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lie next to me (blood on your shirt)

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Tony’s had a lot of life-altering moments. 

There was that time he first drank whiskey. The time he first turned on DUM-E. The time he got a call telling him his parents were dead. The time ten years later when he found out that Obadiah was the one to orchestrate the death of his parents.

None of them quite live up to the suckerpunch of being told his boyfriend, Steve, is really a mob boss instead of the live-at-home artist that Tony had been lead to believe.

As in, he’s punched as he’s being told. Repeatedly. 

At first it doesn’t add up- sweet Steve, Steve who does crosswords, Steve who blushes when Tony invites him up to his room, Steve who sketches Tony in a notebook and kisses him on the cheek before he leaves.

Steve, who is the best thing Tony has, who treats Tony like he's the same thing to him.

It doesn’t add up, even when Tony watches a video clip of Steve killing eight men with a gun and then his bare hands and then threatening what he’s going to do if they mess with him again. He’s very descriptive. Tony wonders where he learned those phrases, if they were passed down or if he coined them to watch his enemies shake.

It doesn’t add up until it does, and by that time Tony is lying on his side and is fading in and out of conciousness and he can hear Steve snarling like a wild dog, can see him through his swollen eyes shooting bullet after bullet into chests, backs, heads.

Sweet Steve and this Steve, this Steve who uses a brick to cave in a woman's head when she comes at him with a knife. Blood marks his face, stains his already-stained shirt, and Tony remembers all those times Steve came to him and said something about getting pasta sauce spilled on him. 

There's Bucky, too- Bucky Barnes with a gun held in his metal hand attached to his metal arm, and Natasha Romanova using her whole body like it's a weapon she was taught to use far too young. And Steve, Steve at the head of them, Steve with his teeth bared, Steve heading straight for Tony and taking out whoever is in his way like it's just an inconvenience.

Tony watches, his vision fading as Steve’s elbow comes back with deadly precision to crack a man’s jaw, and then Steve twists to snap his neck. He lets the body drop and his arm straightens and shoots three men in less than three seconds. One of them land near Tony, close enough that Tony can hear him gurgle blood in his mouth, twitching violently. Another bullet enters his head, and the man stops twitching.

Steve's hands- those fingers have been inside him, he's kissed the back of Steve's palm, he's felt those nails drumming on his collarbone. Slow, finger by finger in a steady beat that got Tony to sleep faster than whiskey ever could. And now those fingers are covered in gun oil, and that palm is scraped, and those nails are crusted with blood and dirt, both fresh.

But then those hands are on him, bloody and dirty and scraped and gentle, gentle as they always are with Tony, and Steve is saying his name, saying sweetheart, telling Tony to stay awake.

The last thing he feels before sleep claims him is Steve’s careful, steady fingers wiping the blood off his face.

 

 

 

The conversation that comes later is by no means pleasant, and is just as hazy as the last few days have been, only this time with good drugs. Tony slurs a lot and Steve apologizes a lot and there’s a lot of angry kissing.

"You said," Tony accuses. "You said, the first time, you said you wouldn’t hurt a fly."

"Still wouldn’t," Steve says into Tony’s neck. "Unless it hurts me first. Or someone close to me."

Bucky is off to the side, looking uncomfortable, his non-metal arm in a sling, Natasha next to him, and Tony eyes them over Steve’s shoulder. 

"You killed them," Tony says, to al of them, and Steve pulls back, his eyes wet. 

"I- we did. And if, Tony, if it’s too much-"

"You’re kind of sociopathic," Tony cuts him off, a hand curving down Steve’s face. "When- when things happen, to other people, you pretend to care, but you don’t. I’ve been faking things for a long time, I can tell when others are doing it. But when Bucky came in that one time with a sprained wrist, or when Peggy nearly got hit by that car- you give a shit."

Steve’s throat works, something like guilt behind his eyes. “Buck says I kill for the people I care about and don’t much mind for the others. He’s the same. Nat, too.”

"Natasha," Tony says, eyeing the woman who he had seen wrap her thighs around a man's head and kill him. "The scary redhead you introduced me to three months ago? She’s in on this, too?"

"She’s- loyal to me."

"Loyal," Tony repeats, trying it out in his mouth. "To you. Holy shit, Steve."

"I know," Steve says, head bowed. He raises Tony’s hand to his lips, kisses his palm, and Tony has seen him plow through men like he’s made for it, seen those lips stained with blood. "Tony, I’m so sorry you had to go through this."

From the door, Bucky clears his throat and they both turn to him. “Stark put up a hell of a fight,” he says, eyes on Steve. “Fought with everything he had. Half of those are defensive wounds. Guy built himself a bomb in there, it was the only reason we found him in the first place, that explosion. If we trained him up a bit, I bet we could-“

"No."

"You bet you could what," Tony says, and Steve jerks, looking at him.

Bucky keeps his eyes on Steve, and Natasha talks over him this time. “It’d be useful, having Tony Stark around. From the footage I’ve seen, he’s a bit of a badass himself, just needs the proper training.”

Steve’s jaw works, and Tony touches it, the muscles moving under his fingers. 

"It’s your choice, Tony," Steve says finally, eyes as earnest as they were when Tony thought the only work he did with his hands was charcoal sketches.

Tony laughs, and it hurts all over, twinges his ribs and tugs at the cuts on his mouth. “You know I’m in,” he says. “I want to see these bastards hang.”

"I’ll take care of it," Steve promises, squeezing his hand, and then, at Tony’s look: "We’ll take care of it."

Bucky sighs, but he’s smiling. “This is either gonna go really, really bad or really, really good," he says, and Natasha hums.

"Either way, it’s gonna go really, really bad for whoever we’re up against," Tony says, and his grin makes his split lip bleed.

Steve kisses him, light and then harder, and Tony tastes his own blood in Steve’s mouth and thinks that he could get used to this.

 

 

 

"Thought you hated him," Steve comments one day, when Bucky is loosening the straps of a guy they’ve just pressed for information.

Bucky snorts. “Stark? Yeah, guy’s an asshole.”

"And?"

"And so are we," Bucky says, shrugging. His fingers skid in the blood, and the guy in the chair whimpers. "Shuddup," Bucky tells him, before turning back to Steve. "We go out for drinks sometimes."

Steve cocks his head. “Where am I while you guys are drinking?”

"Usually scaring ten years off of someone’s life," Bucky says, and undoes the last strap so the guy slides from the chair to the floor, crying out in pain as his wounds come into contact with the ground.

"Ever sleep with him?"

Bucky snorts again, and when he claps Steve on the shoulder, he leaves a handprint of blood. “What, and encroach on your territory? I value my limbs being intact, Steve.”

Steve’s mouth flickers. “Wouldn’t do that to you, Buck, you know that.”

"Mm," Bucky says, ignoring the guy’s cries as he drags him over to get hosed down. "Yeah, but you’d pull your punches a little less when we spar. And you’d make life harder with your moping."

"I don’t mope," Steve says, eyeing how the guy keeps trying to crawl away from them even with Bucky holding him tightly.

"You mope," Bucky says. "And when Cap mopes, everybody’s lives get a little harder and your enemies come out more worse in the wash than usual."

"Haven’t noticed."

"Bullshit you haven’t noticed," Bucky drawls, and pauses for a second as his eyes catch on the whimpering man’s torso before sighing. "Steve."

"Yeah?"

"Guy’s Hydra," Bucky says, and pulls up the guy’s shirt to reveal the telltale ink stamp etched into his skin. 

Steve’s lips thin, but he continues to smile. 

"Should we-"

"Nah," Steve says, and the guy whimpers again, blood bubbling with it, as Steve comes forwards. "Let him crawl back into his hole. Let him tell his boys what happens when they mess with the Captain's people."

He bends, forcing the man’s chin up so he has to look at him, even while scrambling against Bucky’s metal arm, better than a crowbar to hold him down, and Steve’s fingers holding him fast. “Clear?”

"Clear," the guy blurts, nodding wildly. "I’ll tell them, oh god, please don’t-"

"See," Steve says, and pats the guy on his bloody cheek before straightening. "Can’t kill everyone to get what you want, Buck."

Bucky picks the guy up again. “O Captain, my Captain.”

Steve nudges the guy with his foot, who howls, his broken leg provoked even further, before Steve is stepping over him to get out the door.

"Get Nat to drop him off," he calls over his shoulder. 

"Nat's busy," Bucky says. "What about Pegs?"

"If she's fine with it," Steve nods.

"Do we leave him with a souvenir," Bucky yells, and Steve’s broad shoulders lift and drop.

"Always do, Buck." 

 

 

 

Steve hasn’t been unarmed while out of the shower in years, and even with the knife strapped to his thigh and the blade in his boot and his pocket, he still feels naked without a gun somewhere on his person.

He’s been in a lot of tense situations- bombs about to go off, deals gone wrong, a not-so-civil meeting with one of his rivals that goes sour- but at least when he did those, he had a gun on him. Had something to hold and aim and shoot, and now all he has is a couple of knives and his fists, and he probably doesn’t even need to use them, which is what makes him squirm the most.

In dangerous situations, Steve knows what he has to do. He fights, or gives orders, or both at the same time, barking something back to his boys while swinging a punch.

He knows his place, when he’s doing that. But here, in midst of suits that cost more than Steve’s childhood apartment and hundreds of fake smiles and champagne glasses that Steve keeps wanting to snap at the stem, he’s at sea.

He tries to hide it, and decides he isn’t going all too well when Tony leans over halfway through the thing and tells him to unclench.

"I’m unclenched," Steve says, forgetting to smile for a second before dragging it back up. "This just- it ain’t my scene, is all."

Tony hums. “When you aren’t paying attention, you slip right back into that Brooklyn accent, did anyone ever tell you?”

"Nah," Steve says, overdoing the accent just to see Tony smirk.

Tony’s healed, mostly. After the kidnapping, Steve had hunted down every single person even remotely connected to putting those marks on Tony’s body, but every time he looks at Tony and sees the cut near his nose, the arm in a sling, he has to stop himself from coming up with more people to hurt. God knows there always are some; Steve is never lacking in enemies.

Though, neither is Tony. He’s been learning to fight, and from what Steve hears, is getting a long list of potential enemies as he cuts his ties from some bad apples in SI. 

"Tony," Steve hears to his right, and has to shove his hands in his pockets to stroke the knife he has hidden in the lining when he turns to see another plastic, wine-heavy smile coming for them.

Tony’s schmoozing expression is in place by the time the woman arrives, making Steve cringe internally every time. “Bella,” he croons. “Beautiful Bella. You’ve been breaking hearts, I’ve heard.”

Her laugh reminds Steve of when he shows up to a meeting for someone he doesn’t particularly want to meet. Most of those end in spilled blood, and honestly, Steve would prefer it right now.

He scans the place again, searching for an outline that looks like it might be a weapon, anyone who he recognizes, who might try something.

"And you’ve been getting beat up," Bella says, and Tony’s face flickers as she ghosts her fingers over his bruises. "Aw, poor Tony! What happened, I heard it was a skiing accident in Burma?"

"Next time I’m not going to drink while they’re telling me the instructions," Tony says, smile tight and awful. "Bella, this is Steve."

Bella turns to Steve like she hadn’t noticed him there, her eyes going snakelike. “Nice to meet you, Steve! And what is it you do?”

He takes her hand when she offers it: hers is small. Smooth. Wouldn’t be able to punch anyone without breaking a knuckle, Steve assumes. “What needs doing, here and there,” he answers. 

Bella runs her tongue over her teeth, something creeping into her expression that Steve really doesn’t like. “Mmm,” she purrs, before turning back to Tony. “I’ll just get the others over here, shall I? They’ve all been dying to see you,” she says, and Tony doesn’t have time to make an excuse before she’s calling across the room and two more people are making their way over.

"Whatever happens, keep calm," Tony says out of the corner of his mouth to Steve, soft so only he can hear, smile in place. 

"I usually do," Steve says. It’s true- he’s pulled his gun with hardly an uptick in his heartbeat. He’s stepped over bodies without blinking. Sure, he can go into a white-hot rage where he knows exactly what he’s doing but does it anyway, but there’s always an undercurrent of calm there, always something precise about how his fists hit a body. It’s always him in control, even when he’s beating someone to a bloody pulp.

They don’t touch until they make it out of there, after the thinly-veiled comments got too much for Steve- it hurts him to see how used to it Tony is, how he could probably keep going, keep taking the barbs for hours and give back just as good as he gets- and he excuses them both.

"I couldn’t take the heat," Steve says once they’re out in open air. His hand fiddles with the point of a blade in his pocket. "Sorry."

"Don’t be," Tony says, his face carefully blank, the way it will be until they get into the cab and Steve will kiss his neck, rub around the hurt places, press his body up against his and whisper until Tony looks alright again. 

Steve bumps their shoulders. “Think they liked me?”

Tony huffs a laugh. “I call them vultures for a reason, Steve. People are their chess pieces that they use when they’re convenient and get rid of them when they aren’t. They want to use you to worm their way to me.”

"I’d like to see them try," Steve says mildly, his finger pointing into the blade in his pocket so hard it starts to bleed.