Stephen bent down to retrieve the fallen page of the ancient tome he'd been reading and Tony's mouth went dry at the sight. Stephen was beautiful, no doubt about that. His graceful movements, the long lines of his body, his unique and mesmerizing eyes, his incredible expressive face, his wonderful voice and the razor-sharp and witty intellect housed in the whole package where just stunning.
"Like what you see?" Stephen teased after he'd settled down on the couch again and noticed Tony's fascinated stare. Even his fucking posture was elegant, damn it! It had to be magic that he was able to go out there and mingle with people without being proposed every five seconds or so.
Tony suddenly had the almost irresistible urge to go down on his knees in front of Stephen and worship him as the deity he was.
Fuck it, he decided and did exactly that.
"You're so beautiful," he whispered a couple of minutes later after a short but heavy make-out session. They were both on the floor my now and cuddling, teasing each other for the main event since neither of them was a teenager anymore. Stephen, especially, liked to be petted and kept on the edge for quite a while as Tony had discovered to his great delight. "The most gorgeous guy I've ever got my hands on." He'd only managed to get one of his hands under Stephen's clothes so far and enjoyed in the feeling of bare skin under his fingertips while Stephen cuddled closer to him and nuzzled his neck. Stephen was ridiculously fit, yes, but his skin was soft and since Tony was here to remind him to eat he wasn't as thin as he had been when they'd started dating.
Now Stephen was ridiculously fit and healthy and the little bit of weight gain made him even more beautiful in Tony's eyes. His cheekbones, along with his eyes, were still the most striking feature of his face but his whole expression had softened and he was even prettier now than he'd been when Tony first laid eyes on him.
Stephen snorted and the noise pulled Tony's mind back to reality. "Beautiful," Stephen echoed and there was an undertone in his voice Tony didn't like. At all.
"Look, Tony, I appreciate what you're trying to do here but just stop. I know exactly how I look and beautiful isn't one of those things. Maybe 'striking' if we're generous; 'strange', like an alien that tries to fit into human society, if we're realistic." He closed his eyes, hid his face against Tony's neck, and sighed. "I've heard it all before. Don't think you have to lie to me. I'll let you fuck me without you having to pay me empty compliments first."
What the hell?!
It took Tony a moment but then his brain engaged and some seemingly offhand comments of Stephen suddenly made horrifying sense.
It was pure instinct that made Tony wrap his arms around Stephen, all thoughts of sex suddenly gone. In their place there was a sadness and the intense longing to hunt down each and every person who had ever hurt Stephen and made him doubt himself even now.
He kept up his petting but made sure to shift the touch from sexual to comforting. "But you are," he said after a few minutes of pained silence. "Beautiful and gorgeous and..." Words left him and he hugged Stephen instead. "The best thing that has ever happened to me."
Stephen smiled at that, clearly not believing the first part, before hiding his face against Tony's neck. "That might be. But not the most attractive one."
I was a kind of a prize back then when I was still a doctor, Stephen had once told him. I was even more of an arrogant asshole back then and getting me into bed still was some kind of accomplishment, despite my appearance. I've learned pretty quickly to protect my reputation by not taking anyone up on their offers.
Tony just stared at him, finally able to put Stephen's comments of old into the right perspective. A perspective that was more heartbreaking than anything he could have ever have imagined on his own.
Who? he wanted to know. Who's the fucking idiot who told you that you're not desirable? Idiots, probably, Tony realized with still growing horror. A proud man like Stephen wouldn't fall for bullshit like that if it had only been once.
He looked down and only saw dark hair, shot through with white. Stephen still hid his face but he was tense and probably ready to bolt at the first wrong syllable from Tony. Every assurance that he was beautiful and that those idiots of the past had just been blind and/or jealous would just cause him to flee. Something else was needed. In the meantime he continued his soothing touches, wanting to comfort but not daring to say anything.
After a few moments of silence Stephen relaxed against him. "Sorry," he offered.
Tony immediately shook his head. "What the hell for?"
"Normally I'm not that touchy. I don't know what came over me." Stephen started to move but Tony just held him tighter in a wordless plea to just stay put. Some things where better said without looking at each other.
"You are beautiful. Gorgeous. Unique." Fuck it, they needed a little bit more humor here he decided. "As if I would fuck you if you weren't all of that and more. I'm Tony Stark and I've got standards." He pressed his head against Stephen's hair and whispered directly into his ear: "You're not only fulfilling but passing all of them. Especially the ones about looks. I've seen aliens close up and they've got nothing on you."
Stephen shivered, probably because of Tony's breath hitting his hear, but he also laughed almost silently.
"You mean I'm prettier than Nebula?"
"And Mantis. And Gamora. And Thor. And Loki. And all the others."
"It's good to know that there are a few men and also human looking ones among your list or I would have to be concerned."
Fun banter was good, yes, but damn it to hell, he still wasn't getting through to Stephen!
Stephen was still leaning against him, relaxed now and breathing steady. The sexy mood had vanished for good now but in its place was a calm peace that might be even better, Tony decided. He kept up his stroking of Stephen's back and pressed his face against Stephen's head.
He looked around and saw the fallen page that had caused all the drama right in front of him. He only read the first part since the rest of the print was too small but it was enough for an idea to be born.
I'm sorry, my love, but I have to know. "Who told you that you're not beautiful?"
Stephen tensed up once again but only for a moment. It still took him a long time before he finally answered. "Not too long before my accident I was in relationship with… someone. In hindsight it wasn't even a real relationship, more a convenience for us both to not have to seek out a new guy to fuck every time."
Translation: No Love and no tenderness, Tony thought and could feel his heart breaking all over again.
"I wouldn't have known what to do with a real partner anyway. I was a cold asshole back then. In the end, when things where already broken beyond repair but we were too stubborn to just end it, he called me some quite unflattering things. I've always been the target of derogatory comments concerning my appearance but this was the first time someone really close to me… among other things he told me that my body was rather nice but that he would keep that if he could just change out the head and the personality in it."
Tony reared up, ready to demand a name to go and avenge but Stephen sat up and looked him in the eyes before catching his wandering hands between his. As always Stephen's hands were a little bit too cool and the trembling was even worse than usual. "I didn't know that I still have this baggage hanging around until you… I'm sorry. You know how it is." He gave a sad half-smile and Tony nodded. They both knew exactly how it was.
Tony bent down to kiss Stephen's hands. "Everything about you is beautiful. From this," he carefully squeezed Stephen's hands before freeing his right one to touch Stephen's heart, "over this and of course this." He stroked over Stephen's cheek and closed eyes before he kissed him, light and almost chaste. "Your face is beautiful, Stephen. You have the most wonderful eyes I have ever looked into. Your body is the stuff my dreams are made off."
By now he had Stephen really, truly laughing. And blushing. Making Stephen blush was always a special treat and Tony congratulated himself each and every time he managed it.
"Here." He offered the page. "Do it and see for yourself."
"This mind link thing you were reading about before you bent down and I got all distracted by your incredible behind." He somehow managed to maneuver his hand to Stephen's ass and pinch him slightly. He grinned when Stephen jumped slightly and shot him a murderous look. Maybe he was still a little bit sensitive from their escapades from last night, okay, but Tony knew that Stephen didn't mind it in the slightest.
"Come one, you wouldn't have read it if you couldn't do it and I'm game. Do your magical boom boom whoosh thing and let us mind-meld, Vulcan style. Or whatever."
"Boom boom whoosh? Mind-meld?"
Oh God, he loved the instances when he managed to bring that brilliant mind to a standstill. Tony waved the page in front of Stephen's nose. "Here, wizard."
Stephen took the page by instinct and looked down at it as if he'd never seen it before in his life. "Tony?" he asked once again and the naked vulnerability in his voice and eyes was painful to hear and watch.
He captured one of Stephen's hands and held on as tightly as he dared. "Let me show you what I see when I look at you. Please, baby. Let me give this to you."
Tony could already imagine all the things Stephen wanted to say and put his fingers of his mouth to keep the stupid words in. He smiled when Stephen licked his fingers for a moment. "I want this. I read this thing." Mostly, at least. "It's going to link our minds but you're only going to see what I want you to see. Which is my desire and love for you and how beautiful I think you are."
Stephen bent his head to the side and glanced down at the page once again. "It's a one way ticket. I can't offer you the same in return."
Tony smiled. "I know. It's okay." While he was an insecure mess in many things his physical appearance had never been one of them. The reverence Stephen showed him everytime they made love had already made it crystal clear that he found Tony's body arousing. Stephen had given up his own life for him; there was no greater act of devotion as far as Tony was concerned.
It was telling and sad that Stephen stopped his half-hearted protest after that. Instead he put his left hand - the more damaged, more hurting, even more fragile one - on Tony's chest, right over his heart. The spot where the arc reactor had once been. He leaned forward and whispered a near silent "thank you" before capturing Tony's lips in a kiss.
It went on for an eternity and was over far too soon. "Are you sure?"
Tony nodded, unsure if he was required to do anything.
Stephen chuckled. "Just relax. Maybe close your eyes. This is not going to hurt." His voice was soft and full of love.
"I want to see your face," Tony said equally softly. "It's rather beautiful, you know?"
Stephen smiled, took a deep breath, closed his eyes and… slipped into Tony's mind.
Stephen looked a himself, splayed out on the bed. It was disorienting to see himself through another's eyes but not as disorienting as the feelings that accompanied that picture.
He's so beautiful. And mine. I can't believe that he lets me…
The fact that Stephen liked to bottom most of the time had been a surprise for Tony but a happy one. Turned out that they were as compatible in the bedroom as they were outside of it. He watched as Tony reached out and rested his hand on Stephen's throat for a moment - not squeezing, not yet - before moving down his chest before finally resting on his belly, right above Stephen's cock.
It was embarrassing to see that he had a naked and willing Tony Stark atop of him and still wasn't fully hard but the wave of affection from Tony made the embarrassing memory better in retrospect.
"Ready for round two?" Tony asked and the Stephen below nodded an moaned weakly. He was already fucked out and another round would be pure agonizing bliss on his already overtaxed body. He could barely wait.
Stephen could remember that very special night. It had been the first one where Tony had dared to be a little bit more rough with him; finally convinced that he wasn't going to break.
It had been heaven on Earth.
Nice as that was, that's not what I wanted to show you, my love. Tony's warm voice, full of affection, broke into the memory and there was a shift and they were back in the library of the Sanctum, only a couple of minutes in the past.
And Stephen was treated to the image of him bending down and the avalanche of love and pure want that had overcome Tony at the sight.
He saw himself stand up straight again, searching for and finding Tony and he could feel the wave of oh my God he's so beautiful what have I done to deserve him in my life that had washed over Tony in that moment.
"You wanted to worship me?" Stephen whispered and the words broke the spell.
Tony blinked at abruptly being back in the present but collected himself after a moment. "Still do," he said gently. "Always." He put his hand over Stephen's, still resting on his chest. "Do you believe me now?"
"I've believed you before."
Tony snorted, an ugly but still somehow charming sound. Fuck, Stephen was really gone on him. "Whatever." But he smiled. "You're beautiful. I'll make you believe it. And if it takes the rest of our lives."
Stephen ruthlessly shoved down the little flicker of doubt that tried to take hold of him. He'd not only seen but felt what effect his physical appearance had on Tony and there was no way to fake that level of pure adoration. And lust.
"You can start by taking me to the bedroom and worship me there."
"How about here?"
Stephen looked around - the couch was not big enough for the two of them but the floor, covered by thick and comfortable carpets, was. There were enough pillows to make him comfortable and the fireplace gave the whole affair an otherworldly feeling. Perfect, he decided. He nodded his consent.
Tony grinned at him, suddenly all predator. A look and a short gesture was enough and the Cloak, which had been looking through its own reading material, came over in a heartbeat. It threw all the pillows down on the floor and started to arrange them while Tony was busy undressing him. As always he took his time in unwrapping the bindings around Stephen's wrists and forearms before finally taking his shaking hands between his own steady ones and just holding them still for a moment or two. It had taken Stephen a long time to allow that sort of gesture but now it was an intimate and treasured part of their life together.
"You realize that you're not going to get up from here anytime soon, right?" he finally asked and Stephen swallowed and nodded. He'd felt what Tony had meant by worshipping him and hadn't wanted to waste any more time in going upstairs.
"So, so beautiful," Tony whispered over and over again after he'd arranged Stephen to his satisfaction and directed the Cloak to hold him down.
The last remnants of the spell hadn't faded yet and when Tony finally stopped teasing and pushed into him he could still feel the wave of love and adoration Tony felt for him.
For the first time in his life Stephen felt truly beautiful and desirable in body and mind.