Tony doesn’t know what to say to Steve and, as far as he can tell, Steve doesn’t know what to say to him. So, they don’t talk. Now that the team’s back together they go out on missions but afterwards Steve never talks directly to him, and Tony never talks directly to Steve. Somehow, still, the team functions.
He’ll catch Steve, sometimes, looking at him during a debriefing; all eyes and beard, hair falling onto his face like some kind of 90s grunge star because apparently that whole look wasn’t just a lack of razors while on the run, it was a choice. Tony doesn’t trust himself to look back at Steve, just stares down at the table in the conference room until it’s all over and he can leave. He’s trying to be a good member of the team, for Peter’s sake if nothing else, but every fibre of his being wants to activate the suit and hide behind it.
Steve wraps up, not that there’s much to debrief about some kid manufacturing robot goats to run amok in the city, and Tony gets up to leave. He’s almost out the door when he hears Steve’s voice saying his name and that—Tony pauses, looking at Natasha as she passes by him, and sighs to himself when she raises an eyebrow.
And, goddamnit, Steve’s never taken that tone with him before. Tony steps back and lets the other team members leave, noticing the way Bucky looks between them like he’s deciding if he should say something. Instead, off a look from Tony, he shakes his head and leaves the room. Bucky’s the last to go, closing the door behind him, and then it’s just Tony and Steve with Tony fighting the urge to throw himself out of the window.
“What is it?” Tony asks, taking his seat again. He pushes his chair back and swings his legs up onto the table in an attempt to put some distance between them.
“We haven’t talked,” Steve says, forearms resting on the table as he leans forward like he’s trying to close the gap between them. “I thought—”
“No,” Tony interrupts. “We don’t need to.”
Steve looks down between his hands, and when Tony glances over at him, he can see the furrow on his brow. “I think we do,” Steve says quietly. “We can’t—I can’t go on like this.”
“We function as a team, Rogers,” Tony says, staring up at the ceiling behind his sunglasses to avoid looking at Steve, wanting to end this conversation as quickly as he can. “What more is there?”
There’s a long pause from Steve, but then there’s the sound of a chair being pushed back and Tony’s jaw tightens in response. Setting his feet down, Tony watches Steve take a few steps around the table before stopping halfway and leaning against the wall. “You’re at least civil with everyone except me,” Steve says, his hands by his side. “You and Bucky watch movies together, but—”
“No, that’s not—”
“So what is it?” Tony asks, patience starting to fray the longer this goes on. “What do you want from me? I’m trying. There’s no magic wand to wave around here, Rogers, believe me, I’d be the first to use it if there were.”
“Do you think I like this? That I live every day wanting to forgive you but not quite getting there? That after everything, after the world almost fucking ending, I still can’t get past it? It’s exhausting.” Tony takes his glasses off and drops them on the table, rubbing his eyes before he drops his hands to his thighs, leaning back in the chair. “If you’ve got some new idea on how we can do this, then feel free to let me know because I’m at a loss.”
Steve doesn’t say a word as he pushes off the wall and walks over to Tony, standing directly in front of him and, for the first time in a long time, Tony meets his eyes without hesitation. There’s a stubborn set to them, along with something else Tony hasn’t seen in a while and he watches in disbelief as Steve sinks to his knees with an audible thud. “Rogers—you can’t—”
“I am sorry,” Steve says quietly as he runs his hands up Tony’s thighs. “Let me show you.”
And, really, Tony knows exactly what he should say here, what he should do; he should push Steve’s hands away from him and stand up, walk out and not look back. That’s what he should do.
That’s not what he does.
Steve’s got a question in his eyes as he looks up at Tony, and Tony swallows around the lump in his throat before nodding, hoping like all hell he’s not going to regret this. Steve’s fingers are quick as he fiddles with the undersuit Tony’s still wearing, and it doesn’t take long before Steve’s hand is wrapped around Tony’s cock, stroking him to full hardness. Biting his bottom lip, Tony clenches his hands into fists and tilts his head back, hating how good Steve’s hand feels, how much he’s missed someone else touching him.
At the feel of Steve’s mouth on him, Tony groans and digs his fingernails into his palms; looking down at the top of Steve’s head, he tries to resist touching him because he—if he does, it turns into something different, something more. Not that Tony’s entirely sure what this is, or what’s going to happen afterwards, or—. “Fuck,” Tony breathes out, breaking the silence that’s settled over them in the conference room. “Rogers, I—” Steve’s working Tony like he knows each and every part of him, like he can see exactly what Tony needs to get off, and it’s impossible for Tony to deal with.
Steve looks up at Tony, locking eyes with him, and there’s a choking sob rising in Tony’s chest that he doesn’t want to let out. Unable to look away, Tony brings his hand up, biting down on his fist as Steve flicks his tongue just right and Tony comes hard, his entire body tensing as Steve swallows around him.
They’ve still barely talked, and Tony’s at even more of a loss for words after whatever this encounter was. Steve’s still on his knees and there’s come on his bottom lip that Tony wants to lick away, chase the taste into Steve’s mouth as he kisses him. But he doesn’t. He watches Steve wipe his face with the back of his hand and doesn’t say a word. Steve doesn’t move as Tony reaches down to tuck himself back in his pants, trying to ignore the way Steve’s looking at him.
Tony stands up, snatches his glasses from the table and pushes past Steve, his breath coming in short, sharp gasps as he exits the conference room. Getting in the elevator, Tony presses a hand against his chest and sinks to the floor. “Workshop,” he manages to get out. Regulating his breathing, Tony tips his head back and stares up at the ceiling trying to get his head around what the hell just happened.
So maybe he doesn’t come out of the workshop for five days. It’s fine. He has a stash of food, and DUM-E puts a blanket over him when he’s exhausted enough to pass out, so Tony figures that until something serious happens, he doesn’t need to leave.
Except, apparently, the people in this building care about him. Steve used to be on Tony-duty after Pepper and before—well. Everything. Tony never revoked his access codes, but Steve hasn’t used them since he got back, and so far five days in the workshop hasn’t been enough to change that. Not that that’s what Tony’s been hoping for while he’s been hidden away in the workshop.
Bruce has left muffins outside his door because stress baking has become a thing for him since his whole trip through space, and Tony’s not going to argue with that when the results are so tasty. Looking around to make sure no one’s there to drag him out of the workshop, Tony opens the door and is about to grab them when Bucky’s arm comes shooting out and takes them instead.
“Hey,” Tony exclaims as his hands grasp at empty air. “Bruce didn’t make enough for everyone?”
“This isn’t about the muffins,” Bucky says, peeking inside the bag. “At least, not entirely.”
“So you’re just lurking around and jumping out at me because you’re bored?”
“No.” Bucky hands the bag over to Tony and looks around like he’s expecting someone else to be lurking in the shadows. “Can I talk to you? I can get Natasha down here if you don’t want to be alone with me.”
Tony shrugs and steps back inside the workshop, waving a hand. “Come in.”
Taking a seat on the couch, Tony sticks his hand in the bag and pulls out what looks like a blueberry muffin, biting the top off it and raising an eyebrow at Bucky. “What is it?” he asks around the muffin.
“What happened with you and Steve?” Bucky asks, leaning against a table.
“Nothing,” Tony says, looking down at the bag after swallowing the mouthful. “Why?”
“Because he’s acting weird and you’re in here all the time which, according to Nat, isn’t something you do anymore.”
“Do you two have nothing better to do than gossip? What, did you flip a coin to decide who talks to me?”
Bucky laughs and comes to sit down next to Tony, holding his hand out. “Give me a muffin,” he says. “And no, we didn’t flip a coin, I volunteered.”
Tony hands over a muffin and sinks back into the couch. “You might regret that.”
“No, they’re amazing, I don’t know how Bruce does it. Volunteering to talk to me.”
“How much do you want to know about your buddy’s sex life?”
The resulting spit take from Bucky sprays muffin all over the workshop and Tony can’t even regret it because it’s the funniest thing he’s seen in weeks. DUM-E comes speeding over with a cloth and Tony waves him off, grinning as Bucky hacks up muffin bits.
“Fuck,” Bucky says eventually, his mechanical hand pressing against his forehead. “You did that on purpose.”
“I actually didn’t,” Tony says mildly. “But I do have excellent timing.”
“Okay, jeez, so, what, you guys screwed after the last meeting?”
“Not exactly.” Tony looks away, grabbing a screwdriver and a leftover project from the floor and starts fiddling with it. “Why do you want to know? Something happened, neither of us want to deal with it, and, well, that’s status quo around here.”
Bucky sighs and stands up. “Look, I’m not gonna get in-between you two, especially considering...” Bucky drifts off before shaking his head. “But you should at least get out of the workshop. Die Hard marathon, one hour.”
“Again?” Tony asks, looking up at Bucky with a raised eyebrow.
“I like ‘em.”
“Of course you do.”
“One hour,” Bucky says, pointing at Tony. “Or else someone’s going to come and grab you out of here.” With that, he pats DUM-E on the head and heads out of the workshop.
Tony sighs, dropping the screwdriver and what might’ve been part of a toaster at some point to the ground. Pulling his legs up, he rests his chin on his knees and closes his eyes; he probably should’ve realised Steve wouldn’t be okay, even before Siberia he wasn’t one to drop to his knees and suck off people at random, but—he doesn’t get why Steve did it, and asking would reveal way too much.
Most of all, Tony hates how much he liked it, how he still thinks about it, and how he’d give almost anything to have it happen again.
Steve turns up halfway through Die Hard 2 and sits on the floor, leaning back against the couch with his shoulder brushing against Tony’s leg. Tony looks down at the curve of Steve’s neck, the relaxation of his shoulders and he wonders if he should say something. When he quickly glances around the room, Natasha catches his eye and quirks a smile at him before looking away, and Tony just settles back into the couch, refocusing on the sight of John McClane.
Sam calls for a snack break before the third movie, and it seems like everyone except Steve leaves, which in itself is weird because Steve’s appetite rivals all of the rest of them put together. Tony shifts, wondering if he can move his legs without Steve noticing, but then Steve wraps a hand around Tony’s lower leg, leaning a little closer, and Tony freezes, his entire body going stock still.
“I’ll let go if you want,” Steve says. “But I—please?”
Tony swallows his protest at Steve saying please, but he’s still not exactly sure what Steve wants, or what he’s getting out of this. “It’s okay,” he says eventually. “Don’t let go.” Steve’s shoulders relax again and Tony bites his bottom lip as the others walk in, Bruce handing him a bowl of popcorn before taking a seat on the couch. Tony purposefully doesn’t look at the rest of the team, even as Bucky taps him on the shoulder as he passes by, because he has no clue how to explain this.
The next thing Tony knows, he’s waking up in an empty room with a blanket over him and a cushion wedged under his head. “FRIDAY? Where’d everyone go?”
“To bed, boss.”
“Huh. Why didn’t anyone wake me up?”
“They were going to, but Captain Rogers said to leave you.”
Tony sits up, shaking his head in an attempt to get the sleepiness out of his head. “Thanks, FRIDAY. Wait, where is he now?”
“In the gym.”
“I thought you said everyone went to bed?”
“That’s where he was,” FRIDAY says. “He woke up and went to the gym.”
Tony rubs his eyes and sighs, because of course Steve is awake now. Whether it’s because this is his usual wake up time, or for some other reason, it’s gone 5am and Steve is in the goddamn gym. Tony should know better than to go and find him, if anything he should go to bed and carry on sleeping, but that would be sensible and, well, Tony’s not exactly making sensible choices lately.
Making his way through the compound, Tony stops outside the doors to the gym before taking a deep breath and pushing them open.
Steve’s at the punching bag, working it hard, and Tony wonders just how long he’s been at it because his tank top is drenched through with sweat. Stepping just inside and leaning against the wall by the door, Tony can’t stop himself from watching Steve’s body, tracking the elegant and controlled brutality that Steve’s always been so good at dishing out.
“I know you’re there,” Steve calls out, not stopping in his movements.
Tony startles and walks over, he sinks down onto the floor with his back to the wall, out of the way of the punching bag, but close enough that he can keep his eyes on Steve, knowing that Steve can see him. Really, Tony should apologise and leave, go to bed or to the workshop, whatever it takes to not be in Steve’s presence, but there’s no point in Tony even pretending that that’s going to happen.
As Tony studies him, Steve starts slowing his blows, and Tony can see the exhaustion on his face, sweat making his hair stick to his skin, and even with everything else going on between them, Tony can’t stop thinking how fucking hot Steve looks. Tongue darting over his lips, Tony looks away and closes his eyes, the sound of Steve’s fists hitting the bag bringing back dulled memories, things he thought he’d got over or, at least, made some kind of progress with.
It’s the silence that breaks him out of it, the dull thud of fist on canvas no longer echoing around the room, just the harsh sound of Steve sucking in air. Tony opens his eyes and is confronted with Steve standing there, shoulders hunched over as he looks at Tony, uncertainty in his eyes. “Take a seat,” Tony says, patting the floor. He’s more surprised than he’d like to admit when Steve does just that, sitting on the floor opposite Tony, his knees awkwardly drawn up to his chest.
Of course, now that Steve’s sitting with him, Tony’s back to not knowing what to say. There’s a lot he could say; words that, once they come spilling out, he wouldn’t be able to take back. Words that could permanently destroy the very fragile balance they have that means they’re able to save the world together, even if they can’t save whatever they have between them.
“I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” Steve says eventually, not looking at Tony as he unstraps his hands. “That wasn’t my intention.”
“The blowjob or when you cuddled my leg?” Tony asks, not even to be an asshole, just to see what Steve’s reaction will be. Turns out, it’s nothing more than a brief pause while he tugs at the wrap on his hands.
“Both, if you want, but I feel like the cuddling made you more uncomfortable.”
And, well, Tony never said that Steve wasn’t perceptive. Stretching his legs out until his foot rests against Steve’s hip, Tony tilts his head and quirks the corner of his mouth in a half smile. “You’re probably right,” Tony says. “But you don’t need to apologise.”
“I don’t know what else to do,” Steve says, staring down at his hands, hand wraps discarded behind him. “I don’t—I know things can’t go back to how they were, Tony, I wouldn’t want that anyway, but I want something.” Steve lets out a defeated huff and shakes his head. “Even if I don’t know what that is.”
“Hey,” Tony says, kicking the side of his foot against Steve’s hip. “You think I know what to do here? What I said to you in the conference room, I meant it but I—I don’t want you to think that I’m not trying to get past it, that it’s all on you, or that you have to apologise by getting on your knees because I—” Tony breaks off and sighs, rubbing a hand over his forehead. “That made me feel like shit.”
Steve’s head snaps up and he looks stricken, water rimming his eyes and—fuck, that’s so not what Tony intended with this.
“I didn’t—I’m sor—”
“Don’t,” Tony interrupts. “Please don’t apologise again. I don’t want it and it’s not helping.”
“I could’ve said no,” Tony says calmly. “I could’ve walked away from you. And, Rogers, not exactly a new thing for sex to make me feel shitty.”
“You realise this is the longest conversation we’ve had in years?” Steve asks as he crosses his legs.
“No, it’s—” Tony pauses, his mind racing through the handful of times they’ve spoken since Steve came back. “Oh.” Looking down at his legs, picking at the Stark Industries logo on his sweatpants, he shrugs. “Do you think we’re doing okay?”
“I have no fucking clue.”
Tony can’t stop the laughter that bubbles up inside him at that, and his face creases with delight as he laughs, loud in the silence of the gym. Steve’s looking at him like he’s lost his mind, but it only takes a moment before he smiles tentatively, his voice a low chuckle at first, but then he’s soon as lost to the laughter as Tony is.
Tony wipes at his eyes as he starts to get control of himself, still watching the shake of Steve’s shoulders, and the smile he hasn’t seen on Steve’s face in way too long. As his laughter dies down, Steve’s hand lands on Tony’s ankle in a firm grasp and the next smile that crosses his face is aimed directly at Tony.
It takes Tony’s breath away.
Moving slowly, Tony shifts to his knees, dislodging Steve’s hand, and moves forward, telegraphing his intentions as best as he can. When he’s close enough, he reaches a hand up and touches Steve’s face, fingers running over the bristles of his beard, tracing the fullness of his bottom lip. Steve’s letting him do this, watching him closely, the hint of a smile still playing over his lips, and Tony takes the opportunity to curl his hand around the back of Steve’s neck, his hair still damp from his earlier exertions.
Tony stops, meeting Steve’s eyes and waiting for Steve to push him away, to jerk his head back, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t. Leaning in, Tony presses his mouth against Steve’s and—.
He doesn’t know what he was expecting; fireworks, maybe, after so much build up, after everything that’s happened between them, but there’s nothing like that. Instead, it’s just a simple press of his lips against Steve’s, but it’s everything Tony didn’t know he was looking for.
Shifting back on his heels, Tony breaks the kiss, his fingers lightly tugging on the ends of Steve’s hair before he lets go. He watches in fascination as Steve lifts his fingers and touches his mouth almost absently, quickly moving his hand through his hair when he realises what he’s doing.
“My turn to apologise?” Tony asks, not sure he wants to hear the answer.
“No,” Steve says, hoarsely. “No, Tony. It’s not.”
Somehow, and Tony’s not sure how, they end up eating pancakes together in the kitchen in a comfortable silence with Steve reading the paper and Tony flicking through his tablet. Bucky looks between them when he comes in before shrugging and shuffling over to the coffee pot and pouring a mug out, eventually taking a seat at the end of the table.
Natasha doesn’t say anything when she comes in, just picks blueberries from Tony’s plate and drinks her tea, a mint blend that Tony may or may not steal some of when even he thinks it’s too late for coffee. Sam’s not far behind her, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the edge of his shirt, he drains a bottle of water before he starts pulling food out of the fridge.
“Look at these,” Tony says, flicking an image from his tablet up so Natasha can see. “You want them?”
“You’re asking if I want new weapons?” Natasha asks, pulling her right leg up on the chair and resting her cheek on her knee. “How much do you think I’ve changed?”
“Not that much, obviously.”
Sam sits down with an omelette he’s pulled together on the stove and starts eating, smacking Bucky’s hand away when he tries to steal some toast. “Make your own damn breakfast,” Sam says around a mouthful of food. “You know you’re capable.”
“I’m capable,” Bucky says, trying to get around Sam’s arm that’s now curled protectively around his plate. “I don’t want to.”
“Tough,” Sam says, pointing his fork at Bucky. “You need to get your hands away from my food.”
“I know you were taught how to share,” Bucky says. “Come on, just some toast.”
Bucky sighs, looking around at the table. “Steve, tell him to share.”
“I’m not your dad,” Steve says, not looking up from his paper. “Bucky, you can make your own breakfast. Either do that or go out, but no one here is making it for you.”
“You made pancakes for Tony,” Bucky says, and with that, the room goes quiet.
Tony very deliberately doesn’t look over at Steve, keeps his focus on his tablet, messing with the schematics on the mini batons for Natasha as he hears Steve choke on his coffee.
“That’s—how do you know that he didn’t make them himself?”
“Because Tony only ever makes pasta, coffee, or smoothies, and you still have syrup on your plate, ergo, you made enough for two.”
There’s a sigh from Steve and then Tony’s foot gets a nudge against it that makes him look up. Steve’s got one elbow on the table, hand cupping his coffee mug, paper discarded next to his plate, and he raises a questioning eyebrow at Tony. Tony lifts his shoulders in an almost imperceptible shrug before tapping his fingers along the table watching as the corners of Steve’s mouth turn up slightly.
“I made Tony pancakes because we were both hungry.”
Bucky outright grins, and Tony suppresses a groan as he points a finger over at Bucky. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”
“No, I really want someone else to make me breakfast, but when the opportunity presents itself, you gotta take it, right?”
“I really hate you,” Tony says, and he thinks it’s a sign of how far along they are in their friendship that Bucky just laughs before reaching across the table and tapping Natasha on the arm.
“Come for breakfast with me?” Bucky asks when she looks up. “I’ll buy?”
“If it’ll stop you whining,” Natasha says. Nudging Tony, she points to the design he’s working on. “I like them.”
Bucky and Natasha leave without much more fuss, and Sam heads out of the kitchen saying... something, Tony’s not really paying that much attention because Steve’s draining his coffee and looking like he’s going to run off.
“Why did you do that?” Tony asks, catching Steve’s foot under the table. He’s under no illusions that Steve could just yank his foot away from where Tony’s got it hooked between his legs, but Steve doesn’t, just stays where he is.
“Told them I made you pancakes? I thought that you didn’t mind, did I—I thought I read that right.” Steve says the last few words almost to himself, eyes lowered and his chin dropped.
“No, you did, Steve, you read me perfectly. I just—I don’t understand why.”
“Because we’re still the leaders of this team,” Steve says, his brow furrowed as he talks. “When we got back together as a unit, it—you and I, we could work in the field but when it came to this? You and I on a personal level? We let it fester because we didn’t know what to say, or, at least I didn’t know—”
“I didn’t either,” Tony interjects. “It wasn’t just you, we both carry that blame.” Tracing patterns on the table with his fingers, Tony ducks his head. “Probably me more than you. I knew what I was doing, I knew that forgiving Bucky but not talking to you would push you, would make you angry.”
“It didn’t make me angry, Tony,” Steve says. “I was glad you and Bucky were spending time together, but I—” Steve breaks off, huffs out a soft laugh. “You were right, before, when you said I was jealous.”
Tony looks up and raises an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“You made it seem like it was easy for you to forgive him, and I know it wasn’t, but that you could sit there with him and watch movies? Play poker with him and Nat but never talk to me? That—it didn’t feel good.” Steve reaches across the table and takes Tony’s hands in his, holding them tightly. “You said you didn’t want apologies anymore, and I get that, I do, but this last time, please hear me when I say that I’m sorry for lying to you. If I could go back and undo it, tell you before everything got so fucked up, then I would.”
“Don’t say that, given our lives someone might actually come along and do that to you,” Tony mutters. “I accept your apology,” he says, making sure to meet Steve’s eyes as he says it. Judging from the way Steve’s face lights up, those might be the four most important words Tony has ever said, and part of him hates how long it’s taken to get to this point; where he can say them and mean them without any caveats. “Forgiving Bucky? That was always going to be easier than forgiving you because I didn’t know him. You—you were in my life every day after you found out what happened to my parents. I trusted you, we ran this team together and—” Tony cuts himself off. “You know the rest,” he says, shaking his head.
“I missed you,” Steve says, squeezing Tony’s hands.
“Back at you, Cap.”
Steve rolls his eyes at the nickname, his hands still clasping Tony’s, and he looks off to the side for a moment before looking back at Tony. “You kissed me.”
“Seemed like the thing to do,” Tony says, tugging his hands out of Steve’s grip and trying to ignore how bereft he feels once he’s no longer in contact with him. “I—you blew me.”
“That was a mistake.”
“Not the—I don’t regret it,” Steve says, getting up from the table and refilling his mug of coffee, putting four teaspoons of sugar in it. Turning around, he leans against the counter, his mug in his hands. “I regret the way I went about it.”
“But you don’t regret, I mean. Me?”
“Tony, no,” Steve says instantly. “Never.”
“Oh. Okay then.”
There’s the clink of Steve putting his mug down on the counter, and then Tony’s chair gets picked up, turned to face Steve, and Tony—he’s staring wide eyed at Steve as Steve settles the chair on the ground again. Dropping to his knees, Steve touches Tony’s chin and fixes him with a soft gaze. “I like you.”
“Are we in seventh grade?”
“Do you want me to write you a note and pass it to you via Bucky?”
“Oh God,” Tony groans. “I really hate you.”
“I never could,” Steve says, standing back up and picking his coffee up. “Even when—I thought I could talk myself into hating you but it never worked.”
“Me too,” Tony says, running his hands down his thighs before he stands up. Closing the gap between them, he takes Steve’s mug and takes a sip of coffee from it, wrinkling his nose at how sweet it is. “Though, having tasted that, I may hate you now.”
“I’m just saying, coffee is coffee, that is coffee flavoured sugar water.”
“No one told you to steal it from me.”
“Fair,” Tony says, handing it back to Steve. “Point is, I never hated you. I missed you, I hated what happened between us, I couldn’t ever figure out a way to fix it, but I never hated you.”
Steve puts the mug back on the counter and rests his hands on Tony’s waist. “So if I do this, then—”
“Yep, good plan, on board with it.”
“And if I—”
“Steve, just kiss me already”
And he does.