his raving daze.  He turned cloudy eyes to him and giggled drunkenly. "Rogers!" He slurred, through his teeth. "My knight in shining armor..." At least, he had recognized him. He seemed so wasted he couldn't even open his mouth properly, too much of an effort to him. He looked around him and noticed the bike parked further away. He giggled again, endlessly, almost like a sob. "Gonna kidnap me again, are you?"

Steve's heart clenched at the pathetic sight of him. It hurt, to see him like this. It hurt so fucking much.

He brought a hand to his face, lifting it up a bit, trying to look into his eyes. His eyes were evasive and he was unable to look straight. Tony attempted to push him away without much strength. He mumbled something that sounded like "Don't touch me." and slapped his hand away. Steve stepped back only to see Tony losing balance and almost collapse on the sidewalk, giggling. He caught himself on his forearm before the fall and tried to straighten himself up miserably. 

Steve met Claire. She was with her friends a few feet away, keeping an eye on Tony. She came up to him and told him everything she knew had happened. She was a beautiful girl, kind and caring, and spoke in a soft, motherly tone. Steve was glad Tony had met her. He had been lucky until now,  relievingly.

"There's a lot of blood. Don't you think it's serious?" Steve asked.

"The nose always bleeds a lot. It's not broken, don't worry. I checked. He's pretty high however. He's been rambling, talking irrationally, for the past half an hour. He's had period of hallucinations, I think. It's heavy but his vitals are fine. I thought it might be best if someone he knew could take care of him instead of sending him to the hospital. He seems pretty weary of strangers and he kept saying 'no doctors' when I tried to attend his wound. I'm sorry I tried to keep him warm but he took everything off.

"Thank you so much." Steve said, concern still pervading his voice. "I'm glad, and relieved, he found someone like you. I'm gonna take it up from here. You guys can go and have fun."

Claire smiled. "I think I'm gonna call it a night. Enough emotions for one day, but thanks." She put her hand softly on his arm, expression serious. "Be careful though. He's been... unstable, and keeps trying to pick fight with sketchy guys. Don't let him get you into trouble, okay?"

Steve nodded. He better not, fighting had never been his forte.

He walked back to Tony's side and crouched next to him. He tried to catch his head in hands, hoping he would let him. Tony didn't fight him this time but he kept giggling like a crazy person. He looked up into Steve's eyes, he had such beautiful eyes, so expressive despite the haziness in them.

"Tony let's go." Steve said, trying to be convincing. 

"No." 

"Come on. Let's go. Come with me." Steve wrapped his arms around his waist and tried to lift him up on his feet, but Tony didn't make any effort to help him doing that and landed on his ass, head falling forwards on Steve's crotch. He rubbed his face on it, grabbing Steve's legs, hiding in the sides of his coat. It wasn't really sexual though. He was still giggling. "I'm thirty." He slurred. "Let's go in there, get a drink."

"You can't even walk." Steve remarked. He didn't add that he had been kicked out, incidentally.

"Go there and get me a drink, then." Tony said, face still buried between Steve's legs, snuggling. At Steve's silence he added a seductively begging "Please."

Steve sighed. "The only drink I'm gonna give you is water."

Tony looked up at him, between the sides of his coat, and guffawed. Damnit he was cute. "Not even your cum?" 

Steve put exasperated hands on his hips, ignoring the very inappropriate jolt in his pants. "No." He answered curtly.

Tony pouted and tried to push Steve away from him, but really just put himself away from Steve's crotch. Steve didn't budge, despite his light weight. "You're no fun, Rogers." He grumbled, voice struggling on the word 'fun'."

Steve made another attempt at getting Tony on his feet, in vain, and he was soon back where he had been. On his knees, arms wrapped around Steve's waist, clutching at it, face resting against his belly. Steve put a hand on the back of his head, caressing him gently.

"Why did you leave me?" Tony whimpered softly, reproachingly. Steve's heart clenched again. He felt like crying. Tony was so unfair. So unfair to do that to him, to make him feel guilty. "Why did you do that? What did you do that to me? Why?" He repeated it, softly, whiningly, until Steve wondered if he was actually talking to him or if he was hallucinating again. He was raving again, mumbling things that made no sense to Steve, that weren't addressed to him.

"I'm gonna call a cab, okay?" Steve finally said, his hand still caressing the back of Tony's head, comfortingly. His heart felt heavy in his chest. "I'm gonna get you home."

"No." Tony protested after a while, his face still buried in Steve's sweater. "I don't wanna go home." His arms tightened around Steve's waist. 

"Do you want me to call someone? Happy? Pepper maybe?"

"No. Don't wanna go." He muttered, face snuggling against Steve's stomach.

"Okay." Steve said, voice soft and low. He ran a hand in Tony's sweaty hair and ordered a car online. Tony was cold and slightly shivering. So Tony took off his coat and put it on Tony's shoulders.

By the time the car arrived, Tony was sprawled on the sidewalk, looking at his hands as if he had discovered a new element. Steve was freezing cold. He grabbed Tony's hands and tried to pull him up and sit him down but the brunette kept falling down as soon as Steve dropped his hands. 

"Come on Tony. Let's go." Steve begged. 

Tony was finally able to hold straight and rolled on his front, hands and knees on the sidewalk. He pushed himself up on his feet and managed to stand without falling, thought he wasn't very stable. Small victory!

Or not. 

Because Tony was now staggering away to the pub, Steve's coat tossed away. Steve grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the car. He stumbled but didn't fall and managed to tear himself away from Steve's grasp. He seemed to have regained some strength and energy but he was still wasted and incoherent. And incidentally almost half-naked in fucking January. Steve tried several times to pull Tony toward the car but he kept slipping away. 

The driver started getting impatient. Steve heard him grumble annoyedly. "What you doing man? I don't have all night." 

Tony was wobbling away, shouting, and managed to scare the driver off. When he saw the state of him, he refused to let him get into the car for fear he would throw up on his seats. The money wasn't worth the risk, his words, not Steve's.

While Steve had been trying to negotiate the ride, in vain, Tony had walked back to the entrance door of the pub and was causing a fuss. Steve finally gave up and ran to him, before anything bad happened. He wasn't fast enough to avoid him getting pushed against the wall however. Tony had apparently insulted a group of guys and was purposely provocative. 

The tallest guy had him pinned by the throat against the wall, fist in the air, ready to punch him. He was still giggling stupidly.

"I'm gonna punch your fucking perfect teeth out, you cunt!"

 Steve instinctively protected Tony and put himself between him and the fist. Luckily before the guy threw the punch. "Don't!" He yelled, begging. "Don't do this. He's plastered. Come on. It's just drunk talk. Just let him go."

"Piss off, little guy." The big guy groaned but he seemed a bit more hesitant so Steve insisted. 

"Let him go!" He demanded, tone gentle with a tint of severity in it. 

Surprisingly it worked, the guy eventually dropped his hand and let go of Tony's throat. The movement made him lose balance however, and he stumbled and fell on the ground before Steve could catch him.

The group walked away. Not without kicking Tony in the guts first, while he was defenseless on the ground, in a very non-cowardly gesture. "You fucking stay away from us, cunt!" Tall guy shouted before he left.

Steve remained still at first and a little aghast but soon he crouched next to Tony, who was giggling, of course, and shouting "losers!" at them before Steve shut him up with a hand on his mouth.

"What did you say to them?" Steve asked when they were gone.

"Nothing!" Tony exclaimed defensively. "That guy was just a little touchy. I simply told his girlfriend that if she grew tired of his tiny dick she could give me a call. He took it personally."

Steve chuckled, it was more mirthlessly than amused however. "Try to pick up a fight with a guy my size next time, okay?" And he held Tony a hand to help him get on his feet.

Tony sat up, refusing Steve's help, and pushed himself on his feet. Still unstable, still wobbling. Steve put his hand on his lower back and encouraged him to move forward. "Come on, Tony. Let's go home." Not sure exactly where home was supposed to be.

"I'm not going anywhere with you." Tony replied, words still muddled with drunken slur, eyes looking away, already trying to look for something else to mess around with, ignoring Steve.

Steve was pissed. And freezing. 

"I'm fucking losing my patience Tony." He yelled. "So either you come with me now, or you can forget about my number and fucking die of cold on the sidewalk. I don't fucking care anymore."

Tony turned to him, looking confused at first, and then he smiled. "Alright." He said. "But we're taking the bike."

Bad idea. 

Really fucking bad idea.

But honestly, what other choice did he have? And he had brought a spare helmet. Just in case.

It was completely reckless and irresponsible, but...

Getting Tony on the bike was easier than he thought. Getting him to hold himself straight on the bike was a completely different matter. 

Steve had to tear Tony's shirt apart. (It was already shredded and ruined with sludge and blood anyway.) and tied his hands around his waist to prevent him from falling off the bike in case he passed out on the way back. Tony was rubbing himself on his back, both childishly and erotically at the same time. Steve had given him his coat but this time he had forced him to wear it. Tony had pouted but he had been obedient and had finally snuggled into it, sniffing Steve's smell.

"Ooh. You're kinky, lil' Rogers." Tony slurred against the nape of his neck, nibbling at the skin there, while Steve was tying the knot mourned his wrists.  

It was kind of kinky though. Steve was freezing but Tony's body was slumped over his back, solid and warm and seductive. His breath was tickling his neck. He felt the warmth spread inside his body, despite himself. It was going to be a fucking long drive.

"Shut up." Steve snapped.

Tony chuckled. "I've got my hands on your dick like that." He moaned sensually against his ear, almost biting it. "You sure, you'll be able to drive?" He had indeed his hands on Steve's crotch and started palpating there, provocatively.

"Keep you hands off! Now! If you wanna have hands tomorrow." Steve commanded, clenching his jaw, in a very angry and authoritative tone.  

Tony chuckled again, voice lewd. He gasped and slurred in his ear again. "I like it when you're being rough with me, Rogers. Can you feel my hard-on against your bum?"

Steve couldn't. Although, Tony was probably just being provocative. 

Steve turned back and tied Tony's helmet. It wasn't easy with Tony's arms tied around him but he managed. Then he put his own on and drove off.

They made it safely to Steve's apartment. How he had managed that? He didn't know. He almost died of cold on the way and he was sure he had lost some parts of his body but they were both safe. Tony had been particularly quiet and reasonable during the ride. He might have passed out though, or fallen asleep. Steve wasn't really sure. His senses were numb right now.

Steve took Tony to the bathroom and took off his clothes. His mind was getting clearer and clearer by the time but he also felt the exhaustion as the effect of the drugs and alcohol faded. He wasn't protesting anymore, nor seducing. He just let Steve clean him up and put him in bed without struggling. 

Then he went to the bathroom, took the longest hot shower he could afford and jacked off before he joined Tony in bed. There was no way he was having Tony in his bed with his balls full. Tony was already asleep but he instinctively curled around Steve which Steve didn't mind at the moment because he still felt the cold. Cold like he should need at least five hot men in his bed for a week at least to be able to recover from that, but for now he would settle with Tony who was breathing steadily next to him.

 

Steve woke up five hours later, in the dark, with a hard-on.

Tony's warm body was pressed against him. Cock burning hot and hard through his shorts, grinding slowly against his hip. Tony's hand was in his pants, stroking slowly, wet and slick with what seemed to be spit. His mouth was hot against his skin, nipping his neck.

"Tony?" He mumbled, still half-asleep.

The boy whispered lewdly against his ear. "Yes." And Steve could feel the smile on his lips. His hand slipped out of Steve's pants, slowly, and he fondled his belly, running his fingers along the sharp curves of his stomach.

It felt so good, to have Tony's hands on him again. So good. His cock was hurting, his body hard and burning with desire. He could already see himself grabbing Tony's head, pushing him down and shoving his cock in his warm, welcoming throat.

"No." He whispered, in a moment of clarity.

"No what?" Tony whispered in the crook of his neck, hand sliding up his chest to his neck, caressing him softly, running his thumb along his jaw, over his lips.

"Keep you hands off me." Steve said, a little harshly.

It didn't stop Tony however. He kept touching him, kissing him, grinding against him. "Why?"

That was an interesting question. And at that exact moment, Steve had no answer for that. He knew he shouldn't do this but the why was too far away from his thoughts right now, and his dick strongly disagreed with that idea apparently.

"I don't wanna do this." He mumbled as a response. 

"I think your body thinks otherwise." Tony teased, smile on his lips, his caresses more insistent, more arousing.

Steve gasped at the touch and Tony took that as a yes because he rolled over him and settled between his legs before lying down on Steve's stomach. Steve was able to decipher his firm muscles flex with the movement and found that particularly hot. And then Tony was grinding against his hard cock, making him shiver. It was so easy to let himself go, to indulge in it, he was still half-asleep.

He put his hands on Tony's shoulders and pushed him off. "Tony--" but he was cut short by Tony's hand sliding up his neck and grabbing his head into a hot kiss. A kissed that taste of booze, but also of Tony. And Tony tasted fucking amazing, and he smelt so good, even under the grime. Steve's words were muffled and he let himself be kissed for a moment but finally freed himself and pushed Tony away a little bit harder. "Tony, wait."

Tony slid down and kissed his neck instead. Forcefully, but not unbreakably, pinning Steve's hands down. He was still drunk.

"Tony, stop!" Steve snapped, loud and sharply.

The boy stopped, sat up on Steve's legs and looked down at him. It was dark but Steve could see the haze of lust in them. Tony's sharp and toned body was tense, looking debauched above him. His strong, though slender, thighs were flexed on each side of him, and so alluring, and Steve wanted to touch them and slide his hands under those shorts and grab the hard cock stretching them. Touch it, stroke it, suck it and then swallow his cum.

What was wrong with him? He hated that. Normally. 

Tony's hands were lazily resting on his thighs, nervous, expectant. He obviously wanted to touch but was waiting for Steve's permission.

"Why?" Tony said, voice husky, sounding both hurt and horny.

Again with that question. Steve was too hard to think about the answer. "We shouldn't do this." He whispered, not very convinced at the moment.

Tony snarled and smiled his beautiful, seductive, lewd smile. Then he bent over Steve, holding himself on his stretched arms. Face very close and threatening. He was drunk, Steve kept thinking. 

"Why not?" Tony whispered on Steve's lips.

"Because I don't want to have sex with you." Steve snapped back, almost shouting. There it was, the answer to that question.

He didn't want to have sex with Tony. He didn't want to go back to the meaningless, shallow connection they used to have. He didn't want to be Tony's slut on the side. He didn't want to hurt. He didn't want to have his heart broken again. He couldn't do this. Not again.

Tony giggled, stupidly, innocently, like an amused child, and shrugged. "Everybody wants to have sex with me." He muttered, voice hoarse. 

"I don't want to, Tony!" Steve replied.

Tony shrugged again, as if it didn't matter at all. He lay down next to him, on his side, and brushed his hand on Steve's stomach slowly, an innocent smile on his lips. 

"Keep your hands off." Steve snapped.

That stopped him once and for all. He took his hand off and inched back. He rested his head on his hand, elbow sunk into the mattress. His eyes were glimmering mischievously in the dark.

Steve was completely awake now, even though he was still tired. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was barely seven in the morning. He slumped back on the bed with a long sigh. Tony was still staring at him, smiling devilishly.

He was still hard and the rubbing of his cock against the fabric of his pants was annoyingly tingling. He took it in his hand and pressed in a gasp, too tired to do anything about it.

"You sure you don't want me to do anything about it?" Tony suggested, teasing, tempting, still warm and horny and beautiful in Steve's bed.

"No, I don't want you to do anything about it, Tony. It's bad enough that you've been groping me while I was asleep."

"I didn't grope you. I barely touched you. You're just really sensitive." Tony scoffed and then slid his hand back on Steve's lower belly, caressing him. "I'm just... a little surprised, I guess. I mean, I keep waking up in your bed, it's surely not a coincidence, right?"

Steve grabbed Tony's wrist and stopped his hand. "Of course, it's not a coincidence!" Steve shouted. "You put my number as your first emergency contact, dumbass!"

"I did not." Tony protested. "Well... " He started pensively. "I did set up an emergency protocol back when we were still fucking. It's supposed to call Pepper first, then Rhodey if she's not available. You're only third on the list. I'm sorry, I really thought I had canceled that."

Steve almost laughed at the stupidity of this, but he only sighed exasperatedly. "Great. I feel so much better now."

"Do want me to uninstall it now?" Tony asked, expression still innocent. 

"Of course, I want to." Steve answered, because, obviously, but then something bothered him. "Wait! Who's next on the list?"

Tony didn't answer right away. "No one?" He whispered hesitantly.

Whatever...

Steve sighed again and snuggled into his bed. Tony was still warm next to him, silent, hard, horny.

"What's so wrong about us having sex?" Tony asked after a long moment of silence. Steve had calmed down and was on the verge to sleep.

"You have a girlfriend." Steve muttered tiredly. "And possibly other girlfriends, or boyfriends. And you have sex with just about anyone who looks at you."

Tony remained quiet. Silently confirming everything Steve had just said. At least, he didn't deny it. He didn't say it but Steve could feel the heavy question on his lips, or maybe it was the heaviness of his own judgement that he felt. 

"And it's okay, I mean, you can do that. You can do whatever you want. There's nothing wrong with being promiscuous. As long as everyone involved is aware and consenting, and safe, it's fine by me. I don't see anything wrong with that, I just don't want to be part of it. If you want to live your life this way, it's fine, just keep me out of it."

Tony didn't answer that, but Steve could feel that he was pensive, thinking about it. His smile gone from his lips. "Okay." He finally said, biting his lips, fiddling with his hands nervously.

Steve rolled on his side, back to Tony. He still could sleep for another hour before going to work. And he really needed it.

Tony curled on the same side and wrapped his body around Steve, a hand on his hip, kissing his neck softly.

"Can't we just make out a little?" He was still hard, and probably still drunk.

Steve was already half-asleep. "Nooo." He mumbled annoyedly, his voice muffled by the cushions.

"Can we cuddle at least?"

Steve raised his sleepy head and looked back at him. There was a mischievous glimmer in his eyes and a playful smile on his lips. "Fine. Whatever..." He whispered and slumped back on the bed. 

He felt Tony snuggle against him, hard against his thighs and fell asleep again. Warm. Safe. Protected.

 

After that Steve was surprised it didn't change anything between them. Tony had probably got the clue. He didn't call, he didn't text. Steve hadn't even thanked him for the gift. He still felt a bit guilty about that, by the way. 

Nothing changed except... the rescuing thing happened again. And again. Until one day, Tony called. In broad day light this time. It was really him on the phone. He wasn't drunk. He wasn't high. He wasn't trying to get away from a fight or passed out in some shady chemsex party.

"Wanna have dinner with me?"

It was so ludicrously unexpected that Steve chuckled stupidly. "What?"

"There's this nice place. They do burgers and stuff. Wanna check it out?"

Apparently, Tony was being serious. And Steve's heart twinged. 

"What is this, Tony?"

"Well, I was thinking... Apart from that time when you invited me to your friend's and that time you took me to New Jersey, we actually never went out together. We never did anything together. I thought we could change that."

"Tony, we talked about this."

"No, I know. I got the part when you don't wanna have sex anymore. I didn't mean it like a date. I just thought we could do stuff together, as friends."

"You wanna be my friend?" Steve asked disbelievingly. 

There was silence at the other of the phone. "Sure." Tony answered, indifferently. "I mean we were friends before, right? We can still be friends." The tone was nonchalant and disinterested but Steve could hear his breathing, unsteady, hard. "I really miss you." He whispered longingly.

Steve was caught off guard. Startled. Disconcerted. 

"Yeah. Whatever. Let's have dinner."

They did have dinner. As friends. Tony hadn't been seductive, hadn't tried to charm him. He was just this amazing, passionate, positive guy with so many ideas and such a brilliant mind. 

They could probably be friends. Steve could have someone like this in his life. He was allowed, to have someone like in his life, someone brilliant, and caring, who shone and spread love and positivism around him when you looked behind everything else. There was nothing wrong with that.

And that's how Tony was back in Steve's life. He kept coming unannounced, overstepping boundaries, as usual. It was back to the way things were before. Sex non-included. With a lot of cuddling however--Tony had always been a cuddler. And a lot more of hanging out outdoors. As friends.

 

Chapter Text

Steve was counting the money in the cash register when Wanda walked past him and brushed her fingers on his shoulder, then gave him a slap on the the butt. Steve straightened up and turned around, looking at her, and glared. She responded by sticking her tongue out, an impish glint in her eyes.

"Hey, let's go out tonight!"

"It's Thursday!" Steve deadpanned. 

"So?" Wanda replied, pretending not to understand Steve's innuendo. "I wanna go out, tonight. It's been like forever."

"It's been three weeks." Steve specified, rolling his eyes.

"Like I said, forever." She said childishly. Wanda liked to play the spoiled teenager with them. It often worked. Obviously Steve and Sam had a soft spot for her.

"I don't know." Steve hesitated. "I'm worn out."

"Come on. I'll ask the guys." 

Steve didn't answer, pretending he was thinking about it. He had known from the moment she had asked the first time he was going to say yes. He liked stalling with her, it worked every time. It was only for his personal satisfaction, kind of like his little revenge over her being an annoying kid.

"Okay. Fine. I'll go..." Steve said with a sigh. "but only for one drink." And then he added, on a more authoritative tone. "But you better be quick with the cleaning then." She gave him a sideway smile before going back to work. "And don't forget to duster the windows when you're finished with cleaning the tables spotless." Steve shouted after her.

She answered with an annoyed gesture of her hand, her back still turned to him. "Okay boss!" She snarked.

It was said as a joke, but it wasn't untrue nevertheless. Steve had, despite himself, earned that status in the coffeeshop. He had discovered, and most of all Sam had discovered, that he had a natural propensity at commanding other people and other people would listen to him, and follow his lead. And therefore, he had unintentionally and unofficially become the one managing the little team on the ground. His co-workers looked up to him--Sam included--and followed his advice, even though, who was he really to give people advice? He didn't know shit, but whatever, maybe he was so stubbornly sure of himself that people trusted his judgement, who knows... 

The whole team finally accepted to go out, just for one drink, in their usual hang-out place, a small pub, a few blocks from there. The atmosphere was always friendly and calm. It wasn't a gay bar, although Steve had picked up a few glances from other guys once or twice. 

Of course, the conversation irrevocably ended up focusing on Steve's dating life. Which he must say wasn't that pathetic in the sexual department. Since he and Tony were friends, Steve had sort of found some satisfaction in having casual hook-ups on quite a regular basis.  Because why the fuck not? Right? If Tony could do it, Bucky could do it, Clint could do it, Loki could do it... Why couldn't he? On the emotional department, however, it was a complete desert, but he guessed that now that Tony and he were friends, he wasn't really available, neither practically nor emotionally speaking.

But the topic was getting old now, frankly, didn't they have lives of their own that they always felt the need to get involved in his?

"I'm so glad to hang out with you again," Wanda whimpered over her second beer, sprawled out on the table. They were all exhausted, actually, but alcohol helped he guessed. "I feel like I don't see you anymore."

"Nonsense." Steve had said, with a little pang of guilt nevertheless. He saw them every day at the shop, but he didn't see them out of work that much. Now that Clint and Bucky, and Tony, were his friends again, he had less time to hang out with his coworkers. And additionally, he was still focused on his new side project.

"Since you're fucking Tony again, you've been neglecting us." She went on, whiningly.

"We're not fucking." Steve protested, with insistence. "We're friends."

"Or platonic fucking, whatever..."

"I let you know," Steve explained. "That Tony and I have a perfectly healthy friendship. We spend a lot of quality time together and have many exciting discussions on about everything, because Tony is a very cultured and very interesting person. period."

"Oh, so you're brain-fucking then?" Wanda teased.

"We're friends." Steve repeated, a little annoyedly. "No fucking involved, of any kind."

Sam took a swig of his beer and frowned at him. "You do know that it's not gonna work, right?" 

Steve grimaced a little bit. "I know what I'm doing." He answered, quite coldly, and drank a swig himself. 

"I say you're walking very closely to that web." Sam said and rolled his tongue in his mouth, in a doubtful manner. "Sooner or later, you're gonna end up with his dick in your ass."

"No. I'm not."

"Or in your mouth." Wanda added with a mischievous smile and Steve rolled his eyes. Or, the other way around, he had thought evilly, internally smiling. Or maybe he smiled at Pietro's disgusted face, he wasn't sure.

"You can't be friend with someone you're in love with." Carol said. "It always ends badly. Believe me." 

"You were friends with Maria too, before you two..." He rudely imitated pussy frottage with his fingers, which made everyone grimaced. Served them right!

"Exactly, I know what I'm talking about, man." Carol said, unashamedly. 

"I'm not in love with Tony." Steve said annoyedly, while all his friends stared at him with a skeptical look on their face. "I was in love with Bucky, and guess what? We're friends now."

"Whatever man." Sam said with a sigh. 

"Like I said, Sam." Steve said, in a more serious tone. "I won't let the spider catch me."

Sam patted his back in a comforting friendly gesture. "Oh boy, Stevie, he's already spun his web around you and trapped you in it."

Steve shook his head. "Nonsense." 

"It's alright," Sam added. "We'll be there to pick up the pieces when he's broken your heart again." And he drank his beer in an awkward silence. Steve hated them a little, at that moment, for calling him back to reality.

One drink turned out to be three in the end, no, four. Did he say four? No it probably was five... 

He may or may not have made out with some guy who had invited him to play pool at some point that evening (who said you needed to go to gay bars to meet potential sex partners), but he wasn't really sure. It was barely past ten, he was completely drunk, on an empty stomach.

He remembered taking a car home, safety first and always, and drowsing in it. He remembered his headache in the elevator. He remembered he felt sick when he was in front of his door, trying to open it.

He didn't notice however, the light and the smell of food in there. He didn't notice the presence in his flat. He didn't hear the sound of a movie playing. He only noticed the strong arms when they caught him while he stumbled on the mess he had left against the wall of his bathroom. 

The first thing he felt was a sense of safety, protection and comfort. Then he smelled the man and recognized it immediately. The smell was familiar, and arousing. Then he lifted his head and looked up. His eyes met beautiful black marbles, a glint of concern and amusement in them. 

"Tony?" He asked, a bit surprised to find him in his apartment at this hour, but then again, nothing was surprising with Tony anymore. The boy smiled as a response. The smell drew him in and his eyes fell on the curve of his lips, plump, wet and so appealing. He wanted those lips now. He wanted to kiss them, bite them, lick inside and everywhere. Tony's eyes were playful.

It's only then that he remembered he was feeling sick. "I'm gonna be sick." He slurred, and Tony just had the time to lead him to the toilet before he threw up into the bowl. He shouldn't have had that fifth drink after all. He should know his limits. By now.

Tony was kneeling down next to him. He rubbed a soothing hand up and down his spine, splayed warmly on his back, and whispered kind, comforting  words in his ears. He caressed his neck and removed his hair from his face until Steve was done, then he served him water.

Steve had no idea Tony could be so gentle and caring. Usually the roles were reversed. The how and why he was currently in his apartment on a Thursday evening--without notice--was a question for another day. For now Steve was just glad he was here, next to him.

Vomiting had actually helped. He felt much better, now. His mind wasn't foggy anymore, his thoughts were clearer, even though he was still buzzed. His head had stopped spinning. He was almost hungry. Or maybe the smell of food made him hungry.

"Are you okay?" Tony asked. So gently, so softly, without judgement, without scowling, without any kind of reproach. Steve fell into his arms, deliberately. He was just glad he was here, and, incidentally, he smelt really good.

"Yeah." Steve muttered, voice muffled in Tony's sweatshirt. He wrapped his arms around him and held him tight, Tony tightened his embrace. "I'm hungry."

"I'll get you something to eat." Tony whispered, his chin resting on Steve's head. "Don't you wanna wash up first?"

"I guess..."

Steve resisted the urge to slide his hands down Tony's back and cup his two firm and shapely asscheeks, he released him from the embrace instead.

He felt much much better when he went out of the bathroom, all cleaned up. He glanced at Tony's back, fussing in the kitchenette, and smiled. His head was spinning again, a little bit.

Tony brought him a plate to bed and a large glass of water.

"Did you cook?" Steve asked, after a few bites of that delicious food. Unexpectedly and fittingly healthy.

"As if..." Tony answered with a sarcastic smile.

Steve looked at him for a moment trying to get his thoughts together. Tony was in his apartment, and he had brought food, and Steve had been drinking himself sick and making out with random dudes in the meantime.

"How long have you been here?" He finally asked, still chewing on his food.

"A few hours." Tony said.

"Why didn't you call?"

Tony still did that, coming unannounced, but he used his phone now, a little more often and, honestly, it didn't happen that frequently anymore. He had maybe put some kind of boundaries on himself, somehow.

The brunette kept silent, as he often did when he needed to dodge a question. It was his number two strategy after changing the subject.

"Yeah, we need to talk about that, by the way." Steve finally said, looking at his plate. "You can't just come here whenever you want. I had plans tonight. I could have brought a guy home. Actually, I was this close to do it." He really wasn't, but he needed to make a point.

Tony smiled. Not an ounce of jealousy there. Not that Steve wanted him to be, they were just friends. Just... It would have been nice, sort of, because he was fucking jealous of all those people who got to touch Tony. Even now. Even if he didn't know anything about it. "Okay." He agreed, chuckling.

And that was it. As simple as that. Steve had just needed to ask.

He finished the plate and drank the water, then Tony took his plate away, washed it and cleaned the kitchen. "Did you want something else?" He asked from afar. 

Steve was already starting to doze off, feeling like he was sinking into his bed. He mumbled something he had intended to be a 'no' and turned on his side.

Tony came back a few minutes later with his toothbrush ready and shook him slowly. "Brush your teeth before you fall asleep." He said in a sweet, gentle tone. Steve lazily took the toothbrush and brushed slowly. It took him some time but he finally found the courage to get up and rinse his mouth in the bathroom. When he came back, Tony was lying on the bed, Steve's laptop on his thighs and his glasses on. Steve had forgotten how sexy he looked with his glasses on. And there was something else about it: the fact that Tony never wore them in public, as if this little detail was Steve's only.

Steve collapsed on the bed and lay down next to him, snuggling a little, seeking his warmth. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Just checking something." Tony deadpanned.

Steve was much too tired and too drunk to try to decipher the enigmatic series of numbers and random words appearing on the screen. Too tired, too, to ask how come Tony felt appropriate to just use his laptop like it was his own. "On my computer?"

Tony just turned to him and smiled. After a few moments he closed the computer and tossed it aside, then turned to Steve, sliding a hand on his hip. "Can I sleep here tonight?" He asked, face really close. His breath tickled Steve's nose and Steve turned his face away before the urge to kiss him came back and he laughed.

"You've already planned to sleep here, anyway." He stated. 

Tony slept quite regularly with Steve actually, though he had never truly asked. Exactly like before, except they didn't have sex. And, contrarily to what people might think, there was nothing ambiguous between them. They were just sleeping next to each other. Sometimes they cuddled a little while watching a movie. A few times Tony had held him while asleep, like he was a bolster, clutching to him as if his life depended on it, but nothing more. Tony was subjected to nightmares. It just happened.

Tony sank into the bed next to Steve, without touching him. "Thanks." He whispered, a sigh of relief on his lips.

Steve startled, a bit confused. That sigh sounded like Steve had saved his life or something. He looked at him, questioningly. Tony was staring into space. Eyes hazy. Next to him was Steve's portfolio. 

"Did you just look at my drafts again?" He asked. A twinge of annoyance in his chest. Those drafts, his new projects. It was his. And his only, it won't meant to be shared.

Tony sat up, expression lightening and eyes glimmering excitedly in the dark. "They're amazing, Steve."

"Tony you can't just do that! I told you no to do that! It's private!"

Tony grinned guiltily. "I'm sorry." He whined. "But they're just so good. That story that happens during World War II and that guy who got experimented on. It's just really great. It's got so much potential. You need to publish that."

Steve sighed. That story was part of his new project, but really, he had never truly intended to publish this. He had probably given up on the idea altogether, changing career path, looking up to maybe rank up doing what he was already doing. Drawing was just something he did as a pastime now, much less pressure, much more fun. "I don't know..."

Tony energetically turned to him, expression enthusiastic and grabbed his two arms strongly with firm hands. "Steve," He said, staring into his eyes. "This is amazing work. You need to publish this. I want to read this story. I want to read about that guy and his friend. Everything works so well put together. You can't just give up on this."

The shock of being shaken like that made Steve's head spin again. "I've already tried publishing." He whined. He was just too tired for this conversation anyway and his thoughts were still unclear. Tony finally let him go and Steve collapsed on his pillow.

"Try again! Try DC, try Marvel..." Tony kept on, too energetically for Steve's drunkenness.

"Already did." Steve whispered with a surrendering sigh. He had sent a few drafts already, as a test. He never got any answers. Steve often imagined his work had been just thrown into the bin without even being looked at. He could even picture the secretary and her long painted nails, rolling her eyes annoyedly and pouting before tossing it aside.

"Try SHIELD then." Tony insisted. 

"SHIELD?"

Tony looked at him with wide open eyes, as if Steve hadn't been born on this planet. "You don't know SHIELD?" He asked doubtfully. Steve suddenly felt old and outmoded. He had never heard of SHIELD. "They're just a small publishing house. Mostly Graphic novels, but a few comics too. They've done this series called. "Agents of SHIELD?" 

"Never heard of that." 

"They're pretty avant-garde and audacious. I think your work corresponds exactly to what they would be looking for. It's so different, so refreshing. It's what people want to read. Marvel and DC are too big. They never take risks, they stopped being innovative since the 80s, people are getting bored." Steve had never seen Tony so enthusiastic before but right now, it kind of wore him out. Okay, he lied, Tony was always enthusiastic, about everything. But tonight they was something more, a particular flavor to it. It still wore him out. 

"I'll think about it." He finally said, mostly to shut him up.

"Great! I don't understand why you refuse to let people see what you do. You're so talented. You should share that talent!" 

"Tony, please, shut up." Steve said, feeling his headache coming back.

"I'm sorry but, I don't get it. I mean, if you're scared to be rejected again, or if you're doubting yourself, or need some kind of validation or something. Why don't you post a few sketches on the internet? Actually, I don't understand how you never tried that before... I mean it's the twenty first century. Everything happens on the internet now. This is how you need to promote yourself. It would be so easy to do so, don't they teach you that in art school? I mean, you don't even have a facebook account. In what fucking world are you living? You need to expand your horizon, touch a larger audience. Publishing houses are outdated. You should totally publish a few pages online. I'm absolutely certain you'll get a fanbase really quickly."

Tony kept rambling and rambling and it was quite amazing, and scary, the number of ideas he could blather in just one minute.

"I don't even know how to post a picture on Instagram." Steve mumbled, already falling asleep. 

"You don't have Instagram." Tony remarked. 

"Exactly."

"I'm not talking Instagram anyway. There're so many platforms you can post online. You need to go digital. You need to promote yourself, to make yourself known. Your art deserves to be shared."

"Tony..." Steve mumbled. "You're exhausting me. Just shut up."

"Come on Steve. I could do it for you, I could do it right now. I could even create you a website, and manage it, promote it too, create an algorithm that would make it appear quite high on the list of Google's suggestions. It would take me five minutes, really. I could also create several accounts, as a complement and..."

Steve jerked up, anger coming back. He turned to Tony. "I don't want," He muttered coldly and slowly, anger pervading his voice. "and I don't need, your help. This is my life, Tony. My life, my art, my choice, my career. You've got no business doing anything about it."

Tony stopped and stared at him silently, expression hurt. He reclined on the bed, raising his eyes to Steve. "I'm not trying to take that away from you. I'm just... I could help you. I could show you how it works. I... It would still be your work."

Steve felt guilty, he didn't mean to be so harsh. Well, mostly, he hated ruining Tony's enthusiasm. He felt like he had purposely pierced a hole in a kid's balloon, right now, seeing the disappointment in his eyes. "Can we talk about it later? I'm just too fucking tired right now, and too drunk. I just want to sleep it off."

Tony sank under the covers and nodded silently, pouting.

Thank God! Silence! Finally...

Steve collapsed on the bed again and turned his back to Tony. He almost expected the boy to curl around him and snuggle against his back, but Tony, remained still in his spot, breathing evenly next to him. The warm presence in his bed lulled him, however, and he was soon falling asleep.

He woke up three hours later, Tony was whimpering next to him. His movements jerky and constrained, as if he was trying to escape but was trapped in his own body. Paralyzed.

Steve ran a soothing hand down his stomach, and up to his chest for a little while, reassuring, comforting. Like he always did when it happened. Then he slid his hand up to his neck and cupped his jaw, gentle, soft. 

"Shhhh." He said appeasingly. "It's just me, Steve. Everything's okay. It's only me." He had taken his wrist in his other hand and was pressing it slowly, brushing his thumb inside his palm. 

The first time Tony had woken him up with his nightmares, he had done something similar, instinctively, and it had worked. So now he repeated the ritual every time it happened. He had noticed that speaking to him calmed him very effectively, his voice seemed to be soothing him.

Tony hummed relievedly at the sound of his voice and stopped shivering. He was still asleep, breathing steadily, calm and appeased. He turned over on his stomach and buried himself in the pillows, opposite from Steve.

Steve watched him sleep for a moment. He looked so innocent, and so beautiful, sleeping peacefully like that. His eyes fell down on his perfect body, following the line of his spine down to the shapely curve of his ass highlighted by the thin fabric of his shorts. Steve suddenly felt the urge to pull those shorts down and fuck him relentlessly. He must still be drunk. He should go back to sleep.

The next time Steve woke up Tony was already up and he could smell breakfast and warm coffee.

He rubbed his eyes open and raised his head.

Tony was in the kitchenette, wearing a dark suit. He was gorgeous.

He tended to forget that Tony was actually a man, with a job, at a big company. He was always so laid-back, nonchalant, always wearing the same hoodies and sweatpants or jeans like a teenager. Especially when they were going out, Tony wore excessively large clothes and an unkempt look, aiming for discretion. It always worked, surprisingly. Steve had never seen people looking at them funny, trying to remember where they had seen him before. Thankfully. He had no wish to see his face in the tabloids the next day.

But Tony wasn't trying to be incognito today. He was going to work. And he was stunning, in his perfectly fitting suit and grey shirt, with his hair styled, looking at his phone while resting against the countertop.

Steve had forgotten how big a deal Tony Stark was. Tony was just Tony to him.

Tony raised his eyes from his phone and smiled at him. Steve's eyes locked into his and didn't let go, he didn't move for a moment.

"You alright?" Tony asked, looking concerned. "Hungry?" Steve snapped out of it. He had been blinded by the breathtaking sight of him for a few minutes. Now he could feel the raging headache coming back. He was badly hungover. "I made you my special recipe." Tony went on, and surely Tony knew a lot about hangovers.

Steve grumbled and hid his hurting eyes in his hands. He needed to pee.

He tripped on the pile of frames and paintings he had taken back from the gallery and had just stored here for lack of a better place. "Ouch." The gallery owners had agreed to store them for a few months but it couldn't last forever. "Fucking paintings!" He cursed, while he limped to the bathroom. He heard Tony laugh while he was pissing, the door still open. Who cared?

"Yeah, that's not the best place to store your paintings." The latter said, still chuckling. 

Steve sneezed and raised his head up in order to soothe his headache. "I don't have anywhere else to put them. I don't even know what to do with them. I think I'm gonna throw them away." He said pensively while jiggling his dick, then went to wash his hands.

"Why don't you hang them at the shop?" Tony said nonchalantly.

Steve startled and froze under the water. He finished washing his hands and took the cloth with him while he stepped out of the bathroom. "What did you say?"

Tony looked up at him, chewing on a chunk of bread, coffee in hand. "Why don't you hang them at the shop? I think it would go perfectly with the ambiance there. It suits you, and your arts. And it would bring something more to the decor. I'm pretty sure Sam would agree."

Steve looked at him, taken aback. That was... That was... That was a fucking brilliant idea, actually! How come he had never thought of it before?

Tony went on. "This way you could still exhibit, promote your art and maybe sell it, who knows, and Sam's shop gets to be beautifully and originally decorated, hype and... It might even draw new customers in. It benefits everyone."

Steve kept still, staring at him, jaw slack. "Tony it's..."

Tony walked to him, looking embarrassed, a bashful smile on his lips. "You can't just throw them away. They're amazing. Especially the new ones."

"What new ones?" Steve had only worked on three new paintings since he had started at the coffeeshop. That was seven months ago.

"I took a look at them yesterday. I had never seen at least half of them. They're really great. You can't just throw that away. If you do that I'm gonna buy all of them and create my own gallery that will bear your name in big, bright and tacky letters." He held him a greenish smoothie. "Here. Drink this. No coffee for you." He said with a sheepish grin.

Steve didn't have the time, or the energy to protest, he grabbed the glass and took a sip. The smoothy was unexpectedly good, despite its repulsing aspect. "Did you really make this?" Steve asked, curious about Tony's many talents.

Tony turned to him, smirking. "There's a lot of things I'm good at, Rogers. Cooking is not one of them." He was already on the way out, getting prepared. It seemed to be still early though. 

"What time is it?" Steve said half-yawning. 

"Seven-thirty. You can go back to bed." Tony answered in a hurry and kissed him on the cheek. "I'll see you later?"

Steve watched him go, his head still hurting. He did wonder however how come Tony had just apparently planned his stay here to the point he had brought his next day outfit. Sleeping more seemed to be a very good idea at the moment.

When he finally got up to go to work, still feeling sick, he noticed something on his working table. They were plane tickets, for LA. With his name on it.

He called Tony.

"Hi Rogers, did I forget my panties in your bed again?" 

Steve chuckled. "Where are you?"

"At work."

"And there's people around?"

Tony didn't answer right away and Steve heard him moving at the other end of the phone. "Hum. Yeah."

"Aren't they going to hear you?" Steve asked, amused.

"Who cares?" Tony exclaimed, indifferent. "What did you want?"

"You left something on my desk." Steve started.

"Oh. Yeah, I forgot. It's my birthday present." 

Steve looked at the tickets. The date did correspond to Tony's birthday, in two weeks, he hadn't noticed at first. "They've got my name on it."

"I know that. It's my gift, from you. You're gonna grant me with your presence."

"So basically, you just bought yourself your own present."

Tony chuckled. "Rogers... If I could buy you, I would have done so a long time ago and you'd be currently living at my place, chained to my bed so I could abuse you all night long, with a long enough chain that you could paint in your room while I'm busy."

Steve guffawed, although the violence of it startled him a little. "What's the tickets for, Tony?"

"The party of the century? My parents have a house in Malibu. It's gonna be a three-day orgy, better than any Spring break, you never lived." As if Steve had ever been to that kind of party before. Okay he might have... Not with Tony, though. 

He felt a twinge in his heart. "I don't know, Tony."

"Come on, Steve. I'm turning twenty-one. I can officially buy alcohol everywhere in the country, now. Isn't that a fucking big deal? You can't miss this party. It's gonna be awesome."

Steve sighed. He knew what it meant. He also knew that their friendship worked especially because Steve ignored that part of Tony's life. He didn't want to know anything about it, let alone be there to watch it.

"If your idea of awesome is getting wasted and fuck everyone in the room, I'd rather not be a witness of that. I told you I didn't want to be part of it."

Tony was silent for a moment. "You're not gonna pass on the chance to spend three days in Malibu, right? You've never been out of New York! It's Los Angeles, man, not Sea Isle City in fucking New Jersey. We don't have to spend twenty four hours in the house. We could go sightseeing, or something. It's my birthday, Steve. And you're my friend. I want you to be there."

"Will Pepper be there?"

"Of course she will, all my friends are gonna be there..."

"And you think she's okay with that?" Steve asked, meaning to insinuate the obvious reason why this could never work.

Tony didn't seem to catch it however. "Why wouldn't she be?" He asked, clueless. 

Steve sighed again. It was a bad idea. It really was, but then... It was Tony.  "I'll think about it." He wasn't going to. He was just running out of excuses.

"Please? 

"I'm not even sure I can take the days off. I certainly won't be able to be get there on Thursday, Sam can get extras on weekends, but Fridays on such short notice..."

"Then I'll change your tickets. You can come Saturday morning. The big party's gonna be on Saturday anyway. And then maybe you can take Monday off, so we can spend the day together, go to Hollywood or something. If you want... " Tony suggested, and begged again, childishly. "Please."

Who could resist that?

 

Steve thought a lot about what Tony had said during his day at work. About trying other ways to promote his art. And why not? After all he had nothing to lose.

He spent his Sunday reading about the different platforms he could use to exhibit his art. He spent hours on how to upload his sketches or even make digital art--He should have taken this course at college--he wanted to do this on his own. He didn't need Tony's help.

At the end of the day, he had created an account and posted a few strips. The making of Captain America and his deep friendship with Sergeant B. He had wondered if he should use his real name, or not. He chose to post anonymously in the end. His poor heart had been drumming enough in his chest as it is. He wouldn't be able to take it otherwise. 

Once he'd done that, he felt really stupid and embarrassed. It was like he had posted the deepest part of his soul, bare, exposed, for everyone to see. That was a really stupid idea. He was never going to post anything else on the internet. That wasn't him. Just Tony and his stupid ideas again.  

Chapter Text

Steve regretted accepting Tony's tickets the moment his foot landed on the Californian soil.

The heat, for starters. It was suffocating, and Steve didn't have the kind of skin that could just be out in the sun and look beautifully tanned. 

Then there was the memories of his fight with Sam, who had refused to give him his Saturday off at first, meddling. 

The whole day had just been a series of disappointment, until it reached a climax.

Firstly, Tony hadn't given him an address, hadn't told him how to get to his place and didn't answer his fucking phone. Steve tried to check the buses and shuttles to go to Malibu, annoyed, but he was soon harpooned by Happy, Tony's chauffeur that he had met once, in the garage. 

Okay, so Tony hadn't forgotten about him, but still. He kept ignoring Steve's phone calls. And sending Happy was a nice thought, just, Steve had thought maybe Tony could have come pick him up himself, because, well... Steve felt kind of special. He was, wasn't he? Well, he kinda was number three on the list after his girlfriend and his best friend from six years ago, surely that meant he had a special place in Tony's heart, right?

Tony didn't pick him up, however. Happy did, in a huge dark Bentley with tinted glass windows, which felt a bit...

Steve was ashamed, or at least, embarrassed, especially when people opened wide eyes while he climbed into the car. He was embarrassed too, when he was comfortably seated at the back whereas Happy was at the front, driving. He felt uncomfortable in that situation, having people serve him, like actual servants.

Good thing that Happy was a nice guy and had tried to do the conversation.

"I'm glad you accepted to be here, Mr Steve." He had said. "Tony will be happy."

"Just Steve is enough." Steve deadpanned, looking out the window, contemplating the landscape through dark-tinted glass. 

" 'lright." Happy agreed and let the silence settle between them. Steve felt guilty at first, he was thinking that his remark had somehow cut Happy off, but then Happy continued, making Steve uncomfortable. "It's a good thing you and Tony are good friends. He doesn't have many."

"I thought more than two hundred people were invited to this party?" Steve asked indifferently. He was still angry at Tony for not picking him up, he didn't want to hear about his sad life story. Like Bucky said, at the end of the day, he was still fucking loaded, he didn't know what it meant to have it hard.

"People he's really close to I mean." Happy specified. "You know I've been working for Mr Stark for eighteen years, now. I used to take Tony to school. He's always been an introverted child. He didn't have many friends at school, he was too clever for his own good, I guess. He didn't blend in. I didn't see him smile very often, back then."

Happy went on about how child Tony was so cute and so sensitive. Steve wondered why he was so eager to tell him about Tony's childhood. It was a little embarrassing, Tony never talked about himself. He talked a lot, about many different things, but it was never personal. Steve listened attentively, skeptically. Introverted? Never smiling? Asocial? That just sounded like the opposite of Tony.

"I'm glad he can count on someone like you." Happy finally said. Someone like him? What could someone like him possibly offer Tony he didn't already have? "Someone strong and honest, like you." He explained, sensing the confusion in Steve's stance. "He doesn't have many people who have his back, you know?"

Steve almost choked on his spit, puzzled. Then he wondered how much Happy actually knew about his and Tony's relationship. He also wondered how much he knew about Tony's antics. Happy wasn't on Tony's emergency list. Didn't Tony trust him?

The road to Malibu wasn't that long but it felt interminable. He had to admit that the Californian landscape was beautiful, however. Malibu in Spring was magnificent. He felt like painting again.

The arrival at the house was yet another disappointment. Or rather, it brought a feeling of uneasiness again. It was huge, opulent, imposing. It made Steve feel dizzy.

Steve knew Tony was rich. He knew that, and yet he didn't expect something like that. It was not a house, it was a resort. It was even beyond Steve could have ever imagined. A completely different world. A world Steve knew nothing about. A world he was not part of, and would never be. He didn't have enough imagination to even be able to picture it before, how was he supposed to blend in?

It made him a little sick, though, to see all of this. How could it be possible to have that much money? How come people got to have that much money? If they shared, no-one would starve, everyone would be able to get proper treatment when sick... The world was so unfair.

Shit, was he becoming a communist? A thought for later, he should probably note this somewhere, that gave him ideas...

Happy pulled over in the huge driveway where you could park dozens of cars. He had intended to carry Steve's luggage but Steve beat him to it. That was not happening.

After he rang the bell, and noticed the loud music that already raised his hackles, he was in for the third disappointment of the day. His fears were confirmed. Not only, it wasn't Tony who opened the door but a bunch of giggling girls in bikinis--who had obviously started drinking very early in the day--who welcomed him in the mansion, eyes judging and babbling nosily. 

And the worst part of it was: Tony wasn't even there. Or worse, maybe he was there but he never actually came to welcome him in his home. Pepper did. 

Of all the people who could have shown him around, it was Pepper--Girlfriend, beautiful, imperturbable Pepper--who gave him a tour, who showed him his room, who told him how things worked in the house. 

The house seemed even bigger from the inside than from the outside. The volumes were huge, all curves and spirals that gave an impression of infinity, and the light from the bay window made everything sparkle in there. It was modern, pure, uncluttered, which contrasted with the outstanding works of art that decorated the place. Whether they were paintings, sculptures, engravings or photographs. All of them were beautifully highlighted, shown off but, Steve had to admit, with taste. It was revolting, still.

What was also revolting was the mess of the after party everywhere around him. People still passed out on the couches and sofas. Alcohol, and maybe drugs, everywhere, openly displayed and/or being used. The smell of it everywhere. Should Steve mention it wasn't even ten in the morning yet?

Pepper took him upstairs, with a nice, polite smile. She spoke without emotion, but still respectfully, with a certain grace in the way she acted. There were more than ten bedrooms upstairs, each with their own private bathroom. She showed him the masters' bedroom, then Tony's room which looked cold and impersonal, then her room, which was adjacent to his, Rhodey's room next, and his own. The others were meant for the other guests and looked more like dormitories than actual bedrooms. Again, Steve felt both special and uncomfortably guilty over the preferential treatment he was receiving. His bedroom was big with a beautiful sight on the Pacific ocean, he even had a balcony and, believe it or not, an actual easel was ready for him to express his artistic talents. Was it a joke? Did Tony really expected him to?

It was the first time he was seeing this part of the world and it was absolutely breathtaking, but, at the same time, he wasn't in the mood for appreciating the landscape. What made him even sicker than Pepper's glacial and rigid, constant smile was the fact that Tony had put her in another room as his own, as if he had already planned to fuck someone else tonight and just wanted to keep his room free of any girlfriend. His heart hurt for her somehow. Or maybe it was him that was hurting?

Tony was an asshole. He was an asshole and Steve had forgotten about that, blinded by his kindness, by his brilliance, by what made him extraordinary. Suddenly he realized all the things ordinary people accepted of him just to have the privilege to get closer to that extraordinary. He was as lame as them. He had no self-esteem at all, apparently.

Pepper had finished the tour with his bedroom and left him there to unpack. Steve sat on the huge bed, already exhausted, wondering why in hell he had accepted coming here. It was bound to be a disaster. He knew what Tony was like. He knew that. Why would he purposely impose this on himself?

He looked at the cardboard tube he had used to carry his gift for Tony--Transporting artwork was always complicated--and he took out his canvas. Steve had prepared his gift long before he was invited to the birthday party, with the intention to give Tony something as personal and thoughtful as what Tony had offered him last year for his birthday, and for Christmas.

However, he had been million years away from imagining he would celebrate Tony's birthday this way. He had imagined something intimate, just the two of them. Maybe they would have gone to the movies or out to eat something, or maybe they would have stayed at Steve's and eaten cake while watching TV series. Or maybe, Steve would have taken Tony on his bike, to see the stars.

Hum. Well...

He had certainly not imagined a mansion on Malibu's seashore and two hundred people, high and drunk, partying for three days. It was everything but intimate, and now that Steve had seen what kind of artists he exhibited on his walls. His stupid gift felt stupid and ridiculous.

He looked at the painting. A cartoon kid portrait of Tony, touches of dark, of red, of gold. A beautiful bright smile and a cute little face, the way Tony could be silly and cute sometimes. He thought he had succeeded in catching the playfulness and the intensity of his dark eyes. So dark and so luminous at the same time. Cartoon Tony was jumping out the window, suspended in the air, with the caption: "I don't fall. I fly." Something Tony had said to Steve in the early days of their relationship. He had scared the shit out of him that day, but that little sentence he would remember always. It still made him smile when he thought about it. It summed up perfectly Tony's personality, he thought. 

He put it back into the tube and wrapped it up. With no cards, no signature. If Tony cared even a little about Steve he would know. If he didn't know, then it wasn't worth it.

A small nap and a lot of thinking--or rather a lot of dwelling--later, Steve finally climbed down the stairs and joined the party outside, unenthusiastically. The big party was happening by the pool. Everyone in swimsuits. Tight shorts and tiny bikinis. Even topless for the bold ones. Many young girls. Models, actresses, influencers... The boys were less recognizable but Steve was pretty sure he had already seen at least half of the faces around him, even if he was incapable of placing them. The party was in full swing. The DJ was starting to set the mood. People were dancing, drinking, playing in the water. It was barely eleven a.m. and people were already smashed, Tony included.

He was there, rocking the party, loud, energetic, seductive, shining.

They were all around him. They were shouting and cheering, glorifying him. Steve could see the admiration, the fascination Tony elicited. Perverse fascination. All of them worshipping him, marveling at every thing he said, or did, fascinated by the money, the status, the natural charisma and magnetism Tony was doted with. They all wanted him, a piece of him, some of his light so they could shine a little bit too.

Steve was no better.

He walked to the pool, annoyed. He saw Pepper who was lying on a sunbed, under the parasols. She was sipping a fancy cocktail, a book in her hand. Imperturbable. Pepper was this tall, thin woman with long and delicate legs. She was wearing a black one-piece bathing suit, classy, and a bright green transparent beach kimono that brought out her eyes and highlighted the softness of her skin. She was one of those women with natural charm and graceful beauty. She was more stunning than any of those girls Tony was currently flirting with and yet, he didn't pay her any attention. Instead he shoved his tongue in the mouth of lavish women. Held them by the neck, submitting them, treating them like expendable garbage and they were asking for more.

Pepper seemed to be completely indifferent however. She was oblivious, engrossed in her reading. Present but not participating, watching from afar, just like him. It enraged him to admit it but, he kind of related to her in some ways.

He went to the (open) bar and asked for a coke, because there was no way Steve was drinking alcohol before midday. No way.

He looked at the ocean view again, it was absolutely breathtaking, especially as the sun reflected on it and mingled with the water of the pool, but he found himself incapable of appreciating the scenery.

It upset him. Bothered him, at least. 

He glanced at Tony sidelong, one last time, wishing his dark eyes would meet his own. They didn't. Tony didn't acknowledge his presence. He's not even sure he noticed him. Steve felt a lump in his throat. He wasn't sure it was because Tony ignored him or if it was because of his behavior. Drunk, high, promiscuous. Everything Steve didn't want to see, and didn't want to know, on his friend.

He had a drink after all, and sat down on one of the sunbeds opposite Pepper's, on the other side of the pool. He had no wish to chitchat with her. He stayed there in the shade, on his own, sipping his drink slowly, careful not to drink too fast and risk intoxication and a heat stroke. It was unusually hot for the end of May.

He decided he would ignore Tony, the same way he was being ignored. Instead he focused on the male bodies--muscular, tanned, half-naked--around him. Maybe some of them were gayer than they let people think. That alone, could make his trip here worth it. What? No, Steve wasn't superficial but he wasn't blind either. There was nothing wrong with a little fantasizing. He deserved to chill out and if he was half-hard in his cargo shorts, nobody really needed to know.

There was one of them who had a really hot body and he was a little bit older than the others. Dark hair, a groomed stubble, perfectly shaped muscles and a firm ass barely hidden under two sizes too small swim briefs. Steve had no idea that such mini swimwear existed for male too, in real life he meant, but apparently they did. His eyes followed that ass along the edge of the pool up to the open bar. Maybe he did move his head too at some point, he wasn't really sure. Too much heat in California, he wasn't thinking straight anymore--If he had ever.

It was the sudden and unexpected splash of cold water that snapped him out of it. Fuck! Steve thought before he realized who was splashing water on him. His shirt and shorts were soaked, now. 

"Rogers, stop leering! Your jaw's gonna fall on the ground!" He recognized the voice before he looked down and his eyes met dark shiny marbles. Tony smiled at him. "Where have you been? I thought you were supposed to land at nine. It's already half past twelve."

"I was here." Steve deadpanned.

Tony looked skeptical. "Didn't you come and say 'hello'?"

"You were busy."

"Sorry." Tony pouted apologetically. "I didn't see the time, been up all night. It's an amazing day, isn't it?" His smile was shining bright again, with a mischievous glow in it. He splashed him again, a few drops this time. "Come down. Let's cool off a bit. It's sweltering in here." as he had said that he sank into the water until only his eyes remained above the water, staring at Steve, playful.

Steve grumbled a 'no' as a response and avoided his gaze. Tony splashed him again, more effectively this time and burst out laughing at the surprised move Steve made. He jerked on his feet and looked desperately at his drenched clothes.

"Why did you do that?" He shouted protestingly. 

Tony laughed even louder. He tended to do that, when he was drunk, and obviously he was. Either he had started drinking early this morning or hadn't sobered up from yesterday's party. Or both. Probably both. "Come on, Rogers. Don't be a spoil sport! Come down into the pool!" 

"No!" Steve shouted back but Tony never took 'no' for an answer and climbed out of the pool and intimidated Steve back on his sunbed with his bulk and lay down over him. He folded his arms on Steve's torso and rested his chin on them.

"Why the long face?" He asked innocently. "It's a party. Cheer up!"

Steve had no answer for that question. Non that would be acceptable from a friend, at least. He pouted and avoided Tony's gaze.

"Go get your swimsuit. That outfit is offensive. No-one should be allowed to wear that much fabric around my pool."

Steve turned his face to him and plunged his eyes into the dark night of his. Tony's eyes were a starry sky, sparkling with a million lights dancing like flames. His soft smile was playful, expectant. He was so charming. Irresistible. And he knew it.

"I don't have a swimsuit." Steve replied. Lied.

Tony burst out laughing. "You were invited to a pool party in Malibu and didn't think to bring a swimsuit?" He scoffed, then his expression softened again. "Well, if that's what's bothering you, I can find you something. I probably have old briefs of mine somewhere. They should fit."

Steve was annoyed. "I don't want to swim." He yelled irritatedly. Truth was, he had swimwear. He simply had no wish to strip off his clothes there. In the middle of a crowd of perfect tanned bodies. Showing off his scrawny sickly pale body wasn't something he wanted to do right now. He would have made an effort for Tony, reluctantly, if Tony had made an effort for him, which he hadn't. So fuck no, he wasn't gonna swim in that pool today. Not now, at least.

Tony insisted however. He athletically jumped off Steve and tried to pull him by the arms. Steve resisted and pushed him away with his foot, so angrily that he actually kicked Tony into the pool, which attracted everyone's attention on them and generated a round of applaud and cheers. 

The first thing he felt was surprise, surprise at the noise, but mostly at his own violence. He was still shaking after Tony's unorthodox dive into the pool. 

The second thing he felt was guilt. A guilt that came from the deepest part of his soul.

Then he felt concern. Tony was drunk, possibly high and Steve had really, literally, kicked him into the pool, which could be potentially dangerous even without those factors.

These three feelings all intermingled, roiling and swirling into panic at the sight of the unmoving form of Tony in the water.

Steve dived.

He dived before anyone else noticed. He dived without acknowledging the curious and concerned stare around them. He quickly reached Tony's body and curled his arm around him, making sure his face was above the water. Tony's body was limp, his eyes half-closed and empty. He tried to talk to him, reanimate him but he remained unresponsive so Steve dragged him to the edge and attempted to carry him out of the pool.

Except Tony's body stiffened and moved just before Steve tried to lift him and he burst out laughing. He curled his arms around Steve and whispered in his ear. "I got into you pool." He taunted.

Steve was confused at first, then relieved, immensely relieved. And then he felt the anger spark in his chest. "Did you just play fucking dead on me?"

Tony grinned proudly. "I'm deeply touched that you put your life on hold to save mine, though. I'm utterly and forever beholden, my little knight in shining armor." He whispered, making fun of him.

The crowd cheered and hurrayed, shouting Tony's name. Everyone laughing at Steve's expense. He was in the pool, wearing his clothes, drenched and shivering.

He was mad.

He pushed Tony away from him with an abrupt and firm hand splayed on his chest. "Do you think this is funny?" Actually, mad wasn't even close to the real depth of his rage. Tony had fucking scared the shit out of him. Again. He had tricked him in order to manipulate him and all that to laugh at him in the end. 

Tony's smile faded a little. "Steve, I'm sorry. It was just a joke." He said apologetically.

"I'm sick of your jokes, Tony!" Steve shouted. "Leave me the fuck alone."

Tony pouted but didn't insist. Steve climbed out of the pool and ran upstairs to his room. He took a shower, changed his clothes and collapsed on the huge and very comfortable bed, brooding.

After a moment he came to terms with the whole thing. He was almost twenty-six for fuck sake. He was not a kid anymore. Hell, he probably was the oldest person at this party, thinking about it, and he felt like the most immature and the most boring one. Why couldn't he have fun like everyone else? Dance and play and chill out, just like a normal person? It's not because it wasn't his usual scene that he couldn't have fun. Tony had adapted like a fish in water when partying with Steve's friends. He could do the same.

At some point he went down to the pool party again, mostly to forage for food, but also driven by his curiosity. The party had quieted down. People were probably taking a nap somewhere, resting or sleeping it off. Or maybe they were already getting prepared for the big party tonight. Only a few people had resisted, probably thanks to drugs, but Steve didn't comment on that. Mostly, the few people there were the staff, preparing and cleaning after them. Anyhow, Tony was out of sight. 

Steve took some of the left overs which hadn't been removed yet and decided to go for a walk. He could be enjoying those three days in Malibu, even if not the way he was expected to. The Starks' Malibu estate was grand, huge and magnificent. Probably more than ten acres big with tennis courts, a golf course, a pond with a fountain and actual woods. All that perched on the very edge of a cliff right onto the Pacific Ocean. The view on the ocean from the cliff was breathtaking but further away, still encompassed in the estate, there was a beach. It was empty--probably private--and beautifully natural, with fine white sand and huge waves. Steve had wanted to go--he wanted to put his feet in the West coast sea at least once--but couldn't find the access to it. 

After three hours of exploring, he went back to the house. It was complete silence apart from the staff running around to prepare the house. Even the music had stopped. Some people were napping or idling by the pool. Most of them had gone however. Either back home or in the rooms upstairs. Steve really didn't know how many of those people were actually staying here, accommodated at Stark's expenses.

Steve had something to eat and went back to his room. He went to the balcony where there were recliners and a table. There even was a fridge, Steve had noticed. A small one, but full of snacks and drinks. Now, that he was appeased, he could finally appreciate the marvelous view outside. He glanced at the easel and the art supplies next to it that Steve hadn't noticed earlier either. What was Tony thinking? Did that make him hard to know Steve would be creative in this room? Did he feel the need to participate somehow to the process of creation? Would it make him feel good about himself?

Steve pondered the thought for a moment but was soon irresistibly attracted to the supplies which seemed of such fine quality and inexorably ended up sketching the landscape while drinking beer, comfortably seated on the balcony, and enjoying the peacefully quiet late afternoon. The sun was already starting to set, coloring the sky and the clouds with beautiful pinks and reds. 

The music was on again but Steve didn't notice until later, when a loud knock on his door made him startle.

Steve stood up and looked at the door expecting it to abruptly open. It didn't. Instead he heard the soft voice of Tony through it. "Can I come in?"

Steve opened it and Tony was standing in front of him. All cleaned up and classy. Gorgeous in his three pieces maroon suit that only Tony could pull off without being ridiculous. Tony had such a perfect natural build. Broad shoulders and a thin waist and the cut of his suit just highlighted that perfection. Tony Stark didn't need to follow the trends. Tony Stark was the trends. He threw a dashing smile at Steve.

"Did you sober up?" Steve blurted out, tone sarcastic.

Tony looked confused. "What that's supposed to mean?"

"You were already drunk at ten this morning." Steve answered. "You said it wouldn't be like that."

"It's a party, Steve." Tony explained, a mocking smile on his lips. "A regular party, not an AA party. Of course there were gonna be alcohol... What did you expect? Soft drinks, a piñata, some balloons and a Spiderman themed birthday cake?"

Well, when you put it like that, it did sound stupid. "No, of course not." Steve grumbled, and Tony laughed mockingly.

"Ready?" He asked while surveying the room. He probably got the answer to that question on his own. "What you doin?" Steve was enjoying himself sketching actually, but he wasn't gonna tell Tony that. "Have you been sketching?" He asked excitedly.

Steve looked down embarrassedly. "A little."

"I'm glad." Tony said softly. "Do you like your room?"

"I do." Steve answered as softly. "Yeah, and what's your deal with that by the way?" He then asked more harshly. Tony looked at him confusedly. "Why did you buy me all this? Do you get your kicks out of making me paint? Does it flatter your ego or something?"

Tony opened wide eyes and chuckled. "No. I just thought you might find the view beautiful and want to paint. I heard it's a thing. But I'm sorry if I offended you." 

Steve felt himself blush and said nothing. "It is beautiful." He whispered with a pout, after a moment of silence. 

Tony's smile spread on his face. 

"Did you look in your cupboard?" He asked nonchalantly, a little pleased with himself, and invited himself in.

"Why?" Steve asked, on the defensive. 

"I got you something for tonight." Tony answered, randomly walking around the room, taking a curious glance at Steve's sketches. 

Steve felt utterly vexed at that. "What's wrong with my clothes?"

"Nothing. But you don't want to look cheap tonight, right?"

Steve felt the beginning of a blush creeping on his face. A shame he had no place of feeling, and anger. Anger and disappointment and hurt. As usual, anger took over. "Cheap?" He spat indignantly. "Is that what you think I am? Cheap! I don't recall it was ever a problem for you before."

"Of course not." Tony answered with the same nonchalance. "I've never cared much about what you wore, others might however. It's a select crowd. You don't go to Tony Stark's birthday party wearing Walmart clothes." The tone he used however was so disdainful that it made Steve feel sick.

He enraged and his breathing accelerated. He tried his best to contain it but he could picture his face being as red as a tomato. "So, you care about that sort of thing? Are you ashamed of me, now?"

A glimpse of something Steve couldn't really decipher ran across Tony's eyes. His mouth remained opened for a moment until he closed it down and swallowed. Not even the beginning of a smile appearing at the corners of his mouth. "I just wanted you to blend in. I thought, maybe you'd want to appear at your advantage and avoid scornful people's stare. I foolishly thought you'd be glad and relieved. But you know what? Whatever... Just wear whatever you wanna wear, why do I care? It's all the fucking same to me."

Steve's anger quieted down. He looked up at Tony and stared into his eyes, apologetic. Tony looked insecure, waiting for a sign from him. His soft smile appeared softly on his face and his expression brightened at Steve's successful attempt at conveying his gratitude silently.

"Okay, I'll try it on." Steve said.

Tony's smile widened. "You don't have to."

"You bought it for me, the least I can do is try it on, right?" Steve deadpanned, walking up to the cupboard. 

Tony threw himself on the bed and lay on his side, cupping his head in his hand. "Who said I bought it? Maybe I just rent it?"

Steve threw him a skeptical look. "Did you?"

Tony's smile softened. "No." He admitted, looking embarrassed.

"You staying here?" Steve asked when Tony didn't seem to want to move away from his bed. The music now was really loud and they could hear shouting and cheering.

"Sure! I want to see what you look like!"

"Don't you have guests to entertain?" Steve teased.

Tony rolled on his back on the bed and took out pink glasses from his pocket. "It's not a real Stark Birthday Party if I don't arrive at least fashionably late." 

Steve rolled his eyes and opened the cupboard. There was a pair of khakis, dark blue, a white long-sleeve shirt, a bowtie--really?--and suspenders, yes, suspenders. And Red, no less.

"You got me suspenders!?" Steve asked without really asking, a little perplexed. Steve had thought Tony would have bought him a suit but that outfit looked pretty casual in fact, even though quite elegant. 

Tony had rolled on his stomach now and was leaning on his elbow, chin resting in his hands. He was looking at Steve through pink shaded glasses and smiled, ver pleased of himself apparently. "Yes. Suspenders. 'Cause they look hot and suit skinny short guys like you."

Steve cringed at the short and skinny mentions but overall got satisfied with his answer. He started stripping off but got shy in the middle, with Tony's intense gaze and undying smile directed at him. "Do you mind?" He asked curtly.

Tony burst out laughing. "Really?" But he turned on his back anyway and looked up at the ceiling, opposite Steve. 

Steve took some time to appreciate the quality of the fabric, the finesse of the sewing, all the little crafted details. He slipped the trousers on, they were so soft on his skin he felt like putting on a cloud. They fitted perfectly. It was the same for the shirt, light and soft like a second skin, sticking to his chest just the right amount. He knew perfectly well that Tony had fucked him on a regular basis for almost a year, but still, he was amazed at how it corresponded so impeccably to his size. He rubbed the fabric down and tucked the shirt into the pants, then he put the suspenders on, with an amused smile. He was going to look so ridiculous in those. He put on the shoes as well, brownish beige dress boots, thin, modern, smooth, fitting perfectly too. Then he took the bowtie and looked at it, uncertain. 

"Are you done?" Tony asked, tone a little annoyed. He was still fixing the ceiling and played with the glasses in his hands.

"Almost." Steve answered, feeling pressured. He started stressing out. He forgot about the bowtie and turned towards the bed. "So," He blurted nervously. "What do you think?" Tony rolled on his stomach again and glanced at him and froze, a glimpse of lust in his eyes. "You like?" Steve asked feeling a little more confident. He could see right there in Tony's eyes and in the way he moved his hands and parted his lips just how good he looked in those clothes.

"Yeah." Tony whispered huskily. "Take a look at yourself in the bathroom." 

Steve went and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked... great. He looked amazing. He shifted on himself, looking at how these clothes shaped his silhouette. It was perfect. The middle waist and short legs made him taller and outlined the curve of his body. The shirt was perfectly fit, hiding his scrawniness but shaping his slender form and highlighting his thin waist. It brought out everything that was good on him. And the suspenders were... kinda cool actually. It added something, he looked hot. He looked his age, for once. Not a fifteen-year old closeted gay virgin.

Steve came out of the bathroom proudly with a positive self-image and a boosted self-confidence. Tony was standing, the bowtie in his hand. "Let me help you with that." He whispered, looking dazed.

Steve stepped closer to him, implicitly giving his permission and looked up into his eyes. Tony brought his hands around his neck in a gesture that was everything but friendly. He tied the bowtie around his neck while Steve stared at his parted lips. "Here, you look perfect." 

"How do I look?" Steve asked, lips close to Tony's, staring into his eyes.

"Sexy. Confident. Like a proud, twenty-five year old gay man comfortable in his shoes. You're gonna score tonight Rogers! There's quite a few people here that are secretly gay, or bi-curious, at least."

"Am I the only one out, tonight?" Steve asked, a bit surprised. 

Tony gave him a self-deprecating smile and bit his bottom lip. "We don't like gay people that much in the Stark family, but it's okay, it will make you stand out, you'll get them all. Condoms and lube in the nightstand by the way."

Steve chuckled, mirthlessly, and dropped his head forward, on Tony's chest. Needing his affection, of giving comfort, he wasn't really sure. "Is that what you want me to do, tonight? Getting laid?" Steve asked, his face pressed against the warmth of Tony's chest. 

"Of course."

Steve breathed in heavily and sighed against his chest. "Why did you ask me to come, Tony? You barely talked to me today. I saw you like five minutes..." He whispered in a sigh.

Tony chuckled and curled his arms around him, comfortingly. "What? Want me to hold your hand?" He scoffed. "It's a party, Steve! Have fun! Drink! Get high! Get laid! You don't need me as a chaperone, do you?" He let go of him and pushed him away slightly, hands on his shoulders. "You're the only person who's been invited to Tony's Stark birthday and sulks. People would actually pay to come here. It's the party no-one wants to miss and you got VIP privileges to be there, why would you be so grumpy?" He paused and smiled teasingly. "And who knows? You might even find your Prince Charming tonight."

"I doubt that." Steve deadpanned, thinking how boring and superficial those people would must be. 

"You're so full of prejudices, Rogers. It's fascinating." Tony laughed.

And that was how Steve got put right back into the friend zone. Not that he expected anything more. It just... It hurt that Tony wouldn't even be just a little possessive. 

"Wait a minute." Tony blurted, eyes focused on Steve's head. He walked to the bathroom and came back with cream on his hands. He brushed his fingers in Steve's hair and ruffled them. "There you go. Perfect!" He looked at his work with a pleased smile and smirked. "I need to go." There were two hundred more guests supposed to come for the Saturday night party.

Steve went down a few minutes later, the party was already rocking. People dancing, laughing talking energetically. He deposited his gift on the huge pile dedicated to the man of the day and made a bee line for the bar with the full intention of following Tony's advice. He was getting laid tonight. Right under Tony's roof and possibly right under his nose and he would get extremely vocal about it. 

Except it was easier said, than done.

He had attracted a few glances. He wasn't gonna lie, but... He didn't know what to say to these people. It wasn't his world. They were all boasting about their dad's companies or the yacht they bought recently or their last trip around the world and how Italian cuisine 'genuine Roman cuisine' was the best, contrarily to what people thought and where was the last place you visited--hum... what's your name again? Oh and by the way, I love your style.

Isle Sea City in New Jersey, fuckers! 

After the third drink and a copious amount of boring talking, Steve found himself brooding again. He couldn't have fun, apparently. He was truly boring like that. And the worst part of it was that he was actually horny tonight, he just couldn't seem to find the right partner. 

He went outside, by the pool. A few people where having fun there, playing waterpolo or some other games that necessitated a ball, some girls were giggling or making out with young ephebes in the jacuzzis but overall it was a lot quieter there. The music was inside, the party inside. He looked at the sky. A marvelous swarm of stars, shining brighter than Steve had ever seen in his life before--New York's sky was so polluted--reflecting on the dark water. It was magnificent. So beautiful than Steve remained still for a minute, befuddled, and felt like crying at the beauty of it.

He walked in the quiet of the night, along the huge terrace that bordered the entire part of the house overhanging the ocean. It wasn't quiet at all but somehow Steve was able to gloss over it. When he reached the end he noticed there was another pool there, an infinity pool falling into the ocean with darker and colored lights, and there were people there, making out, or... more? Steve really didn't need to know. But really? Was there another guy down there too? Tony wasn't exaggerating when he said 'orgy' after all... Steve pivoted and walked back to the main pool, feeling chilly, he could only think about one thing: get protection, folks. Eew.

When he reached the other part he distinguished two familiar figure chatting in the shade of the parasols. Pepper, in an elegant black dress, tight enough to mold perfectly her beautiful silhouette, sexy but never vulgar, just the right amount of sexy and sophisticated, was in a seemingly  captivating discussion with Tony's best friend, Rhodey if he recalled correctly. Steve hadn't seen him today, he must have arrived later in the evening.

They seemed to get along so well together, Steve was envious. He pondered joining them for a while. They were staying outside, at the fringe of the party. Just like him. Maybe that party was the opportunity to know Tony's friends better, maybe that was what it was really about, maybe he could get along with them too. It might be his chance to know a little more about Tony, about his life, his world. He was curious at least, but he didn't go there, it felt like intruding. It felt like there was a wall between him and them, a whole world separating them.

Instead he paced inside. There seemed to be an uproar towards the stage and the few people who were still outside followed him, attracted like bees around a honeypot. On the stage, next to the DJ, Tony was making the show with a microphone. Gift opening, the highlight of the event. Tony opened every gift making sure to give a few offensive and provocative comments and entertain the audience.

Steve felt dizzy, almost nauseated, at the sight of all this opulence. All those gifts stank of wealth and luxury. Art goods, jewels, haute couture, old artifacts, all types of rarities. His stupid gift looked so pale and dull in comparison. Tony did not refrain on the sadistic pleasure of thanking everyone with sarcasm. Well, when he said everyone, it was just a manner of speaking, because there were the beautiful gifts that received warm thankfulness and the others discarded disdainfully on the scrap pile with outrageous comments under a round of applause and a lot of cheering and laughing from the audience. Tony really knew how to make the show.

Steve's gift found its way right on that pile. As soon as Tony had grabbed it, Steve had felt his heartbeat accelerate. He did not want to see his gift being made fun of like that. It was too intimate. It meat something to Steve. He had poured his heart, his soul in it, even if it was just a little painting. That didn't happened of course. Because Tony unwrapped the gift, opened the tube, gave a quick glance inside and threw the whole thing on the scrap pile without even taking a look at it. 'Boring' he said with a mocking laugh while yanking it away without a second thought.

Steve felt a lump in his throat and swallowed while clenching his fists.

When he had finished this, he had been a little proud of it. It suited Tony, he thought. The drawing represented everything Tony liked in his art, and it was a joke, something only the two of them could understand. At that time it felt like the perfect gift for Tony, now it just felt silly and lame and he bitterly regretted spending so much time on it. 

He left before the end and got himself a fourth drink. He braced himself and then went to the buffet. No more drinking on an empty stomach. 

There was a guy there, that might be gay, or at least attracted to men, seeing the way he looked at the waiter making Flambé shrimps in front of a captivated audience.

He wasn't very tall, chestnut hair cut short, a classic, elegant, probably very expensive suit and dark glasses. He looked less sophisticated, more average than the other guys, more like Steve's type. And exactly what Steve needed after the gift-opening fiasco.

Steve made the first move and started a conversation, something he regretted bitterly shortly after.

Actually, he was even wondering how he could have ever thought of him as attractive, even for one second. The guy was repulsive, rude, self-obsessed and a complete bore, and Steve felt like smashing his glasses on his fucking nose and make him shut up. He wasn't very patient tonight.

Unfortunately for him, he got stuck in a conversation with him for the next hour, fighting the revulsion churning his stomach every time the guy shoved a shrimp in his gullet and chewed ostensibly on it. How could someone eat so disgustingly? Steve wondered. He had tried to get away but every time, the guy restarted on a new topic and kept following him, and Steve was too polite to tell him to fuck off.

So he listened, or pretended to at least. So far Steve had learned about his family, his dad's companies, his connections in the business world, his connections with the Stark family and their empire, the exact number of time he and Tony had met, when and where and in what circumstances. He knew about his academic background and university career, his new job, his cats, the last time he got hammered on his dad's yacht and had sex with a model on it. Hammered. Ah. Ah. Pun unintended. The guy had had the time to unfold his whole life-story but hadn't thought of asking Steve his name.

Gift-opening had been over for quite some time now, ending on an obnoxious video of Tony's parents showering him with love. Money-love, Steve meant. The party was in full swing again, music beating loudly, people dancing. Tony, coat and waistcoat discarded somewhere, his shirt starting to get damp with sweat, was dancing in the middle of the crowd. Sensual, seductive, magnetic. He was surrounded with gorgeous women, offering them all a dance, taking their arm and curling his own around their waist, hands on their hips and nose buried in their neck. He was so handsome, Steve thought. 

His eyes kept following him, the curves of his lithe body, the sensuality of his moves, his smile, bright and inviting. His laugh... Steve couldn't really hear it from where he was standing but he knew the sound of it and that sound made his stomach feel funny. Not that Justin Something-with-the-name-of-a-tool's conversation about his last financial coup wasn't interesting, he just seemed to be inexorably drawn to Tony.

"You know, if you're interested in banging Stark, you should go for it. I heard he swings both ways." Steve snapped out of his daze and looked at the guy next to him and his awful smile. "Not that I would know of course," He coughed with an abhorrent expression on his face. "cause you know, I don't--Not that it bothers me, if you are... right?"

Yeah right... 

"What?" Steve asked falsely surprised, suddenly feeling a lot more interested in whatever that Justin guy had to say.

"Go for it!" Justin guy repeated with a sly and sadistic smile. "He's a slut. He'll probably suck your cock if you ask, or maybe you'd like to suck his?"

Steve cleared his throat, pretending he didn't already know that, and felt a nasty pleasure at the opportunity to dig up some dirts on Tony. Served him right. "I beg your pardon?"

"You've been eye-fucking him for the past fifteen minutes." 

"No, I haven't..." Lie. "How do you know he's gay anyway?"

"Well, that's common knowledge." Justin guy exclaimed, pleased with himself and purposely obnoxious. "Everyone here knows Stark's a big bi-slut." He explained, all too proud of being the one telling Steve that juicy news about their host. "Well, maybe not everyone," he said conceitedly, "but I guess I've known him for a long time and let's say I've got connections. Stark's a real whore, or so I heard. Everyone's cum dump at MIT."

Steve felt his stomach churn. He was wrong. He didn't need to dig up any dirt on Tony at all and the tone and choice of words that judgmental homophobic prick used to talk about his friend just revolted him. He was gross. Steve felt sick.

"MIT's whore." The guy went on, sounding and looking more and more repulsive to Steve. "That was his nickname back then. Heard he'd go down on his knees for anyone who asks, willing to spread his legs for the first dick that comes his way. I would have definitely split that ass open if I was... you know. Not that I ever thought about it, 'cause I'm not... you know." 

Steve didn't.

That guy was making his hackles raise and he had to fight the urge to punch him in his disgusting teeth. He just didn't want to dirty his hands.

"I thought you went to Caltech." Steve deadpanned. He was pretty sure that guy was all talk and that it was a pile of bullshit anyway. Tony didn't even bottom.

"Well, I know a guy or two who went to MIT at the same time Stark whore was slutting around, giving blowjobs in the showers and going on his knees during lectures. It is worth some consideration actually, I mean, how did he get all those degrees in such a short amount of time?"

Steve felt anger sparkle at the pit of his stomach. That Hammer guy was insufferable and kept being grosser and grosser, talking behind Tony's back as if he knew anything about him, insinuating things.

"What are you implying?" Steve spat, trying to hide the anger pervading his voice.

Hammer guy must have felt it. "Nothing really," He said defensively. "but we can't help wondering, can we?" He added with a repellent smile. Then he chuckled. "Oh oh, look at that!" He pointed at the stage where Tony had gone up to again, taking his clothes off and dancing gracefully, alluringly to the thunderous cheering of the crowd.

It might have been a drunken striptease but it was the hottest dance Steve had ever seen, and he had been to strip clubs before, no matter what you think. It was basically Channing Tatum with less muscles but a lot more charms and as much sensuality. Of course, everyone was filming it, entranced, amused, and Steve felt the bile coming up his throat at Hammer's dirty comments on him. 

"Look at that whore! He's asking for it!" Hammer's eyes were lecherous. "You know I heard he even got gang-banged like the dirty whore he is." He added, laughing disgustingly.

A bunch of crap. A load of bullshit. Steve still managed to tear a hoarse "Really?" out of his throat, despite the lump in there.

"Yeah." The guy went on, encouraged by his own lust. He could have had his hands down his pants rubbing himself that it wouldn't even have surprised Steve, he sounded like he was mentally masturbating. "Ten guys on him. They all shoved their cocks in his hungry mouth and his teen ass and filmed the whole thing."

Steve felt horrified. His heartbeat raced and throbbed at his temples. Bunch of crap. "Have you seen it?" He asked, ignoring the awful 'teen' word he had heard and trying to control his heavy breathing. Ocean view, private beach, really nice pond, starry sky reflecting on the water... Steve forced himself to think about all the beautiful things he had seen today not to have a mental image of teen Tony getting gangbanged. Bunch of crap. Bunch of crap. Hammer was just a sexually frustrated closeted homo asshole who projected his own fantasies onto Tony. That was all, because Tony was Tony. Sex on legs. Everyone wanted him. Because he was... (the real thing was much better anyway) He was...

He was... now off the stage and excited girls in bikinis were pouring champagne onto his open mouth and naked chest. Then he stood up and spit the champagne in their mouths and shoved his tongue inside.

"Nah. Of course not." The obnoxious guy admitted. "I wouldn't try to look at that sort of thing. You know I'm not... Cause I'm straight. Hundred percent. Not that I have anything against gays, you know. I'm just more of a lady's guy. If you know what I mean." 

Yeah. Right.

God, could that guy be even more irritating!?

"I need a drink." Steve said with an exasperated sigh, ignoring Hammer who was curiously insistent about claiming he wasn't gay, and left for the bar. His heart still beating much too fast in his chest, the mental image not leaving his thoughts.

"Oh. Yeah, good idea. Margarita for me." Hammer shouted from behind.

Steve turned back to him and gave him a hypocritical smile. "Sure." As if...

He strode to the open bar and ordered his fifth drink. He gulped it down in one go. Careful there, because he was dangerously sliding down the slope to hungover land. Although he had made sure to eat food this time and to get water in between each drink, he was utterly and properly drunk.

He knew that he was drunk because of the way he was staggering towards the lounging area where Tony was kissing two girls. He was wearing a t-shirt now, somehow. A girl's t-shirt. And those said girls had their hands in his pants and were groping him, like literally groping and jerking him off, while he was touching their boobs. He wasn't even sure what he found the most repulsive, the fact that Tony was about to have sex in the middle of the room where anyone could see, including his girlfriend Pepper. Or the fact that he was having sex with girls. Steve was seemingly much less tolerant when he was drunk. He knew he wasn't thinking straight when, against all common sense, he decided to confront him about it.  

The three of them had their hands off each other by the time he was standing in front of them. 

"Wassup Rogers? Found Prince Charming yet?" Tony slurred, eyes glimmering with lust and drunken haze. Steve didn't know exactly how he felt. He was torn between slapping him or kicking him in the balls, giving him a lecture, and shoving his tongue in his mouth and climbing on top of him, pushing the offensively girly hands off of him.

"No." Steve answered, swaying on his feet.

"What do you want?" Tony asked, tone slightly annoyed.

"Your girlfriend is here." 

Tony burst out laughing, a dark and sarcastic laugh. Then he stopped. "You know Rogers," He slurred, obviously smashed. "You can't pretend you're my friend and get fucking jealous every time I bang someone else." He splayed a hand on Steve's stomach and pushed him slightly away. "Get a fucking life!"

Get a fucking life... That was Tony's answer. Get. A. Fucking. Life.

As if Steve's life hadn't been put on hold ever since he had met Tony.

Screw him!  He was out of here.

It was too much. Too fucking much. Steve was out of here, for good. He ran upstairs, his heart feeling low--and almost fell on the stairs twice. He felt the tears showing at the corners of his eyes and swallowed a sob. He didn't know if they were tears of anger or sadness, or both, but he wiped them out of his eyes and sniffled before climbing the last steps and running into his room. Once inside, he took his duffle and threw all his stuff in it, then he slammed the door and ran down the stairs, not crying. He didn't even bother putting his jacket on.

He should have known. He should have fucking known. That day had been a disaster the moment he had stepped down the ladder at the airport. Why would he ever think that Tony could change? All his friends had warned him, Sam had begged him not to go but he had stupidly insisted, vouching for his friend, saying he wasn't like that. But that was just bullshit. Tony had never changed, Tony had always been that asshole. He was just a manipulative jerk, toying with everyone, a drunkard and a whore. He wasn't even trying to hide it.

As he was reaching for the door, he felt a hand grabbing his arm and someone call his name, gently. "Steve."

He pivoted and was face to face with Tony's best friend. Rhodey. He wiped his face off with his sleeve and sniffled again, containing his non-existent sobs. Rhodey was still holding his arm.

"Where are you going?"

"To a hotel, then to the airport." Steve answered. He wasn't staying one more minute here. 

"How are you gonna get there?" Rhodey asked worriedly.

"I'll take a cab."

"Now? It's almost two in the morning."

Steve took a look outside. They were miles away from the next hotel, let alone the airport.

"Look. Why don't you cool down a little. Let's talk a bit and then I'll give you a lift, if you really want to leave."

Steve pondered his options for a short while. What other choice did he have? He accepted Rhodey's offer and felt already better to have someone taking his feelings into consideration, for once. Rhodey took him to a part of the house he hadn't seen yet. A small winter parlor that gave on a little terrace facing the ocean, no-one else was there or in proximity.

The man gave him a glass of water that Steve drank in one go. Then he braced himself, he was a bit too proud to cry in front of Tony's best friend--He wasn't crying by the way, he just had dust in his eye and he was maybe a little too drunk. Rhodey was nice nevertheless and didn't say anything about the tears in his eyes, or the way he was breathing jerkily. He pressed a hand on his raging headache.

"A bit too much to drink?" Rhodey asked politely, knowing the answer already. Steve was shivering, suddenly feeling the cold of the night and felt woozy. "Here, take this!"  The man said while putting his jacket around Steve's shoulders and he patted a friendly hand on his back.

They kept silent for a moment, until Rhodey finally spoke.

"Look." He started with a serious tone. "I don't know what Tony said to you, or even what's the status of your relationship with him now, but don't pay attention to him. He can be a real jackass when he's drunk."

Steve huffed out a chuckle. "Yeah. Old news." He buried his hands in his pockets and crossed his legs, reclining on the railing.

"I've wanted to talk to you, you know, but I guess I was a bit late doing that." Rhodey said, with a kind tone. "So I hear you're a comic book artist?" He asked a moment later, trying to start a conversation with Steve. Steve must admit that it worked. So few people had asked about him tonight, so few people ask about him in general, that Steve fell into the honey trap, lured into the conversation by Rhodey's kindness and genuine interest about him and his hobbies. "I'm a fan of comics myself, I would love to hear about your work."

Steve chuckled. "I'm not anywhere close to that. I used to paint and tried to make a living out of it but I'm done with that now, I guess. The superheroes business is mostly a pastime that I thoroughly enjoy when I'm free but that's obviously not going anywhere. Other than the walls of my living room I mean..." He explained with a self-depreciating smile.

"That's a shame." Rhodey said. "Tony seems to think you're the next Stan Lee." 

He burst out laughing. "Of course, he would think that, why am I even surprised!?" 

"Tony's rarely wrong about his intuitions, you know? He has a really good nose and he's an expert about comics. Believe me, I thought I was quite the nerd but I found my match! Four years of sharing a room with him, I can tell you I'll trust his instincts over everything else and so, on many aspects."

Steve didn't know how to answer to that, apart from showing an embarrassed smile. "You seem to know a lot about him."

"Well, I think I do, even if there's a big part of mystery around him. He doesn't like to talk much about himself."

"Argh. Tell me about it!" Steve agreed, feeling the mutual understanding between the two of them. "Did he tell you about us?"

Rhodey bit his lips before answering. "Tony talks a lot about you. All the time. What you do, who you are, who your friends are... Mostly how amazing you are... but he doesn't talk about anything else. He's always been a private person. He never talks about intimate things."

Steve unjustifiedly felt a pang of jealousy over their connection, but also felt a bit pleased that Tony talked about him. "He's never told me about you, or Pepper for that matter. The first time I heard of your existence was that time at the shop. He's barely mentioned you since then. He never talks to me. Not about him. I know nothing about him."

The man gave him an understanding smile. "I guess he needs time before he trusts someone. He's hard to find under his unbreakable armor but when you do, you have him for the rest of life. You shouldn't fret over it, he's always been secretive." 

"He's trusted me with really important stuff before."

"Well, I meant emotional trust. He will open up to you, when he knows you won't use it to hurt him."

"This is awful. I'd never do that." Steve protested offendedly. 

"You know I've known him for five years and we've lived together for four. We were very close and yet there's still plenty I don't know about him. And I've never been romantically involved with him, which makes things easier I guess. Pepper's basically known him her whole existence. They've been in each other's life since they were in diapers. They grew up together. And even her, he leaves at a loss sometimes."

Steve didn't know how to answer that. He wondered however what Rhodey thought they were to each other. It wasn't the first time he had mentioned their romantic connection, and yet, he didn't seem to disapprove or care about it, even when knowing about his girlfriend and being friends with her, as if he had, and so did Pepper, somehow accepted things the way they were, without question. It sounded like Tony had them wrapped around his little fingers. Like they were forming a small cult around guru Tony and worshipped the ground he walked on. Steve wasn't sure what he thought about that, but it made him feel extremely uncomfortable. He didn't speak for a moment and changed the topic before it turned awkward between them.

"So you're a pilot?"

"In training." The man replied with an amused glint in his eyes. 

"You know I used to want to be a soldier, when I was a kid. With my friend Bucky, we both dreamt about it. I guess with my conditions, that would have been difficult..."

They talked about training, the army code, being in the Air Force, how the military is portrayed in movies and in comic books vs reality. Well, let's say they got along. 

After a long conversation that helped Steve feel a lot better about himself, Rhodey suddenly went back to topic number one. "You're a great Guy, Steve." He blurted, out of nowhere. "I'm really glad you're part of his life, at least, in some ways. You've had a very positive influence on him." 

Steve felt his heart clench again, at the mention of Tony. Really? Since when? Since when had he had any kind of influence on Tony anyway, good or bad?

"He cares a lot about you, you know, whatever you are to him..." The man went on, with a more serious tone. He was staring in front of him, avoiding Steve's focused staring. Steve listened carefully, smile fading on his lips. "I don't want to put my nose into someone else's business and I don't want to, in away way, make him your responsibility, but..."

There's always a but, Steve thought disappointedly. 

"He's doing a lot better since you two are seeing each other again. You know, he's had phases, highly self-destructive phases. He's been under depression, on and off, for as long as I've known him. Never had a healthy relationship, with anyone. I guess it's hard for him, to connect with others. Ever since I've know him, he's never had close friends other than Pepper and I." Steve felt the sadness overwhelm him again, mingling with his undying anger. He had heard that somewhere already. Why had Tony's friends somehow plotted and decided to make him feel guilty?

"So, don't get me wrong," The guy went on. "I'm not saying he's not using drugs anymore, or that he stopped hooking up with random people, I'm just saying that he seems happier. A lot happier, and all the self-destructive bullshit, it's lessened. A lot. He's cut down on the drugs, on the alcohol... You know, he used to drink every day, smoke a pack and a half a day. He's considerably reduced all that. Even the random hook-ups. I used to pick him up at sordid sex parties--completely high or even passed out--almost three times a week and that wasn't that long ago. He's stopped doing that now, completely. And I think it's thanks to you. I think he's trying to get better."

He said he didn't want to make Tony his responsibility, but how could he not feel responsible now?  Steve's heart clenched and his breathing accelerated. Number three on the list, he kept thinking. What was it like to be number one?

"I know that being Tony Stark's friend is a lot of work, and most of the time, he's a real pain in the ass. But that's not all there is, beyond all that, being Tony's friends is really rewarding, and I don't mean financially speaking, even if it does, let's not deny it..." Rhodey had a sheepish smile on his face when he said that, as if he felt uncomfortable around all that money. Just like Steve did. 

"Tony is loyal and his generosity--again not talking about money--has no boundaries. Tony is a great friend and an amazing person to have in your life, despite everything else." He took a deep breath and went on talking with an affectionate smile on his lips. "You know I hated him at first. He was this annoying arrogant kid, pretentious, provocative, subversive. Always looking for trouble, whether with the others students or with the teachers. Mostly a huge pain in my ass, but then I got to know him, the real him. He's a sensitive kid, curious, caring, brilliant... And then I realized he was so much more than he pretended to be. It turned out that we had a lot in common. We liked the same thing, had the same passion for sciences. We're just two big nerds... Now, I'd follow him anywhere, I'd give my life for him. Because it's worth it.

That was an inspiring speech, Steve thought. He had felt really moved. He should write this down somewhere, he thought, for later. There was probably a lot of army talk there. Real life people just didn't talk like that, didn't think like that, but it was beautiful, romantic, in some ways. 

Steve felt like crying again, but he held his tears. Rhodey seemed to notice his distress however, because he put a warm hand on his shoulder and squeeze comfortingly.  

"I know he comes with a lot of pain," he concluded with a gentle, understanding voice. "but I hope you'll give him a second chance. Whether you decide to stay friends, or to build something deeper with him, it's up to you, but I think it would do him good to have you around."

Steve thought about it for a moment. Maybe he could give it a day, or two after all. Why the rush?

That bed upstairs was just so comfy, why would he want to spend the night at the airport? And the landscape was so beautiful, the house was so big, he wouldn't have to see Tony if he didn't want to, even if he stayed a whole month here...

Rhodey patted his shoulder and smiled warmly at him.

"Can I asked you something?" Steve asked, voice soft and curious. Rhode nodded while pinching his lips. "You and Tony were college roommates, right?"

"Yeah. Four years. A lot of sins happened in that room, I'm telling you."

"Was he...? Did you know about...about his relationships? Like... did he have someone or something?"

Rhodey chuckled. "What are you getting at?"

"Nothing...." Steve said, feeling his heart race again and his head spin. He didn't want to know, but he wanted to know. "Just something some guy said, probably a load of crap."

"If that guy you're talking about was Hammer, it certainly was loads of crap. That guy's a poser. I don't even know why Tony invited him. It probably was his parents..."

"Right!" Steve agreed a bit aggressively, remembering how gross and repulsive he had been. "He's such an ass!" 

Rhodey let escape a sigh of relief. "Thank god! I was beginning to wonder..." 

Steve jerked his head to him, surprised, and then laughed. Rhodey met his gaze and laughed too. They shared an understanding smile. A small relaxing parenthesis.

"So, what did Hammer say that got you all worked up?"

Steve took a deep breath and finally asked. "He said he was called 'MIT's whore' and that he got gang-banged in the showers, and that they even filmed it."

Rhodey tensed and straightened up against the railing. His smile was gone from his face. "Well, I don't know about the nickname..." He finally said with a gasp, looking at his feet. "but the rest is true."

It was a hard blow for Steve. He felt his heart heave in his chest and the headache and dizziness came back, striking like a hammer--pun very much unintended. He felt his cheeks redden, a bit of anger, sadness, betrayal, disappointment... It was not like he didn't know Tony was capable of doing something like that... He had just hoped he wouldn't.

Alcohol and emotions really didn't go well together. He felt himself wobble and grabbed the railing for support. "H- how?" He heard himself whisper.

"Well, it's one of MIT's biggest scandals in the last decades, actually." Rhodey said, swallowing and clenching his jaw.

"What happened?" Steve hurried to ask, eager and morbidly curious about it. 

"It was during his freshman year... I don't know much about how it happened, we weren't roommates then... But I know he was sorta dating this guy. Some kind of frat boy, rebellious, older... He's the one who introduced him to drugs and, apparently, to group sex. He liked to share and Tony seemingly didn't mind being shared. I think it happened progressively and then got a little out of hands until he made him blow his friends in the showers and other guys joined in and some of them filmed."

Rhodey spoke factually, without emotion, but the raw, blunt truth of it just made Steve feel sick. He felt shivers down his spine, not the good kind. Again, he wasn't really surprised, it sounded so much like a Tony's thing to do, but it made him sick. And it's not the group thing that made him sick, it's the indifference with which Tony let others use him.

But what did he know anyway? 

"I'm not sure exactly though," Rhodey continued. "Tony never talked to me about it. What I know is that the video circulated among them, it was the beginning of Facebook at the time. His father heard about it and took care of it. The thing is, Tony was fifteen then, and under the university's responsibility. It caused a huge scandal and the board members got into a tough spot. Quite a few people got fired over this."

"Fifteen..." Steve repeated, his voice pervaded with horror and felt another shiver down his spine. "How come it never got out?"

"Howard doesn't do things half-way, I guess... I can tell you, you better have him as a friend. He got all the guys involved in sharing expelled and the ones in the videos, he just ruined them, and their families. It quieted things down for good. Howard did everything to sweep the issue under the rug, and it worked. No-one outside of uni heard about it, and the few who have, have kept silent about it. Besides, there are more than eleven thousand students, there. Not that many people actually saw the videos or heard of it, but some rumors started spreading around campus and he got his reputation made, I guess..."

"That's awful..." Steve whispered, more to himself than to Rhodey.

"It kind of is, yeah, but Tony never really seemed to care much... He's been quite apathetic and disinterested about the whole thing all this time, I even wondered if there wasn't a little part of him who was actually glad about pissing off his dad. He's always been provocative."

"That's sad." Steve remarked, feeling giddy again. He attempted moving from his spot but it all started to weirdly move around him. Shit! Alcohol and emotions really didn't go together.

"It is... but some good came out of it as well... That's how we became roommates actually, as a trusted member of the undergraduate student council, they threw him out to me to look after. We had a rocky start, but then became really good friends... We got along well, even though I'm older. I'm older than you, actually! I don't know if he told you."

Steve felt himself wobbling. "Have you seen it?" He asked, still unable to forget about fifteen-year-old Tony giving blowjobs in the showers under the humiliating encouragements of homophobic frat boys... Tony aside, his gay self just internally hurt for another fellow gay kid being used and humiliated. 

Rhodey took a deep breath and blew slowly out of his nose. "The video you mean?" He huffed. "I did see a little part of it... It's not like I was interested in pursuing the viewing. It didn't look...forced or violent, if that's what you're worried about..." Steve's knees gave out and he caught himself on the railing. "Are you okay?" Rhodey asked concernedly while holding him straight with a gentle hand on his back.

"I think I'm gonna be sick..." Steve blurted out, feeling the bile already at the back of his throat. He turned toward the ocean and threw up over the railing, soiling the wall underneath them. "Fuck..." He muttered after he was done. "I made a mess."

Rhodey chuckled. "Don't worry about it. Tony will have the staff clean it tomorrow. You're probably not the first, nor the last for tonight. Are you okay?"

Steve wiped his mouth with his sleeve--there went the nice dress shirt Tony had bought him--and reclined on the railing, elbows resting on the iron bar, pensive. "I think I am." He said, after some reflection. At least, his head was not spinning anymore.

Rhodey pushed him forward with a gentle hand. "Come. Let's get you some more water."

"Thanks."

Rhodey took Steve back to the main part of the house. He felt a little better after two glasses of fresh water but he needed a bed, comfy, warm and stable--he still felt a little dizzy. Unfortunately, he had to walk across the main room where the party was still going hard. Rhodey had nicely suggested to take him to his room but he had politely declined, he could take care of himself. He had already been enough of a drag for one night.  

He strode across the crowd, watching ahead, trying not to stumble on anyone. He wasn't sure he was actually walking straight. He probably wasn't, considering. Everything was so fucking confused in his head. He was still dizzy, with a beginning of a headache, emotions going haywire. 

"There you are." Someone called, grabbing him by the arm. "I've been looking for you everywhere." 

Steve didn't need to look back toward the voice to know who it was. His hackles raised instantly and he felt his stomach churn at the thought of his hand touching him. He pivoted slowly, losing balance in the process. He almost stumbled but the guy's grip was strong on his arm. He looked up, only to see that repellent smile that made him feel nauseous, and got face to face with Hammer and his lecherous smile much too close to his face.

He jerked back and freed himself from his grip. Hammer disgusted him and the sight of his abhorrent self just provoked violent feelings inside of Steve.

"So you're not gonna believe what Starkwhore just did!" Hammer exclaimed, all smug and despising.

Steve didn't fucking care what Tony did or didn't do. Steve cared about assholes who thought they were better than him, assholes who thought they could just use him and shame him. He felt a pool of rage swirling inside of him. 

Words and pictures came back to his mind, again and again, whispered to him like supernatural voices. MIT's whore. Fifteen. Blow jobs in the showers. Didn't mind being shared. Fifteen. Disinterested. Gand banged. Slut. Filmed. Fifteen. Like to share. Drugs. Apathetic. Opening his legs. Ten guys. Fifteen. Sensitive kid. Difficulty to connect. Freshman year. Older. Made him blow his friends. Made him...blow his friends. Fifteen. Apathetic...

He felt the rage overwhelm him and spread inside like poison. 

Hammer leant into him and whispered salaciously against his ear. "You know the video I talked to you about? I think I found a guy who might still have it. I could dig it up for you, if you're interested to see that cum-whore on his knees begging for cocks. I heard it's worth seeing."

Steve isn't sure exactly what provoked it. What Hammer said, his earlier talk with Rhodey, Hammer's foul breath on him, his disgusting grip, or everything put together, but the brutal and visceral hatred he felt right now just needed out. He felt his hands shake and the furor pooling in his stomach just poured out of him. Steve just saw himself losing control, as if he was out of his own body. He saw his hand smashing Hammer's jaw. He saw the blood spatter on slow-motion like it was happening in a movie. He saw the horrified look in Hammer's expression afterwards, as he brought a hand on his face and tried to find balance again. He saw all of it, but it felt like it was someone else doing it.

Hammer was caught off guards at the first blow. He stumbled back a few steps and shouted something, outraged. How come a guy with Steve's built was able to punch the teeth out of him? Even Steve didn't know the answer. He had never been violent. He had never felt that much hatred and cruelty inside of him. He had never been so enraged before. But someone needed to pay. And that someone might as well be Hammer.

The rest of it was a blur. He punched again, he thought, because he remembered seeing Hammer on the floor and blood on his hands. Then everything was confusing. He only remembered bits of it. The shouts of the crowd swarming around them, attracted by the racket. Rhodey ushering them away and putting their phones away. Tony's amused face and the sound of his giggling. He was laughing, drunkenly and hysterically laughing. He remembered Hammer getting escorted outside by some bodyguards or security guys who had been hired for the night. The blood on his shirt. Pepper's gentle hold as she walked him upstairs, away from the ruckus. 

She had put him on a stool in a bathroom, not his own, and was attending to his wounds when he came back to his senses. His hands were still shaking and he felt like vomiting. He stepped down from the stool he was on, and almost broke his neck falling on the tiles, he reached for the washbasin and threw up again. Pepper helped him back up on the stool and rubbed his back soothingly, silent, and proceeded with tending to his wounds without a word.

"How do you stand it?" Steve slurred with feeling like his head was getting banged.

"How do I stand what?" She said blankly.

"Him. Just trashing his face, fucking everyone."

She took a breath before answering. "I know Tony can be infuriating and he's an awful drunk, but he's also an amazing person when he's not. I guess I just wait for him to sober up and hope he will be sober more often than he'll be drunk."

"Why did you come to this party then?" He was asking her, but he could just as well ask this to himself.

"Because Tony wants me to, and also because Tony's parties are great and the house is wonderful."

"Doesn't it bother you?"

"I don't have to witness it. I have my life, he does too. We all do. I just hope nothing serious happens to him and I'm here in case he needs me. In the meantime, I can have fun too."

It all sounded absurd to Steve but he didn't dwell on it. He probably wouldn't get an honest answer anyway. It just felt the headache coming back.

When she was done he looked at his hand. He didn't feel any pain even thought It was already bluish. They were still shaking a little. It felt like someone else's hands. 

"Is the other guy going to be fine?"

"I guess so. He was still conscious and I don't think you really caused serious damage. Mostly he was shocked and humiliated." Steve felt the need to chuckle at that, but his body didn't follow. 

"What's gonna happen now?" Steve asked, mildly concerned about his future.

"He's gonna sue, probably. He's a big shot. Well...at least his parents are. But don't worry, Tony's lawyers will handle it. It's not the first time people fight at one of his parties. Just sleep it off, Steve." She said gently, running a soothing hand in his hair.

Chapter Text

The first thing he felt was a suffocating feeling and the sensation of being crushed. He could sense a warm heavy weight on him, imprisoning him.

Waking up was a slow and hurting process. As he progressively regained consciousness, the pain was getting stronger. His head first, throbbing like an army of imps was inside, hitting his skull, trying to drill a hole in to get out. Then his whole body, which felt like it was made of steel. And finally his hand that he couldn't move anymore. It wasn't just a sensation, he had really hurt his hand, although nothing broken. Steve just wasn't used to feel pain in this particular place.

He tried to open his eyes and looked at the ceiling for a short moment, confused not to see the familiar mold on it, but he quickly closed them. Everything was spinning around him. It felt like the bed he was on was moving, floating on the ocean he could see outside his bay window. His eyes hurt like hell, he should have drawn the curtains.

He repeated the process a few times but it still hurt and whirled in his head, so he gave up and closed his eyes for good, thinking he would wait a little. Even if he kind of needed to pee.

It was only when he heard someone whimpering that he realized the heavy weight he felt wasn't just in his head. He had an arm curled around him. Also, he had no idea who its owner was. It was a scary thought but Steve was much too tired for that and his head hurt too much.

The arm tightened around him, squeezing him tightly and he felt soft hair ruffling against the skin of his neck. After a moment he finally found the strength to turn his head, open his eyes and see who actually was in his bed. 

He was face to face with familiar lips, soft, plump, slightly parted, a little wet. So close he could feel the warmth of his breath on his own mouth. (He smelt like fresh mint flavor toothpaste by the way, which, well, was a bit surprising for a morning after, but whatever, Steve would close his mouth). He stared at his beautiful features, both masculine and refined. Peaceful. Handsome. Innocent, when he was asleep.

His eyes were slightly open even if he was sound asleep. It gave him an eerie expression, almost supernatural, like a martyr orgasmically blissed by the divine. Steve listened to his light steady breathing for a moment. His peaceful, relaxing, reassuring breathing.

Just a peaceful moment, before he started freaking out.

What was Tony doing in his bed?

Even if the thought that it was Tony in his bed and not some random stranger he had no recollection of was somehow comforting, Steve felt a mixture of very unpleasant feelings about it. Especially because he had no recollection of how Tony got there in the first place.

He was pretty certain he wasn't there when he got to bed. He was pretty certain they didn't have sex either, although he wasn't so sure about that. His ass didn't hurt at least, but he still had a naked Tony in his bed, which... Yeah... There were plenty of other things they could have done which didn't involve him being fucked in the ass. 

An awkward sensation crept up inside his belly, the disturbing feeling that he just might have done something really stupid. 

Fuck. He really hoped they didn't have sex. Also, he was never drinking again. (And when he had enough strength in him, he was going to check in the condom supplies in the nightstand and the content of the bin...) God, his head fucking hurt...

The realization that Tony was in his bed was quite confusing but not enough to urge him out of it, however. He let himself drift off in Tony's warmth for a moment, closing his eyes, forgetting about all this shit, before he decided to do something about it. Being in Tony's arms felt so good right now. His presence next to him, felt so good. Steve was allowed a bit of peace and quiet after last night.

Step two was definitely as painful and laborious as step one. Now he was fully awake, a small victory, but he was still trapped in Tony's unbreakable and inescapable embrace. Every time he tried to push him off, Tony groaned and seemed to tighten and strengthen his hold on him even more, until Steve could barely breathe.

As much as he would have wanted to be able to just flee while Tony was still asleep and avoid him for the rest of the day, he had to wake him up and waking up Tony was almost as long a process as it had been for himself.

Steve shook him up gently, without scaring him. It had happened before and Tony tended to be aggressive, sometimes brutal, when he was forced awake, caught by surprise. Steve had no wish to deal with that now, not in the state he was in. He just wanted to pee goddamnit!

"Tony." He whispered softly in his ears, making sure Tony would know it was Steve and not someone who was trying to attack him in his sleep. "Tony." He repeated louder. "Come on. Wake up."

Tony growled as a response.

"Come on Tony, let me go. I can't breathe."

His voice was surprisingly gentle considering how unsettled he was with this whole situation, and somehow he felt really mad at Tony, for some unclear reason. The brunette tightened his embrace.

"Tony!" Steve huffed out. "I can't breathe!"

He had to tap on his shoulder, however, to get him to react. Tony finally released his hold on him and Steve took a deep breath before lying down and spreading his arms and legs on the bed. Tony's arm was still curled around him, though not imprisoning him this time. Now he needed to find the strength to get out of bed. Step three, on his way.

Tony snapped awake the moment Steve tapped his shoulder and he smiled before opening his eyes completely.

"Hello." Tony muttered with a hoarse voice but a happy smile spreading on his lips.

He greeted him just like nothing had happened, which, momentarily, distracted Steve. He forgot about his urgent need to pee, but mostly, he forgot what was so wrong about having Tony in his bed right now. Everything was just so confusing. He had only partial and blurry memories of what had happened the night before. He remembered he had been annoyed all day long, but he couldn't exactly remember why, or maybe he purposely ignored the reason, willingly and consciously burying his head in the sand, like a mature, and truly well-rounded person.

He wasn't sure of anything anymore.

"What are you doing here?"

Tony stared at him with a falsely dumbfounded expression. "Sleeping." Obviously, dumbass, his mischievous eyes said.

"I know you've been sleeping, Tony." Steve rectified with a sigh. It was becoming a recurrent thing with Tony, having to explicitly ask things to get a real answer, otherwise he would dodge it. "I meant, why are you in my bed? Don't you have a bed of your own?"

"I like sleeping with you." Tony said sheepishly. "I sleep better when I'm with you." He bit his lips, dreading Steve's reaction, hoping it was a suitable enough explanation for him. "Besides," he then added, "I think there are people in my bed?" His tone was uncertain, but amused nonetheless, shameless at least.

Steve was absolutely shocked, like really, but you know, hangover so... "People, that you had sex with? Or people who just randomly took your bed without asking permission first?" He asked. Although, somehow, something told him he already knew the answer to that, the second option seemed very unlikely.

Tony didn't really answer but Steve got confirmation it was the first option at the way Tony held back a laugh, obviously not ashamed.

"Oh my God!" Steve exclaimed, truly offended. "You had sex with people and came to my bed afterwards, to sleep? Ew. Gross. Tony. Fucking Gross!" 

He felt angry suddenly, an anger that resonated inside him like there was something deeper about it, and then he felt sick, like really? Tony had truly done something like that? And then, he remembered Tony was naked and that he was too. Partially. And the awkward creepy sensation crawled back inside of him. "Oh my god..." He feared. "Did we have sex?"

Tony chuckled, eyes glittering with amusement. "You don't remember?"

Steve felt his face pale. "Shit!" He huffed out, shocked, possibly alarmed. "We did. Didn't we?"

Fuck. That was... Fuck! That was hugely fucked up! Steve was possibly having an imperceptible, though no less huge, internal panic attack right now.

"Of course not." Tony exclaimed offendedly. "No sex. Remember? I wouldn't take advantage of a drunken you. What do you take me for?" You barely woke up and mumbled a couple of incomprehensible words when I came in. You did agree though, I think. I'm just surprised that you don't remember."

"Thank god!" Steve exhaled with a sigh of relief. "And I do remember, by the way. It's just a little fuzzy that's all." He added, with a sulking pout.

"I see." Tony said with a smile, not gullible in the slightest. Then he took Steve's hand gently in his own and put a delicate kiss on his bruised knuckles. "How is your hand?" He asked softly, staring into Steve's eyes, before Steve could react.

It brought another memory back. The way Tony was indecently laughing last night while every one else was properly shocked. The way he had smashed Hammer's face on the floor. The blood, all over his shirt. He felt like he was drained of his blood suddenly. A pang of guilt resonating in his chest.

Steve wasn't sure if it was the kindness of his expression or the hangover which made him incapable to push him away but he only answered sheepishly, weighed down with embarrassment. "I'm fine. I'm really sorry, though, about yesterday. About causing a ruckus. I don't...I don't do this, usually. I don't know what got into me." Although, he might have a vague idea.

Mostly Steve was scared of his own violence, and his propensity at being violent lately. He wasn't like that before, drunk or not, he didn't lose it like he had the night before.

"Shhh. It's fine." Tony whispered while putting a finger on Steve's mouth. "Whatever Hammer did, I'm pretty sure he deserved it. Hell, He deserves to be punched for his sole existence." He added with a comforting smile and then ran a gentle hand in Steve's hair. "Don't worry about it. My lawyers are already on it. Nothing's gonna happen to you."

"I'm not scared of what's gonna happen to me. Whatever it is, I'll take responsibility. What worries me is myself. I couldn't control myself." Steve huffed out, breathless, feeling a sudden lump in his throat.

Tony looked at him with a concerned expression and pinched his lips.

"He was insulting you by the way." Steve added, although he wasn't entirely sure Hammer's gross comments were the only reason he went berserk on him. He remembered he was feeling enraged, for whatever reason. He had just needed to vent out his anger and frustration on someone, anyone. That thought was probably the scariest of all.

Tony looked puzzled for a moment, bewildered by Steve's words, and then his eyes shone with something indescribable. A smile spread on his face, slowly, beautifully. He chuckled and brought Steve's hand to his mouth to deposit another soft kiss on it. "Am I allowed," he asked slowly, voice suddenly husky and a glimmer of mischievousness in his eyes. "to think that you, using your fists to defend my honor, is something extremely hot?"

Steve opened wide confused eyes before he chuckled too, abashed. "Don't make fun of me. That's not something to joke about." He pouted, a bit vexed.

"I do, though." Tony said, with the same husky, seductive voice. "I think you're really sexy when you're angry."

"I beat someone up." Steve spat, not as angrily as he would have wanted, he was just too tired and too hangover for that. "That's not something we make fun of and there's nothing sexy about it."

"We're all allowed to have forbidden fantasies, right?" Tony said, with an amused smile, he was staring into Steve's eyes though, and spoke slowly, very softly. "Well, I'm sorry if you think that it's not morally acceptable, but I kinda love the idea that you could beat the shit out of somebody, just to defend me. It gets me hot."

He was fucking serious, Steve realized, and as much as it was scary, it was also kind of...pleasing. It felt good somehow, rewarding, just like Tony knew how to show rewarding gratitude and to look at you as if you were the best thing in his existence. Just like he was looking at Steve right now.

"Thank you." Tony whispered and bit his lips.

"For what?" Steve muttered, momentarily befuddled and forgetting.

"For coming to my birthday." Tony said, kissing Steve's cheek with fresh mint breath. His dark eyes locked into Steve's again, never letting go. "For being here, now." He added, eyes fixed on Steve, relentless. "For punching Hammer for my sake... I kinda wanted to punch his irritating face for years, you made my dream come true." He teased with a mischievous smile and then the smile faded to leave place to a certain seriousness in his expression. Eyes still focused on Steve, full of admiration and gratitude, so beautiful, Tony thanked Steve one last time. "For your gift." He whispered hoarsely while pinching his lips with an insecure glimpse in his eyes. "I love it." He added oh so sincerely, meaning to convey the depth of his gratitude. "It's the best gift I've ever had."

Steve felt extremely confused for a moment. In his fuzzy memories, Tony hadn't been very appreciative. "You didn't even see it!"

"Of course I did!" Tony exclaimed. "Why would you think that? Did you really think I wouldn't be able to recognize it if you didn't sign it?

Steve's heart raced, unsure of how to react. He was confused, deeply confused. It brought a new memory back, a hurting memory. "You said it was boring!" He noted with a slightly trembling voice, remembering how his heart had clenched at that moment. How angry he had been, how he had wanted to cry.

Tony looked away embarrassedly. "I just...I didn't want to share that moment with everyone. I wanted to keep it to myself, to take my time looking at it. When I saw whom it was from I just put it away, so I could look at it later. That was a foul move by the way, just hiding your gift among that pile of crap. Why didn't you give it to me in person? When it was just the two of us? Did you not want me to see it? Is that why you didn't sign it?

Steve stared at him, completely caught off guard, dumbfounded. Had he really just said that? Or was he still dreaming? His mind was still too fuzzy and that fucking headache...

"I didn't mean to upset you," Tony explained in an apologetic tone. "and in my defense, I truly thought you weren't in the audience at that moment."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know... You just disappeared like a ghost all day long. I thought you were gone on another errance, or making out with some guy you'd met."

Oh.

"The only guy I met who showed any kind of interest in me, even remotely, was Justin. Fucking. Hammer." Steve said, a bit bitter about it, but mostly to soothe the palpable tension between them.

Tony laughed. "That douchebag! Damn! I suspected for years that he was a repressed homo. I swear, if you'd let him touch you with his disgusting hands I would have ended our friendship!" 

Steve smiled, feeling relaxed and happy and forgiving.  "I really need to pee, Tony."

Tony smiled back, softly, quietly, the exhaustion could be read on his features. He lay back on the bed, away from Steve, tugging a little on his hand that he had somehow never let go of and pressed warmly during their entire conversation. And somehow, Steve had never really found the strength, or the will, to take it away. 

The brunette was already dozing off when Steve finally got out of bed. He wobbled to the bathroom and leaned a hand on the wall to support his stomping weight while he was peeing. It took him forever. He had held it in for so long that now, just when he was above the toilet bowl, it wouldn't get out. Furthermore, he was starting to get hard, his morning wood being fairly encouraged by a lithe naked Tony in his bed. He shouldn't think about Tony like that, but fuck he did. He unconsciously stroked himself slowly, trying to get to pee rather than to actually come, thoughts of Tony invading his cloudy mind.

Shit. Now, he was fully hard and just couldn't pee anymore. He was so fucking dishonest. The pictures of Tony were swirling around in his head, sexy, provocative, and then they turned somehow awkwardly sour until he saw feminine hands in Tony's pants and spitting champagne in girls's mouths and a strong, powerful, submitting hand on their necks and two tongues on his cock while Tony was wasted, giggling hysterically...and then fifteen-year-old Tony, on his knees and ten men around him. 

There, he could pee now.

The whole wait had been so painful that the release was almost orgasmic and he lengthily moaned through it, supporting his weight on the wall in front of him. His mind was getting clearer now, and slowly, gradually, he was recollecting every bits of his memory that were still hazy just a few moments ago, quelled and embellished by the charms of Tony's never-ending smile. 

The raw truth was not so glamourous. His feelings went haywire, a mix of anger, disappointment, frustration, sorrow, nausea...and churned his stomach. There was a reason he went berserk yesterday, many reasons actually. 

He washed his hands and slammed the bathroom door open, his raging headache throbbing at his temples. Tony was already asleep on his bed, innocent, shameless. 

Suddenly Steve remembered that, on top of that, Tony had fucked people and had come to his bed while Steve was drunk and asleep, and fuck, who would do that?

"Tony!" He called angrily but was only granted with a grumbling sound from the bed as a response. He walked to the bed and shook the boy slowly. "Tony." He repeated on a less aggressive tone, still weary of Tony's half-asleep reaction to someone unexpectedly touching him. Another mumbling protest came out from under the sheets. He brought a soft hand to his face and gave it a brisk jab. "Get out of my bed, Tony. I wanna sleep."

Tony startled awake and jerked in a sitting position on the top of the bed, back reclining against the wall, roughly cross-legged with only a small part of the sheets hiding his modesty. He was still half-asleep, wavering a bit. He rested his head on the wall and looked up at Steve defiantly, his face still confused and hazy with sleep.

"Go to your room, Tony!" Steve said, remembering how he had almost left the night before. "I don't want you to sleep in my bed."

"I don't want to." Tony whined, eyes still somehow defiant, fixed on Steve in an unyielding provocation.

"Or to your girlfriend's room." Steve blurted hurriedly. "I don't care. Just let me sleep in peace." 

"What girlfriend?" He asked, head falling forward in exasperation. 

Steve was infuriated. "Your girlfriend, Pepper, you know?" He said sarcastically. "The one you put in the room next to yours. I'm sure she enjoyed gleefully the sounds you made with the other people that are sleeping in your bed right now."

Tony burst out laughing mirthlessly. He threw his head back and let out a long lingering evil laugh.

"Why do you need to bring up my girlfriend every fucking time!" Tony snapped, tone cold and emotionless. "Stop using her as an excuse. This is not about her and you know it."

True. 

Steve felt himself blush and got momentarily speechless. Also a little distracted at Tony's naked chest and the love bites on his body he really wished he hadn't seen. His anger fired up but he contained it this time. 

"You had sex with people," he snapped back with the same cold tone. "and then you came to my room. And you sneaked into my bed, while I was sleeping, and you're still naked. Just how sick is that? I mean, did you even take a shower?"

Tony didn't answer, he just shrugged. "I'm not naked." He said after a short moment of silence.

"Great, I feel so much better now." Steve snarked with an exasperated sigh and put his hand on his hurting eyes.

Tony frowned at him and laughed. 

Steve stared at him dubiously. "Are you still high?"

He stopped laughing and shrugged again. "I didn't get high last night."

"You didn't get high?" Steve asked while raising a skeptical eyebrow.

Tony pouted childishly. "You said you didn't want me to do drugs, so I didn't!" He explained emotionlessly. "Well... Not yesterday at least."

Steve opened his mouth but lost his words and stared at him with a dumbfounded face. "Wow." He snarked. "Should I give you a medal?"

Something flared in Tony's eyes. "Well I, for one, remember in details everything I did last night, unlike some people in this room."

Also true.

The thing was, Steve didn't like being called on his bullshit, especially not when his head was hurting like now and especially not by the likes of Tony fucking Stark. "Whatever Tony..." He whispered with an exasperated sigh. "You're grossing me out. This, you fucking people and just sneak into my bed when you're done getting off, it grosses out. Just fucking leave."

He expected Tony to tell him that it was his house therefore he could just sleep wherever he wanted and Steve was so ready for him to say that. He was just waiting for it, he even had his duffle packed and ready to go. He almost wished for it so he could spit in his face and just "watch-me" him.

He stared at him, chewing at his tongue, his jaw clenched. Expectant and ready.

Something ran through Tony's eyes. It wasn't anger, he didn't look angry, he looked... Well... No, Steve had been wrong. He looked exactly the same as usual, indifferent.

"Okay." He said and left the bed and the room without a word, and yes, he was wearing underwear, comforting.

There, finally, alone. 

He should be relieved, but the only thing he felt was the bitterness on his mouth and the guilt weighing on his chest.

No matter how much Steve wanted to sleep and, despite the heavy headache, he just couldn't anymore. His heart was beating too fast, the pit of his stomach still sparked with anger, fueled with misplaced and unjustified guilt. His mind kept going inexorably back to Tony and everything that had just happened and the indifference on his face that felt like a dagger in Steve's heart. He needed to get up.

He wobbled down the stairs and walked to the pool under the quiet morning sun. It was barely nine but a few people were already lounging and having fun—still partying?—outside. Staff was fussing around, cleaning the mess inside and outside in utmost discretion as if the house was cleaning itself. Steve was a bit disappointed. He had wanted to dip his feet in that pool and had thought maybe he would be able to have some kind of privacy so early in the morning but apparently no. Parties had the Stark Resort just never ended. He decided to walk along the huge terrace to the other side of the house where the small infinity pool was, thinking it might be calmer there.

It was calmer.

Nobody was there.

Except one person: Pepper.

Steve thought about leaving, feeling awkward and uncomfortable at first. He did spend the night with her boyfriend, and not even for sex, which was somehow worse. On the other hand, she didn't seem to care, or at least, she had accepted it so why should he feel bad if she didn't? She had been nice to him too. Respectful, at least. Leaving now as soon as he saw her would be kind of offensive. So he didn't. He crouched down next to the pool and sat on the curbstone, his feet immersed in the cool and refreshing water. The sun was already strong on his face but it felt good. 

He moved his feet in the water for a moment before he sensed someone approaching. Before he realized who it was, he saw a glass of water and ibuprofen pills handed to him. He took them instinctively and gratefully and raised his head. Pepper overhang him, hiding him from the sun, a soft expression on her face.

"Thanks." Steve said.

"How is your head?" She asked, genuinely concerned.

"Like World War III is happening in there." Steve said, voice hoarse with hangover.

She gave him a soft smile. "I'm not surprised. You were a bit of a mess yesterday. I'm sorry Tony was an ass to you."

"Why are you apologizing? It's not your fault."

Pepper looked surprised at first, maybe the tone of his words was a bit harsher than he had intended to, but then she smiled again. "Can I sit here?" Steve nodded. He was a bit startled nevertheless. Pepper gracefully sat next to him and delicately dipped her long legs in the water. "I can sense some animosity between us." She started. "And I feel like this is my fault." Steve looked at her confusedly. She had a kind expression on her face and was staring pensively into space. "It was never my intention you know, but I guess I've been a bit of a bitch the last time we met. For what it's worth, I genuinely never intended to push you out of Tony's life."

"You didn't. I did."

She smiled while looking at her feet. "I suspected so. Somehow I knew you were going to end things with him the minute our eyes met."

"Did you know about me?" Steve asked, feeling even more uncomfortable than before.

"Not really no, but it was so obvious." She laughed softly. "As much as Tony says you're an open-book, he can really be oblivious sometimes." Her smile softened and faded eventually. "I just didn't want Tony to be hurt."

Steve chuckled mirthlessly, remembering the nonchalance, the indifference on Tony's face, in his stance when he had broken up with him. "He didn't care." He muttered, feeling a lump in his throat. He didn't think it would hurt still, but apparently, he wasn't over that particular moment of his life. Maybe the lack of interest, that insensitivity, that had made breaking up so easier at the time, was what had hurt Steve the most.

Pepper gave him an understanding smile. "If you think Tony didn't care about you or that he wasn't hurt that day, then you're very oblivious yourself."

Steve felt a wave of unpleasant feelings overwhelm him. A mix of guilt, of sorrow, of regret, of anger. Again, anger, always anger. He could feel himself blushing. Pepper took his hand in hers in a kind, comforting gesture and gave him another soft smile. 

"Let's get in the water." She suggested enthusiastically. Steve looked at her with a dubious look. "I know you've been wanting to swim in the pool since yesterday but didn't feel comfortable with people around." Well, apparently, he truly was an open book.

Steve hesitated but the encouraging smile of Pepper did the trick. He took off his shirt and slid into the water. It felt so good, so refreshing, almost purifying and he kind of needed purifying after yesterday's excesses. He swam underneath the water, hiding from the rest of the world. It felt good for a moment, to feel like he was alone in the world. He had always felt more comfortable on his own, when no-one could disturb his peace of mind.

He did that a few times before going to the very edge and leaned his elbows on the curbstone where the water was falling into the ocean. The view was breath-taking. The water glimmered with the soft light of the morning sun. It was awe-inspiring. 

He heard a lapping noise next to him and noticed Pepper who was swimming to him, joining him on the curbstone. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Steve didn't answer, still speechless before so much beauty.

"Did you get to paint yesterday?"

Steve felt like his stomach turned upside down. "What?" He asked, dumbfounded.

"Did you get the chance to use the supplies? I hope I got those right."

"You're the one who bought the supplies?" He exclaimed, horrified. 

"That was Tony's idea. He insisted. But when it comes to doing... " She stopped in the middle of the sentence, an affectionate amusement in her eyes. "Let's say he's always taken me for his secretary."

Horror continued.

"Did you... did you choose my clothes too?" Steve asked breathlessly, a bad feeling creeping inside. 

"The clothes are all Tony, but I helped. He always had a weird sense of fashion."

Steve felt the bad feelings wash over his face. His cheeks were burning with shame.

"Look Pe—Virginia," Steve said curtly, "I don't think this is working. As much as I'd like to get along with Tony's friends. I can't just chitchat with you and pretend that your boyfriend didn't spend the night with me." Steve hated being the who told the bad news and he didn't want to hurt her, but she deserved to know. "We're more than friends." There, he had said. He had admitted, finally. It was about time he was honest with himself. 

Pepper laughed softly. "I know that." She said. "And you can call me Pepper, by the way, the name kind of stuck. I feel like in ten years, people will have forgotten about my real name..." Steve looked at her confusedly. Was she for real? "I think you misunderstood something here," She went on. "Didn't he tell you?"

"Tell me what?" Steve interrupted bluntly, anger pervading in his voice. 

"Tony and I broke up months ago. Shortly after you ended things with him, I guess." She said and Steve's heartbeat raced to the point he could feel his blood pounding in his ears. At his questioning look she went on, assuming that no, Tony hadn't broken the news to him and she was right, never he had even insinuated it. "He came back troubled and asked me if it was true that I wasn't okay with him seeing other people. I took a moment's reflection and realized that, yes, it still bothered me. When I told him so, he said that we should break up because he couldn't give me that and he didn't want to hurt me. When I asked if it was because of you, he told me that it wasn't about you, but if he had to choose between you and me, he would choose you."

Steve felt the tears coming to his eyes and fought them with all his will. He bit his lips, with strength and felt overwhelmed by his feelings again. He clutched the curbstone to keep his head out of the water, both literally and figuratively, and stared at the ocean ahead, avoiding her stare.

"You don't need to feel guilty about it. Because in the end, it was more a relief than anything else. Being with Tony was straining. I always felt like he was my responsibility, I still do sometimes, but I can detach myself from all of this now. I had to take a break. Otherwise, he would have dragged me down with him. And I guess I realized that in fact, the Tony in front of me was no longer the boy I was in love with. He hadn't been for a long time, if ever. The man in front of me was my best friend, but not my lover, not anymore. I'll always be in his life though, I hope you don't mind that."

Steve was way past that in fact. He felt like he was drowning, but a gentle hand on his shoulder called him back to reality. 

"I feel you, Steve." Pepper said, and he wondered a bit how she could be so young and so wise and mature. "I know you love him, that much is obvious, and I think he loves you too, in his way."

"I don't think he's capable of love." Steve said, as if it was a revelation.

"Maybe he isn't." She agreed, looking sheepishly down. "But maybe you can teach him." Steve turned to her and met her eyes, feeling confused. "I'm not trying to push you into his arms, or away from him. That's your decision, but whatever you decide, be careful. For him and for yourself. Don't let him drag you down. He's not ready to have the kind of relationship you're looking for. I don't know if he will one day. I hope so, because he's very lonely." She stared at the ocean again, expression sad and worried. "He's not untouchable." She concluded. "No matter what you both think."

"I need to see him." He stuttered out hoarsely, words stuck in his throat and bit his lips hard to prevent them for trembling. 

She turned to him with a concerned expression and smiled. "Sure. I'll see you later."

 

He ran up the stairs, staggering, ignoring the feeling of hangover hurting his whole body, still. He rushed to Tony's door and slammed it open. "Tony!" He shouted before he stepped inside. There was no answer but a few whimpering sounds. He looked around. There were people moving slowly in Tony's bed. Two girls, one boy. But no Tony. They were still sleeping, or half-asleep, and Steve felt almost bad for waking them up. He closed the door, ignoring the used condoms and dirty tissues littering the floor, all the around the bed.

He went to Rhodey's then, thinking that Tony might be there. No Tony either, but Rhodey was there, looking concerned. 

"Are you okay?" He asked. "How is your hand? Your head's okay?"

"My hand is fine, I guess." Steve said, feeling obliged to his kindness. "My head however..." He brought a hand to his forehead, feeling the thumping in there. "Thanks, for last night, for taking care of me."

Rhodey gave him a gentle smile. "It's no problem. I should thank you for punching Hammer, that douche had it coming." He joked, smile spreading on his face, then it faded and he licked his lips. "Did you want something?"

"I'm looking for Tony. Have you seen him?"

"If he's not sleeping somewhere, he's probably in his workshop..."

"His workshop? There's a workshop in this house?"

"Yeah. In the second basement level. It's was Howard's originally, but now it's mostly Tony who uses it. Howard's more concerned about harnessing his capital than creating new things I suppose, he lets other people do that. Tony, on the other hand, is all about creating. He generally spends all his free time in there. You should see that place, it's quite awesome, if you're into that..." Steve opened his eyes wide. "I'll take you there if you want." He suggested. 

Rhodey took him down to the basement, and Steve felt like he was taking him to Batman's den. He felt his heart thumping during the elevator ride. Once outside, Rhodey walked him across the garage where several cars where parked—that Steve willfully ignored—and entered a code into a digital lock. Another elevator swooshed open and he pushed Steve inside. "Have fun!" Steve didn't have the time to turn around and ask if he was coming before he saw him wavering goodbye behind the closing doors.

The next time the doors opened, Steve discovered a science-fiction world. It was outstanding, everything you could find in this place was surreal, out of this world and so fantastic, all that immersed in the raging sound of old-school heavy metal. It gave Steve ideas, a lot of them, for his new project. He didn't dwell on them though, he was more preoccupied with finding Tony in this never-ending Aladdin's cave.

He walked cautiously toward the noise he could perceive at the other end of the basement. He saw the back of a man, leaning on what seemed to be a workbench. From where he was standing he could notice a few sparks and hear a welding noise. The man was wearing sweat shorts that molded perfectly his shapely ass, a loose tank top with wide openings for the arms that barely hid anything and a welding mask roughly put on his head, making a mess of his hair. The movement of his arms while he worked sharpened the lines of his muscles and made him look more chiseled and muscular than he was. Steve realized Tony was twenty-one now. Not a boy anymore, a man, in the prime of his age. He noticed little pearls of sweat dripping down his chiseled flanks and suddenly felt really hot. He really was no better than anyone else, lusting after him like a sexually frustrated teen in rut—or an old perv, depending on the perceptive. 

Tony put his welding gun on the table and turned his head to Steve. Which gave him a little shock. The mask he wore was roughly metal red, though the painting was damaged and the colors were fading, and looked exactly like a replica of the sketch he had made, the one Tony had reproduced into a little figurine and offered to him as a gift for Christmas. Steve's heart heaved in his chest and a spike of desire ran though his body. He had never sexualized one of his characters before (well, at least, not the characters appearing in his superheroes stories...) but right now, the welding mask on Tony's body was one of the hottest things he had been given to see. He was so going to draw superheroes porn now. And he would ask Tony about that mask too, because...what the fuck?

He was wrong, he thought while Tony was lifting the faceplate and pushing back the mask on the top of his head with a very masculine movement. That was the hottest thing ever. He would sketch that. He would definitely sketch that.

"Did you get lost?" Tony asked with a blank expression, which was obviously a snarky remark since you couldn't possibly reach this particular area without thoroughly wanting to get here and, in Steve's case, without someone else's help.

"I didn't know there was a workshop in this house." Steve said while looking away and brushing his fingers on the marvels around him.

Tony turned back so he was facing Steve and leant against the workbench, both hands holding the edge, his legs crossed at the ankles, his head slightly leaning on one side. His eyes looked defiant for a moment, just like they had earlier when Steve had kicked him out of his bed, and then they shifted down toward the floor. He was the one avoiding looking at Steve now.

"I'm sorry, about earlier." Steve said. "I was a bit harsh."

Tony sneezed and looked up, meeting his eyes. "No, you're right. I'm sorry. We're so used to sleeping together, I didn't realize it would bother you. And I was pretty drunk too, I admit. I won't do it again."

"Having foursomes?"

Tony chuckled and Steve felt so much better seeing him smile again. Tony without a smile wasn't Tony, it was just a ghost of him. "No." He said with an amused glint in his eyes and a somehow lopsided smile. "sneaking in your bed afterwards."

Steve smiled in return and they shared a moment of peaceful silence. "Why didn't you tell me?" He asked. Tony looked at him questioningly, confusion written all over his face. "About you and Pepper."

"You didn't ask." Tony promptly retorted.

Steve chuckled, although his heart wasn't in it. "Could I expect that some day you would tell me about the major events that are happening in your life without me needing to ask, you know, like you breaking up with your girlfriend months ago!" He spat. "We've been talking to each other everyday for more than two months Tony, didn't you think it would have been nice to know that you were single?"

"Who says I am?" Tony snapped back and wound Steve short of breath.

"Aren't you?" Steve huffed out, heart pounding in his chest.

Tony's eyes flared defiantly. Steve could see the knuckles of his hands tensing on the edge of the workbench. Then he bit his lips and looked away. "What does it matter anyway?" He snapped. "It doesn't change anything, does it?" 

It changed everything. And nothing. What did it matter if Tony was with someone or not? They were just friends. Steve swallowed.

"You can't tell me you don't want to have sex and ask me not to see other people. Make up your mind!" Tony said angrily. His face was expressionless again, indifferent, but Steve noticed the slight acceleration of his breath.

"Would you stop seeing other people" Steve asked, rethinking everything about their relationship. "if I said yes to the se—" 

"No." Tony cut off. Face blank and eyes serious. 

Steve bit his lips nervously and looked away, his hands on his hips. "Okay." He pivoted slowly on his feet and walked away, carried by his own body which moved on its own.

"Steve wait!" Tony called from behind. Steve turned back and looked his way, his face hard and tired. "I'm sorry." He apologized.

"For what?"

"Not being that guy."

Steve gave him a tired smile. "It's alright." 

"I still wanna be friends. If you accept me."

We can never be friends, Tony.

At least, not as long as Steve hoped things to evolve romantically between them. Not as long as he was lusting after that man the way he was at that precise moment. Steve should do the right thing, end things now, break off any ties between them, before it was too late.

"Sure."

Tony smiled brightly. "Wanna look around?"

Tony gave him a tour and all the marvels came alive as Tony explained what they were, how he created them, what they did. At some point Steve noticed something familiar. He stepped back, and looked more scrupulously. It was his painting, exhibited so beautifully in a modern, black metal frame that just made it stand out somehow. 

"Do you like it?" Tony said, as he noticed Steve was staring at it confusedly, amazed. "I did that this morning, I thought it might look good with it. It's still drying though... Do you approve?"

Steve was speechless. Of course he approved, and what the fuck? Did Tony just say he had made it? This morning?

"Do you—" Steve stammered, tone uncertain. "Do you really like the gift?" Although, it was quite obvious by now.

Tony walked closer and stood by his side. "I do." He muttered softly, a shy smile showing on his lips. "This painting is amazing, Steve. I love it. It's so you and everything that you are. Brilliant, talented, funny. Also, I'm a bit surprised you still remember about that but..." He huffed out, looking down embarrassedly, a hand on his hip. Of course Steve would remember, did he ever doubt it?  

"I... " Tony continued, hesitantly. "I really like seeing myself through your eyes." He must have noticed the disarray in Steve's expression because he went on, explaining himself. "The me that you see is so much better than the real me. I'd love to be him one day." His voice was serious. He turned to Steve and stared into his eyes for a long, lingering silence. Never letting go, connected through an invisible yet, unbreakable bond. "You want to be a hero!?" He whispered against Steve's face. Quite close but not seductive for once, only serious. "I wanna be that guy!" 

Steve's heart skipped in his chest but he ignored it. Friends. Just friends. 

Tony slipped his hand in Steve's and squeezed it lightly. "I'm hungry..." He said nonchalantly. "Wanna grab a bite and go to the beach?"

The beach. Steve had wanted to go to the beach. Steve would love to go to the beach, he would love walking barefoot on the Californian sand. He would love being able to draw Tony's face on that sand, only to see him washed away by the tide. He would love spending time with Tony, alone, just the two of them, away from this house, from this party, from these people. He squeezed Tony's hand back. "Yeah."

When they reached the ground floor, the party was on again. There were buffets of amazingly tasty-looking food everywhere, waiters running around carrying Champagne on platters. The DJ was sweating on his mixing board and all the guests who were privileged enough to stay for the three-day-long Stark orgy were all at it again, freshly rested and ready for the last round. Tony left Steve staring hungrily at the food and came back with a cooler. "Take everything you want and let's clear off." He said hurriedly. 

Steve looked at him dubiously. "Are sure you can leave? Aren't you suppose to entertain your guests?"

Tony raised an eyebrow. "Do you think I care," he said with an almost offended smile, "about any of these people? Or that they care about me, for that matter? They're only here for the free booze and amazing food." Steve looked at him confusedly. "I only care about you, Pepper and Rhodey. The rest of them can all go to hell for all I care... Besides, I promised you, right? That I would make time for us."

"What does that even mean? Why did you invite those people then? Why would you have a party at all?"

"I just did what was expected of me. These people, they come here to make connections, to be seen and to have fun with our money. I do this to remind them that we rule. And I've got to live up to my reputation..." He said with a mirthless smile.

"So it was all an act?" Steve asked, a tinge of hope in his voice. 

Tony chuckled. "I'm not saying I don't enjoy myself as well. I do a lot of things that aren't specifically required, like stripping off on stage or, you know, having foursomes...but a lot of it is just for the show. I'm just like that and it's common knowledge now. Why should I care?"

"Didn't you say you wanted the people at SI to take you seriously? Why don't you show them that you grew up?"

Tony turned to Steve and stared into his eyes, smile fading. "It won't change a fucking thing. No matter what I do, there'll always be my dad and his associates who'll try to control my life anyway." 

Steve startled at the curtness but didn't go further on the topic, although it raised a lot of questions suddenly. A lot of questions like, which part of Tony's actions yesterday was an act, which part was real? Why did Tony hook up only with girls at those parties when he was obviously also attracted to men in private? Why none of the guests were openly gay? Just how much of control did his dad have over his life? Why weren't his parents here for their only son's birthday?

Steve grabbed Tony's hand and gave him a reassuring smile. Tony looked up at him and returned the smile and Steve felt electricity running through his body, starting from his hand right to the tip of his cock. He was falling again. Hard. 

Tony led him to another elevator that opened on stairs carved into the rocks and led to the private beach. Just awesome. No wonder Steve couldn't find the access yesterday. Hidden behind the rocks, not far from the stairs there was a wood cabin with everything you needed to enjoy a proper afternoon at the beach.

And Steve really enjoyed his afternoon at the beach and fulfilled just about any of the wishes he had made before and even some he hadn't made. Like seeing Tony's attempts at impressing him by trying—and failing, mostly—to do handstands. He would have done the same you know, if he was, you know, carved like Tony was, and, not hangover. For the time being, he settled for leering, which wasn't like unpleasant or anything, or like at all. Like sipping cocktails under the parasols, lying on cushioned sunbeds and listening to Tony's voice reading dirty stories found on the internet. Like wrestling in the sand. Like walking side by side in the water. Like seeing Tony build—really was that actually possible with just sand and water?—amazing sandcastles. Like swimming naked in the ocean, because, why not, right?

They were now back in their clothes, lying directly on warm the sand, side by side. Tony had his arms crossed behind his head and was dozing off under the sunlight, hidden behind black sunglasses.

"I can't believe you actually have a private beach, like, your own beach, only for you. It makes me dizzy."

"It's not a private beach." Tony explained without moving from his sleeping position. "Non of the Californian beaches are. It just happens to have no access other than by the sea, and a secret passage dug under our house, so I guess that limits the number of people sunbathing on it.

"That's so cool..."

Steve turned on his side and gazed at Tony and the soft skin of his lower belly he could see under his tank top, the trail of hair disappearing in his sweat shorts, his navel heaving slightly at each breath. It was funny how he felt so drawn to him right now, funny when just a few moments ago, Tony was completely naked, in all his glory, but it was now, when Steve could only see little bits, could only guess what was underneath that he felt the attraction eating him inside. He wanted to touch, to feel him all over, to see how his reaction every time Steve touched him in a particular place. It was funny when he was almost sure he already knew all his soft spots. It was funny that he still felt like he had so much more to discover about him.

It was funny that it was now, when he couldn't touch him anymore that he felt he would die if he didn't.

Sparks of desire fired in the pit his stomach and Tony's chest was still heaving slowly, his breathing getting heavier. Steve didn't really think of it, his hand moved on its own and it was just a little touch, a friendly touch, but at that moment, when Steve brushed the tip of his knuckles on the soft skin of Tony's flank down to his lower belly, it felt more intense than the last blowjob he gave him. (Not that he remembered about it, right? Cause that would be weird, it was like eight months ago...Okay, he totally remembered it).

Tony shivered and mumbled. Steve's eyes were drawn to his face where he could see his beautiful, sensual lips slowly curl into a smile. A bright, dashing smile that sparkled in the light of the sun. Steve didn't remove his hand, he just pressed a little more and brushed up and down softly. Tony chuckled and his body jerked, muscles all tensing and rippling. "Stop it!" He said, half-laughing, half-begging. "You're tickling me."

Steve smiled. "I didn't know you were ticklish." Sadly, it was true. It didn't know Tony was ticklish, because he had never really touched him experimentally, outside of sex. They had cuddled, but nothing more, and it was Tony who touched him during sex or when they cuddled. 

Tony turned on his side too and faced Steve, his face resting on his hand. His smile was fading a little but his eyes were still playful and happy. He bit his lower lips when Steve softly brushed his knuckles on his cheek this time, refraining another smile.

Their eyes locked into each other's, drawn together like magnets, held by that invisible bond that connected them. It was funny and infuriating how Steve felt like he could stay forever looking into the dark skies in his eyes, counting each and every star illuminating them. Funny and infuriating how he wanted to kiss him now, to kiss the corner of his mouth, each one of his eyelid, the tip of his ear, to lick under his nose. He had never looked at him for such a long time without kissing him before. He had never resisted, and now he couldn't kiss him anymore and everything was so intense, so heightened, so unbearable.

He brushed his fingers down his cheek and grappled his chin lazily before letting his hand fall on the sand, eyes still staring into Tony's, in the heavy silence. And suddenly he could see the younger Tony, the Tony from six years ago, aloof, arrogant, provocative. The Tony that would give blowjobs in the showers of the dorms. The same Tony that let girls slip their hands down his pants in front of everyone. 

"Tony..." He whispered, forgetting about everything he felt just minutes ago. Tony opened his eyes wider, expression soft. The beginning of a smile at the corner of his mouth, frozen, hesitant. "Why did you have sex with those girls?"

"Because they were hot?" He answered, hesitant, like he didn't really know the answer himself.

Steve sat up and played with the sand without thinking, avoiding Tony's gaze. "Do you need to have sex every time you're at a party? Can't you just enjoy yourself differently?"

Tony shrugged. "I don't know. They wanted to... so why should I not?"

"And you have sex with everyone who wants you?"

Tony shrugged again. "No. Yes? I don't know... What does it matter?"

Steve felt his chest compress under a weird uneasy feeling. 

"Tony?" He asked, his heart beating so fast the words got stuck in his throat. "Do you even know what consent is?"

Tony jerked up and leaned on his elbows, he glared up at Steve, lips shivering, anger firing in his expression. "I've never forced anyone."

"I don't mean your partners, Tony. I mean you. You." Steve pointed a finger at his stomach to give more power to his words. It felt so important right now, after everything he had heard. He felt so important to him. "Do you know what consenting mean? what it implies? Do you actually know how to say 'no' ?"

Tony frowned, expression unreadable and his chewed on his tongue and swallowed, then parted his lips a little. Confused, or annoyed, or both.

"Do you fuck with them because you want to? Or because that's what they want from you?"

Tony's expression changed and an amused smile widened on his face. He laughed softly, eyes playful. "You're really asking yourself unnecessary questions, Rogers. Sex is just sex. It's fun. It feels good. I'm young and hot and people want me, why shouldn't I enjoy myself while I still can. I have time before I become a frustrated and embittered old man like you. God, you don't need to think so deeply about it or make such a big deal out of it."

He lay down on the sand again, smiling, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his covered skin.

"You have sex with people you don't even like enough to fall asleep with afterwards." Steve mumbled, unable to let go. Something felt wrong about it, something felt so wrong. He could picture fifteen-year-old Tony again. Enthusiastic, willing, like Rhode had said. But... 

Tony made a disgusted grimace. "Of course not. I can't sleep with just anybody. Sleeping next to someone is...intimate. It's... It needs a lot of trust, to be so vulnerable next to someone I guess."

Steve opened wide disconcerted eyes. Was he for real? Definitely, he would never understand him. He grabbed a handful of sand and played with it again, letting it dripping from his hand between his feet. Pensive. And then he lay down on his side again, next to Tony.

"I know about the video." He whispered close to his ear. He owed it to him. He owed him the truth. 

Tony startled, frowned and chuckled confusedly, a soft smile curling his lips. "What video?" 

"Hammer told me." Steve answered blankly. "Then I asked Rhodey about it, and he confirmed."

This time the realization progressively showed on Tony's face and his soft smile just died down before it got the chance to become a full grown smile. "Oh...That video." He said while looking away. He bit his lips and a whole range of emotion ran through his eyes so quickly Steve didn't have the time to decipher them before Tony was smiling again, a wide, amused, proud-ish smile, eyes playful and dancing in the sunlight, staring at him again. "I know what you're thinking Rogers..." He said, biting his lips again, but not hesitantly this time, more like he was trying to refrain a smile. "It's not what happened."

"What happened then?" Steve asked in a very serious tone, knowing perfectly he would never get an answer because Tony never talked about anything personal or intimate.

Tony's expression was open and direct. "You really wanna know?"

Steve was startled. Tony didn't dodge his question, didn't try to change the subject. He was just offering to share, to tell the truth, for the first time and weirdly it made Steve hesitant, did he really want to know? All the gory details? Was he ready for this, for dealing with Tony's feelings? 

"Yes."

Tony bit his lips again and looked pensive. "Okay..." He finally said and started talking, eyes shifting away from Steve.

"So I was a freshman and there was this guy I liked. We sort of dated, I think. We had fun together, we did drugs, we fucked. Sometimes we fucked with other guys. He liked watching me do it with other guys and I guess I liked being watched. It was fun, and I liked him. One day he asked if I wanted to try something different. If I would agree to do it with several guys, just a few blowjobs. And...it sounded fun, at the time. It just got a little out of hands, that's all."

"What do you mean it got a little out of hands?"

"Just— Other guys joined. And, err...I agreed maybe a little too quickly." He gave him a quick powerless glance. "I was just a kid, I didn't think of the consequences and...I needed to prove something, I guess. I needed to prove that I could do it. But...all of it was consensual. I agreed to everything. I was never forced, I wasn't drugged—well, I was a little high, but I was still fully conscious and completely aware of what I was agreeing to. I brought it on myself Steve. I brought it on myself and I enjoyed it, all of it, for the most part. Don't make me a victim!" He asked, eyes begging, worried, fearing Steve's judgement.

Steve shivered at those words. It sounded so wrong, so fucked-up. "For the most part? I thought you weren't forced."

"I wasn't." Tony insisted. "I wasn't." He repeated when he saw the doubtful look on Steve's face. "I said yes, Steve, to all of them. I said yes, and I liked it, so yeah, they got a little rough at the end but, nothing I couldn't handle. This is what I do, Steve. I do this. I go to clubs, I go down on my knees and I suck dicks, because I like it. I like it now, I liked it back then. Why is it so hard for you to understand?"

"Did they fuck you?"

"No." Tony promptly answered. Steve frowned. "I didn't even take my clothes off." He added with a sigh.

"Hammer said they fucked you. That you would spread your legs for anyone."

"Hammer is a stupid moron and a bullshitter. Why would you believe anything he says?"

"Well, I don't know Tony, seems to me he wasn't that far from the truth this time..."

Tony sighed and answered with a calmer, more composed voice, staring downright at Steve. "I didn't spread my legs for anyone at MIT, not even my boyfriend. He was...well...whatever."

Steve stared back at him, searching for the truth. Tony was serious, eyes honest and expression hard. "Oh. Okay. I believe you but...No matter how you put it Tony, you can never convince me it was consensual. You cannot fully and consciously consent to something like this when you're fifteen."

Tony smiled and snuggled closer to Steve. "I was not the innocent kid I know you're portraying in your head right now. I never was. I wasn't a virgin when I met Ty and it wasn't my first time doing drugs. I think I was twelve the first time I used, and I got sloshed for the first time when I was eight. I took my dad's stash and locked myself up in my room, then I drank myself sick and passed out. My parents didn't even notice..." His smile faded a little and he looked away, remembering. "My dad's been drinking for years, I don't think I ever saw him sober past twelve. My mum's so high on anxiolytics she can't even tell the difference between night and day anymore."

Steve felt a spike of horror running down up his chest and swallowed it down. He had suspected. Of course he had, but hearing it so bluntly, so indifferently made him sad and angry for his friend.

"I don't regret it." Tony continued with the same calm, unconcerned voice. "I don't regret it." He repeated. "I don't regret the act. What I regret is everything that came after. I regret not stopping when they first took their phone out. I regret I did not anticipate this. I regret I didn't hack their phones before the videos and rumors spread widely enough for my dad to hear about it. No matter how much I've fantasized about my dad seeing me get it on with guys—I don't even know why I've wanted that...it feels so stupid now—I never wanted him to see me like that. It was stupid and I was just a kid who didn't know any better. I never thought things would turn out like this, and I'm still paying for it now."

"What do you mean?"

Tony looked away and shrugged. "Do you think my dad just let this go? You never wondered why no-one knows I like guys when I've always been open about it? Despite the rumors still going on at MIT? I mean, even Hammer heard about it." He said with an amused smile, not ashamed at all.

Steve remembered about his high-school self, when he was fifteen and awkward, crazy in love with his neighbor, and had offered him his virginity. He would have died of shame if people had heard about it, but Tony didn't care about anything. Everything just passed over him without ever touching him, without ever reaching him. Nothing mattered to Tony. Nothing was important to Tony. Things just happened. 

"Hammer said you gave blowjobs in the auditorium during lectures."

Tony chuckled. "Oh my god, I did that once. And it wasn't with my boyfriend, it was much later. I was already eighteen."

Steve tugged at his shirt, pouting a little. "You don't care about anything, do you?"

"Why should I? What's done is done. My reputation precedes me, no matter what I do. I've been called a slut for years, so why should I care? Why would I let people try to shame me? I'm not ashamed. I like sex and there's nothing wrong with that. If I cared I'd have shot myself a long time ago, I mean, even during my last year there were still guys who would knock on my door asking for blowjobs..."

Steve chuckled, despite himself. "Did you do it?"

Tony shrugged again, a wide smile on his face. "Yeah." He said with a grimace. "I did blow some of them."

Steve just made a disconcerted noise. "Why?"

"I don't know." Tony answered, looking pensive. "They were just confused virgins discovering their gay feelings and they weren't that bad looking. I guess I took pity on them."

Steve chuckled again, even if he didn't think it was funny at all but he supposed there was a part of Tony that he would definitely never understand. "You can never say no, can you?"

Tony smiled and let out a huffing laugh, then his expression turned serious again. "I know you'll never understand but...you know, what's bothering me the most is not even that. You think I had it hard? You can't even imagine what my dad did to those guys...I never heard of Ty again. I don't even know if he's alive." Tony's voice almost trembled at the end of his sentence and Steve thought he saw a glimpse of sorrow in his dark insensitive eyes. "I really liked him, you know."

Steve brushed a comforting hand down his cheek and Tony leant into it. "Tell me about him."

Tony grabbed his hand away and gently pressed it into his own. He stared into Steve's eyes and licked his lips. "His name was Tiberius. He was blond with a slender body—I have a type, It seems." He said while winking at Steve with a mischievous smile.

"He was tall. Well...taller than me then, I guess he'll probably be shorter now. He was funny, witty. He liked to party a lot. He was my first—I mean, he wasn't my first, but he was the first that, you know, that mattered. It was the first time that I felt something like this for another guy." Tony's smile faded and he pinched his lips. "We met—uh...we met at the library. He came on to me. Invited me for coffee. Gave me a blowjob in the men's room."

He pinched his lips again, open, honest, hesitant, beautiful. "He was twenty-one...I guess I've always been attracted to older people." He said while looking away, then paused. "He had this beautiful, confident smile." He continued with a shy smile. "I was persona non-grata at the time, I guess I was a bit distant, a bit haughty maybe, people didn't really dare get close to me and I didn't want to be close to them either. It wasn't always easy you know, to be much younger than the others and still the smartest person in the room. At least, I thought I was, at the time. I thought I knew everything but there was so much I had no idea about. Being smart is not only about being good at maths...I guess I had to learn that the hard way."

Steve splayed his hand on Tony's firm stomach and ran it up his chest, comfortingly. "I'm really sorry."

Tony took Steve's hand away again while brushing his thumb inside his palm and gave him a soft reassuring smile. "You don't need to be. Although I do like it when you're being overprotective you don't need to worry about me. I'm not this weak innocent boy you think I am. I can take care of myself."

"Can you really?" It was not like Steve didn't receive a phone call from Tony at least once a month to take him out of a 'situation.

Tony's smile was full of innuendos but he dodged the question, again. He snuggled a bit closer to Steve. "What about you?"

"What about me?" Steve said while inching his face away, repelled by the question more than by Tony's excessive closeness. 

"Tell me about your exes." 

Steve looked away embarrassedly and felt his face flush. It's not like he had a long list of them. He felt so lame and inexperienced compared to Tony (who was, incidentally, five years younger). That was quite pathetic. "It's not like I had many boyfriends..." He whispered and glanced at Tony. He was looking at him expectantly, with wide-open curious eyes.

"My first was Bucky." Steve went on, answering the silent request in Tony's eyes. "We discovered our sexuality together, we explored each other's bodies, experienced things together. I think I was in love with him then, but we never really dated. We didn't really know how to date, I guess. And then I went to college, met others guys, Bucky had always been a little promiscuous but I always thought it would be just the two of us in the end. And then he met Clint and it stopped being the two of us. At that time I tried to meet other people but I was never good at that."

"Are you saying Tattoed guy is your only relationship so far?" Tony asked disbelievingly.

Steve missed a heartbeat and pinched his lips. "No..." He muttered, softly, ashamedly. "I... I had another boyfriend. He..." Steve had never talked about him before. He had buried that episode of his life deep inside and tried to forget about it. Although the spectrum of it loomed over him every time he got intimate with someone.

"I... " He started, heart beating fast, eyes looking away. "I met Johann at a bar." He explained. "We got into a fight with a couple of students who were harassing some kid because he was wearing make-up, shouting homophobic comments and all. I don't even think the guy was gay but it riled me up and I had to intervene, except, well I'm built like that and Johann was quite the buff, he got me out of it and smashed their faces hard. I think that's what attracted me to him at first, his vitality, his fearlessness. We hit it off. He was a transfer student from Germany, out and proud, exuberant, everything I wasn't. Even though I'd been out since college, I wasn't really comfortable with it back then. It was great at the beginning. We did things I would have never dared before."

Tony was looking at him with a disconcerted expression, both happy and worried t the same time.

"And then I guess, I discovered his dark side." Tony's smile faded but he listened attentively, his head resting on its side, on his two joined hands. "The first time we had a fight, he slapped me. I didn't think much of it back then. I just...We were both guys. It didn't seem like a big deal. It was just a little slap, at first. But then he did it again. We fought all the time, he was jealous, and possessive. He would push me against the walls, he tried to strangle me several times. I didn't really fight back. I would have, if he was a stranger, but he was my boyfriend and I didn't wanna hurt him... And I think I felt like I deserved it." 

Steve saw flames of rage burning in Tony's eyes, his jaw clenched but he kept listening to Steve attentively, without interrupting him.

"Then he started punching me. I started hiding the marks he left on me, I started lying to my friends. I kept finding excuses to avoid them. It escalated, until I ended up at the hospital." 

Tony's eyes still burned with rage and he glared at Steve, silent. Steve continued, he had never talked about this before. It felt relieving somehow, like it had weighed on chest all that long and he hadn't noticed. 

"But even then," Steve went on, voice trembling, feeling ashamed. "I kept finding him excuses. I mean, apart from that, it was really good between us, and it didn't happen that often... "He took a deep breath, remembering things good and bad alike. "It's Bucky who tried to knock some sense into me. It just...I was so embroiled in this that I couldn't see what he was doing to me."  Tony's eyes flared, frighteningly, threateningly, protectively. But he kept quiet.

"In the end, I brace myself and found the strength in me to end it. I took it upon myself and broke things off. He really hurt me that day and I felt like he was going to kill me. I had to call Bucky." Tony shivered with anger, grinding his teeth, to force his mouth closed. "It only lasted a few months." Steve concluded. "but this relationship broke me. I don't think I've completely recovered from it actually. I've got this anger inside of me. Sometimes I feel like he screwed every chance I have at a relationship again." He stopped, enjoying the silence and smiled. "I guess I have a type too, it seems. Assholes."

Tony's anger seemed to fade and vanish from the glow of his eyes. He kept staring at Steve silently. His expression shifting to something more bitter, melancholic. He swallowed and his throat bobbed. "Does that include me?" He asked hoarsely, words stuck in his throat. 

Steve felt bad. He hadn't thought the pain in Tony's voice would affect him that much, but he felt like crying suddenly. He looked into his eyes, holding his tears back. The pain Johann had left in his heart was still very sharp and raw.

"I would never hurt you." Tony whispered, face so close it was entrancing. "I would never hurt you like that." 

"I know." Steve huffed out. He brought a hand on Tony's face. He didn't push him away this time. "I know you wouldn't." Not like that, you wouldn't. Tony's way of hurting other people was way more insidious. It was done with the face of angel, with a caress on your cheek, with a soft whisper in your ear. Tony was never hurting you, he let you rot in your own pain with an oblivious, indifferent air. 

Tony's lips shivered and Steve felt the urge to kiss them. He wanted to comfort him, or maybe he needed comfort himself. 

"I'm glad you told me." Tony muttered, slithering closer on the sand, and he brushed his nose against Steve's in a slow movement before he smiled again, softly, like nothing had happened. As if Steve hadn't seen a whole range of emotion on his face he had never seen before. As if they hadn't connected like they had never before.

He's not untouchable, no matter what you both think. Maybe he wasn't, after all.

"Me too." Steve answered, he was glad he had told Tony, and he was glad Tony had told him about Ty too.

"When was it?" Tony asked interestedly.

"Four years ago. I guess I haven't had much luck since then. I've only had one-night-stands, or short flings. It must sound quite pathetic for you, but I guess I'm kind of a loser."

Tony's smile widened. "No you're not." He chuckled. "You're saying this as if I had an arm-long list of exes hidden in my closet..." 

"Don't you?" Steve asked nonchalantly, not fearing that answer anymore. Talking about Johann had freed him of something, somehow. He turned on his back and crossed his arms behind his head, looking at the clear sky in front of him. 

Tony was snuggling against him, still lying on his side, staring at him. "No."

Steve gave him a sidelong glance. "Really?" He asked skeptically. 

"Really. I mean, apart from you and Pep, Ty was the only relationship I had."

Steve sat up in a jerk and looked down at him. "What?"

Tony shrugged and looked up at him, expressionless. "It's not like I had that much time on my hands to date people. I'm only twenty-one. What did you think?"

Steve felt his heartbeat accelerate suddenly, and a wave of unwanted feelings overwhelmed him, grazing at a fresh wound. "I don't know." He whispered hesitantly. "Pepper told me that there were plenty of others..."

"I had flings, but no-one serious. I think the longest relationship I had didn't even last a week. Pepper wouldn't know, I never told her about it."

Steve's heart was suddenly thumping furiously in his chest. Did that mean...? Had Tony just said that he had feelings for him?

"Tony, I...I didn't know. I'm sorry...I didn't know." He tried to swallow the lump in his throat and glanced at Tony again who looked unconcerned as usual. His hands however were fiddling nervously with a small wood stick on the tiny sandy area between them.

He was beautiful, Steve thought. He was beautiful and dangerous and Steve was falling for him again. No need to lie to himself anymore, no need to pretend. He was in love. He was in love like he had never been before. Insanely, desperately in love. He slid the hand that was supporting his weight on the sand toward him and hooked his little finger on one of Tony's. A tiny attempt at getting closer which, again, Tony didn't try to push away.

They remained silent for a moment, needing to let the time heal, needing to let the tension quiet down. Steve lay down on the sand again and Tony turned on his back. They were both facing the sky, laying side by side, close to each other but not touching. Steve could feel Tony's strong presence beside him however. He could hear his steady breathing. He could almost feel the beating of his heart. He stretched his arm and reached for Tony's hand. He found it, grabbed it and intertwined their fingers together. Tony let him and squeezed back.

It was such an emotional day, an emotional weekend. Steve was exhausted, in addition to still being hangover. Neither of them had ever shared that much with anyone else before. It was a big deal for both of them, and then it really wasn't, after all. 

"Are you seeing someone now?" Steve asked. 

He heard Tony's breathing change but he didn't say anything until it was slow and steady again. "No." He answered softly, honestly. "No-one that matters. You?"

Steve squeezed his hand again. " 'f course not. You'd know, if I did." He answered with a smile, but then turned serious again. "What about that other person?"

"What other person?" Tony asked unconcernedly. 

"The other person that you were seeing back in October."

He chuckled. "I never said I was seeing someone else."

Steve squeezed his hand again, with more strength. "No but there was someone else, right? I saw it, I saw it in your eyes."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Tony denied, tone still indifferent, lifeless.

Steve felt his heart clench. He wasn't wrong. He knew what he had seen back then. He turned on his side again, facing Tony and tugged on his hand to make him turn on his side and face him as well. 

"Tell me the truth Tony, please, just once."

Tony slowly fell on his side and their eyes met. Tony's were undecipherable but so very expressive. His hand was suddenly cold in Steve's and he could see tremor in his jaw. He swallowed and opened his mouth, trying to say something, but just chewed his words in. Guilt painted on his face.

"Do you...Do you think I'm dirty?" He huffed out, breathless. His eyes two black pools of suffering and self-hatred, expectant, hopeful.

Steve opened his eyes wide, stunned. Where did that come from?

"What?" He blurted out, completely baffled. He had never seen so much vulnerability in Tony's eyes before. So much vulnerability, so much pain, so much hope.

"No!" He almost shouted.

Lie.

"No, Tony. I don't think you're dirty."

Yes. Yes, he did. He very much did. 

"Why would you think that?" Steve asked, voice worried but reassuring. "I never thought you were dirty."

Lies. Lies. Lies.

He had. Just this morning, he had. And last night. And he had thought so all the times he saw Tony having sex with someone else.

He was such a hypocrite. He pretended he was all tolerant and everything and all this time he had only been judgy. Condescendingly, stubbornly, so sure of himself. 

He had never used 'dirty' in his mind but now that Tony had put a word on it, Steve realized that it was what he had felt all this time, but not anymore. Not now. Not when Tony's expression was so vulnerable, so pure, so genuine.

Now, at this instant, the only thing that mattered to Steve was seeing Tony's smile brightening his handsome face, seeing his playful eyes dancing again, seeing the corners of his mouth curl up and hear his soft, so very sweet laugh. 

He reached Tony's face in a soft movement, slithered his hand along his neck and cupped his jaw, brushing his thumb on the soft skin of his cheek. Tony's lips parted, confusion on his face. He was so handsome, Steve thought. Handsome and brilliant and kind and who fucking cared if he gave heads to anyone who asked. They could never stain him.

He needed to tell Tony that. He needed let him know, because he felt like the world—Tony's world—would end if Steve didn't, because somehow, inexplicably, Tony, who didn't care about anyone or anything, apparently cared about Steve's opinion, a lot.

"You're not dirty Tony. Don't ever think that." Steve whispered on Tony's lips, eyes locked into those beautiful dark skies. His heartbeat was racing in his chest as he got closer to the man and his blood throbbed in his ears. He leant into him, as if drawn to him by supernatural forces. He was going to die if he didn't touch him now. He strengthened his grip on Tony's face and planted a soft kiss on his parted, unexpecting lips.

Tony startled and shivered under his touch but melted into the kiss, so Steve deepened it and grabbed his face with his two hands, scooting closer to him, feeling millions of sparkles in his stomach as if he was kissing him for the first time. The urgent desire was already spreading throughout his body right to the tip of his cock. He was full, hard, and nothing mattered anymore but touching Tony.

Tony gripped his two wrists in his hands and inched back away from the kiss. "Steve, wait."

Steve's heart clenched. He looked at him confusedly. "What's wrong?"

"I'm not that guy, Steve." Tony said, voice painful and expression guilty and miserable. "I can't be that guy."

"I know." Steve whispered, searching his lips. Tony inched back a little further away. 

"I can't be who you want me to be." He said, hesitant, but Steve kept on exploring. He slid his hand down Tony's chest and slipped it under his shirt to splay it on his skin. Then he snuggled against him and kissed him again. "I can't give you what you want." Tony repeated breaking the kiss, hesitant, scared. So vulnerable. "I can't promise you... I can't promise you anything."

It was empowering to get to do that to him, to be that strong person Tony needed in his life. Steve could be that person. 

"I know, Tony." Steve whispered huskily, sensually. "I don't care."

Tony looked into his eyes, confused. "I thought you want—"

"I want you." Steve huffed out, gasping and trying to catch his lips again. "I don't care about anything else."

It was a lie. Steve knew it was a lie, but he said it anyway, because he couldn't not have Tony right now. He couldn't let go of him. He needed to kiss him, to touch him and he could. As if it was a fucking revelation, Steve just took what he had been wanting for so long and denied himself. 

He kissed Tony again, with strength, and this time Tony let him. "I don't wanna be your friend, Tony." He muttered on his lips and nipped at them. "I want more." He kissed the corner of his mouth, and then grabbed his hands, intertwining their fingers together. "I want you." He said while biting his nose and kissing it afterwards. "And I know you want me too." If the way Tony was looking at him right now was any indication. He gave his nose a little lick. "I wanna kiss you. And lick you. All over." He pushed him slowly on his back and climbed on top of him, softly, gentle hands sliding along his sides. "I wanna touch your cock and suck it." He whispered on Tony's mouth, blowing warm air on his lips, stirring desire in him. Tony's eyes sparkled, glimmering with lust. He was speechless. He just parted his lips and let Steve manhandle him. Then he put his hands on Steve's hips and slid them up his flanks, sneaking underneath his shirt, sending shivers down Steve's spine.

He was Tony-relapsing again, knowingly, willfully, conscious that it could never work out between them, conscious Tony would never give him what he needed. He knew it wouldn't last. He knew they had no future. He was aware that he was doing a mistake, even more so than the first time. A mistake that could destroy them completely, both of them. He knew it could—would end in a disaster and yet, he threw himself into it entirely, enthusiastically, and without restrain. 

He wriggled purposely, rubbing himself on Tony's cock and felt it twitch and harden under him. "I wanna ride you on that beach." He whispered, and swayed his hips on Tony's. "And by the pool." He moved again, making Tony gasp under him. "I want you to fuck me in that bed in front of the ocean."

Tony almost whimpered. "We don't have condoms." He whispered, gasping, breathless. 

It didn't matter, they had all the time in the world to do all the things Steve wanted to do with Tony.

He was in charge and Tony was at his mercy, submitting willingly to his power, like they had so very rarely done before. Tony didn't seem to hate it, on the contrary. Like he had done so beautifully during their trip to New Jersey, he let Steve overpower him and take control. Steve took his time. He wanted to enjoy every second of it. He wanted to fuck Tony like it was his only shot at it. He ran his hands everywhere, on every bump, on every curve. He brushed his fingers on his soft skin. He put delicate kisses on every inch, let his tongue trail down the line of hairs on his stomach that led into his shorts.

He might not be able to teach him how to love, but he was going to teach him how to make love. He would make sure of that.

Chapter Text

The ride back to the house in the secret elevator was strange, in a good way.

Tony was leaning on the wall, head on his side, resting against the mirror. He was barely holding the cooler in a lazy hand and was looking at Steve, uncharacteristically silent. Only his smile spoke, wide, genuine and happy.

Tony smiled all the time, in every situation, but tonight he was looking different. Light. Worryless. Happy for the first time, Steve thought, Tony looked genuinely happy.

Steve smiled back, stupidly happy, stupidly in love.

Love-making on the beach had been unexpected, slow, gentle. Amazing. And now Steve was light-headed. Tony's vulnerability, his surprising meekness, his kind expression... It gave Steve wings. He felt invigorated, powerful.  All his worries washed away by the cold waves of the Pacific ocean.

He felt like a teenager kissing his crush for the first time. Horny. Brainless. Invincible. In love. Nothing could stop him anymore.

The elevator stopped and neither of them moved an inch. They were both staring in each other's eyes, smiling, laughing softly. Horny. Steve was ogling Tony's body. The firmness of it, the tension in his movements. He needed to touch.

He stepped closer and splayed his hand on Tony's stomach, on his hip. He leant into him, slithering his way to every part of him, sliding his hands up underneath his tank top. Tony gasped and dropped the cooler, fire burning in his eyes. He was so pliant today, Steve thought. Steve could take everything he wanted. A scary yet, overwhelming thought. He pushed Tony against the wall and made space for himself between his legs. His hands sneaked up his neck and grabbed his face. The kiss was a little rough but this time, it was under his impulsion. He was the one in control.

Tony chuckled against his lips. "Maybe we should go, don't yo—ahh." He started saying but was interrupted by Steve's hand sliding down his sweatpants. Oh and Steve had forgotten to mention Tony hadn't been wearing anything under those sweatpants all day long. Tony gasped and hardened in Steve's hand. Steve's other hand was holding his neck, brushing his thumb on the line of his jaw while he was depositing light kisses on his shoulder. 

"Not until I've taken care of that, no."  Steve whispered against his neck while tightening his grip on Tony's shaft. He was rock hard himself and was slowly, unconsciously humping Tony's leg.

Tony gasped again, powerless in Steve's hands. His breathing accelerated and he closed his eyes, yielding, body slumped against the wall.

Steve looked up at him and smiled, a little pleased with himself. Despite Tony's long and rich experience he could still make him feel like that.

He knelt down and dragged down those very sexy sweatpants with him, then he looked up and locked his eyes into Tony's dark marbles. There was nothing better than this moment, when both of them knew that Steve was going to have Tony's dick in his mouth soon and he looked at Tony submitting willingly and being in charge at the same time, seeing Tony's pleading silently, expression grateful.

Tony was looking down, lust glowing in his eyes. He let his gentle hands play with Steve's hair and caressed his face with a light brush of his knuckles. He gave him a little nod, consenting quietly to everything Steve was going to do.

Steve sat on his heels, looking up at the beautiful cock jutting above him, worshipping it. He gave it experimental licks along the pulsating vain up to the head. Tony let his whole weight fall against the wall in a loud thump, his body all tense and shivering. He brought a firm powerful hand on Steve's head to encourage him.

Steve raised on his knees and swallowed the cock, Tony's lazy hand barely holding his head, his other hand spasmodically opening and closing in jerks along his thigh. He panted and let out gasping little cries of pleasure. "Yes, yes, Steve, fuck." 

Tony's hand gripped his hair strongly and he started thrusting slowly inside Steve's throat, but he let Steve in control. Steve sucked enthusiastically on the head and down the shaft. Tony's other arm was still hanging along, spasmodic and tense, showing all the ripples of his muscles. His head was thrown back on the wall, eyes closed and lips parted and drops of sweat were trickling down under his loose tank top, following the line of hairs that trailed down to his beautiful, hard cock. Tony was panting, mumbling indecipherable words and "please, Steve, please."

He was so handsome like that, pliant, in bliss.

Steve was rock hard in his pants and slipped a hand inside, unable to resist. He squeezed it hard until it hurt. He was so aroused he could probably come like this if he just gave it a few strokes, but he would rather not.

He looked up at Tony, hair disheveled and glistening at his temples, damp with sweat. The brunette let go of Steve's head and ran a hand in his own hair, wiping his face, unintentionally showing off his muscled arm. The other abruptly grabbed the handle inside the elevator. He bit his own biceps to refrain a moan and that was the hottest thing Steve had seen today. He was making desperate sounds and Steve was just so blissful and excited to know he was the one responsible for that. 

Tony came in spurts in Steve's mouth, in a long whimpering groan. 

Then he slumped back on the wall and laughed, catching his breath. Eyes still hazy with orgasm. "Fuck, Rogers. Where did you learn to do that?"

Steve had had a lot of practice long before he had met Tony, he was just really enthusiastic today, and maybe a little in love too. He looked up sitting down on his knees and smiled with a closed mouth. He was still full of cum and didn't want to swallow. Tony grabbed a handful of his shirt and lifted him up in one yank. He caught Steve's mouth in his own and drank from it. Then he slowly slid on his knees, encouraging Steve to spit his own cum into his mouth and swallowed everything.

Steve's hard-on was raging in his pants, He stared down at Tony, lust blinding him. The brunette was still catching his breath, half-panting, half-laughing, hiding his flushed face in Steve's shirt, rubbing it on the huge bulge on his crotch. He grabbed Steve's hip but Steve pushed him away. 

"You don't want me to reciprocate?" Tony asked confused, expression a little upset. 

Steve shook his head. He did. He truly did, but something about Tony on his knees still felt weird. "Not now." He whispered in a tired, sore sigh. 

Tony smiled, looking reassured and stood up, still a little foggy.

 

They sneaked into the house like two rebellious teens. It was quiet and clean.

"Where is everybody?" Steve asked, a little perplexed. 

"Party ended at noon." Tony explained in a nonchalant tone.

"Really?"

"In theory," he said with a smile. "so they were probably all gone by five. Which left enough time for the staff to clean up and clear out, I guess. It's almost eight."

Steve felt a little overwhelmed by everything suddenly, and he was still a little hard.  "Does that mean, we have the whole house for ourselves?"

Like Tony had suggested, Steve had taken his Monday off as well and his plane wasn't until tomorrow evening. Suddenly, the whole thing was taking a new, interesting but very scary turn. He had Tony all to himself tonight and there were still so many things they hadn't got to do in this house.

"Not really, Pepper and Rhodey are here too. They must be around somewhere." Tony said from afar, already heading to the kitchen to put the cooler back there. Steve followed him without thinking, probably drawn to him by the musky smell of sex that mingled with his own body smell. "you hungry?"

Not really. No. His stomach was still a little upset and the hunger churning his guts right now was not for food. He hummed a reply which wasn't exactly a 'no' but not a 'yes' either.

"What are you doing?" He asked as he saw Tony fussing around the huge kitchen.

"Making pasta with butter and cheese—which is about the only dish that I can actually cook myself, really... I'm starving!" He answered, suddenly all energetic which was absolutely tiring to even watch.

Steve raised his eyebrow and climbed on a bar stool. "There are three family size fridges in there, surely you'll find some left-over from the party."

"I'm fed up with that. I need to come back to basics. Besides, pasta's my favorite food after sex."

Steve chuckled and rested his spinning head on his hands, supported by his elbows on the countertop.  "Really? Since when?"

Tony looked back at him wringing his body in a weird position and gave him a mischievous smile. "Since you make pasta about ninety nine out of a hundred times after we have sex."

"Because it's cheap!" Steve protested, both amused and a little upset at the same time. "and because I don't have anyone to cook it for me. Believe me, if I had a choice, I would eat much better-balanced food."

Tony shrugged. "I love your pasta."

"There you are!" Pepper's cheerful voice suddenly resonated in the room, coming from nowhere. Then, like an apparition, she was walking through the kitchen toward Tony. "What you doin'?" She asked while clutching to his arm, resting her head on his shoulder like a wife would. "Making post-sex food?"

Steve felt a blush creeping on his face. Were they really that obvious? It was not like he had intended to hide it, but in all fairness, he didn't think he would have to deal with the friends' shovel talk right away.

She snuggled up against him and Steve felt a little jealous. Not because they were physically close, but because they looked so good together, right there, in the middle of the kitchen. Like husband and wife. Steve felt like the third wheel. He envied her a little, because he felt like she had always known the Tony Steve had met today. The sensitive, caring, expressive Tony that had been hiding under protective layers before.

"You're beaming, Babe." Pepper said with a happy smile. "You look good!" She leant into him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I'm happy for you."

Tony turned his face to her and kissed her back on the forehead. Steve was able to see the huge smile on his lips. He whispered something to her but Steve was too far to hear it. Also, he probably was dreaming but Tony looked like he was blushing.

"Jim made his special hangover soup if you want." She added as she let go of Tony and turned to Steve. Who's Jim? 

"Jim?" Steve let out without thinking. 

Pepper smiled. "I meant Rhodey. Rhodey's not his real name. You got that, right?"

Actually, Steve had never asked himself that question. He just went with the flow, but he guessed, with Tony, it was quite unsurprising. 

"It is." Tony protested from the other end of the kitchen. "His real name's James Rhodes." He said for Steve's attention.

"Yeah. yeah. Right." Pepper teased and gave him a wave from the back of her hand as she left.

Steve kept his attention on the back of Tony. He had never had a guy who had cooked for him before. He guessed non of his flings had lasted long enough for that kind of intimate moment. He liked that, he thought. He liked that a lot actually.  

A short moment later, Tony set two bowls of pasta in front of him with a proud smile. "Ta-dah" The look on his face suggested like Steve was going to be served a five-star restaurant's special. It made him laugh. Even though, he would admit that the pasta looked really appetizing. Everything was in the quality of the product he guessed. Tony's pasta were made with fresh butter, olive oil, parmesan and fresh basil leaves. His were... not made like this.

Tony's smile faded and he tilted his head on the side. "So, you wanna join them?" He suggested, hopeful. "You can still choose the soup option, if you're not feeling well."

No thanks. Well, he might taste it though, but now there was no way he wasn't going to eat the pasta. The smell had awoken his appetite, he was starving and his stomach rumbled.

"Okay. But no-one's touching my pasta." Steve warned and wrapped a protective arm around it to make a point.

Tony beamed and led the way to the terrace outside which had been completely rearranged and now was a beautiful quiet place for a peaceful dinner in front of the Californian sunset.

Pepper and Rhodey were seated around a big dinner table and nipping on some left-overs from the party. Pepper was sipping a bowl of smoking soup and smiled, eyes sparkling above the bowl, when she saw them.

Rhodey, who had his back turned to them, wrung his neck to meet their gaze and gave them a smile too.

"Found what you're lookin' for?" He asked with a wink, obviously, to Steve.

"I think I did." Steve answered while staring at Tony's profile, which was almost true on every aspect. He even got more than he had actually bargained for.

Tony stared back and smiled beautifully.

"Sure you did." Rhodey said, staring at the two of them with an amused smile, then he turned to Tony. "You lookin' good, Stark!"

Tony shrugged and put his bowl of pasta on the table while sitting on the chair next to him. Steve imitated him and the four of them ate in peaceful silence sharing jokes and casual talks here and there. Sometimes Tony would secretly slip a hand under the table and slid it up his thigh, gently, affectionately. 

It was a nice, peaceful evening and Steve was happy to connect with Tony's closest friends. 

The four of them moved inside after the nightfall and played video games. Well, mostly it was Tony and Rhodey. Pepper was drinking herbal tea and Steve was mostly gazing lovingly at Tony, and his smile, and the energy his body gave off, and the way his muscles tensed when he leapt up winningly, electric, always lively, and the way he threw his head back as he roared with laughter, and the innocent glint of his eyes.

Slowly, peacefully, lulled by the happy moments around him, Steve felt himself drift away. 

He snapped out of it and left the three friends in their animated conversation. Tony caught him by the arm before he could leave the room. "Where're you going?"

"I'm exhausted." Steve muttered tiredly. Tony looked at him with a glimpse of worry in his eyes. "My head's still spinning. I think I'm gonna take a shower and go to bed. I feel all sticky and grimy. Don't fret over me, 'kay?" Steve ran a soft hand in his dark hair and gave him a tired smile.

" 'kay." Tony repeated with a nod, his expression still a bit worried.

Steve walked to his room and closed the door with relief. It felt good to be alone, finally, to have some time to think things through. Too much Tony in one day. It was exhausting. Tony was exhausting, so energetic all the time, he was draining.

He took off his clothes lazily and headed for the bathroom. Thankfully, there was everything he needed to get cleaned up properly. Even an... enema kit? Really? Like really? 

And... wow. That was... really farsighted. Hum... Well... You never know, right?

Steve took his time cleaning himself thoroughly, washing away the grime but also his pain, his anger, his worries. All the unpleasant things he had felt during this weekend. He had a huge bathtub with all the foam he wanted so why the fuck not, right?

Then he put on clean clothes and went to bed, relievedly. 

He was about twenty minutes into a half-asleep daze, deep in his thoughts, when a knock on his door pulled him back to reality.

"Steve... are you asleep?" Tony's unsure voice asked softly through the door. Steve answered but he wasn't sure Tony heard him. "Can I come in?"

Again, Steve wasn't sure Tony had heard his reply but the door opened anyway. The bedside lamp was still lit so it might have given Tony some clues. Steve painfully turned his head to the door and met Tony's sheepish expression.

"Can I sleep here tonight?" He asked with worried eyes, uncertain and insecure.

Steve gave him a soft smile. "Of course, you can." He was a bit unsettled by this vital need to sleep with him that Tony seemed to have.

"You sure?"

He pulled away the sheets invitingly and gestured at Tony to come with a movement of his head. "Come here dumbass!"

Tony beamed sheepishly and jumped on the bed next to him. He was freshly showered and his hair was still wet and falling on his handsome face. He squirmed next to him like an excited child sneaking into his parents' bed in the morning and lay on his stomach, face turned to Steve but half-buried in the sheets.

"I may not be able to keep my mouth off your cock in the morning, however." He teased, implicitly asking for permission.

Steve rolled his eyes. "I think I'll survive that. Besides, you owe me an orgasm."

Tony's expression flickered but not exactly with lust. "You want to now?" He asked, smile fading from his lips.

Not exactly, though he wouldn't mind at all, but he wouldn't mind getting a good night of sleep either. "If you want to. Do you?" Steve had learned how to tell when Tony didn't really want to have sex.

"I can wait till tomorrow." Tony said while sliding a hand on Steve's stomach in an affectionate gesture. He scooted closer and turned Steve on his side to spoon him. Steve willingly let him. He snuggled, wriggling his ass against his half-hard cock. Tony kissed him on the cheek and buried his head against the nape of his neck. 

Steve was able to find sleep less than five minutes later, lulled by the steady beating of Tony's heart.

 

The next day, when Steve woke up he was rock hard and half-way through coming. The curtains were open and so were the blinds and the sun was shining of Tony's dark hair. The ocean, silent behind the bay window, was licking their feet with the back and forth movement of the morning waves.

From where he was Steve could only see the tuft of Tony's hair going up and down his thick shaft, a sharp contrast with the light blue of the sky behind him. It felt so fucking good, Steve hummed in pleasure and ran his hand through the soft dark hair of his boyfriend. Were they, Now? Were they boyfriends? 

Tony startled and raised his lewd eyes. The corners of his mouth curled up into a smile when their eyes met. Tony's had a mischievous glint in them, he was obviously very pleased with himself. He was still wanton and licked the head of Steve's cock hungrily, moaning and drooling all over it. Steve whimpered in pleasure and gave little thrusts into the softness and the wet warmth of his mouth. Tony moaned appreciatively every time, encouraging Steve deeper. He went down and swallowed the whole length of him, which was, like he had said before, quite decent. Steve arched his back and threw his head back in pleasure while holding a firm hand on Tony's neck, forcing himself in. 

They repeated the movement a few times before Steve frantically held Tony's head in his two hands. He hissed, slid up the cushions for leverage and pushed Tony's mouth down on his cock and held it there, thrusting slowly, deeper and deeper in his throat, until he couldn't breath. 

Tony indicated he wanted out after a long moment and pushed on Steve's hips. His eyes flickered with unabashed lust as he was catching his breath. "Fuck my throat!" He asked with a hoarse, raspy voice. 

Who was Steve to deny him that? This was something he had discovered with Tony and he must admit he loved it.

He rose up on his knees, pants down his thighs, holding his shirt with his teeth, while Tony lay on his side, supporting himself on one elbow. He grabbed Tony's head and aligned his cock with his slightly open mouth, rubbing it on his lips, teasing a little, slapping it on his face, earning the best, the most erotic sounds Tony could make. He grabbed him by the hair while holding his head up on the side with his other hand and thrusted deep inside.

Tony whimpered sexily while Steve fucked his throat relentlessly. He grabbed his own cock inside in his pants, so hard he was almost ready to shoot. 

Steve slapped his hand away. "Don't touch yourself!" He commanded with a husky voice. "I'm not done with you." Tony let go and Steve fucked his throat hard and deep until he came. He pulled out and spurted white cream on Tony's tongue, who, for once, didn't smile. He was too horny for that.

Tony swallowed and Steve shoved his thumb inside, rubbing it softly on Tony's tongue, then he leant down and kissed him before collapsing on the bed. Tired and panting. 

The brunette lay down next to him, on his stomach, looking straight at Steve and rubbed himself slowly on the sheets, silent, still hard, waiting for him to come round. 

After a moment, Steve sat up and put his hand on Tony's neck, brushing his thumb on his parted lips. His eyes were still hazy with lust and staring into space but he opened his mouth welcomingly to Steve's thumb and licked it. 

"Turn over." Steve whispered hoarsely. 

Tony turned on his back and Steve climbed on top of him, he slumped over him, head put on his heaving chest, feeling the hard cock throbbing against his thigh through the fabric of his shorts. They were both wearing their sleeping clothes. Tony wrapped his arms around him and unconsciously started grinding against him.

Steve left a kiss on his neck and sat up on his crotch. "Let's play a game."

Tony looked at him with a lazy smile and a glint of lust in his eyes. "What game?"

"Let's call it the 'say no' game." Steve started. "I'll touch you and ask you every time if you want me to. You have to think deeply about it before you give me an honest answer."

Tony chuckled. "What kind of stupid game is that?"

"I'm gonna teach you how to say 'no'." Steve said back, tone very serious. 

"The rules are skewed. I'm gonna say 'yes' to pretty much everything you want me to do in this state." Tony complained while giving a nod to his hard dick.

"Then we'll wait until you're not anymore.

Tony looked horrified for a moment. "What? No!" He protested, while propped himself up on his elbow. "Make me come first, at least."

Steve pushed him back on the bed and tsked. He gestured a 'no' with his finger. "Too easy. You need to be horny for this."

Tony slumped down with a sigh. "You're killing me, Rogers."

"So? You wanna play?"

"Do I have a choice?" He said with a lazy smile.

"Of course, that's the very principle of this game. If you don't wanna play I'll make you come now and we won't talk about it."

Tony's smile faded. He looked stunned for a moment, realizing how serious Steve was. "Okay." He finally accepted with an almost undecipherable whisper. 

Steve smiled and lay down on Tony's chest, curling his arms around his shoulders. His head was turned on its side, eyes away from Tony. "Now, wrap your arms around me as if you loved me." Steve said, waiting for Tony to answer 'I do love you' but Tony let out a soft chuckle and remained silent. He did wrap his arms around him however.

They remained a few moments like this, wrapped in each other's arms, silent, listening to each other's breathings, feeling each other's heartbeats. Tony's hard-on was slowly weakening until he was completely limp against Steve's thigh.

At some point Steve wriggled and lifted his head up, supporting himself on Tony's chest. "Can I kiss you?" He asked. 

"You don't need to ask that." Tony answered with a sleepy smile.

"The game has started." Steve reminded him.

Tony looked startled but smiled again. "Yes." He said and Steve took his head in his hands and kissed him slowly. Tony was immediately responsive and tensed under him, grabbing his hips in a gentle gesture. 

Steve smiled on his lips. "Can I lick your nose?" 

Tony laughed surprisedly but his eyes were hazy again. "Yes." Steve brushed the tip of his tongue on Tony's upper lip and ran it along his nose right to the top. "Can I kiss your forehead?" He asked while holding his face, thumb slightly rubbing the light stubble on Tony's square jaw. Tony giggled this time. "Yes."

Steve kept asking and Tony whispered yeses, huskily, almost whimperingly to every question. Steve wriggled a little on Tony, enraptured in his warmth, he was feeling aroused again.

"Can I kiss your eyebrow?"

"yes."

"And your eyes?"

"Yes." 

"Can I pull you hair?" Tony gasped. His eyes still closed. His half-hard cock twitched under Steve. "So?"

Tony turned his head on the side a little. "Yes." 

Steve grabbed his hair gently and gave a little tug to make him face him again. "Be careful. I might trick you."

Tony smiled and hummed an answer while biting his lips.

"Can I kiss you again?" 

"How about we skip the question if I already said 'yes'.

"Saying 'yes' once doesn't mean it's open bar, Tony." Steve deadpanned. 

Tony sneezed. "Okay." He hissed in agreement. Steve waited however, unsure if it was an okay for the kiss or the statement. "God, yes! Kiss me now." Tony finally begged impatiently. "You're killing me. How long is this gonna take?"

Steve leant slowly on him and kissed him with a smile. "As long as it takes."

Tony moaned into the kiss, half-protesting, half-aroused.

"Can I pin your hand on the bed?" 

"Yes." Tony answered, chest heaving. Steve pinned Tony's right hand on the bed and rolled on his side to get access to Tony's body. "Can I put my hand on your hip?"

"Yes." He put his free hand on Tony's hip. "Can I slip my hand under your shirt?" Tony hummed. "I need an answer." Steve insisted. 

"YES!"

Steve slipped his hand underneath Tony's shirt and stroked up and down his chest, sliding along his waist, on his hips. Tony shivered under his touch. He was rock hard now. 

"Can I tickle you?" 

"Yes."

"Okay." Steve started to tickle him on his sides. Tony burst out laughing and wriggled, jerking about in every direction. 

"No. No. Stop! I take it back! I take it back!"

Steve stopped, smile spreading on his face. Tony was leaning on his elbows, staring at him, catching his breath. His chest was heaving. "You fell into the trap! I told you to think about it before agreeing."

"That's unfair." Tony whined protestingly. "Of course I'm gonna say 'yes' if it's you."

Steve shook his head amusedly. "No no. With me or with anyone else, it's the same."

Tony threw his head back with a grunt and collapsed on the bed. He ran his hands in his hair. "Aargh. I should have never told you about this. I knew you wouldn't let it go."

Steve straightened up a bit and stared at Tony, not making any comment about this. It didn't need to be commented, he thought. Not now anyway.

"Can I trace a finger down your chest?" He asked instead, cutting the moment short.

Tony propped up on his elbows. "Are we back in the game?"

"I am. Are you?"

"Yes." He answered, staring into Steve's eyes with a serious expression. "And yes for the finger, goddamnit!"

Steve's finger trailed down his chest, slithering between his the muscles on his stomach. Tony's body was hard and tense and burning. He ran his finger down the trail of hair sneaking out of his shorts and stopped just before it touched the elastic band. Tony wasn't wearing anything under those shorts and his cock, erected, formed a beautiful tent, and Steve's fingers were dying to creep under that tent.

Tony was make little thrusting movements, seeking the relief of Steve's hand. He leant his head against Steve's and tried to catch his mouth into a kiss Steve let him brush his lips and inched away. 

"Can I kiss your neck?" 

"Yes."

Steve bent over Tony's chest and snuggled against him. He kissed his neck while running his hand up and down his chest again. "Can I touch your nipple?" 

"Yes."

Tony gasped and writhe under him, scooting closer, seeking friction. "Can I slide my hand into your shorts and grab your ass?"

"Yes." 

Steve slowly ran his hand down Tony's firm chest and his chiseled flanks, feeling all the muscles tensing under his touch. He grabbed his hip, kissing his neck again, earning a moan from Tony and he slid his hand around the curve of his ass and squeezed it. Enjoying every jerky movement Tony was making at every touch. Then he let his hand trail down his thigh up to his bended knee and stroked up and down his thigh, kissing his neck and his jaw and his chin. "Can I kiss you again?" He whispered lewdly. And Tony answered just as lewdly.

Their kiss was sloppy, passionate. "Can I spit into your mouth?"

Steve ran his splayed hand up to his neck, making sure he rubbed every one of Tony's soft spots on the way and finally cupped his cheek. Tony shivered, rock hard, eyes hazily half-closed, glimmering with lust.

"Yes."

"You sure?"

Tony swallowed and bit his lips, eyes staring straight into Steve's. "Yes." Steve brushed his fingers down his jawline and caught his chin. He gave it a little tug and opened Tony's mouth. Tony let his tongue out while Steve dropped his saliva into his open mouth. Then he kissed him.

Tony smiled and chuckled a little. "I love this game." He said, panting in Steve's mouth. "Can you touch my dick now?"

"Tsk tsk. Not yet." Steve answered with a smile.

"God, Rogers! You're driving me crazy!"

Steve put his finger on his lips. "Shhhh." He dropped his head on the mattress and snuggled close to Tony's ears. "Can I slip my tongue in your ear?"

Tony giggled. "Yes." And he half-giggled, half-moaned when Steve did it, closing his eyes and turning his head on the side.

Steve ran his hand up and down his chest and kissed his way down. Asking every time. And every time Tony said 'yes'.

When half-way down there Steve sat up and put his hand on Tony's knee. "Can I slide my hand along your thigh?" He asked while splaying his hand on the inside of Tony's thigh.

"Yes."

"Can I sneak it under your shorts?" 

"Yes."

Steve stroked the inside of Tony's thigh up and down reaching further every time.

"Can I go further?" 

At that point Tony was a mess, lying on the bed. There were little drops of precum staining his shorts. His whole body tense and sweating. His eyes half-closed, hazy, staring into space.

"Aah. Yes. Steve. Fuck."

Steve's hand went further down into Tony's shorts, brushing the underside of his shaft, touching his balls barely. He cupped Tony's thigh at the junction and brushed his fingers down his ass. Tony shivered.

"Can I finger you?" Steve whispered, slowly, sensually, while staring at him.

Tony propped himself up on his elbows in a jerk and stared straight into Steve's eyes, looking stunned and questioning.

Steve smiled gently and kept stroking his upper thigh, brushing his fingers in the cleft of his ass. Tony unconsciously spread his legs and parted his lips, panting silently. His breathing accelerated. A whole range of emotions ran through his eyes but too quickly for Steve to decipher them. Steve moved his fingers closer, making Tony gasp and shiver again, his heartbeat raced. A drop of sweat was trickling down his temple and Steve wanted to lick it off his face. He looked at the heaving of his chest, wide, jerky and stared back into his confused eyes and at his parted lips.

"Is that a yes?"

Something flickered in Tony's eyes, a mix of fear and desire. He gasped and his mouth opened and closed silently, hesitatingly. He bit his bottom lip with a slight tremor in jaw.

Steve's fingers crawled deeper and Tony grabbed his hand abruptly and used all his strength and agility to put Steve on his knees and bend him over before he understood what was happening.

Macho dominant Tony was back, cock hard and rubbing against the cleft of his ass, hands pinning Steve's shoulders down and ripping his clothes away. "I'm gonna fuck you in the ass, that's what I'm gonna do. I'm fucking done with this stupid game now."

Steve was a bit disappointed, but the alternative was amazing too so he didn't dwell on it. He was already shivering under Tony's touch and he could already feel his cock rubbing against his hole, trying to enter him. 

"Condoms." He shouted, head buried in the mattress, hands held back in Tony's, before Tony thrusted inside of him raw. Tony grumbled above him but tore a condom packet before he resumed sliding his cock on Steve's ass all covered. 

He was rough and started entering Steve without warning. Steve cringed and whimpered. It fucking hurt, even though he wanted it badly, had wanted since yesterday, had prepared himself for it. It had been a while for him and Tony was everything but gentle now.

"Ouch, Tony please, stop."

He could probably handle it. He had before, but it was a test. This consenting thing should go both ways. If Tony's notion of consent was vague when it came to him, the line was probably blurred too when it came to his partners. Until now, the sex had been great but Steve hadn't had any say in it. He would just endure everything Tony had in mind, which was good most of the time. And that was probably the reason why he had never questioned it, but now in the light of recent events, he wondered. He wondered if Tony knew how to stop when it didn't feel good anymore.

Tony stopped instantly, however. He pulled back and put his hands on Steve's hips. Only the tip of his cock was inside now.

"Please go slower," Steve begged. 

The brunette slid his hands up and down Steve's back and pulled out. He spat on Steve's hole and put some lube on the condom and on his fingers. He slipped his fingers inside, pleasuringly, making sure he grazed Steve's soft spot and Steve started feeling it again. His whole body vibrated under Tony's touch and warmth pooled in his lower belly. He whimpered, this time because he loved it.

"Can I fuck you now?" Tony asked.

Steve hummed.

"I'm gonna need an answer." Tony teased.

Beaten at his own game... Asshole.

"God, yes, Tony. Fuck me hard! Open me up!"

Tony thrusted hard and deep, at a punishing rhythm. He impaled him so deep that he felt it was splitting him in two. Steve didn't control anything, he couldn't even control his own body. He barely touched himself and felt he was already going to come. Tony needed to slow down, because he wanted more. 

He pressed his cock hard to stop himself from coming. "Please Tony stop. wait!"

He stopped and Steve was able to catch his breath for a moment. "I wanna ride you." Because, yeah that was one of his wishes. Ride Tony with that view on the ocean. 

Tony pulled out and helped him up. He kissed him from behind, curling his strong arms around Steve's frail body, holding his neck lovingly. 

Steve turned around and stripped him off his shirt and shorts, then stripped himself. He pushed Tony on his back right in the position he wanted so he could face the ocean and Tony, and climbed on top of him. 

Now he was in charge. He looked at the view, feeling blessed and then forgot about it because Tony, all disheveled and glistening with sweat, his eyes burning with lust, was such a better view at this moment. 

Steve started riding that cock, up and down, swaying his lips a little. His own cock in hand, he was just masturbating using Tony's. After few thrusts Tony panted and grunted and stopped. "Steve wait! Wait!"

"What?"

"I came."

Steve looked down at him with an annoyed frown. Tony was smiling sheepishly. "Already?"

"You've been teasing me for hours. Don't be so hard on me, please. Just move up, I'll take another condom."

As much as this little mishaps sucked, Steve was overall glad Tony had told him on the spot and didn't risk a broken condom. It made his trust in him stronger.

Tony all covered again and still hard as a rock—what the fuck?—Steve resumed riding him and Tony didn't disappoint at all. He thrusted hard, grabbing him by the hips while Steve was stroking himself and pushed deep when he came all over his chest.

They kissed lengthily, shoving their tongues in each other's mouths, panting, catching their breath, sweaty all over until Tony sat up on his knees and lifted Steve to put him back on the other side of the bed, on the pillows. He kissed him more, settling himself between his legs and then rolled around and lay on his back next to him. Then he curled his arm around Steve's shoulder and scooted him closer before dozing off.

Steve had his head on Tony's shoulder and was staring at his body, trailing his fingers along the lines of his muscles, circling them around his hairs. He had more hairs now, Steve noticed. He was a bit bulkier too. He was a man.

"Do you work out?" Steve asked after a long moment of silence. 

Tony hummed awake. "Not really no. I do train though, a lot, with Happy."

"What do you do?"

"We box."

"You do boxing?" Steve asked disbelievingly.

"Yeah. Happy used to be a boxer. He won titles and everything. He was hired as a bodyguard at first. Now I guess he's more of a bodyguard/driver/errand boy—man..."

"I can't believe you box.  Does that mean you know how to fight?"

Tony chuckled, eyes still closed. "Yeah." 

"That's hot." Steve said feeling himself blush. He was a little ashamed he always felt this protective with Tony. 

The latter tightened his arm around Steve and smiled, cuddling against him. And Steve brushed his fingers down Tony's chest making him shiver a bit. 

"You're super sensitive... " Steve let out while his fingers explored a bit further down. "Can I ask you something?"

"Hum uh." 

"Why don't you want to get fucked?" Steve asked, the question had burned his lips for quite some time now. He was becoming more and more convinced Tony would love it, or maybe he would love fucking Tony. He wasn't sure. "I'm sure you'd like it. It feels amazing."

Tony opened an eye and looked up at Steve. "I'm not a virgin, Steve. I know what being fucked feels like."

Steve startled. "Really?" He asked disbelievingly. "Well, maybe you just didn't find the right partner. Bottoming is something you learn to enjoy."

Tony let out a strangle laugh. "I've had enough practice, believe me. I just don't like it. Drop it! If you wanna top, find someone else." He snapped a bit aggressively. Somehow Steve felt Tony's blunt refusal was more driven by fear than by dislike, but he might wrong. He had often been wrong with Tony.

"Don't get all worked up! I didn't mean it like that, fuck! I just thought it could have been great to share something else with you, something good and intimate. But I'm sorry I'm not good enough. Don't worry, I won't ask again."

Tony calmed down and looked at Steve apologetically. "Steve, I'm sorry. I never said you weren't good enough. I'm sure you're an amazing top. I'm just... I don't want to. I don't like it."

He had been so adamant about teaching Tony how to say no, and now that he was actually saying no, Steve should feel happy and reassured.

He shrugged. "It's okay. I don't mind. I like it." Then, he leant into Tony to kiss him. "Enough that I don't need you to reciprocate."

Tony smiled relievedly and kissed him back. "You hungry?"

Steve snuggled into his arms. "Yeah. But not enough to do something about it, or to let you go." 

Tony chuckled. "Well, I may have a solution to our problem." He opened the nightstand on his side of the bed, fumbled inside and took a phone out. 

"What are you doing?"

"Calling someone."

"What for? You're not going to order a delivery with your fridge full, right?"

"No, of course not. I'm just gonna ask someone to makes us something and bring it up here." At Steve's offended face he added. "There're ten people working full time in this place, surely one of them can spare five minutes to make us breakfast, right? What are we paying them for otherwise?

Steve was properly shocked. "Ten people?" How come he hadn't noticed that before?

He was a bit divided though, between exploiting the staff and getting up himself  but Tony's arms made that choice for him. He was just feeling so good right now, people could be dying next door that he wouldn't get up from his spot. "I'm gonna let it pass this time, but I'm telling you. This is just this one time. Next time it's a no no!"

Tony turned his face to him and laughed. Then he tightened his embrace and kissed his forehead. "Sure."

 

Steve fell asleep after breakfast and when he woke up he was alone. It was almost noon. The sun was warm through the bay window and he could feel its heat caressing his legs. He rolled around in the bed, appreciating the comfort of the sheets and pillows, before he decided to finally get up. 

He walked around the house, enjoying the quiet beauty of it and went to the pool where he had heard people talking. He did take his swimsuit, his hat and his sunglasses, though, because... yeah, no tanning for him.

Rhodey and Pepper were both sunbathing on deckchairs. Rhodey was lying in his swim shorts, a pair of sunglasses on his face, and his arms thrown back behind his head, probably sleeping. Pepper was sitting with a book, wearing a tunic and a huge sun hat—obviously Pepper was suffering from the same affliction as far as the sun was concerned.

He was a bit disappointed not to see Tony.

"Hi Steve!" Pepper said cheerfully when he walked over to them. "Had a good night?" How she could be so snarky without an ounce of sarcasm in a her tone was a complete mystery to Steve however.

Steve couldn't stop his mouth from curling into a beaming grin and felt himself blush a little. Open book. He needed to get over it. "Yeah."

"I'm glad." She said with a gentle smile, eyes drifting away. "Feeling better?"

"My head's not spinning anymore." He wouldn't mind a bit more of sleep though. They had been at it quite early this morning. 

"There's some food if you're hungry."

And indeed, there was some brunch type of food, a lot of it, on a huge platter next to the pool house, under the shades. He wasn't very hungry, they did have breakfast in bed not that long ago but it looked really appetizing and Steve had nothing better to do.

"Where's Tony?"

"Workshop." Rhodey answered quickly. So he wasn't asleep after all. "Do you need the code?"

Steve pondered joining Tony in the workshop, pictures of him with the welding mask resurfaced and warmed his lower belly. He was already starting to get hard just thinking about it, so he decided against it. Otherwise they wouldn't leave the bed. They were not lovesick teens anymore, they could survive not being lovey-dovey all day long. 

"No need. I'm just gonna lie down here for a bit."

The three of them chatted cheerfully. Pepper had abandoned her book in favor of talking about Tony behind his back. Rhodey was happy to join in. Steve liked Tony's friends, despite things still being a bit awkward, especially with Pepper. He just needed to find his place in Tony's life probably. At some point, the conversation shifted to arts and Pepper told him how she had been impressed by what she had seen at the gallery and genuinely thought Steve was talented. She even confessed she had wanted to buy once piece herself but Tony had adamantly refused. Which was probably the right thing to do, considering. Steve laughed a little, imagining it. Pepper buying a painting made by the guy whom her boyfriend fucked in the ass on a regular basis. It was so fucked-up, but he realized it didn't matter that much anymore now. He could even laugh about it.

The art talk inspired him and he felt like drawing again so he ran up the stairs to fetch his arts supplies and walked back to the pool. Pepper was back to reading, Rhodey was back to whatever it was he was doing on his deckchair. He sketched them, reminding himself how lucky he was to spend the weekend in such a beautiful place. Even if it didn't work out with Tony—It wouldn't—he could still have that he supposed. In ten years from now, he would remember it and he would be able to say he dated the son of a billionaire once, and that he spent an amazing weekend in his Malibu mansion. He would have lived that, at least.

As he was deeply concentrated on his drawing he suddenly felt a shadow looming over him. Then strong hands grabbed his shoulders, massaging them slowly. He raised his eyes and looked up above him. His eyes met playful black marbles and a wide smile.

Tony had smears of sludge on his face and arms. His hair was sweaty and fell on his forehead in a very sexy way—or a filthy way, depending on your hygiene standards, but Steve would go for sexy. He was wearing the same type of tank top and sweat shorts he wore the day before, mostly dark colored and old school metal band pictures. Led Zeppelin today. His arms and his shoulders were flexed as he worked on massaging Steve's and that was definitely hot. Steve watched the movement his chest made as he breathed and got enraptured in his smell. He smelled like metal and oil and sweat. He smelt man, he smelt Tony, and a spike of desire ran through Steve's spine.

Tony bent over him and his calloused hands slid down his neck and rubbed up his chest and down his stomach, giving him shivers. One of his hand ran up his neck and pulled his head backwards, holding his jaw firmly. Tony smiled mischievously and bent lower to give Steve a hot, filthy, upside-down kiss. He shoved his tongue inside before Steve could protest and the unexpectedness of it bewildered him for a moment. He found himself melting into it, moaning softly against Tony's lips, half-hard in his swim shorts, completely disregarding their audience.

And yeah, Steve had forgotten about that, and okay, since yesterday they had kind of made a lot of innuendos and everything, but neither of them had confirmed it. It was not like Steve wanted to hide it, he wasn't ashamed exactly, but he was never a fan of PDAs and even less of shoving their happiness in his ex's face. Besides the fact that their recent history made it look like a big, big mistake—and it probably was—and Steve had no particular wish for Tony's friends to witness them falling down, but whatever. Apparently Tony had no reluctance about letting everyone know they fucked and, possibly, had feelings for each other, maybe? It was a bit awkward though, and Steve felt his blush spread down his chest and found himself incapable of thoughts or action at that precise moment.

Tony crouched behind him and wrapped his arms around him and the chair back, and bowed his head against his ear, giving him a little kiss on the cheek. "Sleep well?" He asked in a soft whisper.

Steve hummed his reply, leaning into his embrace, rubbing his forehead against him slowly.

"I've got this for you." 

Steve opened his eyes and saw Tony handing him a delicious-looking smoothie, which was, potentially, the best thing that Steve's stomach needed right now. "What's this?"

"It's your favorite." Tony grinned. "You're always complaining about how expensive it is to eat healthy food. Take it! I made it for you."

Steve took the glass without thinking, a bit baffled. "You made this for me?"

Tony made a disconcerted grimace. "Wow. Don't worry, I did wash my hands first."

"How do you know it's my favorite?" Steve said while taking a tentative sip. It was... really good actually. 

Tony shrugged, expression insecure. "Because you told me, and you took me to that smoothie place in the Tower neighborhood the you liked for lunch, don't you remember? 

No, no. He did remember, it was just surprising and... nice. Really nice.

"Thanks." Steve said, short for words but he looked at Tony who was anxious in front of him, hiding the sun, and gave him a soft grateful smile. Tony beamed and literally threw himself on top of Steve, squirming his way between Steve's legs, burying himself in the crook of his neck. Steve had just the time to put the smoothie and his notepad on the table next to him before Tony crushed them with his bulk. 

"Ahem. Thank you very much Tony for that smoothie. It's so nice of you." Pepper said sarcastically. 

"Yeah. Very nice indeed. And I was so thirsty too." Rhodey added, just as bitingly. 

Tony propped himself up on his arms and glared at them. "Err... Did you make me come this morning?" He snarked with a grin. "Yeah. I didn't think so." Then he turned his face back to Steve and caught his lips with his teeth. "Don't listen to them." He whispered on his mouth, and then turned back to his friends. "Get you asses up and go make your own!" Then he went back to kissing Steve, who didn't find that unpleasant at all and ignored the two dumbasses laughing out loud next to them.

The kiss was turning a bit hot under the sun and Tony started grinding unconsciously against him. Steve, oblivious to the rest of the world, let his hand glide along Tony's back and down his butt and grabbed it with a firm hand. He felt Tony's half-boner twitch against him. Tony might not want to be fucked, but that didn't mean Steve couldn't enjoy that.

"Guys, come on. Kids are watching." Rhodey snarked. "And Tony, I swear, if you get pregnant— you better make me the godfather." 

Tony smiled on Steve's lips and gave him the middle finger.

"Sorry dude, but as your favorite big bro, I had to step up for you, you know."

"When I get pregnant," Tony joked back, still gazing lovingly at Steve. "It's gonna be yours."

"Tones, I told you not to mention that in front of Steve, you're gonna scare him." Rhodey replied. "Poor boy."

"I'm not easily scared." Steve interjected, in between Tony's light kisses, a huge grin on his lips. "And I don't think anything can surprise me anymore, about this guy." He added while tugging at Tony's shirt. Tony straightened up and sat on his own heels. He plunged his eyes into Steve's and slowly took off his grimy shirt while swaying sensually his hips on Steve's legs, showing off all his muscles, rippling and glistening with sweat under the blazing sun. The fucking tease. Then he ran a hand through his hair, splayed his hand on his glistening chest and rubbed it down into his pants, grabbing his half-hard cock. Then he stood up, eyes still fixed into Steve's and slowly, very slowly, pulled down his sweat shorts and stripped naked in front of an awed Steve who was definitely ready to catch some flies.

"You're naked." Steve said when he finally recovered speech. 

"So? Don't like what you see?" He said while rubbing a hand on his torso teasingly again, pinching a nipple too. Steve gasped. Tony was still, if not really half-hard, not really soft either which...well, let's say Steve would have rather been on his own to fully appreciate the view.

"That's not the point, I think..."

"Well it's my fucking pool, I can go in there naked if I like..."

"I don't think that's the point either..." Steve muttered exasperatedly.

Tony gave a little nod to his friends and smiled. "Oh. Worried about them? Don't be. Everyone here's seen pretty much everything there's to see, already." He said with a hand on his pectoral. 

"Yeah well, some of us would have been happy not to, by the way." Rhodey said and then grumbled to himself. "So many things I wish I could unsee."

Tony tsked. Eyes mischievous and smile a bit lewd. "Come on, Cupcake. After everything we've experienced together in that room." 

"I say, it was a lot of sexual harassment on your part." Rhodey carried on, tone nonchalant and amused.

"You tried to have sex with Rhodey?" Steve asked, amusingly shocked.

"Once or twice." Tony deadpanned, a soft smile on his lips.

Rhodey rolled his eyes. "I can't even remember the countless times Tony offered me a blowjob." 

"He's tried to have sex with everyone." Pepper added on a completely unconcerned tone, focused on the book she had been reading.

"Tony knows not how to show affection but with sex or money." Rhodey explained to Steve, then he turned to Tony. "And I'd rather have the money, if you don't mind."

Tony pouted. "It wasn't even that often..."

Rhodey raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You even offered me to fuck you in the ass once."

Tony giggled. "I doubt that. Or I must have been pretty drunk."

"Oh yes you were! But not that drunk."

"Yeah, well, Maybe I had a huge crush on you." Tony said nonchalantly, smile mischievous, but there was something serious about his expression. Something serious that the three of them felt and that was the end of the joke.

Rhodey had an apologetic look on his face, expression a little confused. "Come on Tones. You didn't... Did you?"

Tony just shrugged, pouting a little.

"Even drunk you never offered me your ass." Steve grumbled jealously, talking in very low tone so that only Tony could hear.

"Well, I guess that's because you would have taken the chance." Tony answered with a teasing smile. 

"Yeah, probably..." Steve said laughing through his teeth. He meant definitely. 

Tony gave him a sidelong smile and then he walked backward and jumped into the pool in what was supposed to be a backflip but really was more of a cannonball that splashed water all over and on everyone. 

"Tony!" protested Pepper. Her book was soaked.

"Fuck Tones!"

Steve laughed, in admiration before every stupid thing his boyfriend would do. He needed to stop doing that, really. It was getting pathetic.

Tony got out of the water sexily, wiping his face with a hand, drops trickling down his tanned muscles. "Come on Rogers, strip. Let's get hot in the pool." 

Steve sighed but stood up anyway and took his shirt off. "I agree to the swimming, but nothing more and I'm not going in naked."

"You may go in clothed, but I can't guarantee you won't be naked when you get out." Tony teased with an amused smile.

"And that was exactly what you should say if you want me to freak out and not go in at all." Steve deadpanned.

Tony's smiled faded. "I'm joking, Steve. Come on. I'll keep my hands off, I promise you."

Steve went in slowly and joined Tony in the pool. Truth was, it was more Steve who couldn't really keep his hands off Tony than the other way around. Now that the awkwardness he had felt before had somehow ebbed away, he didn't mind making out with Tony while his friends were watching. And there was a lot of making out involved.

 

Everyone finally joined and they played water ball games, then Pepper got tired of it and Steve felt cold so it was only Tony and Rhodey and the ball game turned into a wrestling game, which Rhodey won hands down—but Steve will keep that to himself. He would only remember how hot that was to see Tony's naked body pressed against Rhodey's. He throught he understood a little why Tony could have had a crush on him. Especially if Tony was young, especially with their age difference. His younger self would have fantasized a lot on Rhodey's body if he had been his roommate. 

Steve looked at them for a moment and then went back to sketching the delicate figure of Pepper.

Rhodey eventually got tired of Tony as well so he got out and returned to his sunbathing spot, leaving Tony whiningly protesting on his own. The latter jumped out of the pool and lay down on a deckchair next to Steve, still naked. His hand was on his dick, scratching his balls. Well, that was until Pepper got fed up and threw her water bottle at him.

"You're gross, Tony." She said annoyedly. 

"Ouch. What did you do that for?"

"Put some clothes on. No-one wants to see that!" 

Tony chuckled but obediently got up and put his clothes back on, a never-ending smile on his face. Then leant into Steve and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"Whatcha sketchin'? He asked softly, lips brushing his ear, and he kept giving him kisses on the cheek and down his neck. Then he looked at the notepad in Steve's hand. "Is that Pepper?" Then he looked up at him, admiring, an amazed expression on his face. "Wow, Steve. She's... it's beautiful." 

Pepper noticed and suddenly lost her confidence, feeling self-conscious. "Are you drawing me?" 

Steve gave her a sheepish smile, worried she might be angry. He should have asked first. Not every one appreciated being observed and sketched. But the expression on her face was more enthralled than angry. "Can I see?" She asked enthusiastically but still hesitant, as if Steve might say no.She quickly paced to them when Steve nodded and bent over him to see.

When she saw the sketch, she gasped. "Wow." She brought her delicate hand to the notepad and traced a finger on the contour of her face. "Wow." She turned to Steve, eyes watery. "Steve..." She whispered. "I'm so honored. It's... I don't have any words. I feel... I feel like you captured my soul, actually." She said with a soft weary smile then she added pensively. "I'm so lonely on that picture. It's kinda sad but it's beautiful."

Steve had never had anyone react like that to one of his sketches, granted he hadn't shown them to a lot of people either. He just shrugged and tore the paper off his notepad to hand it to her. "Here. For you."

She opened her eyes wide. "I can't accept this."

Steve looked at her confusedly. 

"It's your art, Steve. If I want it I'll pay for it."

He let out an embarrassed chuckle. "Don't be silly. Take it! It's your portrait."

"Let me pay for it!" She insisted.

"I refuse."

"Then I refuse too." 

"How about," Tony suggested, obviously very embarrassed by the situation. Well in his defense, it was quite rare to have you ex fighting with your current over who was going to be the most polite. "I pay him with my body and then I'll offer it to you."

Pepper turned to him while crossing her arms with an annoyed roll of her eyes. "Thank you, Tony, for ruining a beautiful moment, again."

Rhodey joined in, curious about all the fuss. "Wow. Pepper is that you? It's beautiful. Steve, you're really talented. Tony wasn't lying. I'd really love to see more of your art." 

Steve started to feel a blush slowly creeping on his face. 

"Drop it, guys. You're embarrassing him." Pepper said while putting the drawing back into the notepad and handing it to Steve. She smiled and mouthed a 'thank you' furtively. Then all of them were back on their deckchairs. 

Steve promised himself however, that he would find a way to give the drawing to Pepper, one way or another.

"I'm bored." Tony complained, after exactly two minutes. He never stopped, even for five minutes. He was fucking exhausting.  "Let's do something. Didn't you want to go sight-seeing?"

 

After a quick shower, they all climbed into a red convertible, big enough to seat comfortably the four of them and Tony sped on the quiet road of the Malibu estate. Less than one hour later, they were in LA. Parking the car was not a problem. Nothing was a problem when your name was Stark. 

It was already half-past three however, and Steve needed to be at the airport by eight. Even if he had a priority ticket, he still needed to be there a little earlier. Steve had brought his luggage so that Tony could drive him at the airport. Rhodey's and Pepper's flights were only the next day, Happy would drive them. Tony needed to stay a week more to visit the Californian branch of SI.

They didn't have much time but enough for Steve who really wanted to visit two things. The LACMA and the Getty center. There were a few works of art that Steve had dreamed to see for years. Some of them he thought might also get Tony a little more interested in arts, like Thomas Eakins's Wrestlers for example. 

It worked. Tony remained still in front of the painting for about five minutes in an uncharacteristic—but very relaxing, Steve must admit—silence. His hand secretly searched Steve's and he intertwined their fingers together, squeezing hard. That was by far, one of the most romantic things Tony had done. Mostly, Tony had been a lot more distant out in the real world than what he had always been like with Steve, extremely touchy feely. Even during their incognito "dates" in New York, Tony was huggier. But here and now, Tony wasn't incognito and people were staring here and there. Sometimes they took pictures and somehow Tony was edgy.

They had a really great time despite everything and Steve's heart was heavy when the time to say goodbye to Pepper and Rhodey came. Pepper he would surely see again in New York soon—He had a gift to offer after all—but Rhodey was leaving for Washington. 

The way to the airport was quiet. They still had some time so Tony made a little detour to show him a beautiful spot. He stopped the car and got out without a word or even a look at Steve. Steve remained in the car for a moment, puzzled, hurt.

When he got out of the car himself, Tony was leaning on a parapet, smoking silently. Not smiling. He hadn't been smiling since they had left Pepper and Rhodey on the terrace of the Getty's restaurant.

Steve walked next to him, silent too. He was a little marveled by the view at first. Then he looked at his lover, Tony's expression was blank, emotionless. Steve had felt that he had been taking down Tony's barriers this weekend, one after the other, until he had reached the core of him, but now he felt like Tony had closed himself up again as if none of it had happened.

He slipped his hands along Tony's hips and put his head on his chest. "What's wrong?" 

Tony took a long breath but remained silent. He brought a soft hand in Steve's hair and ran his fingers slowly, then the fingers ran down Steve's cheeks and the line of his jaw. Tony finished his cigarette and turned his head to blow the smoke out of Steve's face, then he smashed the butt on the parapet and put it into a little box provided for this purpose. Despite everything you could say about Tony Stark, he was respectful of the environment at least, which would have made Steve a little proud is his heart wasn't feeling so low at this precise moment. 

Steve tightened his embrace, so strongly that Tony made a little choking noise. He pushed on Steve's shoulder for some relief.

"What? I can't hug my boyfriend?" Steve asked, hopeful.

"Is that what we are now?" Tony asked with a dispassionate tone.

"Aren't we?"

Tony shrugged, impassive for a moment, silent Then he slumped on Steve's shoulder, forehead leaning against the side of Steve's head, hidden in his hair.  He was holding himself on Steve's neck. "Don't ask me to be someone I'm not." He whispered hurtingly. "I can't give you what you want."

Steve stepped back to take Tony's head in his hands, for a moment Steve had felt like Tony was crying or about to but when their eyes met, his dark marbles were as cold and indifferent as always and his expression emotionless. 

"I know that, I'm not asking you to." Steve whispered against his lips. "I'm not asking you to— " He tried to say it but couldn't say the words. "I just want you to acknowledge what we have. Because there is something, between us, right? I mean it's not all in my head, right?"

Tony's face was still blank. His dark, impassive eyes fixed on Steve. "I don't wanna go back to New York." He whispered, so softly Steve almost didn't hear it.

Steve stepped closer, his hands on Tony's hips again. "What are you so afraid of?"

Tony looked away, avoiding his gaze. "I don't want him to know about you."

"Who? Your dad?"

Tony didn't answer. He slumped on Steve again and wrapped his arms around him, head buried in the crook of his neck, then he turned his head on the other side, looking away from Steve. "He won't even let me have my own place... my dad, I mean. I'm fucking twenty-one and I still have to live with my parents. This is so pathetic." He chuckled, then sighed with a certain desperation. "God, I wish he were dead sometimes."

"Don't say that. He's your dad. No matter how he acts with you, he still cares. You're lucky to have him." 

Steve tightened his hold around Tony.

Tony took a deep breath and hugged Steve back. "Steve, I l—"

"What?"

Tony chuckled in the crook of Steve's neck. "Nothing. I... Don't change!" He straightened up and cupped Steve's face in his hand, he was smiling again, and he kissed him, lovingly. 

Chapter Text

Something happened.

Something really weird happened. Something that left Steve a little perplexed for a day or two. 

He got an e-mail. From SHIELD.

The mail said they were interested in his work—What work? So far he hadn't sent anything to SHIELD, despite Tony's suggestion—and that they would like to meet to discuss the terms of a possible contract with them. Steve had thought it was a joke from Tony at first, and then he did some research.  It seemed genuine. 

Steve had absolutely no idea how that had happened, but it smelled bad. Beyond the confusion and the disbelief, there was something that bothered him. He had had a bad feeling about this since the moment he got that first mail. There was something fishy about it. No-one had ever been interested in his art before. He had only sold three paintings since the beginning of his career and never got a response for the (very, let's be honest) few comic strip drafts he had sent. And suddenly, a publishing house was scouting him, literally scouting him, to offer him a contract.

It fucking smelt like Stark bullshit, that was what it smelt like!

Steve still contacted them, just to check it wasn't a joke—it wasn't—and found himself agreeing to an appointment three days later. He still couldn't believe it, and as days went by, he felt the bothering feeling growing stronger and stronger. He hadn't told Tony—hadn't told anyone for that matter, too ashamed—wanting to check first before accusing anyone. 

On the third day, it was with a knot in his stomach that Steve walked to SHIELD offices, which incidentally happened to be in the same neighborhood as the Stark Tower... coincidence? 

As he walked closer and closer to the building, his heart started racing and he felt the anger sparkle at the bottom of his stomach. He clenched his fists. It was as good a way to fight his anxiety as any other.

When he entered the building, he felt a twinge in his heart. He was more and more convinced that Tony was behind this and he hated it. He hated that Tony thought he could just toy with him to the point of actually choosing his life for him. Frankly, he was sick of Tony's games and the invasion of his life but until now, he had still respected some boundaries. For how long? How long would it last before Tony hijacked his whole life? He remembered what he had said once, about putting chains on him and lock him up in his room. That comment was a joke but it made him shiver when he thought about it and that, taking over his career, that was it. That was a chain. Not a physical one but a chain anyway. It saddened  him and angered him, but most of all, it scared him. 

He was still inclined to give Tony the benefit of the doubt, however. Because he lo—    Well, let's say he was fond of him.

He got in the elevator, pressed the button for the fourteenth floor and waited nervously until the door closed on him. He felt another pang in his chest as the elevator moved up, he tried to control his anxiety by tapping on the floor with his right foot. He had been stupid to come here. It was just a waste of time. He would never accept any offer from them, whatever it was. He was not Tony Stark's fucking bitch! He would never be. He would succeed on his own or not at all. He would never corrupt himself for a career. Never. Fucking. Ever.

He looked at his watch, he was early—of course he was, Steve Rogers was a punctual guy. He checked his backpack and the few cardboard tubes he had brought in addition to his portfolio, just in case. How naive could he have been? It's just... He had wanted to believe, so much.

When he stepped out of the elevator, he saw a small open space with barely ten people working there. The place didn't stand out but it was practical. He could see posters of their most famous series Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter on every wall. There wasn't any receptionist or secretary he could turn to so he let his eyes roam around the room, looking for a clue. He found none unfortunately.

He felt really awkward, standing in the middle of that room where obviously everyone was busy. A young woman with blue eyes and dark hair tied into a strict bun saw his uneasiness and spoke him out of his misery. "Can I help you?" She asked on a dry and expeditious tone.

"Um... I have an appointment. Ten thirty. With a Mr... Fury?" Steve explained, hesitantly.

The woman smiled. "With the director, no less." She said with a tinge of sarcasm in her voice. "You must be someone important." Then she picked up a phone and dialed. "Let me call him." She told Steve, without looking at him. "Nick? Cute blond twink ten thirty appointment is here. I'll send him to your office." She hung up and looked up at him with another smile. "He's waiting for you. Last door on the right."

Steve paced annoyedly to the end of the open space where he could see the doors of private offices. In addition to being really inappropriate and almost offensive, the twink joke was getting old, he was turning twenty six in ten days.

He pushed the last door on the right open and was blinded by sparkling white tiles and the smell of detergent. The toilets. Nice. Well, he should have known because that was the door on the left he pushed open actually, now that he thought about it.

He turned around and walked to Director Fury's office. There was a half-erased name on the opaque glass door. Steve felt his stress rising a peak and his heart started racing again. He brought a trembling hand on the door and knocked, lightly. There was still a little spark of hope somewhere inside of him that he was stubbornly holding on to.

The door burst open and Steve was faced with a very tall and impressive man frowning down at him with his single eye. He was wearing only black and  leather. Apparently the dress code in there was rather relaxed. Good to know. 

The man held a firm and powerful hand to him and smiled threateningly. "Mr Rogers." He simply acknowledge. "Welcome to SHIELD! I've heard so many good things about you. Take a sit!"

Director Fury's tone and gestures were passive-aggressive and Steve felt the constant scrutinizing of his single eyes on him which was a little unsettling. The apparent kindness in his voice sounded fake and acted, he didn't trust that voice the slightest. He didn't trust that man either. The idea that SHIELD was more like a hide-out for the mob rather than a publishing house even came to his mind but he ignored the thought. He didn't like judging a book by its cover. It gave him ideas however. Let's note this somewhere.

The man walked confidently across the office and stood by the window, his back turned to him. That was extremely rude and Steve felt like turning on his feet and leave on the spot, but he still obeyed and took a sit instead, still desperately holding on to that little spark.  "So I'm gonna go straight to the point." Fury said. "We're a small publishing house, nothing fancy in here, but we're very interested in what you do."

He turned around in an abrupt spin and seemingly glared down—hard to say with just one eye—at Steve who was seated opposite him and glaring back. He was not gonna let Morpheus intimidate him. 

"I haven't had the time to read in details but the little I saw looks quite promising. We want you here." Steve felt utterly vexed at that. That man could have at least taken the time to look at his work thoroughly before suggesting an appointment. He looked at the sketches he had brought with him and felt stupid and naive and ashamed of his naivety and, therefore, angry.

"You just said you didn't see my work, why would would offer me a job?" Steve spat, a tinge of annoyance and resentment in his tone. The man dropped the smile and looked startled for a moment before his smile spread again, dangerously. 

Fury finally sat down and reclined on his seat. "You were brought to my attention by your most fervent fan, I must say." He finally said and Steve cringed. "I trust his judgement completely. This is why I want to offer you a contract." Steve felt his blood throb at his temples. "Like I said earlier, we are a small publishing house. So I can't afford to offer you a job yet. Not before you release your first issue. You'll go freelance. However, you'll be provided with an art studio and all the help you need, from writers, illustrators, colorists... but of course you will remain the sole creator of your series." Fury pushed the contract in question in Steve's direction and he glanced at it briefly. It already doubled the money he was making at the shop, tips included, and without the bonus he would earn every time he sold a copy. "It's not much but it's still a lot better than your current situation, or so I heard." 

Steve felt the bile rise in his throat and swallowed. "How would you know?" He asked, anger pervading in his voice. He didn't try to hide it anymore now.

Fury smiled again, equivocal. "Let's say...I have connection." He just said, and then enigmatically changed the subject. Or maybe he didn't. "But I must say, you have really interesting friends."

That was the last straw. Steve could barely contain his anger now.

So that was it. He had been right all along. Tony had pulled some strings, had given him toys so it could keep his mind busy and he would stop whining. Something to distract him while Tony kept doing whatever he wanted behind his back. Something to tame him. What did he think? That Steve would be fucking thankful for it? That it would shut him up and make him docile? That he could somehow make Steve feel better about himself by making believe he could make it? And keep control over him? Fuck him!

Fuck Tony Stark!

Steve pushed the contract slowly back toward Fury with trembling hands and sat up, leaning against the desk a little, eyes fixing the man with a glare. "I'm not interested." He said.

Apparently Fury didn't expect that because he looked confused for a moment. What did he think? That Steve would crawl on his knees and kiss his feet in gratitude? Fuck no! As far as Steve was concerned, Fury could just shove his fucking contract right where it hurt. 

"I understand it's a bit of a surprise for you, many changes in perspective. I know it can be a little unsettling but I'm sure you and I could make a great team. Why don't you keep that contract, take a thorough look at it and take some time to think about our offer before you make your decision?"

Steve stood abruptly and leant on the desk, hands splayed on it menacingly. He glared down at Fury. "The answer is no." He said slowly, threateningly. "So why don't you take your fucking contract and all the intel you suspiciously got on me and make a nice bonfire with it!" He straightened up, took his backpack and headed for the door while pointing his finger at Fury. "And tell Tony Fucking Stark that I'm not his toy and that he can mind his fucking business!"

Steve didn't wait for Fury's reaction and didn't even look at his face. He turned around and left.

"We'll send you the contract by e-mail, just in case." He heard Fury say behind him. "Like I said, don't make a hasty decision." 

"Don't bother!" Steve snarled as he was exiting the office.

The fucking nerve of that guy!

Steve ran out of SHIELD offices and stepped down the stairs, needing to steam some anger off. Something he regretted five minutes later when he was coughing his lungs out until his head was spinning and he felt dizzy. He paused, took his inhaler in his backpack. He always had one ready just in case, even if the cases almost inexistent now. Today he was glad he hadn't lost the habit.

Once outside the building, and after he had recovered, he called Tony. His rage was still latent.

Tony answered at the first ring. Steve could even hear the smile in his voice when he spoke. "Hi!"

His voice was so sexy goddamnit! And Steve hadn't heard from him for more than a week. He was too angry to let it distract him however. 

"Where are you?" He asked coldly.

"At work." Tony replied.

Steve breathed in and tried to swallow his anger. "Can you get free?" He asked, still coldly. 

"I guess so, yeah." Maybe the urgency had puzzled Tony a little bit, because he sounded insecure at the other end of the phone.

"Come down." Steve commanded. "I'll be in there in ten."

Steve was rather a fast walker, he had always walked a lot and hated losing his time strolling, but he didn't think he had ever walked faster than he was walking now. He was practically running, the rage, the adrenaline rush, the pain he was trying to ignore. When he arrived at the corner of the street. He could see that Tony was already there. Smoking a cigarette. He was leaning nonchalantly against the glass walls, his leg bent and his foot resting on the wall. Rebellious and carefree. He looked pensive, his dark eyes lost in the wind, mysterious, magnetic. And so fucking sexy in his dark blue suit.

No distraction. Tony was always distracting him and got away with everything. Not this time. 

When he saw him, Tony's eyes locked into Steve's and he straightened up. He smashed his cigarette butt and threw it into the closest trashcan. Eyes still fixing him, he started walking up to him, confidently, smiling widely. He was now very close to Steve, much too close, almost enough to kiss him. Steve kind of hated his self-confidence right now. He pushed him away from him in a violence that surprised both of them.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?" He shouted. Tony's smile dropped instantly and he looked at him with a confused gaze. "I'm not a fucking charity case Tony! I told you to fucking mind your own business!"

Tony stepped back and looked down ashamedly, hands resting on his hips. "Why don't you come inside so we can talk in private?"

"What? You ashamed of me? Is that it?" Steve spat angrily, walking closer, aggressively, with an accusatory finger pointed at Tony.

"You're making a scene!" Tony snapped back, curtly, rising his voice a little. "Right in front of the Tower. People know me here, and I don't think either of us would like to see that going viral on the internet tomorrow." 

Okay, he had a point. Steve had absolutely no wish for his little stunt to be broadcast all over the internet. "I'm not setting a foot in this fucking Tower." 

"Then, let's go somewhere a little less open." Tony said and started walking away, leading them in another, less busy, street. Steve followed, anger boiling inside of him.

Once they had found a suiting place, Tony leant against the wall and picked out a cigarette from his pack. He lit it, making sure he was standing out of Steve's face. He did that now, ever since Steve had accused him of smoking around him.

He took a drag, nervously. Annoyedly. He wasn't nonchalant anymore, Steve could see the tremor in his hands, the frustration in his expression. It caught Steve off guard, and for a minute, he remained silent, staring at those hands, long and callused, very skilled. Those hands he loved so much.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Tony said while blowing the smoke out through his nose.

That just riled up Steve perfectly and he forgot about the hands. "Don't feign innocence! You know exactly what I'm talking about. You sent my work to SHIELD!"

Tony stared at him wide-eyed. He snorted. "What?" 

"Stop pretending! You asshole!" Steve shouted, going berserk. He was this close to slap the crap out of him. "I can't believe you did that." He said, voice pained, then the anger took control again. "And you didn't just settle for sending my work, no... You went there, and you fucking used your name! You used your name and your connections to pressure them into hiring me!"

Tony's mouth opened, jaw slack and he looked at Steve with a taken aback expression. He was a bit lost for a moment but soon came around.

Then he smiled. A sour smile. "As if I had that kind of power..." He said with a self-deprecating tone. "I'm not my father." He spat angrily. "I don't have the power—neither the will, by the way—to pressure anyone. No-one cares what I want or think. " His smile faded to leave place to an upset glint in his eyes. "I didn't send your work to SHIELD." He whispered hurtingly. 

"You're lying!" Steve yelled. "How could they have contacted me, if you didn't? How did they know about my job?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Tony yelled back. Expression hurt. "I don't know who you think I really am but, fuck! You made it perfectly clear that you didn't want me involved. Do you really think I would do that? That I would overlook everything you care for so I could have the satisfaction to help you?Do you really think I would go behind your back? What kind of twisted person do you think I am?" He paused, catching his breath. He stared down at Steve with a helpless expression. "All I ever did," He stared, almost whispering, "was give you my opinion. I never tried, and would never try, to take that from you. I don't want to control your life. I just wanted you to see how amazing you are. Because you are amazing, Steve. It's about time you realize that."

Steve's anger deflated like a balloon. The words, of course, were meaningful, but what moved Steve the most and deeply scorched his heart was the way Tony was looking at him right now. He had an amazing boyfriend. It was time he realized that too.

"Who else could have done it?" He whispered embarrassedly, ignoring the butterflies in his stomach. 

"Didn't it occur to you that they might have found you on the internet? And that maybe they contacted you because you're fucking talented?

Steve parted his lips, dumbfounded, and frowned at him, a little skeptical about this. "What? How?"

Oh. oh... Yeah. That. 

His first attempt at posting online. That was before Tony's birthday. He had only been twice on that website, he thought. So many other things had happened in the meantime. He had completely forgotten about that.

"I don't know," Tony said, while inhaling a puff of smoke. He looked ahead, pensively, or avoiding Steve's stare. He wasn't sure. "Maybe because you posted your work online and have like ten thousands of fans who harass you so you'd update your work, everyday."

That was a bit exaggerated. 

"How do you even know about that? I never told you I posted my work online." 

Tony shrugged silent for a split second and then he smiled. "As if I wasn't gonna notice... Did you really think you could post anything online and hide it from me? Internet is my life, Steve. Everything happening there, I know about. Plus you got like eighty thousand views in less than two months. That hardly goes unnoticed."

Steve pouted.

Tony was smiling brightly now. Eyes glittering, maybe a tint of pride in there. He moved his feet sheepishly, almost embarrassed. "I can't believe you actually got offered a contract by SHIELD." He said smile bright but still trying to hide his childish enthusiasm. "This is amazing! Do you realize it? It's your dream coming true!"

Steve didn't. He didn't realize it at all. Seeing Tony so happy right now felt like he was in another dimension. Right now he was only self-hatingly digging a hole in the ground to bury himself in the depth of his lameness.

And the worst part of it? He had already screwed everything up. No-one with a sane mind would ever want to work with a hysterical person like him.

"I say it's cause for celebration." Tony said still hesitant and enthusiastic at the same time. "Why don't I come over tonight? We'd drink champagne, we'd fuck, and then, if you want, I could take a look at that contract, see if it's not a load of crap. What do you think? Did you sign anything yet?"

Steve felt his whole body slump down under the weight of his guilt. Again, he had assumed the worst of Tony. (Although Tony had given him reason to assume the worst of him, and more than once, and not that long ago either, or even he could say less than a week ago.)

He looked down at the sidewalk, ashamedly. "I think I fucked it up, anyway."

Tony seized his joggling hand and squeezed it warmly, comfortingly, in his. "I don't think you did." He said with a gentle tone. "But even if you did, I can still come over, and cheer you up. We'll get drunk on champagne and fuck. Or not, if you don't want to." His smile was gentle and his suggestion insecure. "It's not the end. If they discovered you, others will too. I'm sure of it."

Tony's fingers intertwined with Steve's and he tugged on his hand, making him stumble forward, right into his arms. Tony caught him with a hand on his neck and was holding his head up to steal a kiss. A long and languorous kiss. Tony had never kissed him in public before. They weren't in a busy street, but they were still outside, where anybody could see and recognize him.

He let go of Steve's mouth and settled him back on his feet. Then, he smiled again, eyes glimmering above him. "I've gotta go. Text me." He walked off and waved him goodbye, his head turned and his eyes on him, smiling brightly. He suddenly turned his whole body back toward him and kept walking, backward. "I'm proud of you Lil' Rogers." He said before returning to the Tower.

 

Tony came over that night. 

He had brought Champagne. They had sex. He had fucked him, slowly and tenderly, building up Steve's orgasm and bringing him to the edge gradually, endlessly, until Steve's body shuddered and his mind went blank.

It was only an hour later, after a short nap, that Steve checked his account. Tony hadn't lied, to his utmost astonishment.

There were thousands and thousands of comments on his work. Most of them very positive from what he had seen. It was crazy, almost scary. He would never have the time to answer them, unfortunately. How come he didn't go there before? The amount of messages made him feel dizzy. It was too much for one night. Too fucking much. He checked his e-mails too. SHIELD had sent the contract after all, so he allowed Tony to read it.

"So?" Steve asked, while eating some cake Tony had brought along with the Champagne, licking the spoon and turning it over in his mouth. He gazed at his lover, all focused and sexy with his glasses on.

"Well, that contract is really advantageous for them. If it works, they're gonna make a fortune out of your stories, but the good thing is that you're not bound to them by any way and you'll still be proprietary of your work. Which means, after this series, you can leave anytime, find another publishing house or renegotiate the terms of your contract. It's a really good offer for a first contract. It could really be the beginning of your career. I think you should go for it. But if you're still not sure about it, I could still ask Pepper to have a look at it. She knows that stuff better than me, that's her area of expertise."

Steve leant into him and gave him a sweet-flavored kiss. A firm hand with long and thin fingers on his jaw. Tony let him manhandle him and melted into the kiss.

Steve almost whispered those three words again.

 

The second appointment with Fury went much more smoothly than the first one.

He welcomed him warmly. "Mr Rogers." He said with open arms. "I'm glad you called. Did you reconsider our offer?"

Steve looked up, unimpressed and held him a firm hand. "I'm sorry about last time. I think I misinterpreted your intentions."

"Obviously, there was a bit of a misunderstanding. I'm really sorry about that. I truly wish we can overlook that and start on a better foot." Fury was much less intimidating than the first time they had met. He might reconsider his opinion about him. "Come, I'd like to introduce you to someone. Would you like some coffee or something?"

Steve was a little startled by this new treatment, but accepted anyway. "Hill, would you mind bringing us some coffee? You'd be an angel."

The peppy brunette with blue eyes and a strict bun that had spoken to him that first time answered energetically. "On it boss!" 

Steve followed the tall man who walked slowly, hands behind his back. He held the door for him and showed him a seat. A man was sitting at Fury's desk, typing on the computer. He was in his mid-fifties, wearing a suit, and had very kind eyes and the beginning of a baldness. He had a very gentle look and Steve liked him instantly. 

"Rogers? This is Phil Coulson my assistant. He's the one who discovered you. He's a bit of a fan." At the announce of Steve's name, Phil Coulson's expression changed. He bore a childish smile. He stood up and rushed to shake Steve's hand, admiringly.

"Mr Rogers! I'm very pleased to finally meet you. It would be my honor to work with you. Your artwork is simply outstanding and your stories sound really promising. I've been in the business for a long time. I used to work for Marvel before Nick recruited me and I must say I haven't seen something of that quality in a long time. Your work is so original, so authentic. I have already so many ideas to exploit those characters. If you don't mind my suggesting of course. You're the artist!"

Steve let his hand being shaken without a word. He felt like this was happening to someone else, in another universe. He still couldn't get his head around this.

"Phil will be your editor and artistic advisor." Fury explained. "He'll help you with the lay out and everything. And basically he can provide you with anything you need. He's a great assistant."

"I'll be delighted."  Coulson added, enthusiastically. 

Steve signed the contract in the end but negotiated a few things that Tony had pointed out. Fury and Coulson accepted all his conditions. He would start in September so that Sam would have the time to find a replacement for him. But mostly, he would have the time to climb down from the little cloud he was actually living in. Two months was probably a necessity at the moment. He was not ready. And it would give him the time to finish the other projects he had started with Sam at the shop. Sam and the others already regretted him but they were still very happy for him.

He had gotten a second chance, and now his new life was starting, for real. Steve still couldn't believe it. That cloud was going to be hard to get off from.

"Can I ask you something?" Steve had asked Fury at the end of their interview. The man had nodded. "What did you mean when you said I had interesting friends? Do you know of any friends of mine?" Because he needed to know. Did he have a mole in his circle of friends? Steve couldn't think of anyone who would go behind his back, but then, did he truly know his friends?

Fury had seemed confused, for a moment, but then remembered. "Oh. I meant your characters! That's how our artists call them. Friends."

"Your characterization is so profound and authentic." Coulson had felt the need to explain. "That's what makes your work stand out. It's a new take on in the comic book industry."

Chapter Text

Steve's phone pinged and he rushed to it, heart beating fast.

It wasn't Tony unfortunately, only Clint, saying he couldn't make it tonight because he had a shift at the club. His boss had insisted and since he was the new guy and that it was a Friday, he couldn't really tell him to fuck off, with reasons. Steve was a little disappointed but at least Clint would be there tomorrow, for the vernissage. 

He put his phone in his pocket and sighed. He had been waiting all day for Tony's message. Tony had said he would come—tonight's private viewing had been decided (mostly) because Tony couldn't come to the public opening, for obvious reasons. So that would be a bit cruel not to come—but that was two weeks ago and they hadn't breached the topic again so Steve felt edgy.

"Still fretting over your boyfriend?" Sam asked, slightly annoyedly, expression darkened by his disapproving frown. Sam had been disapproving a lot lately, especially when it was about Tony.

"He's coming!" Steve deadpanned while checking his major piece. The light was wrong somehow, he needed to find a better spot, or maybe turn it a little.

Sam threw his hands in the air defensively, maybe Steve's tone had been a bit harsher than he had intended. "I didn't say anything." He said. "But you know how I feel about it."

"I know. That's why I'm gonna ask you to mind your fucking business. I know what I'm doing."

He checked the paintings again. He wanted it to be perfect, even if it was just for his friends tonight. It was his very first vernissage.

Somehow Tony's idea had been a blast. Exhibiting his art at Sam's shop had been the best thing they could have done for both Steve and Sam. People liked the paintings so much that some of them had even asked if they could buy them. It had been completely unexpected and Steve had said no at first, feeling like he was abandoning his children, but then he had changed his mind. He was an artist after all, that's how he was supposed to live, by selling his art. He had selected a few that he didn't mind parting with—he should take this thing slowly—and others he would like to keep for now and they rotated on exhibiting them. The idea had thrived in their minds and Steve had suggested to exhibit other artists too, minding a commission of course. The shop's clientele was exactly the right crowd for that and it had been an immediate success, from the artists and the customers alike. Like Tony had predicted, it had upped the shop's attractiveness and Sam even had to hire new people to handle the higher visitation rate. He had developed his offer and even bought a license to sell booze, they would enjoy it for the first time tonight. They were also organizing events on evenings and weekends now, like what they had planned for the next day. Steve had worked really hard for this. It was a collegial idea, Sam had his whole team behind him to help develop the new direction his little business was taking and, even if Steve was leaving soon, he had given everything for this. He felt personally involved in every step of the development. It almost felt like his baby, that he had fed and raised and was now ready to stand on its own two feet. Steve had been really busy last month, helping out, before carrying on his own path. He was starting at SHIELD in few weeks, in September.

"Really?" Sam interrupted, full of sarcasm, with a slightly bitter taste to it. " 'cause I heard there was another Stark episode last week." It made Steve irk. 

Steve sighed. Yes. There had been another Stark episode last week. Thursday evening. Tony, drunk off his face, high on coke and crystal meth. It was barely seven when his last fling, a nice girl called Janice, had called him, freaking out because Tony was huddled and shivering in her bathroom and refused to move out. She had asked if she could call someone and he had said "my boyfriend, Steve." The poor girl had been a bit perplexed and thought she had misunderstood. Steve had not denied, nor confirmed. No-one needed to know Tony Stark had a boyfriend named Steve.

"It's just a little relapse. We're fine. He's doing better." Steve said, conscious he wasn't really being honest about it, but now really wasn't the time to have another fight with Sam over Tony. He needed to focus on what mattered at the moment, and that was the upcoming vernissage they were currently organizing.

"He's not doing better, Steve." Sam insisted. "He's getting high and he fucks everyone around when he is. I mean, since you two are together again, there hasn't been a week without him doing some bullshits like this. That's not what getting better means. I don't even understand how you can settle for this."

"One, that's not true. It happened like two or three times—" Steve said, trying to hide the anger pervading in his voice.

"In two months." Sam interrupted.

"—Two, it's got nothing to do with you." Steve snapped.

Sam shook in head exasperatingly, hands on his hips. "You need to stop this!" He said after a short moment of silence. "This is gonna end badly." 

"I'm handling it." Steve muttered softly, not looking at Sam, avoiding his scolding stare.

"You're handling shit!" Sam snapped. "You have no idea what you're doing. You need to be honest with him, and with yourself, about what you can and cannot accept! This... This cloud of uncertainty over your relationship, it can't work. It's an open door for everything and it's gonna end badly, for both of you."

Steve knew that. He had known even before they were back together. He really didn't need Sam to rub it in, it was hurtful enough as it was.

He looked up to Sam, eyes sorrowful. "I can't let him go." He whispered with a desperate sigh, because it was true. "He needs me."

"Fuck that!" Sam shouted angrily. "He doesn't!" Steve could see the hurt and concern in Sam's eyes and it unsettled him, for a moment. "The only thing he needs is his fix. Whatever it is."

Steve felt his heart heave in his chest. Sam had pointed to something Steve had refused to admit for a while, because he wanted to believe. He wanted to believe he meant something to Tony. Whatever that was. Even if that was just as moral support, he desperately wanted to matter to Tony.

"I can't, Sam." He admitted with a hurtful voice. "I can't give up on him."

Sam breathed out, voice calming down, a sympathetic expression on his face. "He's not your responsibility." He whispered.

"I know I can help him." Steve said, trying to convince himself more than he was trying to convince Sam. "I can help him change. He's changed already."

"He's an addict, Steve." Sam reminded him, with all his experience. "And I know quite a bunch of people like him, so I can tell you this. They don't change. They never change. Unless they really want to. You can't save him! If he doesn't want to change, he's gonna keep falling and falling and he'll drag you down with him. You can't help him if you're too emotionally involved. Believe me, I've witnessed so many relationships going down the drain because one of the two parties was fighting addictions. It never ends well, for neither parties."

"I can deal with it." Steve choked out, willingly remaining blind about this. 

Sam shook his head again and pinched his lips. "You're strong Stevie, but you're not strong enough for this. He's already changed you and you don't even realize it. You're an adult, end this before it's too late. You're in too deep for this. You're not thinking straight anymore."

Steve felt the tears showing up at the corners of his eyes. He fought them with all his will and ground his teeth. 

Sam offered him a friendly pat on the shoulder. He had calmed down and talked with a much more composed voice. "End this, Steve. Calmly. Help him find redemption on his own, before one of you gets really hurt. You're too fucking precious to settle for this. You deserve better than this. You can have him, when he's ready to fight for himself. You can have him then."

Sam had managed to dwindle his enthusiasm. The party hadn't even started and he already felt drained.

They checked everything one last time and Steve decided to call Tony instead of waiting and suffering about it by himself. Apart from that, Tony was an amazing boyfriend. It was him. It was him who couldn't share him. It was him who felt like his heart was rotting with jealousy. Despite all his promises to Tony, it was him who couldn't stand it.

He tried to call three times but it went to voicemail every time. In the meantime, no news from Tony.

He went home. He had a little time before he needed to get ready for tonight. He showered and put on clean clothes. He arranged himself nicely. Fortunately his other friends were nice, and they, contrarily to a certain someone, sent messages to confirm their presence tonight, which cheered him up a little bit.

He still had some time after he was ready so he lay on the couch for a moment, taking a little nap after all of today's efforts. It was his phone that woke him up just when it was time for him to go. He had every intention to be on time for his own party, no matter how cool it was to arrive fashionably late.

At the first ring, Steve jerked awake.

At the second ring he panicked, thinking he had overslept. 

At the third ring he looked at the caller ID. It was Tony.

His heart leapt in his chest and he felt stupid to react like that. He did it every time Tony called, he hated himself for caring so much about things like that. He knew exactly where he stood with Tony. He knew he could only have small parts of him, Tony had been very clear on that. So why did he keep expecting more? Why did he always throw himself head to toes into relationships that had no future? Why did he always fall for the wrong guy?

He picked up just before it went to voicemail. "Tony?"

Tony's voice was tired at the other end of the phone. "You tried to call me?"

Yeah, three times, like two hours ago. I'm pretty sure you don't need three PhDs to come down to that conclusion, right?

"Yes, I haven't heard from you about tonight."

Tony sighed. 

"Look, Steve..." And already Steve knew he wasn't going to like what was going to follow. "I'm sorry, okay. I won't be able to make it tonight."

Steve's heart missed a beat. He choked on his own air. "What?"

So, yeah, Steve had been worried all day, because he was a bit insecure regarding Tony. He needed to reassure himself, every time, but every time he also knew that it was stupid because in the end he always came. Tony didn't give much but when he did, he did it wholeheartedly and he never lied about it. Somehow, in his way, he had always been honest with Steve. He was the one who had been dishonest. He was the one who kept expecting more, wanting more. Tony never made promises, so when Tony promised to do something, he held on that promise. And Tony had said he would come.

Steve had been fretting all day only because he had wanted more, because he hoped for more, for Tony to show him that he cared, for him to show that he thought about him. Just a little something, to tell Steve he hadn't forgotten. But not in a million years he had thought that Tony wouldn't come in the end.

Therefore, the news came as a bit of a shock and he needed a few moments to recover from it. To be honest, there was still part of him that thought it was a joke, but the tiredness of Tony's voice, the sighs and heavy breathing at the other end of the phone, already told him it wasn't.

"It's work." Tony said as only explanation.

"We organized this party for you." Steve choked out. There, he was on full freaking-out mode now, badly. "Because you can't come tomorrow for the real vernissage, because you cannot be seen in public with me." He started talking really loud, feeling his heart beat in his chest and the anger sparkling at the bottom of his stomach. "It's been planned for two weeks and you're telling me this now? Less than an hour before the party starts?"

"I'm really sorry, Steve. I really thought I could avoid this... They need me."

"Who? Who needs you, Tony? What's so important that you can't come tonight?"

"My father and his business associate. They're meeting a big client tonight. It was a last minute thing. Until the very end I thought I'd be able to bail out so I could come, that's why I didn't call earlier. But they want me here, they insisted. "

"So you're bailing on me instead," he said in a self-deprecating tone, " 'cause I'm not important..."

He heard Tony make a strangled noise but he didn't say anything.

"Couldn't you just tell them you had plans?"

"No-one says 'no' to my dad, Steve."

"I don't understand Tony, I thought nobody cared about you and your opinion, that you were just a pawn and that nobody trusted your judgement. And suddenly your presence is vital for meeting clients? To the point that you need to drop everything for this?

Tony's tired voice sighed at the other end of the phone. "I'm still the heir. It's gonna be my company one day, I'm trapped. And, it's not like I can tell him that I had plans with my boyfriend."

"No. No, indeed. You can't. Because you don't have a boyfriend. Apparently, I'm only your boyfriend when you're having bad trips in girls' bathrooms. I'm not even your boyfriend for sex, lately." That was low and out of scope, but Steve was mad, even though he had no right to. Everything Tony said made sense but Steve refused to accept it. Maybe Sam had riled him up too much earlier.

"Don't be like that, please. You knew it was gonna be like this, why are you giving me shit now?"

"Because it sucks! It already sucks enough that you're not out. It sucks that you fuck other people. You could make an effort."

Tony didn't pick up on it and made no comment about Steve's accusations. He only sighed again. "I don't like it either but I don't have a choice."

Steve felt the rage overwhelming him. "You don't have a choice?" He almost shouted. "What choice are we talking about? You didn't choose to get high and fuck her? Is that what you're saying? Did your Dad make you do it too?"

Steve heard Tony breathe heavily at the other end but no answer or explanation whatsoever.

"I'm always gonna be the fifth wheel with you, ain't I?" He choked out in a forsaking whisper.

"You're unfair, Steve." Tony said in his tired voice, he heard the anger pervading however. "I told you I couldn't give you more." 

"Whatever, Tony. Enjoy dinner with Daddy."

He hung up. Disappointed. Mad. Hurt. 

His earlier conversation with Sam resurfaced, distilling poisonous thoughts in his mind and in his heart. He was pissed. Both of them were pissing him off. An indomitable and undying anger clouded his mind. He just needed out. He left home in a hurry, took his bike and did a little detour to cool off before going to his party. He really didn't need to take his bike to go there, but he wanted to. He wasn't going to ruin the whole thing with his foul mood tonight. Tony wasn't the only expected guest, all his friends were gonna be there. The friends for whom Steve mattered and who had reserved their evening for him, because it was important, because that was what friends—and boyfriends—did. They made time for their loved ones.

He was feeling a little better when he parked his bike in front of Sam's shop, but his heart was still heavy.

He had a few last-minute things to prepare before everyone arrived, like taking out the food and drinks, so he got immediately busy. Thanks to Wanda and Carol who were already there to cheer him up, it was done very quickly and efficiently. Food and soft drinks were on the house, but Sam hoped to make some money with alcoholic drinks. Steve had no doubt he would, he knew his friends well. 

By the time everyone arrived, Steve was much more cheerful. Some of his friends he hadn't seen for a while, with everyone busy with work and all, no big birthday party this year. He had celebrated it quietly at Nat's with Tony and Clint and Bucky who were sort of back together—but that was still unclear. Tony had been amazing that day and the gift he had offered him (An original Warhol. Because Steve had told him a few months back about his wish to decorate his place with colorful Warhol-styled posters, thinking it was too grey, and had never found the time to and Tony had just remembered, because that was the sort of things he did) was now giving life to his gloomy apartment. 

They were all happy to see each other again. His new team at the shop was delighted to meet his old team from college, even if some of them had already met a few times, and the feelings were mutual. 

It was a great party. Soft, with no drugs, no drama. Just some tipsy buddies talking a bit louder than usual. Everyone was impressed with Steve's art. He realized that his friends didn't really know what he painted. He hadn't shared with them that much about it, in fact. It was always something he had kept private. Apart from Bucky and Clint, Natasha, and Sam who had only recently discovered about his art, most of his friends hadn't seen more than one or two paintings or a few unfinished sketches. 

Getting so many compliments tonight had boosted his confidence a bit. After a couple of drinks and many comforting hugs from his friends, Steve felt good and buzzed and in the mood. And fuck, Tony was taking too much space in his life. He needed to get a life of his own, like now. And now, he was at a great party with friends and Thor had come with Loki and Steve still had very good memories of Loki panting under him, crying his name as he came in his own hand.

And he could have that again. Because, shit, he hadn't promised Tony anything either.

It was only a couple of hours later though, when half the crowd had already cleared out, after a few rounds of animated poker and while there was an ongoing discussion about joining Clint at the club—or not—and move the party there, that Steve found himself making out with Loki in the corner of the shop on one of the comfy couches in the lounging area.

At some point in the party, there was music and dancing, at least Loki had danced and Steve had joined or rather, he had rubbed himself on him and fell into his arms. Loki had slid his hand around his neck and cupped his face to turn it around. With his back against Loki's chest, his whole weight supported by the tall man and Loki's hand cupping his jaw, Steve had looked back up into his eyes and Loki had lowered his head and kissed him. The rest was incidental.  

Sam had already left, which was good because Steve had no wish to deal with his disapproving face at that precise moment, and Steve was in charge of closing the shop before he left. There were only six of them now: Natasha, Thor, Wanda—who had become really good friend with Nat, go figure—and Bucky, and of course, the two of them. The perfect combination for a fun after-party at the club, if you asked him. Steve was very much into tipping the scale in favor of joining Clint, rather than not joining Clint.

Except Bucky had somehow decided to replace Sam's nagging self and cornered Steve as he went to the bathroom. 

"What are you doing, Steve?"

"Having fun!" Steve replied, feigning ignorance.

"What's your deal with Loki?"

Steve shrugged. "We're just making out, a little bit. What's wrong with that?"

Bucky raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You had a fight with your boyfriend and you're drunk."

"I've had like two beers. I'm not drunk, Buck. I know perfectly well what I'm doing. I can fuck Loki if I like, nothing says I can't. Mind your fucking business."

Bucky looked a little hurt. He pinched his lips and rolled his tongue on his teeth. "Right. 'cause this has everything to do with you wanting to have a little fun with Loki and nothing to do with Stark not showing up at your party."

"Exactly. Tony's not here. His loss. I don't need him to get laid." Steve slurred.

Bucky walked closer to him, intimidating, but his eyes looked concerned. He brought a soft hand to Steve's face and brushed his cheek gently. "I would have minded my own business if this was anyone else... but this is you Stevie, and you're not wired that way. Do you really want to fuck Loki now? Or are you just trying to get back at your boyfriend for all the shit he's making you go through? Which I'm still fucking mad about, by the way—" Steve looked away, and Bucky tugged his face back to look into his eyes. "Because if you're doing it for the wrong reasons, you're the one who's gonna get hurt in the end..."

Steve pouted and avoided Bucky's gaze. Bucky had a point, but he didn't want to admit that. He wasn't ready to admit that. 

"What's the matter with all of you today? First Sam, now you! Can't you just get the fuck off my back for once? I'm fucking done with your cheap lectures about my fucking sex life. Go to hell!"

Bucky looked stunned for a moment. He inched away but got closer again, protectively and almost took Steve into a hug. "I'm just worried about you Steve. I don't want you to get hurt again."

The embrace quieted down Steve's anger a little, but he was still pissed. "Thanks for your concern Buck, but..." He said with a calm voice. "Relationship-wise, I think you're the last person I should get advice from."

Bucky let out a mirthless chuckle and shook his head while biting his lips. Steve knew he had hit him right where it hurt and yet, he couldn't feel sorry about it. He watched his friend's stance tumble down as he put a hand on the wall to support himself, without feeling an ounce of regret. 

"Do what you want, Steve." He said while raising his hand in the air in an unconcerned gesture, expression hard. "But don't come crying to me afterwards."

Steve was too pissed to care about this little squabble between them, but Bucky's words had poisonously slithered their way inside his mind and now he was doubting. Did he really want to have a go with Loki tonight? He wasn't so sure anymore, but there was something inside of him, a heavy weight on his heart that he needed to get rid off and nothing else seemed to work. He felt restless somehow, jittery, like he needed to do something, anything, to let it out, to make him forget.

He almost leapt, over-enthusiastically, on his way back to his friends. Wanda and Thor were definitely on his side concerning the club thing. Natasha and Bucky were more reluctant. Loki was obviously in and strode to join them with the same enthusiasm, almost shouting. "So, when are we leaving?'

Wanda jumped excitedly, clapping her hands frantically. "Let's go. Let's go."

Steve laughed seeing her so cheerful and on board for literally anything. "Yeah, come on let's go." And he joined her, curled his arm around her waist and dragged her into a clumsy dance that left them both dizzy and laughing hard.

Thor brought his two heavy arms on Buck and Nat's shoulders. "Friends, Rejoice! I think we have won this argument." 

"I really don't think this is a good idea." Bucky insisted like a spoilsport, which was really uncharacteristic for him. He usually was the first one to go. His phone pinged, like it had for like an hour or so. He looked furtively at it, made a desperate grimace and slipped it back in his pocket as if nothing had happened.

"Why not?" Steve said angrily, mad at his friend who had just decided to ruin his fun tonight. "Why are you so adamant about not going out now? You've got better plans than joining your boyfriend? What? Found someone on Grindr? That's really cheap of you to cruise during my party, especially for someone who just lectured me about three minutes ago." He blurted out the spiteful words like vomit, his smile nasty and bitter.

Suddenly the mood wasn't in a fun vibe anymore. Everyone quieted and the smiles faded from their faces as an uncomfortable tension rose between the two of them.

Bucky opened his eyes wide for like a split second and then let out a strangled laugh. "This is ludicrous. I'm chatting with Clint."

"Oh Really? What about? Must be really important that Clint kept sending you texts during the busiest hour of his shift." Steve spat.

Bucky remained silent.

"So what did Clint say?" Steve insisted, smile bitter on his lips.

"Nothing." Bucky answered and shrugged. "Maybe he'll join later."

It sounded wrong. Steve stared sidelong and searched into his eyes. Bucky's were darting around the room, looking everywhere but at Steve. "I don't believe you."

"What?"

"I don't believe you." Steve repeated, very seriously, which put another thrill in the current mood. "Come on! Show me your phone."

"The fuck Steve!" Bucky spat, a little bit aggressively. 

"Guys, please." Natasha interrupted, calmly and reasonably like she always knew how to. "Steve come on, let's just go to yours and chill out. Right? We don't necessarily need to go clubbing."

"Yes we do! I don't wanna chill out! I wanna have fun, I wanna dance." Steve shouted excitedly, anger and bitterness still pervading in his voice.

"You hate dancing." Bucky snarked.

"I don't!!!" Steve protested.

"He really doesn't." Loki said with an amused smile, awkwardly out of the blue. Loki knew what he was talking about and Steve felt a little moved at his impromptu support. 

"Nat's right. Let's just go chill out at your place." 

Buck and Nat were really insisting on not going out and it was weird. It left him unsettled. Suddenly, the sparks of rage in the bottom of his stomach kindled. "No! Show me your phone!" He commanded as a bad feeling settled in his chest. "You two are hiding something!" He pointed an accusatory finger at them.

"Just let it go, Steve." Natasha said and it sounded like treason.

Steve started laughing uncontrollably. "Wow. I can't believe it." He said with a snarky tone. "Show me your phone, Buck."

Everyone looked at their feet, wishing they were somewhere else. Steve was conscious that he was making a scene and made everyone feel uncomfortable. He could hear the spite in his voice. He could feel the sourness of his laugh. He hated being like that, he felt like another person, but he couldn't help it.

Bucky pinched his lips, a guilty expression on his face. His shoulders slumped defeatedly. "Come on Stevie... Just drop it. It's not worth it."

"Don't come-on-Stevie me, show me your fucking phone."

Bucky made a hurtful grimace and put his hands his hips. "Fine!" He spat while throwing his phone on the table between them. Natasha looked at him worriedly. His other friends were making sympathetic grimaces.

Steve grabbed the phone with a brutal gesture and swiped it on with trembling fingers. The screen asked for Bucky's password but Steve knew Bucky too well not to know what his password would be. After a few try he fell right upon his conversation with Clint. There were like fifteen messages or something so he didn't bother read it all but he read enough for a spike of rage to run through his body. He threw the phone away with a tremor in his hand. 

He had only read a few texts but they were explicit enough. "Keep Steve away from here." His trembling fingers had swiped up and he had furtively read "Uncontrollable." He had swiped up again to the first message."Stark is at the club."

The words resonated in his head like a spell. He felt the bile at the back of his throat.

"When were you gonna tell me?" He asked, his tone cold and bitter. He suddenly felt drained from all his energy.

He looked up from the phone and was faced with the guilty expressions of Bucky and Natasha and the pitying eyes of the others. He laughed. "You know Buck, if you wanted to hide this from me you should have let me have my fun with Loki." Loki cringed and made a gesture that meant he didn't want to get involved. He looked apologetic however.

Bucky bit his lips silently and looked at him with sympathizing eyes. "I don't think it would have made things easier."

He raised a shaking hand again. This time he wasn't trembling because he was scared but because he was enraged. He pointed accusatory fingers at Bucky and Natasha. "You fucking hypocrites. You pretend to be my friends but all you fucking do is lie to my face."

"You don't even know what you're saying, Steve." Bucky said in a sort of desperate sigh. 

"You're antagonizing us, Steve. You don't even realize it." Natasha added her own touch, with the same helpless expression. "We're worried about you."

"I don't want to relive a Johann drama." Bucky insisted, using one of the worst moment of his life to stab him in the back. Steve felt the poisonous daggers his friends took turns throwing at him infect his heart.

"Tony never beat me." He spat, gritting his teeth.

"Yet." Bucky said, almost scornfully.

"Fuck you! He'd never do that."

"He's not good for you, Steve." Natasha pleaded, trying to be persuasive with kindness. "At least, not right now, not when he's like this. You're toxic to each other. Can't you see that? You're only gonna get hurt, both of you."

They were not. They were good to each other. Tony was the sole reason they were having this party in the first place. Tony was the only one who pushed him forward, who challenged him, who helped him thrive. Tony was good for him, and he was good for Tony. Fuck them, they didn't understand. 

"This...this thing you have with him," Bucky added, overdoing it a little. "It's not healthy."

"Whatever... " Steve said and turned around on his feet, looking for his jacket. "I'm going to the club." His heart was pounding in his ears and every words his friends uttered felt like daggers piercing through his heart.

"And do what, Steve? What's the point?" Natasha asked in a curt, dry tone. "You know what you're gonna fine there. It's always the same."

"I don't care..." He choked out, on the verge of crying. He was standing on that cliff, feet on the edge ready to fall, on the very brink of breaking down, bursting into tears or out of rage, choosingly.

"And what are you gonna do, uh?" Bucky spat, angrily. 

"I'll get him away from there." Steve whispered while gritting his teeth, he wasn't even sure himself that it was something he could do. He wanted to believe anyway, to prove to himself and everyone else that he could this, that Tony would listen to him, would follow him, no matter what.

Bucky huffed out a mirthless laugh. "You're gonna watch him fuck everyone else in the room but you." He spat angrily. "That's all you're gonna do tonight. And If you're lucky he'll go back to you afterwards and you're gonna be wiping other people's cum off your boyfriend's face."

That was just the stab that finished him off. Especially coming from the very person who just fucked his boyfriend in his bed. How dared he? How dared he criticize Steve's relationship when he'd been cheating with him for years? How dared he make it sound like something disgusting when he'd been doing the exact same thing with his boyfriend? He felt the rage blinding him and his mind whited out for a moment.

Suddenly felt a surge of understanding towards the people who committed mass-killing. Would he have had a gun right now, some of his friends' sympathetic faces may have just vanished away, forever. He tried to control his erratic and heavy breathing, focusing on inhaling and exhaling for a few moment. He clenched his fists and his jaw, holding his rage in. It was pooling inside of him and ready to burst out in the form of a punch or several and his mind drifted toward pictures of the Hammer guy, and the terror in his eyes, and the blood on his hand. He had lost it that day. He had completely lost it and he didn't want to be that guy. He didn't want to be the guy who solved problems with his fists. He was better than that.

"Fuck you, Buck." He yelled gritting his teeth so hard it hurt. "Fuck you all."

He walked out, leaving his rage behind and raced to take his stuff and go, before he did something he would regret. 

Natasha had ran after him and he heard her call behind him. "Where are you going? You're supposed to close the shop."

In his momentum, Steve pivoted on his feet and faced her. He took the keys out of his pocket and threw them at her. "You do it. I don't fucking care anymore."

Natasha's expression was soft and apologetic. "Steve..." She pleaded, but never finished her sentence because Steve left her on the sidewalk and bolted  out. The air outside was fresh for a summer night but it helped him clear his mind. He took a deep breath and focused on settling his heartbeat.

As he walked to his bike, his heart was slowly quieting down but he still felt it throb at his temples. His vision got blurry, he got too high on adrenaline and dropped too fast. He squinted his eyes and tried not to panic. When he opened them, Loki was there, leaning on the seat of his bike. His calm and composed presence was comforting and soothed Steve's high-pitched emotions. He found himself relaxing a little and recovered his full sight. He looked up at him with questioning eyes. "What are you doing here?" He asked in a surprisingly weak voice.

Loki shrugged. "I thought you might need some support. From what I recall, your boyfriend's quite the challenge." His tone was light and Steve thought he saw him smirking at some point but when he stared, he looked serious and supportive. "I can come with you if you want."

Steve looked at him silently, perplexed. It was nice to have someone on his side for once, at least someone not judging, someone who just had his back, no matter what. He stared into his eyes, Loki's were soft and compassionate. Steve stepped closer and invaded his personal space. He ground his two feet the closest to him that he could manage and dropped his head on his chest. He closed his eyes and remained so for a minute, breathing in his sweet and spicy smell.  

"Thank you." Steve whispered in the fabric of his shirt. He wanted to stay there just a little bit much. "I'm really sorry, about tonight."

Loki wrapped his arms around him and rubbed his back with a comforting hand. "It's alright." He whispered back. "I get it."

Steve tipped on his toes and raised his head to meet Loki's and he kissed him. Loki kissed him back, gently, affectionately. "I like you, Steve." He whispered on his mouth. "You have a good heart." 

Steve tightened his embrace around him. "Thanks. I like you too." 

Chapter Text

On the way to the club, Loki had clutched to Steve, arms curled around his waist. A warm and solid presence behind him, like his lifebuoy.

Thanks to him, he was able to refrain on the speed. He didn't need to be arrested, or worse, especially after he had drunk alcohol. Later, he would think on it and realize how much unnecessary risk he had taken that night and how it was something he would have never done before and would never do again. At that precise moment however, he didn't even ask himself if he should do it or not. When it came to Tony, he didn't think straight. He just broke every one of his principles.

Therefore, when they finally were at the club, Steve was thankful Loki was here to temper his vehemence. It was also thanks to him that they were able to get inside (and because they knew Clint, incidentally). A little more and he would have punched the bouncer in the face.

Once inside, they went separate ways, meticulously trying to search for Tony in the swarming of half-naked bodies. Loki went to the dance floor. He was tall, it would be easier for him. Steve went to the bar and tried to catch on with Clint, ask him in person where and when he saw Tony, who he was with and in what state.

Clint was busy but he was nice enough to answer all of Steve's questions. Steve didn't mention his little betrayal but he hadn't forgotten. He kept it buried, for later. According to Clint, Tony was there around ten thirty, so wasted he didn't even notice him at the bar. He was in a frenzy, already half-naked when he ordered drinks. Paid cash and started raging on the dance floor. He had tried to get him away from here but hadn't been able to, he still had his job to do after all. He had lost sight of him for quite some time but he couldn't tell how long exactly.

Steve thanked his friend, his heart heavy even though he didn't have the time to dwell on it. He checked the toilets, the backrooms. He asked around, sometimes showing a picture, sometimes giving a description, but there were no signs of Tony, anywhere.

After he had checked and re-checked, he met with Loki who hadn't had any luck either. Steve's anger, that was keeping his head out of the water at the moment, was slowly replaced with worry and desperation, tears started showing at the corners of his eyes. Loki wrapped him into a warm embrace, not sexual, not seductive, just friendly, and whispered comforting and encouraging words in his ear. Steve felt blessed that he was here. It was just a simple gesture, Loki hadn't been able to do much for him but he had helped him plenty. Steve wondered if maybe Loki had an idea about what Steve was going through. After all, Loki had had many boyfriends. He was older than most of his friends, had lived so many lives and yet, he was still wandering around without purpose.

After a moment, it was with a weight in his heart and a lump in his throat that Steve finally resigned and decided to go home, without his boyfriend. He was beat and down and everything felt bitter on his tongue. He left Loki at the club, who looked like he was ready to have some fun but still glanced at him worriedly and asked if he needed the company. Steve would rather not, it was stupid and he knew it, but he couldn't help hoping that Tony might show up tonight and he would rather not have anyone with him when it happened, even if at this point he knew they wouldn't have had sex. And even if he doubted Tony would actually mind.

He set about leaving, checking one last time, just in case. As he was on his way to the backrooms again, he was harpooned by one of Clint's co-worker, a petite brunette with tattoos on her face. She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him the other way around.

"Clint told me you're looking for your friend?" 

Steve nodded, a surge of hope making his heart race again, and took out his phone to show her the picture. "Have you seen him?" He blurted, almost out of breath.

She didn't wait to see the picture to answer, she already knew whom he was talking about. "I'm the one who served his drinks." She said, looking apologetic. "I saw him leaving about an hour ago, with three other guys." She pinched her lips in a sympathetic way. Steve didn't have the heart to ask her about the state he was in then, neither about the look of those guys. He was too fucking tired for all the angst that would come with knowing.

He tried not to let his worries overwhelm him and to ignore the pictures that came to his mind. He tried not to think about what could have happened if he had arrived sooner, either, or he would hate himself, and his friends even more.

He had a bad feeling about this, a really bad feeling. He came around and tried to think clearly. 

An hour ago.  

A lot could happen in an hour. One hour was enough for things to go really bad for Tony. He tried not to dwell too much on how his boyfriend always managed to get himself in trouble like this and rather to focus on how to find him. At this point he wasn’t angry anymore, he had no energy for that, he was too worried. He ran out of the club, desperately looking for clues as to where they could have gone. He had a bad feeling about this but he couldn't let the panic overwhelm him. He tried to control his shaky hands by wiping them on his pants and went back to searching.

He searched the area around, the cars, asked people for something unusual, looked on his phone for the hotels around, made phone calls. He needed to bow to the evidence, one hour was long enough. They could be anywhere, maybe one of them brought Tony home, maybe they just beat him up and stole his money, or maybe he was just passed out in his own vomit somewhere in a back alley. It wouldn't be the first time.

Or, maybe, he was just having fun with those three guys. Maybe they had a few drinks, did drugs and were having the foursome of their lives and Tony was not in danger. He was just enjoying life, without him, while he was losing his mind with worry. It probably was the case actually, why did he think it would be any different? Why did he refuse to admit that his boyfriend was like that and always imagined the worst?

Except…he knew Tony. And Tony’s voice was tired and weary on the phone. And Tony had a tendency to say yes a little too easily. And Tony had a tendency to abuse on drugs and alcohol, especially when he was upset, and tired, and weary. And Tony had a tendency to mess up with the wrong people and get himself in trouble.

He needed to find him. Think, Rogers, think. 

He stopped for a second before falling back into his freaking out state, to think.

He needed to call Pepper. Pepper would know what to do, probably. Perhaps. He had nothing to lose trying.

Pepper’s voice was hoarse and sleepy on the phone and he heard someone else groan next to her. Apparently she wasn't alone, and Steve felt sorry about disturbing her peaceful sleep for a second or so, but also it confirmed one thing. He was all Tony had. 

She was willing to help however, even he she sounded a little blasé. Maybe she was done worrying over nothing about him. Maybe she had gave up on him. His heart clenched, he needed a way to find Tony.

"You could track his phone." Pepper had said.

"What?"

"Ask Jarvis!"

"Jarvis? Their former butler?"

"No, JARVIS the AI, didn't he install it in your phone?"

Steve was befuddled for a moment. "Hum. No." 

"I'll do it and send you the link. Don't worry, we'll find him."

A minute later, Steve's phone pinged. He clicked on the link Pepper had sent and a map of the city opened with his own position and Tony's phone's position, two colored colored spots on the dark screen. It was at a walking distance so Steve hurried his steps and strode toward the flickering red dot that indicated Tony's position on the map. As he was getting closer his worries intensified. The scenery had changed, he kept walking away from the central streets and it was less and less busy until he found a desert area where there was construction and renovation work being done.

He had to climb the protection barriers to find the position indicated on the phone. When he got there, he heard noises and his blood boiled.

The location, first, sickened him. Outside, on a remote and empty area. If they wanted to have fun, they could have at least picked up a place with a bed. Not a garbage dump. He got closer and felt his hand shake with both rage and fear. His blood pounded in his ears.

He gasped in horror when he discerned the form of a man sitting on the ground, legs loosely spread and limp, half-clothed and three men standing close, surrounding him. The shock turned ghastly as he watched more closely what they were actually doing. He felt the bile rise at the back of his throat and almost retched. He couldn't see their faces yet, but he knew. At this point he knew that the man on the ground was Tony. He knew it because he knew what Tony did and he knew what other men did to him and he knew he always let them. He encouraged it even.

The horror hit his guts when he heard the things those men were saying. Steve could accept that other people would like to do it with several partners at the same time. He didn't really get it but he could comprehend that other guys would get their kicks from it, but not like this. This he couldn't accept. The way they were treating the man they were abusing—Tony would say fucking, but to Steve it was nothing but abuse, the way they were treating Tony, his boyfriend, Steve could never accept it. It was wrong. Wrong and gruesome and nauseating. 

A wave of despair overwhelmed him. He felt helpless for a moment, but he needed to stop it, because he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't. He still wasn't sure from where he was standing if it was consensual or not, maybe it was, with Tony everything was possible, but he just couldn't stand it. He couldn't stand to see his boyfriend like this. Besides, from where he was standing, he couldn't see if the man on the ground was conscious or not. It wouldn't be the first time either, but there was a difference between knowing and witnessing it happen in front of your eyes. He held his tears in, gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. No matter what it was before him, he would stop it and get his boyfriend out of here.

His whole body was shaking with hatred and revulsion. He almost felt devastated by the intensity of his own feelings, a mix of shock and disgust and sadness pooling inside of him, blending into a sour and rotting rage. His trembling hand searched for something—anything—that he could use as a weapon. He found an old rusty concrete stake and grabbed it. He held on it so strongly he almost hurt his own hand. 

He approached them cautiously. He was still a scrawny kid, barely five feet six and no more than a hundred and twenty-five pounds to himself, there were three of them. Three tall and aggressive hunks. The rusty iron stake was dangling from his hand next to his legs, a loose attempt at hiding it from the three men. He hadn't needed that level of precaution though, because they were so entranced in what they doing that they didn't even notice him walking closer and watching their every move.

He was now barely four feet away from them. He could see and hear everything. All the trashy and humiliating comments they were making, equally raunchy and horrific. He could see how they shoved their dicks in the man's mouth in a brutality that repelled and revolted him. They were fucking him like they would a sexdoll. He also got the confirmation he didn't need. The man was Tony and he was conscious, although barely, and the worst part? He was almost smiling, completely indifferent, completely out of it. He let them do whatever they wanted to do to him, fucking his throat, slapping his face, strangling him, spitting on him, pissing in his mouth—because yes, they had, Steve had heard it. He had heard and now that he was seeing, only his rage kept him from crying—and Tony kept sucking them off, obediently.

Steve clutched the iron bar as if his life depended on it—Maybe it did—and planted himself in front of them.

"Get off of him." He said coldly and calmly, unimpressed. It wasn't his first fight against bullies in a back alley, unfortunately. He had done that quite a few times in the past, it had disagreed with him each time.

One of the men turned around in a jerky movement. He glared at him, shameless. "Mind your own business, little guy." They were obviously trashed. There was no point in negotiating with them, but he would do it anyway.

Steve didn't let the guy intimidate him. He kept his stance and glared back, holding on to the iron stake with all his strength. "Get off of him or I call the police."

The three men turned around and looked at him this time. Steve's eyes met with Tony's who didn't look surprised, he just looked apathetic and unfazed, and then he smiled. Not his beautiful smile, his drunken smile, lewd and provocative, and empty. For a second Steve thought Tony might protest and refuse to come with Steve, but he just remained there, slouched against the wall, disheveled, full of spit and cum and probably piss, completely unconcerned. 

"Cops don't give a shit about that slut, and he wanted it. Now piss off and let the grown-ups play." One of them said, while he roughed Tony up a bit, in a sort of erotic way. Tony let him and laughed. 

"Do you wanna risk being arrested for public indecency?" Steve asked, falsely indifferent. His heart was beating so fast in his chest he thought it was going to explode. He tried to control the slight tremor of his hand. It was crazy, to try to take on those three guys, they would smash his face down and clear out long before they hear the siren but he didn't care at this point. He was going home with Tony or he wasn't going at all.

One of them let go of Tony, not without slapping his face first, and walked over to Steve threateningly. "And how exactly do you plan to do that?" 

"I'll take on all of you if I have to." Steve said, still clutching to the iron stake. The three men laughed but it had, at least, made them step away from Tony. So, he tried to address him directly. "Get up and come over here, Tony." He said in a curt commanding tone. Then he took his phone out, to make a point. "Get the fuck away from him now."

"His name's Greg. Asshole." One of them said.

Tony laughed but didn't move an inch from the dirty ground he was sitting on. "Captain America saved the day again." He slurred sarcastically, voice broken and hoarse.

One of the guys, the one closest to Tony, grabbed his jaw and pushed his head violently against the wall. "You know this guy?"

"He's my boyfriend." Tony said, just like that. Why would he say that now? Did he want to pick up a fight?

The guy laughed at first and roughed him up again, angrily. It was no longer sexual this time, only sheer brutality. "Tony? I thought your name was Greg. Did you fucking lie to us bitch?" He asked while giving him a little slap on the face.

The two others were walking threateningly closer to Steve, trying to trap him on each side. "This cum dumpster's your boyfriend?" They snorted. "I guess when you're cut as you are, you don't have other choice but to pick up other people's trash."

Steve glanced at Tony again, feeling his heart crush under the weight he was feeling right now. He still hoped that he could count on him, would things go really bad. "Get up, Tony!"

The man next to Tony pushed his dazed face against the wall. "I'm not done with him yet." He said at Steve and shoved a half-hard cock past Tony's parted lips, but this time Tony didn't let him. He pushed him slightly away from his face. Without much strength but enough intent to stop the guy.

"Fuck off, loser." He whispered. "Don't fucking touch me." 

The guy in front of Tony looked really annoyed but didn't force himself on him. He pointed at Steve instead, accusingly. "You fucking ruined the mood, kid!" He snarled. "He's not willing anymore. You're gonna pay for that."

"So what are you gonna do, now?" One of the other guy asked Steve.

Steve managed to keep his cool despite his heart beating so fast he could barely focus on anything else. "Nothing." He answered calmly. "Because you're gonna leave us and finish your party elsewhere." 

They laughed again. "There's three of us and one of you. The slut's too wasted to be of any help, now." One of them kicked Tony and he just huffed air out and fell not the side, making Steve's heart clench. He couldn't be anymore dumb. He was picking up a fight he knew he was going to lose and put both him and Tony at risk.

"Maybe you'll beat me up." Steve said aggressively and moved the iron stake in his hand so the guys could see it. "But I'll make sure one of you goes down with me." The men looked at Steve threateningly. "Is it worth it?"

They were probably as wasted as Tony was and for a moment, he thought they were really gonna do it and cursed himself for being so stupid, but they miraculously let it go in the end and cleared off, throwing insults at them. To his biggest relief.

"You've got spunk, little guy." One of them said. "I'll give you that." Then he kicked Tony's loose legs again. "Good luck picking up your trash!" 

Steve was finally able to breathe. He had murderous thoughts but the three guys were gone and both him and Tony were safe. He dropped the concrete stake on the ground and realized that he had clung to it so hard that his hand was sore and almost bleeding. He took a moment to regain his composure after the adrenaline rush and crouched down next to Tony, who was still mostly out of it.

Tony tilted his head on the side, trying to face Steve but he wasn't looking straight. His eyes were hazy and he had a stoned smile on his face. "My hero..." He whispered. 

Steve grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him a little. "Come on Tony, get up. Let's go home." The need to take care of him surpassed his urge to cry and he managed to hold his tears in.

Tony looked away, smile fading, eyes rolling up as if he was going to pass out. He felt suddenly heavy in Steve's hands so he let him fall on his side. He didn't pass out, but he started retching and threw up on the ground next to him, then he straightened up again, wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt, his eyes lost and weary. He was still wearing his work clothes, though the jacket had disappeared and the shirt was buttoned down. Not incognito tonight, which was really strange and unsettled Steve for a split second. Hopefully no-one recognized him. Steve looked down at Tony's pants, assessing how filthy they were. His fly was open, too, and his dick was halfway out of his underwear, limp.

"You stink, Tony." Steve let out, because for the life of him, he would have never imagined he would ever have to wipe piss off his boyfriend but there he was, still high on adrenaline, his trembling hands fiddling with Tony's drenched fly. Bucky couldn't have been anymore right but it didn't matter right now, because it was Tony underneath that stench and that filth.

"Let's get you home." Steve whispered and zipped him up. Then he took off his dirty shirt and wiped off the remains of puke and piss on his face and hair before throwing it away. Thankfully, he had come with his bike and was wearing his leather jacket and a hoodie. He took his own clothes off and lent his hoodie to Tony before putting on his jacket again. His clothes were too small for a man of Tony's size but the hoodie had always been a bit too big for him and Tony was slender enough to fit in it.

Tony sat up and threw his arms around Steve's neck, so clumsily it almost hurt. He leant into him and buried his head in the crook of his neck. "Thank you for saving me." He whispered against Steve's sensitive ear. "You're my hero, Rogers."

It broke his heart. 

Steve helped him up on his feet, ignoring the stench of him and led him back towards the club where he had parked his bike. Tony could still walk on his own, despite everything. He followed him sheepishly, quiet and docile. He was still buzzed.

At some point he walked closer to Steve and wrapped his arms around him, imprisoning him from behind. Again he buried his head in the crook of Steve's neck and drunkenly slurred against his nape. "My hero... " He whispered warmly. "You're my hero, Lil' Rogers. My own, personal, Captain America."

Steve stopped walking for a moment, giving it a thought. It was the second time Tony called him like that tonight. "Why Captain America?" 

Steve had been called 'Captain' by his friends for a while now, but no-one had ever thought of calling him 'Captain America.' It was such a stupid nickname.

"I don't know." Tony shrugged behind him, slumped over him. "I think it suits you." He slurred, a little tint of sarcasm in his voice. "You're were born on the fourth of July for God's sake. If that doesn't make you a symbol of our great nation..."

"This is ridiculous." Steve protested in an exasperated sigh, then he unwrapped himself from Tony's lazy grasp. The stench a constant reminder of the state of him when he found him, a constant reminder, also, of the fact that Tony had preferred cancelling on him so he could get fucked by three thugs, in a rather unsexy location, to say the least. "I'm not your fucking hero, Tony. I'm fucking no-one and I'm really pissed now. Get the fuck off me, you reek!"

Tony took his hands off Steve and slowed down to let some distance between them, so much that Steve ended up worried and turned around to check where he was. Tony was just a few feet away, silent, cold, looking abashed and hesitant. 

It was so fucking weird, this moment. Steve was pissed, enormously pissed. He had been pissed all day long and the episode with Bucky's phone had just been the last straw, the one that had unleashed his wrath. Now everything was quiet but there was something heavy between them, as if neither of them wished to address the elephant in the room. Steve had just found his boyfriend getting it on with three other guys and he felt apathetic, like nothing really mattered anymore. Tony was just there, foggy, indifferent. He had been roughed up and spat on and pissed on and acted as if it was nothing, as if it was normal. And the worst thing was, it probably was, for him.

"You're bleeding." Steve noticed. Tony had a little spot of blood at the corner of his mouth.

Tony just shrugged.

Steve got closer and grabbed his chin, pulling it down a little. "You're bleeding, Tony." He repeated with a tinge of worry in his voice, his heart started racing again.

Tony opened his eyes wide, confusedly.

"Change of plan." Steve said and grabbed him by the hand before pulling him towards his bike a little faster.

"Where are you taking me?" Tony asked, a little puzzled by Steve's sudden reaction.

"To the hospital."

"I'm fine." He protested.

"You're not fucking fine, Tony. You were raped."

Finally, Steve had managed to put words on this thing he had just witnessed. Finally he had put words on this awkwardness he had been feeling until now.

Tony chuckled, unconcernedly. He was probably still very drunk right now.

"You got fucking raped and you're bleeding!" Steve yelled, his whole body still shaken from the realization.

"No, I wasn't." Tony denied, very sure of himself, and then added "You know I can't go to the hospital."

"They came and they pissed in your mouth and fucked your throat and now it's bleeding. Do you want to catch AIDS?" Steve shouted aggressively, annoyed by Tony's nonchalance. The latter opened his eyes wide at the unexpected roughness of his tone. "I'm taking you to the hospital. End of." 

Tony looked down. "Okay." He agreed with another shrug. Steve had the bad feeling though, that he was just going with the flow and not because he felt any sort of concern for his own health or safety.

Steve rode to the hospital with a quiet Tony behind him. They stopped to withdraw money, enough for the hospital fees. Luckily Tony had his credit card with him for once, though he had no papers, not his real ones anyway. Hopefully they won't ask too many questions. Steve promised him he would take care of everything. He had no idea how, but he promised anyway. He would do anything for him at this point.

The waiting in the Emergency Room was quiet and interminable, at least for Steve, because Tony was sleeping it off on his shoulder—which was a bit comforting, with a bit of luck he would be clear-headed when he woke up. In the mean time, Steve's mood oscillated between periods of anger, of panic, or deep, lingering sorrow.

After a couple of hours that felt like days, a kind nurse finally called them. "Mr Rogers?"

Steve explained the situation briefly as Tony was slowly emerging. He had sobered up at least. "He got raped. They forced his throat and he's bleeding." Steve said while his hand was squeezing Tony's strongly.

The nurse looked at him curiously, wondering why he was the one speaking, but she wasn't judging and didn't cringe when she saw the two of them holding hands, as Steve had unfortunately seen too many times before.

She gestured at Tony to follow her and addressed him very kindly. "Please follow me. Don't worry, we'll check you out. We're gonna have to ask you a few questions. Are you going to be okay?"

Tony nodded and shrugged. Steve stood up as well, following behind.

"I'm sorry, sir, but you can't come. It's strictly confidential." Steve stopped halfway and looked at her, a little puzzled. Until now, she hadn't been judgy.

"I'm his friend." He said curtly and hated himself but he couldn't say it out loud, not yet, not here. "He'll need my support."

The nurse addressed Tony this time. "Do you want your friend to be here while we examine you?" She asked very nicely.

Tony shook his head silently and looked away. It was just another stab in Steve's heart.

"I'm sorry, Sir. I can't let you in. You can wait over there." She showed some kind of lounging area. "We'll call you when we're done. He'll need you."

Steve shuffled there like a zombie, stunned. He had never thought Tony wouldn't trust him enough not to let him in while he was being checked. It was just another blow at the already cracking and wavering foundation of their relationship but then he decided not to dwell on it. There could be plenty of reasons why Tony wouldn't want Steve to be there. Maybe he was just ashamed. Maybe he wanted to keep some privacy. Maybe he didn't want Steve to see him like this, even if Steve had seen him in far worst situations. Steve had rarely seen him vulnerable however, and that might be what Tony wanted to avoid.

He decided to take care of the checking-in paperwork for him instead. Apparently when you have money you can do whatever you want. Nobody raised any question and Tony's real identity was never mentioned. When he was finally done, he waited in the dedicated area. Millions of dark thoughts filled his head. How could Tony end up so low? How could he have let something like this happen to him? Didn't he care even a little about himself?

Steve wanted to cry it out, but he was too stressed for that. The heaviness weighed on his chest and he couldn't get rid of it. It was settling in his heart, dark and heavy and poisonous.

Tony joined him a few moments later, all peppy and refreshed and ready to go. The whole thing hadn't taken very long. Steve stood up when he saw him walking slowly toward him. He wondered however how come a rape victim was discharged so quickly and so easily. (Steve would learn later on that they had bypassed cleaning him, therefore it might explain the rapidity of it). Didn't they have a procedure in those cases? Didn't they get at least a minimum of counseling?

"Are you okay?" Steve asked, a little worried.

Tony nodded while pinching his lips hesitantly.

"Did they give you treatment?"

Tony shook his head. 

"Why not? You can take post-exposure treatment now. It works! The earlier you take it, the more efficient it is."

"They said I don't need it, because I'm already on PrEP."

There was another stab to his heart, much slower this time, and deeper. Steve had needed to register the information first. He stared at Tony in stupefaction and loathing as the latter went on like nothing had changed, as if he hadn't just dropped a major piece of information on Steve.

"I just need to double the dose for a couple of days and wear condoms for about a month." Tony continued, while Steve was still stunned by the news. "Otherwise, I'm okay. It's a small irritation, there's nothing they can do. I just need to be careful for a few days. They gave me a prescription though. For helping with the healing, and for the pain. But it's not urgent. We can go tomorrow. It doesn't even hurt that much."

Steve chuckled softly. An awkward feeling taking over. "What?"

"I'm fine." Tony repeated. "They just sai—"

"I heard you, Tony." Steve cut him short, feeling breathless. "Since when are you on PrEP?"

Tony shrugged. 

"Why would you need to be on PrEP? How long have you been taking it?"

He shrugged again. "A couple of years."

"Before I met you?" Steve choked out.

Another shrug. "Yeah."

Steve felt every part of his skin prickle and a wave of uneasiness invaded him. He wiped his face in consternation and turned away from him. "Let's get out." He said, not willing to make another scene in public. Tony followed, quietly.

When they were out and in a more discreet place, Steve confronted Tony again.

"You've been on PrEP all this fucking time? And you've never fucking told me? Why would you need PrEP anyway? Are you having sex with someone who's positive?"

Tony shrugged again. "Can we go home now? I really wanna take a shower." He said while looking away from Steve. Incidentally, both of them were still smelling like piss and puke. They both needed a good shower but Steve didn't care at the moment. He saw red, he grabbed Tony's face with his hands and turned it back so he would face him.

"Enough with the shrugs, now!" He spat. "Tell me the fucking truth!"

Tony looked away again, a glimpse of annoyance in his eyes. "There's no truth, Steve. I'm on PrEP because it's easier. I guess, I fit right into that category of people with high risk sexual behaviors. I have disregarded protection in the past, and more than once. I don't know what's the big deal, here. It's pretty common. I thought you'd be glad I'm actually taking care of my health."

Steve huffed out a mirthless chuckle. "Glad... You thought I'd be glad?" He exclaimed outragedly. "WOW... I'm overjoyed Tony, to know that my boyfriend thinks he needs to take preventive treatment for HIV. And I'm even more thrilled that in fucking two years he never thought it would be opportune to fucking tell me!" He inched back a little and swallowed, trying to calm down. "I'm fed up with all the secrecy, now." He said more calmly but in a slow and cold tone, the anger still pervading. "This needs to stop. I'm sick and tired of all this shit." He wiped his hands down his face in exasperation. "Arrgh, my head's gonna fucking explode!" He grabbed Tony by the hoodie that he was wearing and shook him a little. "Is there something else I should know about? You better fucking tell me now!!"

Tony looked startled for a moment and stammered something that sounded like a 'sorry,' then he added an apologetic "Maybe you should get tested too, 'cause apparently I've got gonorrhea. "

He dropped Tony instantly, hands shaking. A shiver ran down his spine. "You gave me an STD!?" He choked out, panicking, overreacting a little in comparison to what he had just heard.

Tony burst out laughing. "It's a joke." He said while putting a comforting hand on Steve's shoulder. "And by the way, urine is sterile so you don't need to get your pants up about it."

Steve gulped and felt sick at the graphic picture that flashed back in his head then he felt the anger roar in his belly. Maybe Tony had tried to ease the tension between them, or downplay the whole thing, but it just had the opposite effect. Steve was enraged. 

He pushed him with all his strength and despite seeing it coming, Tony stumbled back a few steps, still laughing at his own fucking joke.

"You think this is funny?" Steve shouted, infuriated. "Everything is a fucking joke to you, ain't it? You don't fucking care that I've been worried sick about you, for hours! Do you really have gonorrhea?"

Tony stopped laughing and shrugged. "I don't know yet," He said with a pout. "but I don't present any signs. I got tested for everything though, I'll have the results in a few days. And I'll have to get tested again in three weeks." Steve calmed down and let out a relieved sigh. "You still might wanna get tested though." Tony added with a shameless smile. Steve hadn't waited for Tony's suggestion to plan this in a foreseeable future. In fact he had already been thinking about his potential time windows to visit the health clinic not later than Monday.

He looked up at Tony who was still smiling, carefree and unreachable. He couldn't believe they were actually arguing about petty things like gonorrhea after everything that had happened today. Maybe he was still in shock. He took a moment to think about everything and gazed at Tony's fading smile. Tony looked more uncertain now, maybe he was a bit puzzled by Steve's silence, he didn't look upset however.

Steve had never felt more distant from him than at this moment. He suddenly felt like he was with a stranger, like thousands miles away separated them and yet a poignant pain seared in his heart at the thought of letting him go.

There was still this heavy weight on his chest, like a huge cloud of darkness poisoning his veins, putting him on the edge, constantly in an unstable state. He grabbed Tony by his clothes again, a little less aggressively this time and pulled him toward him. "Let's just go home, now." He said curtly. Tony just nodded in silence.

They both rode calmly to Steve's place, Tony slumped over Steve, holding him tightly. He had put his head on Steve's shoulder and rested his whole weight on Steve's back, so closely huddled that Steve wondered if he hadn't fallen asleep on the way. He had still clutched to him with all his strength. 

The ride up in the elevator was silent. Tony was looking bashful, head dropping down. Steve was trying to forget that his boyfriend stank of urine but the confined space of the elevator made it hard. They hadn't even washed his face at the hospital. 

Tony ran to the shower as soon as he got in. Thankfully, Steve's flat was full of his clothes now. Steve let him take all the time he needed and took care of their dirty clothes. Some he threw away without hesitation. Others he put in a laundry bag, closed it hermetically and swore to himself he would do this as soon as he could. Then he took a beer, because yeah, it was already past five in the morning and he needed to be at work for his vernissage in, like, five hours, but he really needed a drink right now.

Tony got out in silence, wearing workout shorts and one of his numerous comic-themed T-shirts. He looked so young and vulnerable suddenly. Steve tried not to dwell on it. Tony was an adult now, he knew what he was doing and he could take responsibility for his own actions.

They switched place without a comment. It was still heavy and awkward between them. The shower was bliss and gave Steve the time to think upon everything that had happened tonight with a clear-headed mind. It was a fucking mess. They were a fucking mess. They couldn't go on like this. There were too many lies, too many secrets, too much dishonesty between them, on both parts. Sam was right. Bucky was right. He had been so angry. He was angry all the fucking time, like anger was his middle name, like he was born with it and cursed to live on the edge like this for the rest of his life. How long before he lost it completely? 

The weight was still heavy on his chest, his darkest thoughts still poisoning his veins, his rage, constant, palpable, was there, latent, ready to burst out of him at the slightest thing. His pain, forgotten, ignored, until he couldn't repress it anymore.

And there was still this thing he had just witnessed. Steve would it call rape. Tony would call it great sex that might have gone a little awry. He was acting normal, as if nothing had happened. Maybe nothing had happened, for real. Or maybe—maybe he wasn't realizing it, maybe he refused to admit it to himself. Who knew what was going on in Tony's head? Steve had never felt so unsure about his boyfriend before. But this thing was there, standing like a wall between them and Steve wasn't sure he had the strength to climb it.

When Steve got out of the shower, Tony was in his bed, eating yoghurt and laughing innocently at something he was watching on Steve's laptop.

"What's so funny?" He asked, tone slightly annoyed. 

It annoyed him, profoundly, the nonchalant way Tony was acting right now. He couldn't take it. If Tony wasn't upset about what had happened, at least he could feel bad about what he had done. He had ditched him to get high and get fucked, and not even in a hotel room, just out in the street in the middle of garbage and cement bags and old and rusty concrete mixers. Despite everything else, that at least, he could feel ashamed of, but he didn't. He didn't feel bad about it, nor did he feel bad about lying, or about treating Steve like shit. He fucked everyone else openly, and lied to his face, and laughed at him, and used him, and didn't give a fuck about it.

Tony's smile faded and he looked up with a soft expression on his face, trying to be charming, and the worst thing was, he actually was. He licked over his lips and bit them softly, unintentionally sensual. "Nothing," He said quietly. "Just some stupid videos on youtube."

Steve stared at him, bewildered. He almost felt he should be offended right now but he was feeling too numb for that. Overall he should be happy that Tony was doing well, after all, he was the one who was raped, seemingly. Steve wasn't though. On the contrary, it infuriated him. Would have Tony cried or be upset or anything even remotely similar, Steve would have understood. But this, this he didn't and he didn't dare think about what it meant. Tony wasn't upset, he wasn't shocked or distressed or nervous or even embarrassed. He was relaxed, watching funny videos like nothing had happened, like Steve's heart hadn't broken ten times in the course of one night.

Steve walked to the kitchen area and took out another beer from his fridge. He sat on his couch and watched Tony laugh carelessly at his stupid videos while taking a swig. The taste felt bitter on his tongue. He felt the anger creeping back inside of him, a cloud of darkness overhanging above him. He reclined on the armrest and threw a hand behind him nonchalantly, in an attempt to feel more relaxed. "Nothing touches you, does it?" 

Tony jerked his head up and looked into his eyes, expression startled, naive and innocent. "What are you talking about?"

Steve shook his head and chuckled mirthlessly. He really felt like smoking pot and forget about everything, right now. He drank again, looking at the ceiling above him. He rubbed his tired eyes roughly, stopping his laugh from turning into loud and ugly weeping.

Tony's expression hardened. "I was just waiting for you." He said sheepishly.

"Really? How cute! So thoughtful of you." Steve blurted sardonically, then he spoke on a more serious and bitter tone. "Why would you do that, though?" He asked, wiping a tear off the corner of his eye. He was beginning to feel the soft burn of alcohol in his throat. His mind going numb as the line between right and wrong became more and more blurry in his head.

"Because you're my boyfriend? And I wanted to sleep with you?" The brunette answered hesitantly, but not without some fucking nerve.

" 's that so?" Steve let out caustically while putting his half empty can on the floor. He was looking away from Tony, up at the ceiling in front of him, trying to decipher shapes in the darkness. "What made you think that I'd want to sleep with you now?"

"I meant sleep next to you." Tony said with a pout, obviously disconcerted by Steve's coldness.

"Whatever, Tony..." he said while glancing at him sidelong. "I'm not sleeping next to you." Then he gulped down the last of his beer, feeling both buzzed and restless.

There was silence. Heavy, lingering and putrefying silence. Until there was a ruffling noise and something like a sigh or gasp and then Tony's voice, soft, hesitant, almost trembling.

"Why?"

Steve straightened up and glanced at the bed. Tony was curled into a ball, arms wrapped around his legs, chin resting on his knees. His eyes gazing into space. Steve lost his words for a moment.

"Are you mad?" Tony asked, with the same timid voice.

Was he fucking serious?

"No." Steve lied with a tinge of sarcasm. "Of course not. Why would I be? It's not like I had better things to do than roaming around the city at night to come and rescue your shitty self. This is what I do, right? I save the day!" Let's drink up to this... "That's what you said, right? Captain America saved the day again..."

Tony laughed. A soft and cute and beautiful laugh. And when Steve glanced at him again he could see a wide smile illuminating his face. Eyes glimmering with mischievousness.

"Can you blame me?" He said, tone amused and smile dancing on his lips, showing his perfect teeth. "I always thought that that part of you was extremely hot. And really charming, per say."

Warm and fuzzy feelings came over Steve, mingling with the rotting rage and deep misery he had been feeling, until he got completely lost. He didn't know what he felt anymore. He didn't know what he thought. He didn't know what he wanted, where he was or who he was, anymore. 

It was so weird. He knew he had been mad and there were so many things he wanted to shout at Tony about but nothing came out, as if they had been imprisoned for too long. There were so many things they needed to say, so many things he wanted to ask but there they were chitchatting on a light and blithe tone about nonsensical and insignificant things. 

"I'm not your fucking hero, Tony."

Tony's smile faded on his lips. He looked pensive and played with his toes. "Why did you come then?" 

Steve chuckled and shook his head exasperatedly.

"It's not like I needed you to come." Tony went on, biting on his nails nervously and Steve was a little puzzled but he ignored it. "I can take care of myself." He was still biting on his nails, hands a little shaky. The look in his eyes hardened. "I'm not your responsibility."

Steve was properly shocked.

"Don't worry," he spat angrily. " 'cause this is the last time I'm doing it. For the life of me, I'm never gonna get caught trying to rescue your ungrateful ass ever again. You can be sure of that. I'm really fucking fed up with it. I don't fucking care anymore. I don't care, so don't even fucking try to get your girlfriends to call me next time, because no matter how deep in your fucking shit and puke you are, I swear I'm gonna let you drown in it."

Steve thought Tony would laugh at that. He would have if he were him, his outburst was so sudden and overdramatic it was almost funny, but Tony didn't. He just pinched his lips nervously, curling his arms tighter around his knees, eyes avoiding Steve's glare. He swallowed and seemingly clenched his jaw. Then he turned his head to face Steve and he smiled weakly.

"Thank you," he whispered after a while, "for saving me." It sounded like deja-vu. He had heard that before, but this time it wasn't drunken talk it was meant with all his intent. 

Steve snorted and puffed out a chuckle. "Why are you thanking me?" He answered blankly. "I thought you didn't need saving."

Tony was back toying with his toes again. "I didn't." He said with a pout. His eyes a little hazy, lost in his thoughts. "I don't. Need rescuing, I mean. I can take care of myself. I know how to fight, you know. My dad made sure of that... been taking self-defense lessons and I've been boxing since like I was six or something." He let out a sarcastic and self-deprecating laugh. "His way of toughening up my sensitive and delicate self, I suppose." He snarked, smiling at his own expense. 

Steve didn't answer and let the silence linger. He saw Tony's smile fade as he kept his mouth shut. He looked at him with expecting eyes. His arms squeezing around his knees again. He rested his head on the side, looking pensive.

"Why didn't you, then?" Steve finally asked, looking back at the ceiling above, falsely calm and indifferent. It was everything but an innocent question.

"Why didn't I what?" Tony said softly, still lost in his thoughts.

"Take care of yourself." Steve answered, eyes looking above, ignoring him. "If you know how to fight, then why didn't you?" He sat up abruptly and looked straight into Tony's eyes. "Why did you let them treat you like this?"

Tony startled and parted his lips. He looked straight back at him, expression blank and eyes completely empty, as if Steve's question had been the only equation he was incapable of resolving.

They stared at each other for a moment, silent, expecting. Steve was waiting for an answer, an answer that felt crucial at that moment, to him at least. Tony stared blankly, almost apologetically, as if he didn't have the answer to that question. He finally blinked and shrugged it off, like it was nothing, with absolutely no emotion on his face.

Steve felt the rotting feelings boil inside of him.

"So I guess, I'll have to interpret it then, is that it?" Tony looked down and slid his tongue on his teeth, mouth closed into a sulking pout. "So I reckon if you didn't stop them even if you could have, it means that you wanted it, right? Did you want it?"

A glimpse of something that might or might not be pain flashed through Tony's eyes, much too fast for Steve to decipher it however. They shone in the dark like two stars in the black night. Silent and impenetrable. Unsolved mysteries. Keeping their secrets always, forever hidden behind that glimmer.

"Take your fucking time to answer," Steve said ironically, his tone cold and bitter. " 'cause I really have the whole fucking night." 

At Tony's silence, he bent down in an attempt to grab the empty beer can he had left there. He found it, took it and turned it upside down, trying to catch the last drop. When he failed at that he got up from the couch and made a beeline for the fridge to grab another. Tony was back at playing with his toes.

"You sure you should be drinking right now?" Steve heard Tony's weak and hesitant voice ask, almost meekly. Was he for real? Did he want to get fucking punched in the face tonight or what?

Steve let out a wicked and bitter laugh. Then he clicked his tongue against his teeth and took a swig. "Why do you care?" He brutally snapped, not looking at him.

"Aren't you supposed to have your vernissage tomorrow?" Tony said sulkily.

"Oh. He remembers!" Steve snarked loudly, the alcohol talking almost as much as him by now. He took another swig, trying to drown the lump in his throat and the weight in his chest, heavy and spreading and unbearable.

Tony swallowed but didn't make any comment. He had better not, Steve was this close to lose it now. He felt his skin prickle as if his blood was boiling in his veins, inflaming his whole body into a mad fireball. 

"Don't try to make me forget that you didn't answer my question." Steve said, refocusing the debate on what really mattered. At least what mattered to him, now. He would have all the time he needed to rebuke Tony about giving him life lessons when he was trash himself and a fucking whore and a human toilet later.

"What do you want me to answer?" Tony asked, tone cold.

It infuriated him. He yelled. "I don't know, Tony! How about the fucking truth, for once!"

He pivoted on his feet to face him and met his hazy eyes. Tony looked down and shrugged, avoiding his furious stare. "I don't know."

Steve felt his hackles raise and a shiver ran through him but he managed to speak with an indifference and coldness that even sent chills down his own spine. 

"You don't know?" He retorted. "What is it that you don't know? You don't know why you didn't stop them? You don't know if you wanted it? You don't if you liked it? What is it?" He asked dryly.

The anger was pooling inside of him, ready to explode. Tony looked at him, helpless, his eyes dancing with something Steve couldn't decipher. He seemed to chew on his tongue, hesitating, and for a moment, Steve thought he was really going to answer but he didn't. He just shrugged it off, as always, but with an indifference and a detachment that made Steve's blood boil. His entire body was now burning with a sudden and irrational rage. He forced his shaky hands into submission and felt like his eyes were about to roll into the back of his head. He was out of it for moment.

It was Tony's startled gasp that called him back to reality. He stared at the tremor on his hands and realized he wasn't holding his beer can anymore. He looked up and saw the beer splashed on his wall, barely inches from Tony's head. He suddenly recalled the noise it had made when he threw it.

Tony stared at him, blankly. He wasn't scared exactly, more like stunned and haggard, and indifferent.

It took Steve a while to recover from this, but soon he remembered why he had lost it.

"NO!" He choked out. "You don't get to shrug this off." He said while pointing an accusatory finger at Tony. He felt the tears prickle at the corners of his eyes but swallowed them back in. "You don't get to do that." He barked while gritting his teeth. "You don't get to ditch me so you can get fucked in a back alley and then tell me you don't know why you did it! You don't get to lie to my face about going to work when everything you do is get sloshed and fuck everyone around. You don't get to make it look like you care and then do that to me! You don't get to have me worried about you all night long, thinking you were assaulted when in fact you were just having fun with other guys than me. You get don't get to make me wait for hours at the ER because you kept your fucking mouth shut about being on PrEP for like two years!" He let out a jerky, almost hiccuping breath and held a shudder in, hands trembling a little. "I want fucking answers, Tony." He growled, threatening fingers pointed at him.

Tony's eyes were cold now. No more bashfulness, no more hesitancy. Just cold, heartless indifference.

"What do you want to me say Steve, that I wanted it?" Steve eye's locked into his dark marbles. Tony was looking straight, unashamed and serious. "Yeah." He said. "I did." And then he went on, slightly provocative, "That I liked it?" he asked with a depreciating grimace. "Maybe I did."

Steve felt the heat creep on his cheeks and clenched his jaw. Something went wrong in his body, like he blew a fuse or something. His rational thoughts long forgotten, deep down inside his mind. The line between right and wrong completely erased from his mind. He saw himself walking toward the bed where Tony was sitting, eyes cold and brazen staring through him.

 "You liked it..." He choked out, almost breathless. "You liked it?" He spewed, asking for confirmation this time. 

Tony shrugged, looking away, his mouth curled into a pout.

"You liked it when they fucked your throat until you bled? You liked it when they made you drink their piss?"

Tony's eyes flickered with a burning glare as he plunged his eyes into Steve's, silent. Then he looked away again, resting his chin on his knees again.

"It was fun." He said with a pout. "We were just having fun."

Steve let out a bitter laugh. "This is your idea of fun? Getting pissed on?"

Tony remained silent, eyes shining in the dark of the room. For a moment Steve thought he was going to cry, but no. He didn't show any emotion except maybe confusion.

"Should I take that as a yes?" Steve said bitterly, an evil smile spreading on his exhausted face. "Well if that's so, then I guess I really should apologize for interrupting you guys." It was the anger talking now, words sour, flaying like knives.

Except those knives were hurting him more than they were hurting Tony. 

Tony shrugged, looking away. Apathetic and indifferent.

It was one shrug too many.

Steve saw himself burst into tears of rage, hands trembling and uncontrollable. He couldn't take it anymore. His hands were reaching for Tony with the urge to shake him, to hit him, to strangle him, anything. Anything to get a reaction from him. Except he didn't do any of those things, he just stared blankly at him, shaken, helpless. He didn't know what was real and what wasn't anymore. He was losing it. 

"You don't fucking care, do you?" He choked out in a breathless whispered, chest jerking with repressed sobs. "You don't care about anything." He tried to control his lurching breathing. "I don't get you." He let out in a weak, desperate voice, shaking his head a little. "I don't get you." He repeated with the same desperation in his voice, feeling the anger crawl back in his veins and then he shouted. "Look at me, Tony! Look at me when I'm talking to you."

The rest of it is a blur.

He abruptly knelt down and crouched in front of Tony. He grabbed his face with a brutality he didn't know he had and pushed him against the wall, exactly like those men had done just a few hours ago, and he clutched his jaw with all his strength, pressing him against the wall behind them. "Look at me, Tony!" He spat through gritted teeth. "Look at me!"

He was pushing Tony's face against the wall, right into the remains of the half-empty can of beer he had thrown at him. Tony wasn't moving, just like he hadn't moved an inch earlier, when those guys roughed him up. He just stared into space, his jaw clenched impudently. Steve pushed him against the wall a little more, until it hurt and he waited to see him cringe—he didn't—then his hand slid on his neck and he pressed his thumb into it, turning Tony's face back on him.

"Is this what you want?" He spat on his face, gritting his teeth. "Is this what you get your kicks from?" His voice was dry and falsely composed. He was burning with a cold and icy rage inside.

Steve clamped Tony's jaw again, hard enough for him to bruise, and forced him to look his way, searching for the truth or just an emotion, anything, but Tony's eyes kept wandering away, avoiding his angry stare. Steve hadn't meant for this, but he couldn't stop himself, anger blinding him. He almost wanted to hurt him. 

He gave him a little slap on the cheek. "Look at me, Tony. Tell me the truth." Tony stared into his eyes, unflinching, emotionless. His whole body limp and unwilling to fight back. He could. Steve wanted him to. He needed him to. To stop him, to call him on his shit.  

"Say something!" He shouted but Tony didn't say anything, he didn't protest, he didn't fight back.

Steve's rage flared up and blinded him again, fueled by his own insecurities, his frustration, his blinded jealousy and all the pain he had been feeling for months, accumulated.

He lost control.

"You're so fucking full of shit, aren't you? You say you don't want to get fucked, but this is all bullshit, ain't it? It's just with me. It's just me that can't fuck you, uh?" There might have been something that flickered in Tony's eyes but Steve wasn't sure what it was and he didn't care anymore. He pressed on Tony's throat and made him gasp and shudder as his whole body tensed and jerked under Steve's assault. He didn't push Steve away though. He just stared blankly, absent, detached. 

"You get all macho and prudish with me but what you truly want it to be dominated, right? Is that it?" He pushed Tony against the wall again, hand on his mouth, spatting his angry words on his face. Tony's eyes were avoiding him and then looked straight at him, unblinking, unflinching, unyielding.

"Answer me Tony!" Steve yelled through gritted teeth. "Is that it? Is that what you need?" Something flickered again in Tony's eyes, indescribable. Something that might as well be pain, or hatred, or shame. Steve wouldn't know and he didn't care.

He let go of his mouth and grabbed his shoulders. Then he pushed him down against the wall and pinned him on the bed, then he straddled him. Tony let him, body meek and limp under him. He stared in the vague, empty and emotionless. 

"Come on answer me," Steve shouted, roughing him up a bit, and bent down to bark on his face, brutal and threatening, his words sharp like blades.  "Is this what you want? 'Cause if this is what you want then you don't fucking need to lie to my face and stand me up for this. If you need to get fucked and dominated, I can do it. You don't need to get sloshed and hook up with strangers in dark alleys. I can give you what you want. I can give you what you need. I can spat on you and I can fucking piss in mouth too. Why should I be the only one who doesn't get to do that?"

Tony's eyes glimmered with something indecipherable. His jaw was clenched and his face turned on the side. Not fighting back, but refusing to submit. Steve's rage was blinding him, hurting him, boiling inside of him and taking control. He felt like he was outside of his own body. A witness of it all. Incapable of restraint. Incapable of stopping it.

He sneezed, catching his breath and realized he had been crying. Tears dripping down his cheeks. He stood up, knees faltering and held himself on the wall for a split second before his eyes were drawn to Tony again. He was lying at his feet, eyes hazy.

"Get up." Steve blurted. Voice low and dry. Words sharp.

Tony didn't move so he gave him jab with his foot, making him tilt on the side. "Get up!" He commanded.

The brunette looked up, expression suddenly soft and innocent, eyes questioning. He parted his lips meekly, which softened Steve for a short moment.

"Come on. Come here." He commanded with a much gentler voice.

Tony stared up at him, eyes still questioning and a glimpse of worry ran through them. He was biting his lower lip, hesitant. Steve bent down and grabbed his T-shirt with both his hands. "Come on, get the fuck up." He asked, shaking Tony up a little and then he answered his unsaid question. "You wanna have fun? Let's have fun!"

Tony gasped and grabbed his wrists, in a movement of intuitive self-protection. He looked at him with a weird, indecipherable expression and parted his lips. He stared at Steve for a long moment, worried and hesitant, and finally stood up silently and obediently.

Steve grabbed him by the arm and dragged him toward the bathroom door. "Come here." He repeated coldly, gritting his teeth. The he hurled him into the bathroom so violently that Tony stumbled forward and almost bumped against the wall. He turned around to look at Steve confusedly. Steve pushed him brutally against the wall. Tony's back thumped on the tiles and he slid down between the shower stall and the toilet bowl, stoically, obediently, eyes locked into Steve's, never letting go of him.

Steve walked over to him like a menace and grabbed his face again, pushing it against the tiles, forcing him to look aside, in a domineering manner. "I wanna have fun too." He said and pulled Tony's face back in front of him. "Open your mouth."

He pulled his limp dick out and tugged on Tony's jaw but Tony resisted, eyes flickering with confusion and something that almost looked like fear but then again, Steve wasn't really sure and didn't really care. He slapped him. "Open your mouth, you fucking whore!" He thought it was a soft slap but Tony's head yanked the other way and his cheek was red, almost bearing the marks of Steve's fingers. 

Tony's breathing accelerated and his chest heaved jerkily. His jaw was clenched and throbbing. Was he finally getting a reaction from him?

Steve grabbed his face again and turned it back on him. "Open your fucking mouth, bitch!" Tony's eyes flared up fiercely, with something like anger and he chewed on his tongue. Mouth remaining close. "What are the perks of having trash like you as my boyfriend if I can't even use you? Why should I let others have all the fun? Open you mouth!"

Tony glared up at him and finally spoke with a soft, though untamed, voice. "Do you really want me to?" He asked with a doubtful glint in his eyes. His body all limped and submissive, arms dangling down on his sides and legs slightly spread.

It unsettled him completely and he stepped back. Tony huddled up and curled his arms around his knees. He tilted his head on the side, chin resting on his knees. He was prostrate like a scared little child, except he was no child and not even slightly scared. Just blank and empty. " 'cause I'll do it, if you want me to." He finally said, voice faltering.

Steve just experienced an icy cold shower and just stood there, petrified. "Of course not." He said, horrified.

He felt the tears burn his eyes, he couldn't hold them anymore. He couldn't stand it, Tony's apathy. The way he remained detached like nothing concerned him.

"Nothing touches you, right?" He mumbled, voice shaking and chest heaving with repressed sobs. The tears flowing down, pouring out of him after months of repressing them.  "Nothing affects you.. You just don't care." He shuddered, almost convulsed with long uncontrollable sobs. "You don't fucking care about anything. You don't care how much it kills me. You don't care how much you hurt me. It just—It's just pouring down on you without ever reaching you, isn't it? What? Don't you anything to say for yourself?"

Tony curled into a ball, unmoving, impassive. 

Steve was crying now, with ugly sobs and hiccups. He wiped the tears off his face with his forearm. The rage he felt shook him to the core. He just wanted to slap him. He wanted to slap him and kick him and punch him in the face. He wanted to make him bleed like his heart was bleeding, to make him hurt like he hurt. 

He stared at his trembling hands. He almost did it. He almost hit him. His hand was barely inches away from his face. He could almost picture him black-eyed and bleeding.

A wave of fear and panic invaded him. He freaked out and was shivering all over, terrified about himself. "I almost beat you." He whispered shakily, voice trembling and out of breath. "I hit you."

He recalled the slaps, the strength he had used to push him and press his face into the wall, the way he had grabbed him and dragged him across the room. It was insane. "I'm turning into my ex." He choked out, gasping and shivering, repressing another sob at the sudden realization. "I'm a monster."

He fell down on his knees at Tony's feet and completely broke down. Tony was still impassive, looking at him with a blank expression, still huddled and prostrate. He curled on himself even more. Steve was crying heavily, almost wailing, his tears were blinding him and his rotten feelings spread in his stomach, hurting like hell, shortening his breath, choking him. 

"How can you let me treat you like this?" Steve managed to choke out and burst into tears, hiding his face in his hands, huddled on his lap. "I think I'm gonna be sick."

Tony remained silent. 

He was picturing everything he had done to Tony and felt broken, rotten, a ghost of himself, a monster. He was not the victim here, he was the abuser and that was worse. He kept crying and crying, rocking on his knees like a crazy person, hating himself. He hated himself right now. He had been hating himself for a long time. Tony's indifference was killing him.

After a while, Steve took a deep breath, wiping his tears away, bent down. He couldn't look at him in the eyes. "You're toxic,Tony. You're fucking toxic!" He almost shouted out, breathless. He sneezed, tears flowing down again. "I hate myself when I'm with you. I hate everything we are."

He saw Tony move and heard him swallow.

"Get the fuck out." He spat curtly. "I don't wanna see you anymore. Get the fuck out of my place. Don't call, don't text, don't leave fucking gifts on my desk. I don't wanna hear about you ever again."

Steve kept crying in the bathroom as Tony stood up in silence and walked out. He heard the front door slam a few minutes later.

It was over.

 

 

 

 

 

SIDE NOTE : Okay, you can totally scream at me in the comments now!

 

Chapter Text

The next day, Steve didn't go to work. He ignored his phone all day. It kept ringing. Phone calls and texts from all his friends. Mostly Sam (of course, he didn't show up to work and didn't call), and Natasha and Bucky who certainly felt bad about what they did.

He ignored Natasha and Bucky, he texted Sam around noon to tell him he wasn't feeling well and that he would be there around five for tonight's vernissage. He didn't say anything else, he figured Wanda would have told them about his tantrum anyway.

He had absolutely no wish to go, but he had to, probably. He couldn't throw away his career for just one guy. Not showing up to work was one thing, not showing up to his own very first vernissage, on the other end, could ruin all his chances at earning the recognition he had always yearned as an artist. The pressure was not as high as it could have been a couple of months ago, he had a new job prospect in September but he had no idea what this was gonna lead to. He had no guarantee, no safety net. He had to go.

He had to go, for his career but also for himself. He needed to find some meaning to his life. And he had to go for Sam, and for everyone at the shop who had busted their asses planning this. Because they were his friends and because he owed this to them and because he had always made a point at doing the right thing. No matter how dead he felt inside right now, he would do the right thing, in appearance at least. 

At five he dragged himself to Sam's shop, unshaved, his hair a mess. He still showered and made an effort about his clothes, just the minimum.

The first thing he did there was take two shots. He needed that to survive tonight. Sam attempted to make a comment but he cut him short and killed it in the egg.

"We're over," He said in a sigh. "happy?" 

Sam just parted his lips in astonishment.

"I'll come to work, but don't try to talk to me." Steve added, anticipating Sam's further questions.

He saw that Sam had plenty of things to say to him, his disapproving frown said that much at least, but he kept silent anyway, sensing that now was really not the time to start with his I-told-you-so speech or to make comments about his drinking so early in the day.

Steve managed to remain clear-headed however, even if not sober. Enough, at least, to be a decent host at his own party. Talking about his art was already something he was shy about in normal times, right now it was nothing but torture but he sucked it up.

On the positive side, Bucky and Natasha didn't have the nerve to show up at least. He really wasn't in the mood to explain anything to them, or even pretend he wasn't mad at them. Clint did, however. Clint had this sheepish way of making your forget you were mad at him so it was alright. He gave him a sympathetic nod, unsure if he could change it into a smile, but after he saw Steve's face, he decided against the smile.

He came to talk to him for a little while, when he saw Steve wasn't busy with someone else. He had skipped the are-you-okay? question and Steve was grateful for that. He congratulated him and complimented his art, as if he was discovering it for the first time—maybe he was, sadly—and he finally asked him.

"Did you find him?"

Steve needed another drink to answer that question. He refrained though.

"Yeah."

Clint's expression looked a bit unsettled at the curtness of his answer. He wanted to ask "and?" but kept silent, unsure about Steve's reaction. Steve granted him with an answer anyway.

"We're done. I don't want to see him again. Ever."

Clint nodded, hesitant and sympathetic. He didn't push for more, Steve wouldn't have given him more anyway. He was actually walking on a tightrope right now and just wanted to be alone.

The next day Steve didn't get out of bed. The vernissage had been an ordeal for him. 

On Monday, he zombied around at work, closed up on himself, feeling empty and drained. He didn't let any emotion in and did so the next couple of days.

He ignored all his friends, he had no wish to see or talk to anyone, like he was swallowed by his own hatred.

 

It was only a week after their breakup, on Saturday, that Steve got a little taste of what he had sowed and completely broke down.

He saw it on the news while he was drinking coffee before going to work.

That was the thing when you were dating someone like Tony Stark. You could never truly burn the bridges. There would always be something to bring you right back to him and shove your nose into your own shit.

It was just mentioned briefly and not even commented upon. Steve could have almost missed it if he hadn't been paying attention. He only did because he heard the name 'Stark' and his heart had clenched at the utterance.

The words resonated in his head for a few moments after he heard them.

Tony Stark. Twenty-one years old. Howard Stark. Stark Industry. Son and Heir. The Stark Empire. Arrested. Hotel room. Allegedly in possession of drugs. Hospitalized. Five-days bender. Critical state.

It was like a gunshot to his chest. Impact all the kind of serious. It cut his breath short and he felt like his heart had stopped for a minute or two. He found himself unable to breath for several minutes.

After everything that had happened, he thought he really had hit rock bottom and couldn't fall lower, but apparently, he could. Even out of his life, Tony was still breaking him. He was destroying him, tearing him apart bit by bit. He felt like drowning and instead of finding a helping hand, that hand just pushed him back into the water.

His knees gave out and he fell on the floor, panicking. He couldn't breathe anymore. He recognized the signs instantly. He was having an asthma attack. After years of being almost healthy, he was suddenly having an attack.

He managed to crawl to his inhaler just in time and took his medicine before he passed out. He didn't catch his breath for more than an hour following the attack. Everything was blank and swirling around him. His eyes blurry, he felt like vomiting and hated himself for being so weak. There was just one thing that kept him down and miserable, and it was his own guilt. 

He didn't know how he had found the strength to carry his own sorry carcass to Bucky's apartment, but apparently he did, because he was just in front of Bucky's door, ready to knock.

He knocked weakly, his wavering knees barely holding him up. The door burst open and to his surprise, it wasn't Bucky who opened it but Clint, wearing a bathrobe. Steve had no time or energy to think about what it meant. He collapsed in his arms and burst into tears. He couldn't hold them in anymore, they just poured out of him. Clint warmly wrapped his arms around him in a silent embrace. He supported his weight and cushioned his fall on the floor. Bucky came running a few moments later.

They both comforted him silently, while Steve was repeatedly crying "This is my fault. I did this to him. I'm a monster." in a never-ending litany of incoherent sentences. They dragged the sobbing and shivering mess of him on the couch and Bucky lay him down on it, head on his lap while he caressed his head gently, removing his damp hair from his face. Clint crouched next to them and brought him a warm cup of tea that he wasn’t able to touch until it was almost cold.

Neither of them made any comment. They let him weep it out in silence. 

A few hours later, when Steve finally came around. He stood up and it came as a revelation. He made the best decision he probably had for a very, very long time. 

"I'm gonna start therapy." He announced as if he was finally lucid after months of roving in the dark.

Bucky and Clint stared at him blankly, as if they had seen a ghost. They didn't tell him right away, still stunned, but they both approved wholeheartedly of his decision. So did Sam and Natasha, and all of his friends.

Part of his therapy included righting your wrongs and apologize to the people you had wronged. Quite a bunch of his friends earned a deep and sincere apology from him he reckoned. He set about doing it sooner rather than later and pretty much called all of them. He was taking this extremely seriously. He had reached a point he thought he would never be able to come back from and he didn't trust himself anymore. He was going to need to work on that. He needed to rebuild himself, piece by piece, and he would do it, because he was a fighter and refused to wallow himself in self-pity for any longer that he had already had.

 

Steve stayed over at Bucky's for a week. Clint was happy to let him take the sofa bed and share Bucky's room. They were kind of sort of rekindling things between the two of them. Apparently Clint had left his own place and moved in at Bucky's again, even if they were taking things slow. It was a very recent thing. Steve didn't want to abuse their kindness, but he really didn't want to go back to his place just yet. 

After five days and his first therapy session with a colleague that Natasha had recommended, Steve finally found the courage to call Pepper.

He had a lot of time to think on it. The whole thing. The way he had acted, why he had reacted this way, why Tony reacted this way. It couldn't be it. No matter how everyone else thought it was. He refused it. There was more to it than just that. He knew Tony in so many ways. The man he had seen that day didn't sum him up. He refused to believe Tony was that uncaring and insensitive. It couldn't be it, there was something else, and Steve hated himself for letting his emotion cloud his judgement and overwhelm him to the point he lost complete control of himself. How could he have let himself fall so deep? How could he have let Tony's lack of reaction devastate him that much? How could he have let himself be blinded and misled by his false indifference? What if Tony had been hurting that day? More than Steve could ever imagine? What if Tony had been sincere, like he usually was when he wasn't just shrugging?

Tony remained a mystery. A mystery Steve still wanted to uncover but knew he didn't have the strength just yet and he would never do the same mistake again. He would see him again, in time. He would see him again even if just to apologize. He would see him again, he knew that, but not now. When he could stand on his own two feet again. When he was sane and healthy and solid and strong again, he would see him and tell him how much he had loved him and tell him how beautiful he was and tell him that he was sorry for everything. And then, he could move on.

Pepper's tired voice answered the phone.

"Steve," She said with a tinge of gratitude. "I'm glad you called. How are you?"

"I'm okay." Steve answered after a moment, just the time for him to recover from the pang of guilt that threatened to overwhelm him. For a moment, he thought it was too early and that he wasn't ready to face his demons just yet. 

"I'm glad." She repeated, heartbreakingly sincere. He didn't deserve such kindness.

"How is he?" He blurted out, the words flaying his throat like sharpened knives.

"He's fine. Physically, at least. No long time damage, thank god. He spent two days at the hospital and now he's in custody, his father won't bail him out. Says it'll help toughen him up."

Steve felt a cold shiver run down his spine.

"He's gonna go to prison?" He asked with a trembling voice.

"No. His lawyers will have them drop the charges, don't worry about that. No son of Howard Stark ends up in prison, no matter what crime they committed." She sighed tiredly. "He just wants to teach him a lesson. Maybe that'll help him, I don't know."

Pepper didn't sound very much convinced however. Steve's heart wavered.

"And mentally? How's he doing?"

"He's still out of it, mostly." Pepper answered. "He's gonna go straight to rehab after this. He hasn't protested yet. Jim and I have tried to get him help for years. Maybe this time it'll work."

Steve felt the guilt overwhelm him again. "I'm so sorry." He let out in a strangled sob. "This is all my fault."

"Please, Steve." Pepper pleaded comfortingly. "Don't take responsibility for Tony's bullshit. He had it coming, way before you two met."

"Maybe. But you were right, neither of us were ready for this and I still threw myself blindfolded into this relationship. I was the mature one, I should have seen this coming. I was supposed to help him and all I did was drag him down even deeper. "

Pepper breathed heavily at the other end of the phone. "You loved him. Like I did." She said enigmatically, but both of them understood. Loving Tony was painful. "Thankfully, you ended things and saved yourself."

Steve let the silence linger. He could hear Pepper's breathing at the other end of the phone. Silent. Understanding. Sadness and regrets came back and settled in his heart.

He hadn't.

He hadn't saved himself. He hadn't saved either of them. It was all on him, although he wouldn't let the truth of it crush him this time. 

"I didn't though." he whispered, almost out of breath. "I fell down with him. In the worst way."  He didn't know why he was saying all of this to Pepper. Maybe because among all the people he had called lately, she probably was the one with whom he was the least close. Or maybe because she was the only one who could understand, because she was the only one who knew Tony as much as he did, if not better. Or maybe because she was here now, available and listening. "Did he tell you we broke up?" 

"I heard about it, yes."

"Did he tell you how it happened? Did he tell you what I did?"

Pepper sighed at the other end, resignedly. "No."

Steve felt the guilt overwhelm him again and the tears showing up at the corners of his eyes. He repressed a shuddering breath. "I almost beat him." Suddenly the remnants of his guilt and the pain he had been feeling the past weeks came back to him with a nasty backhand. It poured on him unflaggingly. He almost lurched out a sob, feeling the tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. "I hurt him, Pepper." He blurted with a high-pitched  voice, words almost stuck in his throat, wanting to get out desperately, pushing through, against his own will. "The things I've said... I don't know what got into me. It's just... the way he just stared at me, so blank, so—so apathetic. I couldn't take it anymore, his indifference." He almost sobbed and wheezed. "I was supposed to protect him." He blurted, voice faltering. "but all I did was hurt him even more."

Pepper breathed heavily in the phone. She swallowed.

"We all know how infuriating he can be, Steve. You don't know how many times I've wanted to hit him. He's just so irritating sometimes. I'm not condoning, but I can understand. I can understand that under the circumstances, you might say things or do things you regret. I'm not blaming you."

Pepper was being nice. Too nice, it almost offended him. He didn't deserve understanding, he deserved all the blame and the shouting at, and the hatred so it could mirror how much he hated himself. And maybe that was the reason he had called Pepper. 

"Don't give me excuses!" He said almost angrily. "You don't know what happened. You don't know what I did. You don't know anything."

"Steve..." She said plaintively. "Tony's big boy. He can take care of himself."

"Can he though?" Steve almost yelled. "Can he, really?"

Pepper's breathing started lurching.

"I'm pretty sure he didn't tell you what happened that night either, before we argued." Steve let out, voice muffled by his own fears. There was a tremor in his voice and in his breathing. "I mean, what if? What if—what if he needed me that night?" He choked out. His voice was strangled as memories of that night resurfaced, haunting him, adding fuel on the fire of his guilt. "He messed with my head, and I believed all the crap he said to me and I blew a fuse. But what if he did care? What if he wasn't being indifferent but vulnerable and shaken and needed me? I wasn't there for him. I couldn't be there for him." His voice was trembling, faltering as he reconsidered everything that had happened from a different angle.

Pepper was silent. Taken aback maybe. Out of Words.

"You know how he is." Steve went on. "All shrugs and maybes and I-don't-knows. And you know what he always let other men do to him. I don't know what to think anymore."

He heard nothing but silence and jerky breathing. Pepper wasn't taken aback. She was crying, gracefully, quietly. He couldn't almost hear the tears dripping down her rosy cheeks and her green eyes shine with sorrow, in elegant sobriety. 

"No, I didn't." She whispered softly, breathily, after a long heavy silence. "I didn't know about any of that. I never knew about any of that. I never wanted to know."

Steve silently burst into tears and sniffled it in. 

"I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry." He mumbled with a faltering voice and huffed a shaky breath. "Please," he begged, "Please, be there for him. Take care of him."

Pepper let a soft sob out and breathed in jerkily.

"I will." She said, her voice sounding different with the contained sobs.

Steve's heart was bleeding.

Pepper took a deep breath and pulled herself together. "He's alright, Steve." She finally said, trying to be comforting, although Steve wasn't sure if she wanted to reassure him or herself. "He's doing fine. He'll get help. He'll get better."

"I'm starting therapy too." Steve announced, feeling like she deserved the truth and some part of him wanted her to know he was taking responsibility for his actions. 

"Good for you, Steve." She voiced as her breathing seemed to quiet down. "You're a good person. You deserve to be happy."

A warm feeling settled in his chest. He has stopped crying somehow and felt some sort of relief now. As if he had freed himself from a huge weight in his heart. Crying with Pepper had helped unload a bit of his guilt and the unexpected kindness and understanding had completely puzzled him, in a good way.

"He does too." Steve answered, heart clenching. No matter what had happened, he was still in love with that man. He loved him as he had never loved before, both beautifully and insanely. 

"Yeah, he does too." Pepper said, a tint of hope in her voice and then she sighed. "Hopefully, he will."

"I won't be able to talk to him."

"I think it's better if you don't. You two should stay away from each other for a while. Focus on getting better."

It didn't sound as sharp or reproaching as the words suggested, just genuinely concerned. 

"I think so too..." Steve said and then, after a long, though not uneasy, silence he added. "Thanks Pepper. For everything."

"It's okay, Steve. I was glad you called, despite everything. I'll keep you up to date, I promise."

This was unexpected too and rewardingly pleasant. "Thanks."

There was a hesitant silence between them as neither of them were ready to hang up just yet when he heard the soft and pleading voice of Pepper. "Steve," She called plaintively. "He is not your responsibility. Whatever happened, whatever you think you did...it wasn't your fault, okay?"

 

As much as calling Pepper had been painful, it acted like some sort of catharsis.

Once he hung up and for the first time in years, Steve finally saw the end of the tunnel. Finally he could apprehend his future with hope. He had so much more to offer. He had so much more to live for, to experience. He was going to start the job of his dreams in a couple of weeks. He was young and strong and talented and he was blessed with amazing friends.

It was time for him to stop blaming himself for Tony's bullshit. And it was time for him to stop blaming Tony for his own bullshit. He didn't owe Tony his success. He didn't owe Tony his failure either. It was time to take responsibility for everything he did.

His outburst had been latent, for years now. Tony just pushed him over, but he had been on the edge for quite some time already. It was time for him to address his own issues, to work on his anger and his insecurities. He needed to grow on his own and he would, because that's what he did.

He was a survivor.

Chapter Text

"I'm coming right up." Natasha's voice resonated in Steve's phone. Steve didn't have the time to say "no need. I'll be down there in five." that she had already hung up on him.

They were supposed to go brunching now and Steve was unexpectedly late. Something that rarely happened. He had just overslept, feeling good and comfortable in his bed. He had a better sleep lately. Obviously therapy was doing wonders to him.

He was sliding a jumper on his head when he heard the energetic knock on his door that was characteristic of Natasha. "It's open." He shouted from under the wool.

The door burst open and he heard her chipper breathing behind him. "Ah" She sighed happily. "Your elevator is working again. Amazing!"

Steve pulled down on his jumper and shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Has been for months now." He deadpanned.

"Yeah, well, it seems I haven't been in that shithole for a while. Feels weird, like I'm coming back three years before." She exclaimed enthusiastically, a certain fondness in the tone of her voice. "I can't believe you still live here. I mean come on, Steve. You have a job now. You could move out!"

"I like it here." Steve said, not knowing exactly what kept him from moving out. He definitely had the money now, but he felt irresistibly pulled back to this place every time. Like something unresolved lingered here, tying him to this place.

He went to his cupboard to fetch his coat, a beanie, his favorite woolen scarf and gloves but he was stopped midway by Natasha's awed shout of praise. "WOW!" She exclaimed, bewildered.

Steve startled and turned around to see what was turning his friend into marshmallow at the moment. Natasha was rigid and breathless in front of his last painting. He felt a sweet warmth spread inside. That painting had a particular flavor to him. He both loved it and hated at the same time. It had been his very own catharsis. A way to overcome his break-up with Tony. So far the hardest thing he had to cope with after losing his mum. When she had passed away, part of him had died too. Beyond the pain of losing someone very dear to him, Steve had lost his bearings. He had to learn to be an adult too early, too quickly, but despite everything, it still was in the right order of things. Breaking up with Tony had been so unnatural and so unbearably necessary that he had broken down completely. It had scorched him, skinned him alive, scattered every pieces of him away. Steve had needed to look for all the pieces himself and had to rebuilt himself bits by bits on more stable and solid grounds.

He felt better now, but the scars were still visible and the pain still aching from time to time, like a ghost agony. Painting and drawing were his lifebuoy, the one thing that kept him afloat. It made him alive, giving him a way to shed his pain, his sorrow and all the unwanted emotion away. He had poured his heart into this painting.

Steve stared for a second at the beautiful, full-scale back of the man on the canvas. The pure white of his wings and the darkness on them. Natasha was amazed next to him, reduced to silence, eyes marveled and opened wide. Every time he looked at it, he felt a bittersweet pain in his heart, maybe she could feel it too. The sadness of a horrid past and the hope, pure and beautiful, for a grand future. The fallen angel was bleeding on that painting and his left wing was broken and stained with grime and filth, black and slick like oil spill. A darkness that stuck to him, swallowed him like an inescapable chain to his filthy past, but his right wing was pure as white snow, unsoiled and glorious, shining with holiness, like nothing could ever taint him. His eyes though melancholic were hopeful. A shine of faith and splendid determination in them. We could only see a quarter of his face, unveiled by flying hair, but Steve had managed to convey all of this in his gaze. At least he thought he did, that was what he thought when he looked at that man—that angel, coming right from heaven, living among humans, dirtied by their sins but pure always. The sky behind glowered with touches of red and gold that contrasted with the brightening white of his wings and the dark of his eyes.

Steve had never really thought about this painting. Never wondered if it was good or not. It had been his outlet, the rope that securely tied him to his sanity, the one thing that helped him channel his overwhelming emotions. But right now, looking at it with a new eye, with someone else, innocent and unbiased. He looked at it differently. It was his first painting this big and this accurately representative. Usually when Steve painted, he painted abstract. He played with colors, with substances. He wanted his paintings to be appreciated with the fives senses. He wanted to convey emotions that people didn't comprehend but felt, he tried to anyway. Otherwise, he would sketch and draw. It was something completely different. It needed different materials, different skills. It was different work and this time he had mixed both.

"Is that Stark?" Natasha asked, voice soft and understanding. Steve startled. Yes, of course it was, but it was not like you could see it right away. He did try to draw his face as best as he could but you could only see a glimpse of it. 

He didn't really answer with words but Natasha understood anyway.

"It's beautiful, Steve. It's—It's so impassioned and moving. I can feel so many emotions while looking at this. How did you do that? This is a masterpiece!" 

Oh. Okay. Steve wouldn't have said it that way but, well, that was kind of nice.

"You can have it, if you want." He said without thinking and truthfully, it was almost a relief suddenly. He loved this painting, but it also felt like a curse, a constant reminder of that pain and heartache. He didn't know what to do with it. He had wanted to move it away from his living area, like turning a new page and look forward the rest of his life but he never found the strength to do it. Something pulled him back, just like this place held him back. He didn't want to throw it. He loved it too much. He didn't want to keep it either. Too much pain and sadness. And he didn't want to exhibit it, because it felt like exposing his bare heart to the world and he didn't feel strong enough for that yet. 

Natasha turned to him, befuddled.

Her face illuminated with a hundred of emotions. She seemed to consider it for a moment. "What?"

"Take it." Steve said.

She awed. Then her eyes shone with something that couldn't possibly be tears—It was Natasha after all—but brightened her face with gratitude and happiness. "I can't possibly accept this, Steve."

"Why not?"

"Because... Because it's a masterpiece. You need to exhibit it. You need to sell this."

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not gonna sell this. It's private."

"It's beautiful and universal, Steve." She exclaimed, interrupted his humble shyness. "I feel so moved looking at it."

"Then take it. I wanna give it to you."

Natasha had sparkles in her eyes and her face softened, suddenly innocent and shy. She was beautiful and it made his heart clench a little. Natasha had never talked much about herself but Steve knew she had been through a lot.

"I'll buy it! She suddenly blurted. "When I've got the money, I'll buy it."

Steve felt like a twinge in his heart. Suddenly, the idea to lose every connection with it felt impossible for him. He wasn't ready yet. "It's not for sale." He muttered but Natasha saw right through him.

"You don't want to let it go, do you?" Steve gave her a sidelong look and saw her smirking.

"It's not that." Steve protested. Although it kind of was. "I just don't wanna take money from you. You're my friend, I can't do that."

"And I can't accept a gift that could make your career as a renown artist and deprive you from money you earned and deserved."

"How about I lend it to you?" Steve suggested out of the blue. "You can use it, put it on your wall, but it still mine. No money involved."

Natasha looked at him with a fond smile. "You would do that for me?" She said with sparkling eyes and expression fond and absolutely cute. Steve didn't remember seeing so much emotion on her face before. 

Steve shrugged. Yes. He would do that for her, and for himself too. 

"Thank you Steve, that's the most beautiful thing I've ever been given."

"It's not a gift. It's a loan."

She laughed both amused and moved. "This painting is so inspiring. Can I hang it in my practice?"

"Sure."

"My patients would see it, you know."

Steve hesitated a moment. He didn't want to feel exposed. He didn't want everyone to see his scorched heart, but then again, as an anonymous painting in some shrink's practice, it felt bearable, almost liberating even.

"Yeah. Sure. Take it!"

There. That was it. The beginning of his new life. Steve felt like he had had so many new starts already. He was still hopeful. Happiness was waiting for him on the other side of that tunnel.

 

Chapter Text

That morning Steve woke up a little bit later than usual. It was a Saturday, he reckoned he could go to work an hour or two later than his normal schedule. Theoretically, he wasn't supposed to go to work on Saturdays—but then, also theoretically, he was freelance so he could go to work anytime he wanted but if he wanted to make it, he should definitely work more often than not. Therefore, and because he loved it, Steve would usually keep a disciplined schedule and kept at work for a regular amount of time each day. Except on Sundays. One because, Sundays are Sundays and usually he got fucked on Saturday nights. Two because Sundays are also days dedicated to faith and prayers and though Steve had been a bit on bad terms with God lately—let's say the last ten years of his life, approximately—he still had been brought up a catholic and Sundays were sacred. 

Anyway, today was a Saturday and last night he hadn't been fucked but he went out with Wanda and the party dragged and dragged and today he was a bit hangover, in addition to being exhausted. Therefore, he figured he deserved a few extra hours of sleep.

He woke up two hours after his internal alarm clock and took his time with breakfast. Usually, Steve's breakfast was expeditious. He gulped down a cup of coffee and chewed on a slice of bread while running into the elevator. This time though, and maybe because it was later and so he was hungrier, or maybe because it was snowing and beautiful outside, Steve enjoyed eating his breakfast in his apartment. He toasted some bread and ate slowly, sipping  a large cup of coffee with cream—he usually took it black in the morning—watching the small snow flakes dancing outside his windows. He felt a little nostalgic and thought about his mum and the hot chocolate she made with marshmallows when it snowed, when Bucky and him had spent the day out, fighting with snowballs or making a snowman. He felt like calling Bucky suddenly, maybe he would do it later, during his lunch break. He hadn't heard from him for a while (meaning: more than three days ago).

When he got dressed he picked up warm clothes. A big woolen jumper and thick jeans, warm woolen socks that stuck out from his leather boots. He almost took his woolen beanie and muffles, thinking he would walk to work—he wanted to see the snow before it got dirtied by everyone's steps—but he changed his mind at the last minute and changed for his leather motorbike gloves and his warmest motorbike jacket. The ride there was short and he knew he could leave his bike in the underground car park underneath the building. Otherwise, he would never be able to do any work today. He already was running really late by now. He still packed the beanie, the muffles and a huge scarf along with his lunch box. It might be of use later, he never knew.

Steve enjoyed the ride under the snow, even though he was extra careful. He went straight to the car park and ran to catch the elevator. He didn't stop at the common area in the open space, like he usually did, and went straight to his office-slash-art studio, barely waving hello at Maria on his way there. He set about working as soon as he laid a foot in the room. The cold weather had invigorated him, as well as his little trip to memory lane this morning. He felt inspired.

Around three o'clock he was starving. He took his lunch to the common area and heated it up in the microwave. He was alone, having his lunch so late, but later, as he was taking a warm and comforting coffee, he was joined by Maria and two young women he didn't know the name of yet. Steve had always been a little of a loner, and his debut at SHIELD had been a little rocky, to say the least. After the break-up, he hadn't been into socializing that much. He mostly kept to himself and focused on his work. His first issue was been released last month. After nine long weeks of intense schedule. He couldn't meet the monthly schedule normally imposed in the release of comic books. Luckily for him, his contract was giving him some liberties. He was the sole creator of his work, even if some people were helping him with the lay-out, the inking and coloring. He was the artist and the creator and Fury and Coulson aimed at something more detailed, more polished, with better structured stories and deeper characterization and apparently their gamble was paying off. His first issue had been quite success so far, and was exceeding their expectation (for a small publishing house like theirs, launching a new artist no-one had heard off before...)

Steve was more than a little proud, but he kept his mouth shut about it. Let's not let the whole thing go to our heads, shall we?

The two girls might have been new recruits or something because he didn't remember their faces either. Maria would often take care of them. Fury didn't have her patience and Coulson was too busy fussing over him. The three women gave him a shy smile and carried on with their usual gossip. Steve listened to it with an inattentive ear, deeply lost in his thoughts. He was still on the snowy mountains of Switzerland, riding his 1942 Liberator—the same bike Tony had customized for him—in the weaving Alps roads, chasing Nazis.

Suddenly, a familiar name brought him back to reality and he listened more carefully but he had probably misheard. At first he thought they were talking about Maria, because the name came back several time but then, she was here so it didn't seem right and their tone sounded grave and saddened, although very fascinated at the same time.

He kept listening feeling like he was intruding but couldn't keep away, drawn both by the seriousness and morbidity of their conversation. He wasn't really able to pin the voices to their respective owners but was still differentiating them from each other. He guessed it wasn't really important to know exactly who said what. What mattered was what was being said. "This was awful, people were crying and everything, like right in front of the Tower. My god, how can random people react so extremely?"

"Hum. Coming from strangers, maybe, but for people who knew them... I can't imagine the shock. The both of them, and they were still young, too. She will certainly be regretted after everything she did for the underprivileged kids."

"Yes. She was a great woman, an inspiration. My mum admired her. I think I should probably call her, see how she's taken the news. It was so sudden."

"So tragic."

"Sad."

"And I guess it must be quite a hard blow for the employees too. All that uncertainness around it. I mean, who's gonna take charge now? Howard was like the king of his little world, the only man in command, or so I heard. Like every word he uttered was law or something. It's a huge setback for the company. They already plummeted in the stock market."

"I've heard rumors about this. Like some people say this was orchestrated by some rival or something. It's awful. How can things like still exists nowadays?"

"I thought it was drunk driving."

"Well...we'll never know I suppose."

"I pity the boy, though. Can you imagine?  Losing both his parents so suddenly, in such a brutal way..."

"He's going to inherit the Empire his father built. I think he'll be fine."

"Well, I for one, do not envy him at all. All that responsibility weighing upon your shoulders, at such a young age. All the spotlights turned on him... It almost gives me the chills thinking about it.

"You don't really think he'll be the one in charge, do you?" There was a snark huff. "Seriously, Tony Stark? Come on! He's just a playboy and a junkie." 

A sudden wave of chills invaded him and his mind whited out. The last thing Steve was prepared for right now. It was a complete shock. Never he had imagined the first time he heard about Tony again would be about the death of his parents. It was terrible and just heart-wrenching. Steve felt overwhelmed by the pain, sudden and unexpected. A whirlwind of memories and the reminder of a deeper, more ancient but still aching pain.

He snapped out of it when he heard the noise of his mug smashing on the floor. His hand was shaking.

The three pairs of eyes turned to him concernedly. "Steve," Maria called plaintively. "Are you alright?"

Steve looked down at his favorite mug, shattered on the floor, coffee everywhere around him. He even got some on his legs and felt a soft burn where his jeans were wet. He wasn't fine. He wasn't fine at all. He could barely stand on his two feet right now. That was how un-fine he was. His knees almost gave out, for a split second, but he sucked it up and managed not to fall on his butt and clutched to the high bar table he was sitting at a few moments ago. He felt his expression falter miserably however, but he still tried to keep his cool. He would not appear like this at work.

He stammered. "I—yeah, I think so, I...  I mean, what were you guys talking about?" 

The three women rushed to him with napkins and started cleaning at his feet before he realized what was happening. Maria put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Haven't you heard?" She asked with a gentle voice and then confirmed all of Steve's fears sympathetically. "Howard and Maria Stark, they both died in a car accident last night. Everyone's talking about it. It's been all over the news since this morning. I'm really sorry, I heard you're a friend of Tony Stark. It must feel weird for you."

Another wave of panic, completely different however, overwhelmed him and distracted from that deep and aching melancholy. "Where—where did you hear that?"

"I don't know. I thought everybody knew that. Fury said something about it, but it might an urban legend. I don't know. Fury likes to spread fake news to create a diversion." She gave him a soft smile.

"I'm not friends with Tony Stark." Steve lied. He managed to keep his composure despite the turmoil he felt inside. "I just met him a couple of times and he's really bad news. Not good company at all." He deadpanned, falsely indifferent.

"So you do know him?" Maria asked with a high-pitched voice, barely hiding her excitement over another thing to gossip about. "Where did you meet him?"

"I—" He almost said a gay bar, but even after everything, he would never betray Tony like that. He respected him—and himself—too much for that. "I used to work at the diner in front of the Tower." He explained, which was, technically, not a lie. "The Stark family ate there quite regularly. I waited on them a couple of time. His father is—was even more of asshole than him." That wasn't a lie either, technically.

He was still shaken.

He couldn't believe it. Tony's parents. Dead. Tony, still in rehab, trying to get better. He was doing better. He knew that, Pepper had told him. He was supposed to get out soon and start a new research program at SI. What was gonna happen now? How would he handle it? Would he be able to cope without drugs? His thoughts were suddenly all Tony. Tony and his addiction, Tony and his issues, Tony and his hidden pain, Tony and all his secrets and mysteries, never unraveled. Tony so handsome and cute and smart and...vulnerable.

Losing his parents was such a tragedy in itself, but why did it have to happen now? Now that he was trying to pull through, now that he finally had a chance at being happy.

Steve knew what it felt like to lose a parent. What would it feel like losing two? Losing everything. Losing his freedom as well. Steve might not have had a lot of money to start over, but at least he had been free to live his life exactly the way he wanted. He had been free of making all the mistakes he had needed to, to grow up. What would happen to Tony now? Would he ever get that chance? How could a man like him ever escape his destiny?

Steve had never realized it until now. Sure, Tony had been giving some hints, but he had never fully encompassed what it meant exactly to be Tony Stark. He had been quick to judge, quick to accuse, but had never really tried to understand. What was it like really to be in Tony's shoes? To have that kind of responsibility hanging over your shoulders, all the fucking time? Now all that burden was crushing him way too early, way before he was ready.

The whole thing was making him dizzy. It was too fucking much, all at once. The pain of losing someone, that pain Steve knew so well. The remnants of a relationship that turned sour and destructive even before it had really started. The agony of his past wounds resurfacing and slapping him in the face. The phantom of his own guilt and failures haunting him like bitter regrets. All the things he hadn't done, hadn't said, had refused to see.

All he could think about now was Tony, his ex-boyfriend, whom he had loved and hated equally but who would always remain dear to him. Tony, his boyfriend, was becoming one with Tony Stark, the heir. They were two people in Steve's mind before, because he had never really met the heir, maybe he hadn't really wanted to acknowledge him. Now they were merging into one person. One person that Steve still cared for a lot but knew nothing about.

He finally decided to help with the cleaning, because it kind of was his mess after all. He finished wiping the coffee stains from the floor in silence, hiding his tremor from the rest of them and thanked the three women politely before running back to his office. Once there, he rummaged into his backpack and took his phone out. He needed to check it. He needed to see for himself. He still couldn't believe it.

He had kept his phone off all morning, aiming for efficiency. When he switched it on, predictably, the phone started beeping and vibrating endlessly for a minute or so. He had more than twenty messages and half of phone calls. Basically all his friends had tried to contact him, several times. He ignored them for now, too upset, too stressed out. He had a glance the date. December 17, 2016. and felt his mind shot it. It would remain in his memories, like it had been imprinted there for the rest of his life. His heart raced, pounding hard in his ears. He swiped the screen with trembling fingers and went straight to the web, checking the news.

There were already hundreds of articles. The screen screamed at him. Everything and anything had already been written and posted and printed. All the good and all the dirt. The media weren't kind in general. They weren't kind even when it was about 'great men' like Howard Stark who had done so much for the nation. They were even less kind when it was about his spoilt junkie brat who didn't care about anything but getting high and getting laid.

Steve felt suddenly empty, like he had been drained out of his energy. He didn't have the strength to even get angry anymore. (Or that might have been because he had made huge progress with his anger management issue.)

He should call him.

He knew it was a bad and that he really shouldn't call him, but he should call him anyway.

He stared at his phone for a long moment, Tony's contact info blazing on the screen, almost hurting his eyes. He didn't even need it. He had known Tony's private phone number by heart for quite some time now and like many things concerning Tony. He had never forgotten it. Imprinted in his mind, like Tony's parents' death date would be.

He didn't call him in the end, but he texted, and got no answer, unsurprisingly, considering. Steve didn't expect him to. Tony surely had better things to do that holding on to his phone and waiting for one of his numerous exes—who happened to have thrown him out of his apartment and had nearly assaulted him the last time they saw each other—to text him so he could answer him at once. He still wished Tony would answer him. Even with just a thank you text. He just needed to know how he was holding up, if he needed anything, if... if he was going to be fine.

He was realizing that no matter what had happened, he would always be there for Tony. No matter what.

Steve felt beat. He looked at the twenty or so messages and promised himself he would call his friends back. He would call Pepper too. The two of them had kept in touch all this time. She mostly gave him news of Tony but sometimes, they just talked about art or anything that wasn't Tony related. He should definitely call her, because she was his friend too, he supposed, and she was very close to the Stark family.

He would do that. Later. Tomorrow. Soon. Just...not now. In the meantime, Steve dropped his heavy head on his two arms, crossed on the current board he was trying to work on. He wouldn't be able to work anymore today. Not after learning this. Not with the raging headache he was feeling now. He felt like crying, but strangely he couldn't. He was empty of tears, of feelings, of energy, of everything. He didn't have the right to cry. Why would he? He had hated Howard Stark. He wasn't going to cry over that asshole, but he would have cried for Tony. If he still had some tears in him, he would have cried for him.

When he had enough strength in him again, he went out and left his work unfinished, his desk spattered with charcoals and pastels. Something he never did usually, but apparently today was a very unusual day, on every aspect.

It had stopped snowing long before Steve went out. It had been so light it had already melt when he reached the sidewalk. He still left his bike at work and walked home by foot. He didn't feel like riding his bike with the way he was feeling right now. All restless and fidgety. The walk to his apartment building was longer than usual but he didn't really notice. His mind was still numb. He hurried his pace up and collapsed on his bed as soon as he got inside his apartment. He would call his friends tomorrow. 


On Sunday, Steve didn't leave home. He texted his friends, said he was fine. He was. After last night's mishap, he was surprisingly fine. He called Pepper, she was greatly moved and appreciated Steve's condolences—or maybe she was just being polite, she and Steve had had similar education on this particular aspect. She seemed upset and still shaken, like everyone else. It had been a shock and everyone had a hard time to accept it, or even realize. He didn't ask about Tony, she didn't tell him.

Tony still hadn't answered his text yet. He wasn't surprised.

On Monday he went to work with a heavy heart but still happy to go. He took his time again. The last months had been tough on him. He reckoned he was allowed to take it slow for a few days. He was his own boss after all, technically. He could do whatever he wanted and he had no wish to return to the same pattern and make the same mistake again. He wouldn't ignore his pain to have it come back at him tenfold like a fucking boomerang.

He found his desk in the exact state he had left it when he hurried out of his office, feeling like he was choking and gasping for air. He cleaned his mess and set about working.

After about half an hour, Phil knocked on his door softly and brought him a warm mug of coffee with cream. Phil had been waiting on him hand and foot every since he started working in September. Phil was just a really nice guy and he believed in him like he hadn't believed in anyone else before. Furthermore, everyone knew Steve had been through a really bad break-up during the summer. So they tried to go relatively easy on him—except that homophobic motherfucker Rumlow who took pleasure spilling salt on his wounds every chance he got. It didn't matter, Steve could handle the pain and the relentless bullying. He didn't even pay attention to him anymore.

"You okay?" Phil asked concernedly. Steve looked up to meet his gentle eyes. "I heard you were a bit upset on Saturday." Well, news traveled fast. How was he even surprised, really... 

Steve gave him a reassuring smile. "Yeah, I'm fine. I was just a little hangover, not a big deal. I'm a bit tired lately, wintertime is weighing on my mind."

"Oh. Right. I thought it was because Howard and Maria Stark's deaths."

Steve looked at him with a startled expression. "Why would I be upset about the Starks?" He really needed to kill this rumor in the egg before it spread and became embarrassingly bothering for both him and Tony, although, talking about Tony's parent's death in such a detached tone felt weird and unnaturally bitter on his tongue.

"Oh. I thought... Don't you know the Stark boy?"

"I really don't know where this rumor comes from but I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with Tony Stark. I just met him a few times when I was working at the Tower diner."

His own lies surprised himself even more than they did Coulson. It was scary, and so unnatural for him, to be able to lie with so much conviction and acting skill. He was becoming a scary person. Or maybe it was what it meant to be growing up? It wasn't anybody's business anyway. He had absolutely no wish for people at work to know he used to knock about with Tony Stark. That part of his life was shameful enough as it was, but mostly, it was now bygone past. Even if Steve's heart was still carved with bittersweet scars. It would take longer to get over Tony, but he had recovered and mostly he had forgave himself he thought. And that the most important thing. He was ready to see him again.

Phil looked embarrassed and almost blushed while he looked away, avoiding Steve's cold and indifferent stare. "Everyone here is convinced that you're Stark's secret lover or something."

Steve genuinely opened his eyes wide. He didn't even have to fake it this time. Then he snorted and gave Phil a roll of his eyes and a soft smile. Everyone couldn't be any more right, he thought. "This is preposterous." He exclaimed, almost offendedly. "He's not even gay." He didn't know why he had felt the need to add that second part. Maybe part of him wanted to respect Tony's wish to remain in the closet, publicly at least. Although he wasn't even sure Tony wished that, he just assumed he did.

"Oh, well... I guess, you are and that's enough for everyone's mind to go wild. You know how the girls like to gossip..." Phil said with a gentle smile. And then he shifted the conversation to work, which was, mostly, the sole reason he was taking care of Steve in the first place. 

Steve loved working with Coulson. His suggestions and ideas were always relevant and perfectly suited. He also loved how he always presented them, without judgement, always brought up softly, suggestively. They were never aggressive like Fury's sometimes would. 

Working helped him a lot. At the end of the day, he felt better. Exhausted but light-headed. And, as inappropriate as it may seem to some people, the whole episode actually helped him in his work. This pain he had felt about Tony, the way it had brought up forgotten feelings and painful memories, about their relationship of course, but also about his mum. And his dad even, or rather, the aching absence of one. All of that pain turned into sweet melancholy. 

He was proud of what he had drawn. He felt he had managed to convey the agony that his hero had felt when losing his best friend on that train. He hoped the readers would feel it too. The story still gave him chills, remnants of his own grief and sorrow, but it was fiction and the chills were healthy and cathartic. 

On Tuesday night, Natasha called, fed up with waiting for him to call back. Steve had mostly ignored his friends, feeling like he would wait a little before having to deal with them fussing over him like he was this fragile little thing that needed protecting. He really didn't need any of that right now. He answered though.

"Hey. What's up?"

"Don't give me that, Rogers. I've been worried sick about you." Natasha replied, tone cold and heartless.

"I'm fine, Nat. I really am. I won't deny it came out as a shock but I'm okay now. It's just been really weird."

Natasha's breathing seemed to settle down at the other end of the phone. "Did you call him?" She asked with a much kinder tone, free of any judgement.

"I texted. He didn't reply."

Steve didn't feel any bitterness about it. He understood perfectly why Tony wouldn't bother answering him right now. He had been through the same thing. Answering people's messages had been the last thing on his mind, then. He did remember how grateful he had been, however, about all the kindness and support he had received. Steve didn't want or need any reply, he just wished Tony was alright. He wouldn't hold it against him if he was too busy to answer. He wouldn't hold it against him if he didn't want to have anything to do with him ever again either. He couldn't deny they had parted on the worst of terms. He would understand.

"He probably has other fish to fry." Nat said, trying to go for comforting. 

"I guess so," Steve sighed. "I'm not expecting him to. The first week is always pretty hectic. He must have received hundreds of messages like this."

Natasha hummed in agreement. 

"I'm glad you're coping well. You sure you okay?"

"Yes, Nat." Steve answered, a slightly exasperated tint in his voice. "I'm not the one who lost his parents. I'm fine. I'm really fine. I'm not going to melt every time something happens. You guys need to chill out and take it easy." He realized that, for once, he wasn't lying.

"Sure. Yeah. You're right... You're right. Sorry, I know you're a big boy and you can take care of yourself but—just—you don't have to, okay? You don't have to deal with everything on your own. That's all I want to say."

"Thanks Nat. But I think I'd rather deal with this on my own, right now."

"Okay." Natasha said, not trying to push things further. She knew how to step back. There was a short moment of silence before Natasha changed the subject. The twists of Steve's current mental and emotional state were old news now. "Do you know when is the funeral?" 

"Saturday." Steve deadpanned.

"Are you gonna go?"

"Of course, I'm gonna go. I will pay my respect, that's the least I can do." Pepper had nicely given him all the information concerning the funeral.

"I thought so." Natasha said acceptingly. 

"You're not gonna try to talk me out of it?"

"No." she answered indifferently. "I know I won't be able to anyway, so why bother?" Steve could hear a soft smile on her lips. "That's so you, in every way. Besides, I think it might be a good thing that you're going. Maybe it'll help. You need to make peace with what happened."

Steve chuckled softly, feeling a soothing warmth in his belly. "I'm mostly going for him though. Even if I doubt I'll see him, I wanna be there."

"I get it Steve." She muttered in a sigh. "You're a really good person, you know that right? You're a good friend and Tony was lucky to have you in his life. Everyone would, Steve."

Steve was rather thinking it was the other way around, though. The good things were outgrowing the bad things with time. He remembered everything that was good about them now. All the things that had changed in life since Tony, because of Tony. What didn't kill you made you stronger, right?

Steve didn't reply for a moment, feeling the warmth spreading. "Thanks Nat."


The funeral was surprisingly simple for two people like Howard Stark and his wife, that Steve was realizing was actually pretty famous and really appreciated too. The ceremony was beautiful, however, and the speech really touching. It was a forlorn, purgative moment. Everyone was crying, regretting two souls departed much too early. Hundreds of people were there for the ceremony, even though it was a private one. A more public, more spontaneous ceremonial march had been held last Sunday. Thousands and thousands of anonymous people had wanted to pay tributes to them.

Steve was hidden in the crowd of friends and business partners. All the hot shots and celebrities who had come to pay their respects, or because it was the place to be, Steve wasn't really sure. He even saw a few faces he had met at Tony's birthday, like the one he had punched for instance. Everyone was sad and crying however, even Hammer, and no-one had disturbed the mourning family's grief. Some anonymous were there too, maybe employees of Stark industries. Maybe admirers. Maybe former partners. Their eyes all turned to the two dark, sumptuously uncluttered caskets surrounded by their closest friends and family.

Right there, beside the priest, Steve recognized Pepper who stood in front of an older couple he identified as her parents. She was crying dignifiedly. He recognized Rhodey, wiping tears from the corner of his eyes, standing close, in silent support. He recognized Happy, too, hidden on the side with red and puffy eyes. He had been weeping flows of tears. Happy had probably been the closest one of the couple, driving them everywhere. Witness of their lives, of their griefs and happiness. A silent confidante for both of them. There was another man too. Older, dignified and classy with a touch of British elegance. He had arrived on a wheelchair but stood up for the ceremony, supporting himself on a cane. Steve knew that it was Edwin Jarvis, their former butler that Tony had mentioned a few times. Jarvis had noble tears at the corner of his eyes too but was way too polite and private to share them with everyone.

In fact, there was only person who had never shed a tear. One person that was standing straight, face cold and heartless, pouting almost haughtily. His eyes turned toward the future, icy and determined. He hadn't wept. He hadn't sighed. He hadn't even cringed or faltered.

Not once.

He had remained there, unmoved, still, cold and indifferent during the whole ceremony. He hadn't even spoken in memory of his own parents. Someone else had, on his behalf. Another man that Steve had never seen or heard of before. Apparently he was Howard's partner. He was tall and broad, bold with a hard face and a white, furnished beard. His expression was open and jovial but it seemed fake, just like his heavy weeping seemed fake. He must have been pretty close in any case, because he was standing right behind Tony, an inescapable hand on him that he had pressed on his shoulder the whole time. Supportingly, other people would say, but Steve had felt uncomfortable seeing it, like a paternalistic and controlling grip on him, rather than a paternal comforting gesture, and Steve could see how Tony's jaw clenched at the man's touch. It was slight and indistinguishable for someone who didn't know him the way Steve knew him, but Steve could see right through it. 

He hated that man instantly. He had hated him in more than one way. Firstly, his speech had been truly offensive and inappropriate in Steve's sense. He was talking business and reassuring shareholders and clients alike, while everyone was weeping and grieving the loss of people who were dear to them. Steve understood that it was important, but he thought there was an appropriate time for everything and right now, when people were saying goodbye for the last time, it was neither the time, nor the place to do it. Secondly there was something about him, something he couldn't exactly pinpoint but that gave him chills. He hated the way he was touching Tony, the way he spoke, the way he wept coarsely. Everything about this guy was repulsive. But maybe it was just jealousy, for he would have liked to be the one there to support Tony in this terrible moment. 

Steve was standing far, in the crowd of anonymous people. Except he probably was the only one here who had hated the people he came to honor—yeah, well, maybe not. Howard Stark had a lot of enemies—but at least, he probably was the only who had come for Tony, and not for Howard, or Maria, or to be seen. He hadn't had the chance to meet with Tony but he still felt it was important for him to be there. It was very important to pay his respect and even if he had never really known Tony's parents, or liked them for that matter, and even if he and God were currently on bad terms, he still prayed for them, because it was important. But it also felt important because he had seen Tony one last time, even from afar. He had watched him say goodbye to his parents, but also to his old life, and he had seen that Tony seemed to be doing fine, in the circumstances. Somehow, something loosened up inside him. A knot he hadn't known was there. It felt like closure.

After the ceremony, Steve didn't stay long. He had done what he had come to do, there was no need to drag it out. He considered going back to work but decided against it. He wasn't in the right mood for that. He needed to wash all of this away before going back to work. He had already ruined several boards by insisting to work when he wasn't in the right mood. It wouldn't buy him time, on the contrary. Besides, it was almost Christmas. He deserved a break. He called Clint instead, one because he knew Clint was free—his shift didn't start before seven p.m—and two because Clint had always a sort of laid-back attitude and he needed the distraction. In addition, he knew Bucky was busy working out at this time and he really didn't need his overprotecting ass fussing over him right now. Laid-back was exactly what he needed, not oppressing concern.

He spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games at Buck's and Clint's, eating chocolate candies and drinking beer. He still was a bit shaken with the whole thing, but the heaviness was gone, he thought.

He was properly buzzed when he got back home but not completely drunk either. He knew his limit. He fumbled with the lock and almost stumbled inside.

Something was different.

He startled and his heart heaved in his chest in panic. There was someone in his apartment. He could feel it. He saw something move around the window and when his eyes finally adjusted to the darkness of the room, he could see a tall silhouette in the dark. A silhouette that he would always recognize at the first glance, even drunk, even in the dark.

"Tony?"

It was a shock at first, but soon it became something natural, like old habits you can never truly forget. It should feel wrong, having Tony in his apartment after everything.

Seeing Tony from afar, mourning his parents among his close relatives, was one thing. Seeing him now, when both of them were vulnerable and grieving, should feel scary but it wasn't. It felt strangely comforting and easy.

Tony's eyes turned to him, silent and glimmering in the dark.

"Fuck!" Steve let out, trying to settle his heartbeat back to a normal pace. "You scared the shit out of me. What the fuck are you doing here, in the dark like that? Have you been here long?"

Tony didn't answer but Steve was able to decipher the characteristic movement his shoulders made when he shrugged. He had turned his face away because Steve couldn't see the glow of his eyes anymore. 

"I was just watching the buzz in the street outside." He finally said nonchalantly, completely avoiding all of Steve's questions. It didn't really matter he supposed. Tony was grieving and mourning his parents, he was allowed to keep his motives unclear for today.

Steve looked at him silently for a moment, heart pounding in his chest. "Do you want something to drink?"

He wasn't really sure how he felt about this. Weird, for certain, but there was also some sort of warmth. He had been in love with that man and even though it was over now, there were still lingering feelings that were warming or weighing the atmosphere between them.

He wasn't sure what to think of it yet, but it didn't feel wrong. More like some kind of silent truce between them. A sort of parenthesis in the middle of their cold war and respective healing process. A parenthesis where Steve could be there for Tony and where Tony trusted him and wasn't scared of him, like he should have been after the way Steve had treated him. But Tony trusted him and Steve didn't feel any resentment at that moment. Only compassion and a deeper, understanding affection. 

"I helped myself already, but I'll have coffee if you make some." Of course he'd make some, if that was what Tony wanted.

"Sure."

Tony went back to watching outside the window, still hidden in the dark, his forearm leaning on the corner of the window frame, right above his head. "Nothing has changed here." He said absentmindedly. "It feels like I've traveled back in time."

Steve chuckled and finally switched on the light, at least in the kitchen, because Tony persisted in staying in the dark. Maybe he was hiding something. Maybe he had been crying. Steve wasn't sure.

He fussed around the kitchen in silence and let Tony brood on his own. He glanced at him, still leaning on the window frame in a nonchalant, laid-back position. He had a certain detachment in his attitude and in the tone of his voice that was both cold and warm at the same time. It could have been just any day for him, he would look the same. It was unsettling.

Steve felt a bit weirder considering the situation. He felt like the death of Tony's parents weighed on his heart more than it weighed on Tony's. He remembered the cold stare of the man during the funeral. Icy cold and unconcerned. It hadn't shocked him at the moment, but now the memory of it gave him chills. He glanced at his back again and wondered for a moment if Tony had been affected by the loss of his parents or not. He wondered if he had realized yet or not. And then he remembered