All the living are dead, and the dead are all living
The war is over and we are beginning...
Here it comes! Here comes the first day!
Here it comes! Here comes the first day!
It starts up in our bedroom after the war
It’s not to say that Steve had ever anticipated the culling of half the universe or its aftermath. No, that’s well beyond the edges of any damnation he could have imagined. However, when he touches himself in the new world and can’t find completion, he’s stolen by surprise, and then anger, that this too has been taken away. At first, he reasons that it’s exhaustion, the sleeplessness more than the sallow stamps under his eyes but infested in his bones as well. He thought it would go away in time. Once the grief lingered long enough for Steve to sleep with it, long enough for Steve to resign himself to the fresh carving it’d seared into his life like a scar with no honor.
In Wakanda, they rebuild each day. Each night, Steve curls a calloused and rough grip around his cock, stripping at it with punishing jerks, and for weeks straight, Steve strings together pathetic noises that are all for naught.
What’s left of the team and new heroes reassemble in New York. His old room—four walls that have watched his back arch on high whines, short grunts, and a shaken name he sometimes can’t bite back—lends him no favors. The deeply dug moans only succeed in exhuming ghosts and suffocating the room with them.
Teeth and frustration denting blood-blooming marks on his arm, he cries in hot shame.
He hasn’t seen Sharon in two years, and he’s grateful to find her. There’s little fortune in being left behind, but Steve thinks that maybe it’s a sign. Godforsaken or not, Steve still believes. You hold on to the chances you’re given, especially when the world turns to ash around you.
They try to stoke dim embers into a spark, using opportunity and regrets for flint. It seems like the right thing to do at the time.
They’re both lonely and it’s been a long time, so Steve doesn’t fault her the night that she hides a name that isn’t his under her breath while riding him. With her mouth bent in hunger, she chases wildly after something she sees beyond Steve.
And when she finds it, when peace flashes in her eyes and she clenches tight around him with a broken hitch in her cry, Steve can’t fault her for that either but envy soaks the spine that he sinks into damp bed sheets.
She’s patient in the hotel’s caustic lighting. Carefully, she offers to try something different. Like Steve needs to be persuaded into taking something up the ass. He can’t stand to tell her all the things he’s tried, how much sex paraphernalia lays in his drawer, useless, how he knows industrial nylon ties give too easily and that sharp, razor thin lines heal overnight.
There’s painfully little Steve hasn’t done.
Worn and hard, and with no plans to return, he tells her that he’ll think about it.
The guilt films a skin of oil underneath his ribs.
Quiet and bruise-eyed, Tony comes to him and that feels crueler than anything else.
Steve can’t deny Tony this, not after everything. Thanos isn’t the only one who took things away from Tony.
Steve lets Tony gather him by the scruff of his jaw, veer him from the slammed door with fastened mouths and a prying tongue. He lets Tony corner him against the headboard with fingers that claw and skin-off his clothes like talons, open Tony’s shirt one-handed. The fingers turn spit-slick in Tony’s mouth before they crook thick into Steve, opening him wide with a rocking wrist. His broad palms manhandle the slashes of Steve’s pelvis and yank him down the mattress. With kisses torn off by gasps and greed, Tony hikes up Steve’s legs around his waist in a cinch before sliding home.
Tony fucks him hard, and it inches him right back to the headboard as their obscene sounds echo off the walls. Steve’s body rings with a purpose that’s been absent for weeks, years, and when Tony groans, like it’s doing the same for him, Steve can’t help how his heart hums with an affection that could double as a hagiography.
He keeps the words to himself.
He can’t put that weight on Tony; it’s not what he’s here for. So Steve accepts what he’s given and follows Tony’s lead. He bears down when Tony’s hips stutter in a broken rhythm and then still, his completion spilling into latex.
Steve doesn’t come—doesn’t get to follow Tony that far—and hates himself for even hoping, for trying to seek forgiveness so cheaply.
Although Steve can’t fathom why, Tony comes back.
And well—like a glutton for punishment—Steve remains a believer in chances, no matter how they’re favored to turn out in the end.
The tang of sex hangs heavy in the room and in between Steve’s thighs is a mess of sweat, lube, and Tony’s spunk, his own stiff cock.
Tony’s eyes blink from confusion to worry and his hands unglue from Steve’s skin. Embarrassment clings to Steve like ice, drawing him out of the heated fog that good sex had half-plunged him into. He quickly stammers over Tony’s concern. Damp and shakily, with a frightened pulse, he lets Tony know that he wants this, that he’s sure.
When he’s done, Tony doesn’t give out platitudes or offer up ways on how to fix Steve. Free of judgment or pity, he takes Steve’s hand and presses a steady kiss to the map of lines in its center.
Tony fits next to Steve and stays.
It’s amazing and terrible.
Steve and Tony don’t speak on the past.
Steve can’t decide whether or not it’s for the best but it’s sustainable for now. If their history is anything to be informed by, attempts at constructive dialogue have a tendency to bring them three steps back. That’s not something they can afford any longer so Steve hems in practiced apologies and declarations and pretends it isn’t cowardice.
Tony fucks him on all fours until Steve can no longer hold himself up, and it’s enough. Getting to suck Tony off in the shower and still feel him in the back of his throat and in the soreness of his scalp during a debrief is plenty. Steve knows the shape of Tony’s lips when pants and trembles turn them pliant; he knows the smile slackened with pleasure that softens them even more when Tony’s body takes in Steve’s cock like another part of itself.
From listening to it quiver under his ear, Steve knows the pattern of Tony’s arrhythmic heartbeat. And because Tony tells him in the quiet of the night, he knows that it will never return to normal.
Steve knows that the low-speed rotation of his ceiling fan will lull Tony to sleep if the nightmares lay off.
It feels like making up for wasted time and fate course-correcting them to a path they should have been on from the very beginning.
They don’t speak on the past but maybe that’s how it’s meant to be, and Steve will gladly sacrifice being sated for this.
Close is better than nothing.
Steve's got cracked ribs, a torn ankle, and he’s spitting blood in medical but he’s alive.
Over the comms, Tony’s broken and beaten voice had winked out, and Steve had howled in anguish, ruined as he wielded the Gauntlet, and haunted by history repeating itself.
But Tony’s alive, too.
He’s wrapped up in Pepper’s arms on a nearby cot, and Steve can’t fault him for that.
Tony’s in one piece, and relief overwhelms all else.
Steve is happy that he was at least able to give Tony something in wartime. It’s the least he could have done.
Steve tries to mimic Tony’s jabs across his prostate, and he couldn’t be anymore empty. Feet planted on the mattress and mean with misery, he tugs on his sac and shoves into the scrape of his dry palm. He tries flicking his thumbnail at the crown like Tony would do, and it only stings bright for a depressingly short moment. His lower back is sore after a half-hour in a raised bridge that’s going nowhere fast. His lungs burn with futile exertion and are heave-choked as tears creep into his metallic-stained mouth.
All of the dead are living, and no amount of desperation can get Steve to give up the ghosts.
In the gym of the compound, Steve gives a right hook to the kevlar punching bag, and it swings bodily into Tony, who catches it and staggers.
Questions crab over each other in Steve’s mouth. He wonders when Tony arrived, why he’s here, where he’s been, because it’s been days, but he doesn’t think he’s owed answers so instead he says:
“I thought you’d gone back to the mansion.”
“I did,” Tony says, extracting Steve’s fears out of his head and giving them validation. After a beat that curves a divot between his brows, he continues in an apologetic and stricken tone, “Steve, I had to see to some stuff. I couldn’t just—oh god. I’m sorry. Sweetheart, I didn’t leave you.”
Everything—the endearment—swamps Steve at once. He’s so tired, and he doesn’t know he’s crying until he tastes the mocking salt on Tony’s lips, sagging in a heap against him and murmuring nonsense through a watery visage. Tony shushes him, splaying hands at his flanks, shoulders, and the nape of his neck when Steve buries his head in his throat. Tony walks them into the elevator and orders FRIDAY to lock it down until they reach the floor with Steve’s quarters.
There, Tony undresses them both but takes his time with Steve in a way that is brand new pageantry. Tony unwinds the tape from Steve’s fists with careful fingers, peels him out of his damp shirt and rolls down the band of his sweats, crouching to unlace Steve’s sneakers and remove his socks. He’s gentle and tender, placing a delicate kiss to Steve’s kneecap while his hand curls around Steve’s calf, holding him up like a spooked foal.
Tony works his way up, mouthing latches to every bit of Steve, teeth worrying flesh and tongue lapping to soothe it over, settling heat low in Steve’s belly. Steve feels almost sick from the blood rush to his cock, its pursuit in vain, but hardening in Tony’s fist all the same with precome welling at the flushed head. Tony pulls on him tightly with jerks and twists that Steve’s missed. He hasn’t been able to replicate them on his own. His touch will never feel as good as Tony’s, and Steve can’t help leaning into it, watching with his head bowed.
“I’m not leaving you,” Tony whispers vehemently. He brushes promises against Steve’s hot cheeks and eyelids. “Not if I can ever help it. Do you understand me?”
Steve’s heart is sore in his chest, and hope is hesitant to trudge through. Fearful that his words could turn the two of them foul once more, Steve drags Tony into a hard kiss that distracts him from the handjob, and lasts all the way to the center of his bed where their hips click together and move with impatient thrusts. Their hands skid without brakes over skin, sinew and juts of bone, like they’ll never see this opportunity again, and the thought makes Steve’s breath catch and knot. He white-knuckles the cords of Tony’s arms, desperate for something to steady him as his air comes out short, shallow, and panicked.
“Breathe for me. I’ve got you. You’re alright,” is echoed again and again in understanding, and barely-there kisses skirt Steve’s ear. Eyes that are nearly blown black find his, and Tony’s fingers thread through Steve’s hair in a way that is heartbreakingly kind. The other hand grasps Steve’s own, and Tony lays them in a cradle over the irregular drum behind his sternum, on top of skin roughened by scar tissue. Time ticks away, and Steve’s breathing becomes less hurried, synchronizes with Tony’s. “Good, that’s it. It’s okay. I’m right here.”
Steve wants the press of Tony’s heavy weight, his fingers, and his cock, and his smile that shivers crooked when his skin turns sweat-pebbled and hot.
Tony doesn’t do Steve the insult of asking if he’s sure. He softly kisses Steve, and when Steve’s got his knees spread, Tony’s back with slick and stretches him open with a finger that maddeningly turns into three.
“Please,” Steve begs. He won’t come but he wants to be close, to the edge, to Tony. He wants to ache, and watching Tony fall to pieces will be more than good enough.
Greedily, he shunts his hips up when Tony pushes inside of him and rolls into the pace that makes Steve’s toes curl and cross. Steve pleads for more, to get it harder, and Tony fucks him just like he asks.
After folding one of Steve’s legs up against his chest, Tony works an arm underneath him. Holding him in a wrought-iron grip, Tony proceeds to fuck into Steve with dogged and unbound abandon. Deep and brutal thrusts slide over his prostate and light up every nerve-ending he has, hollowing his back.
Steve trembles in a fit, scrabbling his fingers over Tony’s shoulders, and his nails must bite because Tony grinds particularly hard with a sharp hiss and the angle shifts deeper. It feels achingly right. It always does, and Steve realizes that he wants this forever. He wants it more than he ever missed the past, he wants it more than having victory over evil, he wants it more desperately than he wished for the dead to come back to life.
“I’m sorry,” Steve gasps out, and it incites a seismic shift in him, cracking down to secrets that are buried and feel ancient. Sobbing, he says, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Tony.”
“Jesus. That’s what—”
A wet kiss is fiercely pressed to Steve’s cheek and persistent on his chin and lips.
“I’m sorry. For everything.”
He’s sorry that he nearly missed this.
“God, Steve, let that go.” Tony reaches between them and cuffs Steve in hand again, jerking him fast. He swallows every hitch that Steve breathes. “I’ve got you. Let it go. I forgave you. It’s been so long...I should’ve said. I’m sorry, too, sweetheart. I’m so fucking stupid.”
Steve borrows courage from Tony and makes his own confessions, his voice scraped raw, “I don’t think that I could have made it if you hadn’t stepped off that ship. I couldn’t lose you again. Not like that.”
“I’m right here,” Tony breathes into his mouth, licking and biting, so present and alive. A pulse inside of Steve and tight all around him. “I’m not leaving. Just let it go. Come for me, Steve. C’mon, baby.”
Steve comes hard and surprised on a hooked cry that’s soft and no longer hurts. He shudders in Tony’s embrace for what feels like forever, equal to the time it’s been absent. Tony continues palming him through the aftershocks; it’s devastating and good, and when Steve squeezes around the hot length in him, that’s better. Joy, an old friend, possesses him as Tony’s orgasm quakes through them both.
“We should probably talk this out, gorgeous,” Tony says later, like a searching light in the warm and slow that occupies Steve’s mind. The four words are underlined with kisses across Steve’s brow and down his jaw, a hand sticky and fanned over his hip. Steve watches a rueful smile twist Tony’s lips. “You might agree that we’re long overdue. I want to get this right, Steve. I’m tired of getting it so fucking wrong.”
“No one here is innocent of that.” Steve takes a deep breath and his time. “I want to get this right, too. We can’t turn back time, not really but we’ve got a pretty long history of what not to do. Maybe that’s just as good.”
“Could be worse,” Tony says agreeably. He leans down and kisses Steve with purpose, tremoring where he’s touching Steve. He presses their foreheads together. “We’ve faced the end of the world twice. I did it once without you and once with. One was empirically better than the other. I don’t want to do anything without you by my side again.”
“Then I think we’ll be alright,” Steve says. He shivers at the idea of it, the promise, and the fact that he finally has this. It’s terrifying, and it’ll be complicated with the life they lead. However, they’ve got each other. They’ve bled for this. There have been sacrifices. Steve believes. “We’ll make it alright.”