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In Dreams

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“So, it’s some kind of coma?” Steve asked, turning to give Bruce a frustrated look before looking back through the glass window where Tony lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of machines, most of which Steve didn’t recognize.  One he did, though.  Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing. That was what Tony called it.  Steve privately thought the name had been just Tony’s clever way of downplaying just how much time and energy Tony had invested in the idea of creating alternative memories, though he’d never said as much to Tony. 

“Yes.  No.  Sort of?” Bruce replied, scrunching up his face.  “The BARF stuff, it used to, you know, project the altered memories onto a sort of digital infrastructure, but you kind of need a—well, a whole lot of sophisticated pieces to make that work, okay?  So, he’s been tinkering with it, apparently.  Upgrading.  All that nanotech stuff, I guess, though I don’t know why he—”

“Bruce,” Steve cut in with a sign.

“Yeah. Right. Sorry,” Bruce winced.  “Okay, so it somehow interacts directly with the hippocampus now, no need for a digital interface.  The user can just…re-experience the altered memories filtered directly through the BARF device into the brain.  Or something.”

“And you think whoever had him, they used this to somehow get him to cooperate?” Steve asked for what was probably the third time.

“Look, this is all way, way out of my wheelhouse, Cap, but…yeah.  Basically,” Bruce replied. “Friday’s gone all over the data, backwards and forwards, and that’s the best way to put it.  All of this is, I mean, this isn’t exactly textbook stuff, here, but yeah.  We think so.  Whoever had him somehow hacked the BARF program.  Nanovirus, Friday says.  That and a shitload of psychotropic drugs. Anyway, somehow, they got in, and—and used to create experiences, or dreams, more accurately.  So realistic that he can’t distinguish what’s real, so it’s maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s, ‘The world’s ending, Tony, and we just need you to give us all your security passwords or whatever.’  Friday’s still going through everything trying to find a leak, but in the meantime…”

“In the meantime, they left him like this and he’s….” Steve trailed off, leaning close enough to the glass so that he could see his breath fog the window in front of him.

“In the meantime, he’s locked in this dreamstate—coma, is what the doctors are calling it for lack of a better word—but the mind isn’t meant to deal with this much altered data being sort of constantly dumped into it,” Bruce said again, though slower this time than when he’d they’d first gotten Tony onto the Quin-Jet. “It’s too much.  The brain is designed to have some downtime, you know, and this constant overload, it’s…he’s…it’s not good, Steve.  Real not good.”

“Why not just…shut it off?” Steve asked.  “Why this?  Help me understand why you think this is the only way, because, Bruce, even if you’re right, I’m not so sure I’m the one who…I just don’t know if it’s a good idea. For it to be me.”

“We tried just shutting it off, and he nearly went into cardiac arrest. There are fail-safes built into the BARF system to avoid just that, because, as it turns out—Tony,” Bruce said, glaring at the prone figure with a crisp, white sheet pulled up to his chest, “screwing around with your brain and your memories is all kinds of dangerous.  I know, I know, I’m not one to talk about experimenting on yourself, fine, but,” he stopped and rubbed at his temples.  “We shut it off like that,” he said, snapping his fingers, “and maybe we don’t get him back.  Or we don’t get all of him back.  The thing with this tech, it’s—it’s giving him what he wants to see.  What he wants to experience.  Pulling him out of that, the brain fights back, you know? And between that and whatever that nanovirus did to the tech, I—I think that’s a last resort, to tell you the truth.  Which is where you come in,” Bruce said, holding up a hand to stave off Steve’s protest.  “I know you don’t like it, but what?  We gonna send me in there?  BARF shows me something the other guy doesn’t like and how’s that going to end for everyone? Exactly.”

“You really think the serum will help,” Steve asked. 

“Maybe.  Truth is, I don’t know.  But, I think it gives you the best shot to be able to fight the effects of the BARF and the nanovirus.   Friday will sync you two up and use the BARF to sort of, I guess you’d call it “project” Tony’s dream into your mind, but—you know how sometimes you’re dreaming and you know you’re dreaming?  The idea is that it’ll be like that for you.  Serum’s going to keep fixing whatever is happening in your brain, so you can get to Tony and help him realize what’s happening,” Bruce explained again.  “Talk him out of it.  Slowly. If he can realize it’s all just in his head, Friday thinks he can use the nano-implant’s HUD interface with the BARF to sort of shake himself out of it.  Like throwing up those spikes in the road during a high-speed chase.  In a very technical sense.”

“If you really think this is the best way,” Steve said.

“Of our really crappy choices? Yes.  But, I’m not going to lie, even with the serum and the safeguards Friday will put in, there’s some risk here, Steve.  We’re way past anything you can read in Grey’s Anatomy on this. The doctors don’t even want to hear it.  They want to unplug everything and take their chances, but Tony…brain damaged?  Tony, for Christ’s sake!  I—I had to try,” Bruce stuttered to a halt, swiping a hand across his mouth.  “Look, this is me, Cho and Friday with a Hail Mary, but—but I think if we don’t do something, I think it’s going to be bad, okay?  If we do this, it might be bad anyway, but…I think it’s the best shot we have.”

“Then let’s do it,” Steve replied grimly.

It didn’t take long to get the various wires and leads hooked up.  Dr. Cho oversaw everything via a video monitor, assuring him with her usual composure that they would be keeping a close eye on his vitals, though at the moment, she and Bruce were going over whatever dosage protocol they’d cooked up for what was supposed to help ease Steve into the appropriate state of consciousness. 

Clint had helpfully suggested horse tranquilizers, which, somewhat concerningly, he apparently had on hand, though he claimed they were for the farm.  He’d been eyeing Bruce at the time, though.

“Hey,” Steve said, tapping his finger against Nat’s arm where she hovered next to him, keeping a watchful eye on Tony.  “Don’t let them pull me out too soon.  Promise me, okay?  Not before Tony’s out.”

“You know that’s not going to be my call,” she replied. 

“I’m not coming out without him,” Steve said.  She glanced away, towards the bank of monitors where Friday was running whatever program she had created to allow Steve’s version of the BARF to interface with whatever Tony was seeing.  Dreaming.  

“We’re not losing both of you to this,” she said, though she was still staring at the displays, as if they held answers. 

“Nat--” Steve began.

“Just go get him, okay?” she said, then leaned down and placed a quick kiss to Steve’s brow. 

“I think we’re ready on our end,” Bruce announced, walking back over and gripping the bright metal rails on the side of the gurney where Steve was laying.  “You sure about this?”

“I’m sure,” Steve said. 

“Listen, ah,” Bruce started, swiping his thumb against his lip and twisting his mouth into a grimace.  “Whatever you see in there, it’s—I mean, it’s not real or anything.  It’s just, you know, a dream or whatever.  Something to keep him from trying to throw off the tech.  Like a fantasy sort of thing.  Keep him docile, so he doesn’t even really care about figuring it out, see?”

“I know that,” Steve replied. 

“I’m just saying, don’t, ah.  Don’t let it throw you too much, okay?  Whatever it is, just go with it.  Kind of work with whatever you’re seeing, you know what I mean? You want to ease him out of the dream, not waltz in there and start ripping the walls down,” Bruce reminded him.  “So, if he’s dreaming he’s having dinner with…I don’t know, Einstein and last year’s Playmate, just sort of sit down and hash it out over appetizers, or whatever.  Slow. Easy.  You get what I’m saying?  Don’t freak out or something.”

“I know, Bruce.  You went over all of this,” Steve replied.  “It’ll be fine. Bruce,” Steve said sharply, catching the other man’s attention.  “I grew up in New York City in the thirties and then went off to war in Europe with a bunch of twenty-year old guys away from home the first time.  Believe it or not, sex came up a time or two.  I think I can handle whatever fantasy Tony’s mind can come up with.”

“I—yeah,” Bruce said with a shaky laugh. “I know, I’m—sorry.  Sorry, it’s the…see, there was a cartoon of you.  Saturday mornings for like four years.  Cartoon Cap would always end the show with these little PSAs…stay in school, don’t do drugs, all that.  I mean, I know, you’re you, and not—it’s just, sometimes, you’re kind of, but I get it, I do, I mean, we all have a public side and—”

“You saw the after-school specials, huh?” Steve asked with a deep sigh.

“Guess you…missed that e-vite?” Bruce said with an apologetic flash of a smile.

 “Tony made popcorn,” Nat supplied helpfully, patting Steve’s shoulder. 

“I’m ready when you are, Dr. Banner,” Dr. Cho called out from the monitor. 

“Okay, right. Here we go,” Bruce said, punching a few buttons on his tablet. 

“Night-night time.  Sweet dreams, big guy,” Nat added.

“Nat, remember,” Steve said, catching her gaze for a long moment.

“Count down from a hundred for me, okay? This, ah, this may feel a little weird,” Bruce warned, then pushed a large, red button.

“One hundred,” Steve dutifully began.  “Ninety-nine.  Ninety-eight. Ninety-sev—”

The world went hazy and soft at the edges. He could still hear noises in the room.  The steady beeping of the machines.  Friday’s mechanical voice. Bruce’s deeper tone.  But, they were distant, muted, as if he was on the bottom of a pool looking up.  Steve blinked once, slowly, then everything went dark.

He opened his eyes to brightness.  No.  Not brightness. A light.  A sliver of blue light, cutting a bright line through the darkness.  He blinked again.  Not a line of light.  Light escaping under a door, he realized.  He was in the Tower.  As soon as he thought it, it seemed crystal clear, and he wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before.  He was in a hallway in the Tower.  The hallway outside Tony’s room.  There was an Iron Man painting hanging next to his shoulder done by six-year-old Callie, who won a contest at her library in Scranton with it and gotten a fifty-dollar savings bond and a certificate.  Iron Man was handing out glowing flowers to a group of people, two cats, and an iguana with a collar that said his name was Earl.  Tony had asked for a copy and given her a full scholarship to the college of her choice one day.  Steve remembered thinking how casual Tony could sometimes be with his generosity, throwing money around like it meant nothing.  Maybe it didn’t mean anything to him.  It was hard to tell with Tony, sometimes. It had been great press, Steve could freely admit, but then the painting showed up in the hall outside Tony’s bedroom and stayed there, and Steve wondered at it.

Steve looked at the familiar painting for a long moment, then shook his head.  Ahead of him, the light peeked out from under Tony’s bedroom door.  He walked toward it, then stood outside, hesitating.  Sounds drifted through the door.  A low moan.  A soft thump.  Tony’s voice, begging, all soft and enraptured.  The wet slap of flesh on flesh. Steve swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat. 

Okay.  Okay, so it wasn’t like this was totally unexpected.  Bruce had warned him, in Bruce’s usual non-committal way, and it wasn’t like Steve was one to judge as far as fantasies were concerned.  Really, definitely not one to talk there. So, Tony was having some kind of sex dream.  That was…fine. Normal, even, really.  Certainly, not surprising that Tony’s mind, with the help of whatever combination of drugs and technology he was dealing with, would conjure up something like this to keep him occupied in this artificial dreamscape.  Made sense, really, Steve told himself.  He remembered what Bruce said.  Ease Tony out of the dreamstate.  Work with whatever he was given. 

Yeah. Great. How the hell was he supposed to work with Tony having amazing dream sex with someone?  Mind if I cut in, probably wasn’t the way to go, given Bruce’s admonition not to try to jolt Tony to instant awareness.

With a sigh, Steve reached up and knocked on the door.  No response.  He tried again, harder this time, and got a long, shuddering groan.  Fine, Steve thought, gritting his teeth.  He turned the knob and pushed open the door, intending to apologize for the intrusion.  Intending to shield his eyes, give Tony some privacy, even in his dream.  Intending to offer an excuse why he was barging in.  We need you in the lab, Tony.  Important message from Thor, Tony.   Clint reprogrammed the coffee machine to only accept those little pod things, Tony.  Something. 

Intending to do a lot of things. 

Whatever it was he was planning fled from his mind in the fraction of a second it took for Steve’s mind to catch up with what his eyes were seeing.  Tony was sprawled out in the center of his bed in a puddle of red silk sheets with the reactor node glowing a soft blue from the center of his chest.  His legs were spread wide, and Steve was thrusting deep, in and out, holding Tony’s ass at an angle while he kneaded the soft flesh.  Steve was also kneeling with a knee on each side of Tony’s chest, and Tony’s wrists pinned above his head with one hand and the other braced against the top of the headboard while he fed his cock into Tony’s mouth.   Another version of himself, small, pale and sickly thin was licking a long, lazy stripe up the underside of Tony’s cock while it jumped in time to the thrusts, and looking at Steve over the ridge of Tony’s cock with a lascivious sort of challenge in his eye. 

Steve stood there at the door, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.  He was shaking his head, opening and closing his mouth, trying to force the image to form into something else.  Something that made sense. 

Tony groaned, a choked-off, sputtering, wet sound, and the Steve who was fucking into his mouth reached down to wipe a line of spittle from the corner of Tony’s mouth with a bright, red glove.  This Steve was wearing Steve’s old uniform, he realized.  The first one Tony had seen him in, when they’d argued all those years ago on the helicarrier and then fought side by side like they were born to do it.  The uniform Coulson had designed, though Steve didn’t think Coulson had really been thinking about ease of face-fucking Tony Stark when he’d arranged the zippers and catches.

“You’re doing so good, Tony.  So good for me,” Helicarrier Steve whispered.  “Is this okay?  Is this what you wanted, Tony?  Am I—oh, jeez, that’s…yeah—am I doing it right? Are you sure this is okay?  Do you like it?  Is that good?” Below him, Tony’s eyes opened, then fluttered shut, and he moaned again, throat bobbing and working as that version of Steve rocked his hips, sending his cock deeper into Tony’s throat. 

“You should try his,” the skinny version of Steve suggested mildly, then gripped the base of Tony’s cock and angled his mouth around the head, hollowing out his cheeks as he sucked.  His other hand found one of Tony’s nipples and started to rub and twist at it while he sucked. Above him, Tony groaned again.

“Fuck, I’m going to come,” the Steve who was pumping his cock in and out of Tony’s ass grunted out. That one was, strangely enough to Steve’s mind, wearing the same outfit he’d been wearing that day in the conference room when they’d argued about the Accords.  His jeans were pushed down to mid-thigh, and his t-shirt bunched up at the waist, so Steve could see the flex of muscle as he drew out, leaving just the tip of his cock catching on Tony’s red-rimmed hole, before he rammed back in, rocking Tony’s whole body with the force of the thrust. Tony managed a keening sort of whine around the other Steve’s cock, then promptly had it shoved further in, cutting off the noise.

“Going to be so full, aren’t you, baby?  All filled up, the way you like, right? So good for us.  Tony, God, fuck, I’m gonna come,” he shouted, then slammed into Tony’s ass with a final, brutal thrust, followed by stuttering, jerky, shallow motions as he chased his climax. 

“I want him next,” skinny Steve said, mouth popping off the tip of Tony’s cock with a wet, obscene-sounding noise.  

“Almost there, Tony,” Helicarrier Steve warned, pulling his cock out to drag the head along Tony’s lips, which opened eagerly as he thrust back down Tony’s throat. “Oh.  Oh, yeah, just like that, Tony.  So good for me.  Should I—do you want me to come in your mouth?” Steve asked, almost like it was just the polite thing to do.  He wiped a leather-clad thumb at the side of Tony’s eyes, then traced the line of wetness down Tony’s cheek with an odd sort of gentleness.  “You’re so perfect like this, Tony.   So beautiful.  Are you sure this is okay?” he asked again.  Tony mewled, a soft, pleading sound. “Okay. Okay, almost there, almost there, almost there,” he chanted, then pulled out and pushed back in one more time, bottoming out while Tony’s throat convulsed around his cock.   Steve’s mouth made a wide, almost surprised oh, and then he groaned, low and deep, and Tony was coughing and sputtering beneath him as come and spit seeped out of the edges of his mouth. 

Helicarrier Steve rocked forward once, then slowly pulled out, letting Tony clean his cock off of the last bits of come.  He rested the head on Tony’s bottom lip, and petted a hand through Tony’s hair as Tony licked the tip clean, tongue curling and swirling around the slit.

“Are you okay?” Helicarrier Steve asked in a hushed, awed voice that Steve barely recognized.  “Wow, Tony.  Wow,” Helicarrier Steve whispered, then crawled off of Tony and laid down next to him, pulling Tony over until he rested on his chest. 

“Did he come?” Conference Room Steve asked the other Steves.

“Not yet,” Skinny Steve replied, looking up from where he was licking and mouthing kisses up and down Tony’s cock.  One had cradled Tony’s balls, hefting and squeezing as he played with them.  The other held the nub of Tony’s nipple between small, finely-boned fingers, occasionally giving it a quick twist or flick as Steve watched.

Conference Room Steve had pulled out, dragged his pants back up over his hips and was wiping his cock and Tony’s ass off on his t-shirt. 

“Bet he could make him come,” he suggested, jerking his head towards where Steve hovered in the doorway, rooted to the spot.  “Would you like that, Tony?  He could eat you out.  Bet that beard would feel good, huh?  You’d like that, wouldn’t you. That’s what you need.”

“Yes,” Tony grated out, his voice rough and scratchy.  He turned his head to the side, wide, glazed eyes looking at Steve with a desperate yearning.  “Please. Yes.”

Steve realized his mouth had gone dry at some point.  He wanted to duck, hide, run, something.  Anything.  But, Tony’s gaze was fixed on him, and he couldn’t seem to move. He tried to swallow, but couldn’t get any saliva to form. He was hard to the point of aching, and all his mind could seem to focus on was the mental image the other Steve’s words had put in his head.  This…this was Tony’s fantasy. Tony fantasized about Steve.  Tony fantasized about having sex with Steve.  With all different versions of Steve, apparently.  This was the fantasy keeping Tony here, the one used to lull him into compliance.  This.  Steve.  Well, Steves. 

Okay, so, that was…well, shocking didn’t really begin to cover it.  Sure, Steve knew what he looked like now, and he knew Tony liked beautiful people and certainly enjoyed sex, but…hell, one of those Steves kept having to let Tony’s cock out of his mouth because he kept having to cough, for Christ’s sake.  Who fantasized about that?

Tony, apparently, that’s who. Tony, who he hadn’t spoken to for nearly two years.  Tony, who didn’t call him.  Tony, who he thought probably hated him.

“Tony,” Steve managed, though it barely sounded like a word. 

“I didn’t think you’d come,” Tony said.  Helicarrier Steve smoothed a hand through Tony’s hair, wiping it back of his forehead and making a soothing sound.  “I wanted you, but.  I didn’t think you’d be here.”

Conference Room Steve glared at Steve.  “He’s been running away.”

“He’s an idiot,” Skinny Steve said, then bent his head sucked the length of Tony’s cock down his throat and moaned, giving Tony’s balls a hard tug for good measure. 

“I’m—” Steve started, though he had no idea what he was.  Sorry.  Not running.  Running, but not from Tony.  Never from Tony. “I’m…” he tried again, though no inspiration had struck in those few moments I’m supposed to be helping. Right. That was why he was here.  Tony was in trouble.  Steve was supposed to save him.  Help him.  Because none of this was real. This was just…Jesus, was this what Tony fantasized about?  About…Steve.  Like…this?  He still couldn’t wrap his head around what he was witnessing.

Fuck, okay. Okay, he could do this, Steve told himself.  He was here to help Tony.  That was the whole point.  But, not—God, not like this.  This definitely was not what Bruce meant by easing Tony out of the fantasy.  Obviously.  He needed to focus, which was damn near impossible with some fantasy version of his skinny self giving Tony a blow job like he’d never done anything more amazing in his life. Which, granted, at that point—hell, at this point—that was probably true.

Still, he needed to try. Try something, anyway.  For Tony’s sake. 

Right. Because this was all just something he had to manage to get through.  You know, for Tony’s sake.  God, that sounded ridiculous, even in his own head. Jesus, Rogers, get it together, he told himself firmly. 

“You look good,” Tony said. His voice slurred, and he blinked somewhat hazily at Steve, but it was a happy, loose sort of dazed.  The kind of easy softness that Steve didn’t think he’d seen on Tony’s face before. 

“You look good, too,” Steve replied, since that seemed easy enough to say and had the benefit of being true.  Tony smiled, eyes drooping shut and curled in on himself a bit. 

That had been easy enough, Steve thought.  Maybe there was some way to talk Tony out of this.  Just say nice things or whatever he could come up with that didn’t involve pointing out that different versions of himself had just fucked Tony every way possible.  Yeah.  Sure, easy enough.  How hard was it to dole out a few compliments? He’d seen Tony’s body before, anyway. Just flashes of skin, of course, nothing like this, but still, it was just a body. Same parts as Steve’s. No big deal. This wasn’t so different, really. Changing on the jet, in medical, when Tony didn’t want to stay and complained until they called Steve, that time they got whatever the inside of the alien bug thing was on them and had to strip down in quarantine and be hosed off.  So, really, this was just like any other mission.  Basically.  He could just…think of it like that.  A mission, like any other. Just one where Tony was sprawled out, all lithe, wiry muscle and beautiful tan planes of skin, clearly quite enjoying getting used in every way possible by his own mental variety of Steves.

So, yeah, just your basic mission, Steve thought with a grim sigh.  No different than any other day ending in Y.

Tony was always beautiful, anyway. 

Where had that thought come from? Steve blinked and shook his head, trying to clear it, then brought the heel of his hand up to grind against his forehead, as if he could root out the errant thought.  He wasn’t supposed to think those things about Tony.  He’d gotten over that a long time ago.  Made himself stop and moved on. Pushed those kinds of thoughts aside.  Sure, sometimes, there would be the odd, fleeting moment when Tony would brush up against him, smile at him in that bemused sort of way Tony had that made Steve’s stomach do somersaults or clap him on the back after a battle or—or nothing, he reminded himself.  Because there wasn’t anything and there wasn’t going to be anything.  He’d come to that realization years ago.

It was this place, he told himself.  Whatever this was, this link between him and Tony, it was like it had torn down all the usual barriers he put up in his mind.

“He needs you,” Conference Room Steve said with a pointed insistence.  “He’s been waiting.”

Conference Room Steve was sitting next to Tony, rubbing his hand up and down the inside of Tony’s thigh, where he held Tony’s knee captured on his lap.  The position kept Tony’s legs spread wide.  Steve was fairly sure that was the whole point.  His skinny counterpart pulled his mouth off Tony’s cock, let go of Tony’s balls and trailed a finger down the crease of his ass, catching some of the come leaking out of him and circling the puffy, red rim of his hole until it glistened.  Steve watched the motion as if enthralled.  He couldn’t seem to pull his gaze away.  He kept telling himself he should, but he just watched the slow, hypnotic turn of the small finger around Tony’s hole until it suddenly disappeared inside to the knuckle, making Tony’s hips judder and his body quake with a low, shuddering moan.

He couldn’t do this.  What they—he—the other Steves, or Tony’s fantasy versions of them—were suggesting.  Obviously.  That much was…well, it was obvious. Right?  Definitely. 

But, he still needed to somehow get Tony to…to snap out of this fantasy without doing more damage.  Which meant that somehow, he had to ease Tony back into reality.  He just had absolutely no idea how to do that. 

“Steve,” Tony pleaded.  “Please.”  His voice was thick, wet, like he was struggling to get the words out.  “Please, I need—you.  You,” Tony breathed out, then let out a wretched sort of laugh.  He reached up and stroked a hand down Helicarrier Steve’s jaw, then let it drop, looked between Skinny Steve, who had his head pillowed on Tony’s stomach and Conference Room Steve, who was running his hands up and Tony’s leg, then turned to stare at Steve with a surprisingly piercing gaze. “God help me, it has to be you.”

He could figure this out, Steve told himself.  They weren’t…doing anything at the moment.  Just lying there, holding Tony.  It wasn’t like that would be especially difficult.  He could just…join them.  Join them and hold Tony and…and somehow convince him none of this was real.  Sure.  Yeah. No problem.

Slowly, Steve walked over to the bed, then sat down on the edge.  Tony made a small harrumphing sound.

“When did I get so afraid of fighting for what I wanted?” Skinny Steve asked.

“I’m not what he wants,” Tony said flatly.  He was staring at the ceiling, expression blank.

“That’s…that’s not—I want you to be happy,” Steve replied. “I just think—”

“Yeah, you should really do less of that,” Skinny Steve interrupted, giving Steve a slight eye roll. He rubbed a hand back and forth across Tony’s chest while Conference Room Steve huffed out a breathy laugh.

“He’s right,” Conference Room Steve said.  “Here, you want to make him feel good, don’t you?” he asked, reaching out to guide one of Steve’s hands to Tony’s knee where it jutted out at an angle. 

“He likes that.  When you touch him.  That way, he knows you like him,” Helicarrier Steve said.

“I—I do like him,” Steve said.

“Got a funny way of showing it by leaving,” Skinny Steve pointed out.  He was stretched out on Tony’s stomach, nuzzling and stroking his fingers lightly up and down Tony’s cock, leaving a bright line of wetness where he’d had his finger in Tony’s hole.  

Steve tried to remember how to breath.  He found a spot on the headboard, just above Tony’s head and stared studiously at it. 

“I didn’t want to leave,” Steve said, finally breathing out.  “I had to.”

“You two could’ve worked something out,” Conference Room Steve retorted.  “We did, didn’t we, Tony?”

“Yeah. We worked something out, alright. That’s one way to put it,” Tony said with a harsh twist to his words. “If we’d worked it out, he wouldn’t be here.  I like your way of working things out, though.  We should’ve tried it sooner,” he said with a short, bitter laugh.  “That’s nice,” Tony said, nodding down towards his knee, where Steve realized he had been rubbing circles against the knob of bone there.  He stopped, caught Tony’s eye, felt the other Steves watching him, then slowly started to rub the skin again. 

It was just a massage.  On the knee. Barely touching. Hardly erotic.

Okay, sure, a knee massage while Tony was completely naked, fucked out and leaking come, and three fantasy versions of Steve were waiting their turn to fuck him again, but still.  Definitely not erotic at all.

“I could suck you off,” Tony offered.  “Would you like me to?  Get down on my knees for you like that?  I would, you know.  I’d like that.  You could fuck my face.  My throat’s a little sore, but it’s okay. It’s fine.  You could, if you wanted.  I wouldn’t mind.  I wouldn’t—”

“Tony, no.  No, no, Tony, I don’t—Jesus. No,” Steve ground out, jerking his hand from Tony’s knee.  He ran it through his hair instead. 

“I know you don’t.  I know.  I know, I do.  It’s just you’re here. Why are you here? Why? Why did you come back? Why, if you—if you—” Tony stopped, clamping his mouth shut and letting his eyes shutter for a moment.  “You shouldn’t have come back.”

Ease him out of the fantasy, Steve reminded himself. 

“I’m…I’m here to help you,” Steve said.

Tony laughed, making Steve almost jump at the sound.  Tony covered his face with his hands, then let them fall to his sides and looked back over at Steve.

“You’re really, really bad at that,” Skinny Steve observed, then started coughing into his hand.  Tony reached down and patted his back, where his shoulder bones jutted out like wings.

“I want to help.  I want to—to make you feel good,” Steve said. That seemed right.  Vague enough, anyway. 

“Don’t know if he knows how to do that,” Conference Room Steve said, then shucked his leather jacket onto the floor and pushed Tony’s knee up to give himself access.  He cupped Tony’s ass between his hands and lifted, spreading Tony wide.  Two fingers found Tony’s loose rim, then tugged at it, scooping up the last thread of come that dripped out and rubbing it between them until his fingers were at least semi-slick.  Without preamble, he shoved them in Tony’s hole, making Tony’s whole body shudder and go taut.  Steve felt his own cock jump, growing impossibly harder as he stared transfixed, at the sight of his own fingers disappearing into Tony’s body. 

“That good, Tony?” Conference Room Steve asked, pumping his fingers a few more times.  Tony nodded, eyes squeezed shut, one hand twined in Skinny Steve’s hair, the other curled into the grip of Helicarrier Steve’s glove.  “See?” he said, stretching up to brace a hand on the side of Tony’s head.  “We worked it out,” he husked out, dipping his mouth to Tony’s.  Tony leaned up, mouth seeking. His hands left the other Steves to wrap around this Steve’s neck, holding him there while the kiss deepened. 

Strangely, it was the kiss, of all things, that was almost too intimate and made Steve want to turn away more than anything else.  This whole thing was an invasion of Tony’s privacy, but this was something more.  Something else.  Not just a fantasy, not exactly.  Something more.  He dropped his gaze and looked away.  He shouldn’t be here.  They’d have to figure something else out. There had to be another way.  Bruce and Cho, they were geniuses, they’d think of something.  Anything, but this.  He couldn’t do this.  He couldn’t.  He needed to get away.  Go.  Run. Be anywhere but here. He needed to—Tony’s hand shot down and grabbed for Steve’s, curling his fingers through Steve’s in a tight hold while he kissed the other Steve. 

Steve looked up and caught the Helicarrier version of himself looking down at where Tony’s hand was intertwined with Steve’s.  He likes that. When you touch him. That way, he knows you like him. 

Steve gave Tony’s hand a hard squeeze. 

No.  God.  He couldn’t leave Tony.  Not again.  Not when Tony needed his help.

Was he really going to turn his back on Tony because he was embarrassed?  Brain damage. Bruce had said brain damage was possible, and here, Steve was contemplating leaving Tony to that possibility, all because he was, what, uncomfortable? Because Tony fantasized about him.  Not like he hadn’t had his own thoughts in this direction regarding Tony.  Not quite this…creative, but still.  He could hardly condemn Tony for it. 

He needed to focus, get Tony’s attention on him and figure out a way to slowly introduce the idea to Tony that none of this was real. That they needed to leave this behind.  Granted, he had no idea how to do that, but it sure wasn’t going to happen with his other self getting all the glory, he thought with a frown. 

Finally, the two of them broke apart, though mainly, Steve noted, because Steve’s pre-serum self started poking at Conference Room Steve until he moved out of the way enough for his skinnier self to sidle up next to Tony and start kissing a line down Tony’s neck and chest until he reached the node that sat in the center.

Alright. He could do this, Steve told himself.  First things first, he needed Tony to focus on him, not the fantasy.  That seemed like a decent first step, anyway.  And the easiest way to get Tony’s attention was, well…okay, well, so, he wasn’t going to do it quite the easiest way, he thought with a frown as Conference Room Steve nosed against Tony’s cock. 

“Tony,” Steve said, tugging a bit at Tony’s hand.  “Hey there,” he said when Tony opened his eyes and turned to look at him. 

“You didn’t leave,” Tony said.

“No.  No, I’m not going to leave you.  I promise,” Steve replied.  He sucked in a shuddering breath.  He wasn’t going to leave Tony to whatever this was. Even if it looked like Tony was enjoying himself, this wasn’t real, and it was hurting Tony.  Whatever his own discomfort with it, he’d just have to push that aside long enough to help Tony find his way out of this.  Then they’d…God, he had no idea what they’d do after this.  Work it out, his mind helpfully supplied.  He shook his head and swatted away the thought.  No time to worry about that now. 

“That’s good,” Tony sighed and closed his eyes.  “I never wanted you to leave.”

“I know,” Steve said.  He did know that, he realized.  Through everything, right until the end, Tony had only ever wanted to keep them all together. 

Helicarrier Steve shifted Tony back against the pillows, then bent his head down and took Tony’s nipple in his mouth, laving and sucking at the peak.  “This good, Tony?” he asked, then smiled when Tony nodded and hummed with pleasure.  Not to be outdone, obviously, Skinny Steve mimicked the motion with the other nipple, using his other hand to twirl in Tony’s hair. 

Conference Room Steve scooted down the bed and knelt again between Tony’s thighs.  He got his hands under Tony’s ass and lifted, then leaned down and licked a long stripe up the crease and over Tony’s hole, eliciting a startled gasp from Tony that quickly devolved into sharp, stuttering whimpers as the other Steve’s tongue traced the still-red rim of Tony’s hole.

Steve wasn’t sure when he had given up on some attempt at decency.  He knew he should avert his gaze, but he couldn’t look away.  It was all too much.  Too much input, too much to see, too much to take in, too much to feel.  He was rock hard and leaking all over the front of his pants, or at least it felt that way.  He had no idea how much of what he was feeling was real and how much was this dreamscape messing with his mind.  Still, he couldn’t stop looking.  He could admit, at least to himself, that he didn’t really want to.  These Steves, they got to have this with Tony. Something he would never get to have.  He should look away, but it seemed impossible to actually do so.  Instead, he stared, transfixed, as the other version of him circled Tony’s hole with his tongue, then flicked against it, up, down, side to side, then finally, delved in, licking deep. 

Someone moaned, and Steve realized the sound came from him.  His other self looked up from his place between the cheeks of Tony’s ass and grinned, then blew lightly across Tony’s hole, cooling the skin. He bent his head again and took the rim between his teeth and suckled at it until Tony cried out, high and needy. 

“He’s close,” Helicarrier Steve said. He spit into his gloved hand, then reached down and started stroking Tony’s cock. “Is this good, Tony?”

“’S good. Good. Good. So good, Steve, please,” Tony repeated.  “Please. Touch me.  Yeah.  Like that, oh God.  Yes! Steve, please,” Tony groaned at the burning friction. Was that what Tony wanted?  Fantasized about?  Had he thought about it back then, on the helicarrier?  Had he thought about Steve touching him like that? Tony’s hand jerked in Steve’s, then squeezed hard, clinging to him.

Steve looked down at the tableau.  Tony’s thighs had clamped down on the other Steve’s head, holding him there while he licked and sucked at Tony’s rim.  The smaller version of himself curled half-on Tony’s chest and leaned down to take the head of Tony’s cock into his mouth as his other self stroked lightly up and down.

“Please,” Tony whispered.  Steve looked down and realized Tony was looking at him.  He felt a tug on his hand, and then Tony was reaching up, grabbing for the front of Steve’s shirt, clawing almost desperately for some kind of purchase. 

Steve didn’t know what to do. He’d messed this whole thing up.  He was no closer to getting Tony out of this fantasy than the moment he opened the door.  If something happened to Tony, it was on him.  He’d let…this…this fantasy, this ridiculous, insane fantasy, get in the way of helping Tony. 

“Tony, I don’t know what to do. I don’t—” Steve started.

Please,” Tony pleaded. His back arched, and he threw his head back, the muscles of his neck cording taut.

And then Steve did know what to do.  Or, what he wanted to do.  He wasn’t sure which one it was anymore.  He leaned down and kissed Tony.  Kissed him the way he’d wanted to, all those years ago when Tony had looked up at him from a New York street, wonderfully, beautifully alive.  He kissed Tony the way he’d dreamt of when he watched the Malibu house explode on television, with fear and relief and blinding certainty that this was everything that mattered. He kissed him the way he wanted to at Clint’s farm, when he was angry and scared and wondering if he’d missed all his chances at anything that wasn’t a fight.  He kissed him how he’d wanted to that day in Berlin, filled with regret and pain and self-loathing because he had screwed everything up, and he’d failed Bucky and Tony both. Everything he’d wanted to say, everything he’d felt all these years, it all poured out of him.  Tony tasted like heat and metal and salt, and it was everything Steve had ever wanted. 

He felt Tony’s body jerk and convulse as his orgasm shook through him.  Tony let out a soft cry against Steve’s mouth, body shuddering, then looked up at Steve, one hand still wound into the front of Steve’s shirt. 

“I love you,” Steve said, watching Tony's eyes go wide.  “Tony, I—”

“This isn’t real,” Tony said, and everything went black. 

He opened his eyes to brightness.  No. Not brightness. Light.  Fluorescent light, to be exact, flicking a little over the hospital bed.  Next to him, a monitor beeped a steady thread of noise and another machine hissed lightly. His head felt like it weighed a ton and was stuffed with cotton, but at least everything here was familiar.

“Welcome back, Sleeping Beauty,” Natasha said with a half-smile.  “He’s fine,” she said quickly, when Steve looked to his side, saw the empty bed and started to get up. “Really. He’s fine,” she reiterated.  “Woke up about an hour ago. The nanovirus is completely out of his system.  Scans are all clear. Bit of an electrolyte imbalance and some strange seratonin levels, but nothing that a bit of rest and real food won’t clear up.”

“Where,” Steve rasped.  His voice sounded like sandpaper.  She handed him a glass of water and let him take a drink while she watched him, head cocked to one side.  “Where is he?”

“Driving Bruce and Helen crazy.  You know the drill,” Nat replied.  Her eyes narrowed on Steve.  

“He’s really okay?” Steve asked.  “Did he…say anything? About what happened?”

“He said he didn’t remember much of anything.  Someone drugged him at the conference two weeks ago, something new that Friday didn’t catch.  We think it was on a watch that was delivered.  The delivery man was also found unconscious when his van hit a parked car a few miles away.  Anyway, that’s the last thing he remembers. He woke up here,” she shrugged. 

“I mean…did he say anything about what happened with the…with the memories,” Steve asked. 

“No,” Natasha replied, drawing out the word.  “Do you remember anything?”

“No,” Steve said quickly.  “Just counting down and then waking up here.  How long was I out?”

“About three hours total,” she told him, giving him a shrewd look. 

“So, it worked, I guess.  I mean, obviously, so that’s…that’s good, right,” Steve said. “Whatever happened, it got Tony out of his dream, so…that’s all that matters.”

“Right,” she agreed, taking the cup back from Steve and setting it aside.  “It worked.  To tell you the truth, we thought we’d lost both of you.”

“What?” Steve demanded with a frown. “What do you mean lost both of us?”

“I guess it doesn’t matter now, not really,” Natasha said.  “You should ask Bruce or Helen.  You know I’m not the science geek around here, just the muscle.”

“Nat, what—what happened?” Steve asked. “Please, I—I need to know. It’s important.”

“Well,” she began, “You were supposed to go into Tony’s dreamscape, right?  And you did, at first, we could see that the way your BARF patterns synced up.  But, then, for a while there…your patterns and Tony’s, they sort of overlapped.  Bruce said it wasn’t possible, but Friday said something about linked memories and, I don’t know…it was like you were both having the same dream.”