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Bite Me (please)

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Tony hadn’t been looking forward to death by Palladium poisoning.

 

As deaths go, it was going to be especially painful, and drawn out, and undignified. The slow march of incapacity, the difficulty swallowing and speaking, the eventual breakdown of his mind. He’d been doing his best not to think about it, even while he was trying to think of a way out of it-

 

And then he’d found himself in a doughnut shop with Nick Fury, nursing the hangover from hell, listening to the most infuriating lecture he’d ever suffered through – and now he wished that death by palladium poisoning would hurry up and arrive.

 

“You have become a problem, a problem I have to deal with.” Nick ranted from the other side of the booth – the window booth – while Tony did his best to stay out of the sunlight. Contrary to popular myth, sunlight isn’t fatal to vampires. Just very painful. Tony assumed that Nick knew that, and that he’d chosen this seat on purpose. “...You are not the centre of my universe. I have bigger problems than you in the southwest region to deal with.”

 

Tony let go of a heavy sigh; one of many human habits he’d never gotten out of. He considered pointing out that he wasn’t Nick’s problem to deal with. That Nick didn’t have any right to judge how Tony was dealing with his upcoming demise. That both Nick and Natasha were attempting to punish him for being above himself – while being arrogant enough to railroad his life, and assert that they knew best.

 

That what they’d done was actually cruel-

 

But no, not that. He’d never admit that.

 

Instead, he sat there sullenly, not sure whether to hate Nick or hate himself. Knowing there was no point in arguing – and not just because he was dying. There had never been any point in arguing.

 

And then Natalie, Natasha, whoever she was, was standing at his shoulder again. Tony braced, for what he didn’t know… but nothing happened. When he finally looked up at her, Tony found she was simply giving him a disdainful look-

 

And holding out a thermos.

 

“Yeah, I don’t like being handed things” Tony muttered, lamely. He’d lost all interest in everything; he just couldn’t be bothered.

 

And then Nat rolled her eyes, and unscrewed the flask, and put it on the table in front of him – and, suddenly, Tony was interested again.

 

The air was immediately thick with the smell of it; a sweet, living scent that made his head swim. It was like there was a lingering taste on his tongue, like he’d already tried it and was hungry for more. Whatever this thing was, he wanted it – and that frightened him.

 

Tony reached for the thermos on impulse, in the same unthinking way he’d have put his hand to a burn – but he managed to control himself before he took a sip. He forced himself to stop, to think-

 

He didn’t trust either of the people making this offer.

He didn’t want to accept any help from them, to in any way validate their insensitive and uninvited intervention.

He didn’t like the way this… thing, made him feel. He didn’t trust himself around it.

 

But those thoughts became increasingly hysterical as they were clawed further back in his head, shouting at himself ever more desperately as it became obvious-

 

He wasn’t going to resist this. He couldn’t.

 

And then the flask was at his lips, and then none of it mattered. He didn’t care what these people wanted, he didn’t care how he looked in front of them, he didn’t care what this was going to do to him –

 

It was worth it.

 

It was, in the first instant, the most beautiful taste. Sweet, and savoury, and rich – entirely unlike anything he’d ever tasted before. It slid down his throat like an electric charge, flooding him with a need for more even as he was swallowing. And then he felt an incredible rush of adrenaline, a sudden abundance of power that pushed everything else out of him, until he wasn’t dying or weak or humiliated anymore, until he wasn’t anything but this feeling-

 

He finished the flask with a sudden gulp, moaning softly as he swallowed the final mouthful. The whole world had faded out of focus, his head floating pleasantly behind a veil of stars. He felt lighter.

 

He felt strong.

 

Being a vampire had never made Tony feel strong, before. He knew, technically, he could lift more now, that he was more likely to survive any injury he got from here on out… But what did that matter, when it couldn’t fix the injury he’d suffered just before? Maybe it would’ve been different, if he had been like any other vampire. If he weren’t the first vampire in history to have in immortal body form around a fistful of shrapnel. If he’d been chosen by someone because they saw something special in him, some power they wanted to utilise or some quality they wanted to live forever… like it’s supposed to be, apparently.

 

But Yinsen had turned him for the same reason he’d wired a car battery into his chest, and Tony had come to see it all in the same way. It was all the same story of him being broken, his body twisted and scarred beyond all recognition, patched together in this ugly, ramshackle compromise. He’d been turned into a monster, because otherwise he wouldn’t have survived that horror story of an operation – and still he wasn’t fixed. It had left him a mess of mismatched parts, no longer fit for purpose, destined to be the first vampire ever to die of poisoning-

 

And then this.

 

This overwhelming feeling of contentment that came directly from feeling strong. Understanding a power there was in him, just feeling it there, thrumming beneath his skin. His mouth was still full of the taste of it. His heart didn’t hurt anymore.

 

“Feel better?” Someone asked, smugly. Tony blinked, and tried to focus his eyes on the man in front of him, and just trusted that he’d remember who it was in a minute… or not, and it didn’t matter…

 

“What was that?” He heard himself ask.

“Blood” Nick answered, with a patronising little quirk of his eyebrow. Tony just frowned.

 

No. It wasn’t.

 

Tony knew what blood tasted like – and he hated it. It was up there with ‘fear of daylight’ on the reasons to hate being a vampire chart. Blood was bitter, and metallic, and had a grim, slimy sort of texture.

 

“Whose?” Tony asked – and it wasn’t until he saw Nick and Nat pull the same distasteful expression that he realised what a strange question that was. He didn’t drink human blood. The idea of that should have been horrific. He drank pig blood, or cow blood, or deer blood, and they were all as awful as each other – but, obviously, not as awful as drinking human blood.

 

…it should have been an awful idea.

 

…Tony shouldn’t be hoping that this was someone’s blood.

 

“Where it comes from isn’t your concern” Nick informed him. “And it isn’t a cure – it’s just gonna take the edge off, while we get you back to work.”

 

And Tony felt his lips curl into a superior smile.

 

How different they both looked to him, all of a sudden.

 

Just two people who’d clearly gotten it into their heads that they understood the world, however silly that was. He wondered, if they’d be embarrassed about this ham-fisted plan, when they grew up… If they’d look back and blush, thinking of all the things they hadn’t known, all the things it wasn’t their place to say. He couldn’t quite believe he’d taken offence to them, now. It suddenly seemed as ridiculous as taking offence to a toddler.

 

He considered them both a moment longer, thinking completely different thoughts. He didn’t care about validating them, or otherwise. He didn’t mind humouring them. He didn’t care about any of the things they didn’t know about him… in fact, maybe he quite liked to think of all the things they didn’t know…maybe it amused him.

 

All he cared about was finding out whose- what blood that was.

 

And if that meant playing along with this… well. He suddenly had too much self-worth to care about maintaining his dignity.

 

“Okay.” He smiled. “Back to work it is.”

 

*

 

That feeling of confidence hadn’t lasted, of course.

 

Well, it had lasted long enough for Tony to invent an entirely new element, fix his own hybrid demon heart, and prevent a massacre at the Stark Expo. He tried to tell himself that was something, at least.

 

But, of course, when Nick, Natasha and Coulson had resolved things to their satisfaction, Tony was no longer allowed the magical wonder blood. They had decided that he didn’t need it, that he didn’t need to know any more about it, and no amount of negotiation or manipulation on his part had managed to change their mind. No, he should be grateful for the help they’d already given him, that they’d been wise enough to see what he really needed…

 

He wished he could go back to that superior detachment over it. He wished he didn’t feel like they’d beaten him, he wished that he didn’t care.

 

But he did.

 

And, in the end, he could only do what he always did when he was ignored or misrepresented or rejected – swallow it down, and make his own peace with it, and accept that there would never be anyone to explain it to anyway.

 

For the most part, he tried not to think about it. He tried to put it in the same little box with the things his father had said, and his high school bullies, and the countless businessmen and congressmen and terrorists who had tried to put him down over the years. Yes, it all still annoyed him and there was no use pretending it didn’t, but he could at least tell himself not to look at it (except for those little sections of time, usually scheduled in for around 3am, when he would pull through the contents entirely at random simply to infuriate himself).

 

But something about this was different. There was something about this that he really couldn’t let go, or even relegate to the middle of the night. He could force it to the back of his head for days, even weeks at a time. But every so often, when a petty injustice was gnawing at his brain, or when he was trying not to gag on the blood he was allowed to drink, he’d remember… He’d think back to that wonderful pleasure, that emotional elation, and he was never sure whether he was reassured it was out there somewhere or devastated to know what he was missing.

 

He wanted to understand it. He wanted to make sense of the personal calm he felt along with the physical effects, he wanted to know how any intoxicant could make him feel differently about himself… If that had really happened, or if it was just a fever dream, or something he remembered wrongly after the fact. He hated that he couldn’t be sure of anything they’d told him. He hated the idea that it had been a drug, some other organic fluid, he hated the idea that he’d been lied to or tricked. He hated the idea that it had been human blood, but not as much as he hated the idea that it hadn’t… and he hated how that made him feel. Occasionally, he wondered if that was what had been so special about it, if Nick had inadvertently given him a taste for human blood.

 

So, he tried not to think about it.

 

He went back to work. He went back to being Tony Stark, focused on providing the world with clean energy, and he went back to being Iron Man, focused on keeping the world safe, and if he focussed hard enough on those things, he could ignore all the noise in the background…

 

Until the day Agent Coulson just strolled into his living room, like he lived there.

 

“Security Breach” Tony sighed, purely to amuse himself. A petulant refusal to let this violation of personal space go unacknowledged, even if there was nothing he could do about it.

 

“We need you to look this over” Coulson informed him, attempting to pass him a file. “As soon as possible.”

“Still don’t like being handed things” Tony reminded him, his arms resolutely at his sides “And I don’t work for you, remember?”

“This isn’t about personality profiles anymore” Coulson rolled his eyes, putting the file down on the desk in front of him.

 

Tony prickled with irritation at that. The assumption that his failings were the barrier being overlooked, not his total disinterest in helping SHIELD with anything…

 

And then Coulson brought a hologram into life – and Tony’s eyes immediately fell on a shimmering image of the Tesseract.

 

He knew what that was.

 

He cast a weary eye over Coulson, and reluctantly recognised that he did look genuinely spooked. Tony couldn’t stop himself from knowing all the many explanations there could be for that, all the theoretical nightmares that Tesseract could make a reality. Even before he read the details, he knew this wasn’t something he could ignore out of spite. That, as much as he’d like to tell Coulson to fuck himself (or, at least, to provide another sample of that blood in compensation…) that this situation didn’t leave any room for his feelings.

 

Which seemed just fucking typical.

 

“Well, looks like I have work to do, then.” Tony conceded petulantly, making sure to fix Coulson with a look that added,

 

So, you can fuck off now then.

 

*

 

Steve had been throwing blows at a punching bag for over an hour. He had figured out that, if it hadn’t made him feel better by now, it probably wasn’t going to – but he couldn’t quite bring himself to stop.

 

There was still this powerful irritation, right there under his muscles, impossible to find or reach or satisfy. This constant, indefinable tension that soaked into everything he tried to do. The SHIELD therapists told him it was all emotional – all in his head – that he wouldn’t be able to ease that anxiety until he dealt with the trauma he’d been through.

 

Steve wasn’t so sure.

 

That he was suffering with trauma, sure, they were right about that. A whole year later, and Steve still panicked for a few seconds each morning, when it dawned on him that he could never go home. The nightmares about ice, and the flashbacks to runaway trains, and the constant burden of despondency… fine, he should probably talk about all of that. If he ever found someone he could bear to sit in front of for more than five minutes, he should probably do that…

 

But he was sure that this was something else.

 

This… tension, was something physical, he just knew it. Something he had to work out of himself, something he had to find and claw at, cut out of his flesh. And when he pushed himself like this, when he ran until his lungs burned or punched a bag until his knuckles bled, he felt like he was stepping closer to it – but never quite finding it. Like an itch that grew with the satisfaction of scratching it, like a sexual pleasure that grew ever more unbearable as he failed to find release-

 

Steve was broken from his wordless internal monologue, as yet another punching bag was torn from its chain.

 

His muscles curled in frustration. Still not enough

 

“Trouble sleeping?” The voice came echoing through the gym, setting Steve’s teeth on edge. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk to Fury, per se. It was that he didn’t want to talk to anyone. He didn’t want to have to organise sounds into words…

“I’ve slept for seventy years sir. I think I’ve had my fill” Steve answered on auto pilot. A meaningless piece of small talk. Filling the gap, just getting him through to… what, exactly?

“You should be out celebrating.” Nick smiled. “Seeing the world.”

 

The ache in Steve’s jaw intensified as he bit down harder. Steve liked Fury well enough, but… celebrating? Steve would’ve questioned that, if he’d felt confident enough to question anything these days. But, who knew? Maybe that was a reference to something, or a commonly used phrase for mourning the death of everyone you’ve ever known, in the 21st Century…

 

“You here with a mission, sir?” Steve cut to the chase.

“I am”

“Trying to get me back into the world?” Steve sighed, as he took the file from Fury’s hand.

“Trying to save it.” Nick corrected –

 

But Steve barely heard him.

 

As soon as he opened the file, there it was. A picture of the Tesseract. The very thing that Steve had sacrificed his entire life for, what seemed like ten months ago. The siren call that had drawn in Hydra, that could’ve potentially destroyed western civilisation – that had apparently tempted the allies, too, to equally devastating effect.

 

It had all been for nothing.

 

Everything was for nothing. It was all the same endless, heartless cycle-

 

“Who took it from you?” Steve asked, robotically, when Nick had finished excusing himself from playing with the Tesseract in the first place.

“He's called Loki. He's… not from around here. There's a lot we'll have to bring you up to speed on if you're in. The world has gotten even stranger than you already know.”

 

Steve almost laughed at that. The idea that there was still a scale

 

Really, which was more ridiculous; the gamma powered rage monster, or the billionaire vampire that flew around solving crimes in a robot suit? The flying aircraft carriers that could turn invisible, or the little handheld devices that allowed you to access every piece of information on earth? Or the fact that everyone took all these things for granted, the fact that there were seven-year-olds on the subway throwing tantrums because they couldn’t watch cartoons in their lap-

 

“At this point, I doubt anything would surprise me” Steve said, purely for the sake of something to say.

“Ten bucks says you’re wrong.” Nick commented, and Steve felt his shoulders sag.

 

Well, why not. He usually was, these days.

 

*

 

Steve had put far too much energy into restraining Loki, and he knew it.

 

His aggression wasn’t anything to do with this murderous monster, or even his old adversary the Tesseract. It wasn’t in proportion to the size of the threat and he couldn’t pretend it was necessary. It wasn’t really about the stakes he was faced with, or the trauma he’d been trying to ignore beforehand.

 

For the most part, it was just there. It was still just that constant, dull ache, that desperate need for something that he couldn’t place –

 

But he couldn’t deny it had gotten worse since Tony Stark had landed beside him.

 

Part of that was probably just his regular human defensiveness, maybe a bit of that competitive edge resurfacing… it had been a long time since anyone had appeared over his shoulder, in command of more power than he was, demanding anyone stand down on his behalf… Part of it was just circumstantial. Steve tried to comfort himself with that.

 

But part of it was personal. He couldn’t deny it. And he couldn’t quite say why that was – whether, when it came to it, being a robot wearing, billionaire vampire was just weirder, or whether it was because this was Howards son… he wasn’t sure why that would bother him, but maybe it did. Something did.

 

He finished tugging at Loki’s restraints, and stood upright, and made himself take a deep breath. He reminded himself that he was Captain America. That he did not, under any circumstances, succumb to his personal emotions like this. It was the one thing he could be sure of, and he clung to it.

 

He forcibly arranged his features into what he hoped was a professional blankness, and turned to look at Stark, just as he removed the helmet-

 

Steve saw the mass of dark, shiny hair before Tony lifted his head. Then his lips, already curling into a smile.

 

And then his eyes.

 

Oh…

 

It was the artist in Steve that saw him first. The part of him that could appreciate pure beauty, distinct from any judgement or reaction to it-

 

But the reaction wasn’t far behind.

 

“You look perplexed, Captain.” Tony Stark observed, his voice as smooth and dark as he was-

“I don’t like it.” Steve bit out, and then glared towards Loki, to try and cover what he really meant.

“What, Rock of Ages giving up so easy?” Tony smirked, and Steve felt a heat flood through him that almost brought tears to his eyes.

 

He hated that he didn’t understand the reference, the general panic and frustration of never being quite fluent in the language.

He was immediately angry at Stark’s flippant tone, and his easy judgement of Steve’s performance

He was still overwhelmed by just how impossibly beautiful Tony was, physically embarrassed by the urge to stand and stare at him.

 

That dull ache in him grew sharper, like a bodily hint – getting warmer

 

“I don’t remember it being all that easy.” Steve muttered. And then, in an impulsive burst of bitterness “Fury didn’t tell me he was calling you in.”

“Yeah, there’s a lot of things Fury doesn’t tell you.” Stark breezed, and Steve’s irritation grew hotter.

“You’re the vampire, yeah?” He observed, mainly to demonstrate that he wasn’t entirely clueless “With the…robot suits?”

 

And then Tony’s face softened, considering Steve more honestly, the edge melting away from his smile as those perfect eyes flickered with thought.

 

Steve felt his chest tighten. It turned out that pretty was even more difficult than beautiful…

 

“Does that bother you?” Tony asked, his voice suddenly more genuine… less…abrasive…

“As compared to what?” Steve breathed, smiling in spite of himself.

 

Tony looked at him a minute longer, the air growing thinner the whole time.

 

“Well, most stuff is still pretty mundane” Tony commented, eventually “Regular people are still out there chatting and fucking and complaining about work. Playing cards and going to baseball games and worrying about their kids…” And the look he gave Steve was so kind, just then. “I don’t know, maybe it does seem like everything is weird, when you’re thrown right into it… but, actually, I’m still the exception.”

 

And Steve felt this strange, sinking feeling that was actually nice…

 

And then the air around them lit up, and the jet shook beneath them.

 

“Where’s this coming from?” Nat asked from the front of the plane, to no one in particular. Steve gave his head a little shake, and made himself look away from Tony.

 

Time to focus.

 

*

 

Tony couldn’t calm himself down.

 

He’d tried pacing, and making himself stand still and ‘breathe’, and counting backwards from a million. Nothing had even touched the sides.

 

He didn’t even know what he was so wound up about.

 

Okay, so the fight with Thor had been intense – but this was a completely different thing to his usual post-battle adrenaline rush. Not more than, but separate to.

 

And Steve’s interference hadn’t exactly been controversial. In the great spectrum of people who stuck their noses into his business and cast judgement on his methods, Steve’s intervention was probably amongst the nicest. It made no sense for Tony to keep going back to that. The was no reason for him to keep replaying it, keep trying to remember the exact words, as though it mattered...

 

He wasn’t even sure whether it annoyed him, per se. What else to call this prickling irritation that had covered him like a rash. Why there was this nagging feeling of disappointment. Why he kept thinking back to that inconsequential little exchange…

 

Well, most things are pretty mundane…

 

Arg. He didn’t even know where that had come from. What on earth had possessed him, to just say it out loud. Where all the usual social checks and personal paranoia had gone, in that moment.

 

Why it felt like…that, that Steve didn’t care that he was a vampire…

 

Why he felt this sudden impulse to push back against it… whatever it was. This strangely compelling, tugging feeling-

 

It frightened him.

 

He didn’t like it

 

… He didn’t. No. Really. He didn’t.

 

“You ready?” Coulson interrupted his thought process. Tony braced himself for the sting of injustice as he looked up at him-

 

And…

 

Coulson really wasn’t all that bad, was he?

 

Overly committed to the part, perhaps, and a little rough around the edges, but well meaning…

 

I know this feeling

 

That oddly magnanimous feeling, that… strength, that made it okay to step back…

 

He thought back to the afternoon in the doughnut shop. The way he’d felt, looking at Nick and Natasha, while the taste of that blood was still fresh on his lips.

 

And he thought of Steve, looking at him from the back of the Quin Jet.

 

And he didn’t stop to wonder what the connection was, just then.

 

“Yeah, ready.” He smiled, and let Coulson lead the way.

 

*

 

Steve was desperately, searingly ashamed.

 

Not because Agent Coulson had died on his watch, or because they’d lost Thor and Bruce, or that Loki had escaped according to the plan they’d played along with – although, if he thought about it, he should probably be ashamed of all of that, and doubly ashamed that none of it was at the top of his agenda.

 

That, for all of that, it was still his argument with Tony that was consuming his thoughts.

 

Or, rather, his wildly inappropriate reaction to it…

 

Steve screwed his face up, and forced himself to take yet another deep breath. Coulson was dead, for fuck’s sake. Barton was in a medical bay, waiting to hear the details of his ordeal – if he wasn’t haunted by them already. The whole world balanced on the brink of catastrophe, and Nick was waiting in the conference room to hear how Captain America was going to deal with it-

 

Now was not the time to be thinking about the way his whole body had burned, squaring up to Tony Stark… How desperately he’d wanted Tony to hit him-

 

Sweet Jesus Christ, I am fucked up.

 

There was just no reasonable explanation for this reaction – or for his behaviour at the time, come to that. He had no words for the sudden passion he’d felt in that moment, the way the world around him had faded until there was nothing but he and Tony and that devastating pressure in his chest…

 

So close to that thing. So close…

 

God, he didn’t have time for this. He had to pull himself together.

 

Or pull something together at least.

 

He drew in another long, slow breath, and tried to tell himself what Captain America would do in this situation… the trouble was, Captain America was a comic book character. He was a marketing campaign. His pure ideals and comforting impression could be applied to many things – but a desperate attraction to a beautiful vampire wasn’t one of them. The writers had just flat out avoided that storyline, for the comics – that one just did not fit.

 

And it was that. At least it was partly that. No point in trying to dress it up as anything else.

 

When Coulson had first told him that Stark was a vampire, Steve had thrown it on the same ‘weird shit’ pile as everything else. He’d accepted by then that he couldn’t take any common English word at face value, that ‘vampire’ probably didn’t mean any of the things he’d thought of – and that he therefore didn’t know what it meant. Same as anything else.

 

And then he’d actually seen Tony Stark – every part the perfect gothic fantasy-

 

And with that he’d remembered that that perfect gothic fantasy existed. He’d remembered the myth of the vampire, the vague collection of salacious stories and suggestive images that contributed to that idea-

 

Vampires were the height of erotica in the less liberated landscape of the forties, okay? So sue him.

 

Not that he’d ever really thought about it before, not specifically. It had been a vague sort of association in his head, up until a few hours ago. Back when he probably would’ve said, yeah, vampires are sexy, if anyone had outright asked him... and never thought about it at all, if they hadn’t. It wasn’t like it was a particular kink of his, or anything…

 

Well, it hadn’t been-

 

Steve felt his hands curling into fists, his nails cutting into the soft flesh of his palms. There was a tantalising little sting of pain, a petulant urge for more of something… something dark…

 

He could have hit me…

 

Steve wasn’t sure when it had occurred to him that Tony was…more, than he looked. Why he was suddenly so sure that Tony was strong. He didn’t know any more about vampires than he had when he walked aboard this cursed ship, he had no tangible reason to think that they were powerful or impervious outside of fairy tales. Just the sudden rush of intimidation he’d felt when Tony Stark stepped into him, the invisible force he felt in those softly spoken words.

 

“I’m starting to want you to make me.”

 

The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he remembered Tony’s voice then, the shiny, hard edge on it, like glass. The way his eyes had flashed, so bright and so dark all at once. The way Steve’s heart had leapt into his throat, until he felt like he was choking on an over abundance of his own blood.

 

The sharp reminder of that wordless need in him, so close to the surface now…

 

So close…

 

Steve told Tony to put on the suit purely so that Tony could say he didn’t need to. He had been challenging Tony to say it out loud – I can just fight you, exactly as I am. He hadn’t realised until that moment just how much he wanted that. How much he wanted to lose this fight.

 

He’d wanted Tony to hit him. He’d wanted Tony to-

 

“Captain? They’re waiting for you in the conference hall” A voice reminded him via his earpiece. Maria, he thought…

“Yeah, I’m on my way.” He sighed, on auto pilot.

 

And then kicked himself, because that meant he had to be on his way, now.

 

*

 

Tony was shocked into consciousness by a scorching flash of blinding light.

 

Sunlight.

 

Shit.

 

But before his frenzied mind could figure out how to work his arms, something stepped in to shield him from it. A shadow fell over him, like a balm, and for a few seconds that was all he cared about.

 

And then, as his skin stopped stinging and the garish purple shadows began to float out of his vision, he started to remember other things.

 

An obscene, gaping wormhole, opening into the vast darkness of deep space.

 

An endless wave of mechanical soldiers, engulfing the city like a plague of locusts.

 

Steve. He remembered Steve.

 

So clearly, that for a while, he wasn’t sure whether he was really looking at him now, or if he was still dreaming-

 

And then he heard Hulk roar, and that woke him up.

 

He was looking up at Steve, from wherever he’d landed. He was lying on his back, his visor missing but the rest of his suit intact, with Hulk to one side of him and Thor on the other. His head was pounding, and his shoulders ached, and his face was still tingling from its brief encounter with the daylight. Slowly, he worked it all out. He’d taken the missile through the wormhole safely, somehow he’d made it back alive…

 

The robot army had all stopped moving…

 

And Steve was right there above him, shielding him from the sun.

 

“Stark? Can you hear me?” Steve’s voice seemed to be coming from miles away, even though his body felt so very close “Are you okay? What do you need?”

 

What do you need…

 

And for the few seconds his brain was still running on basic, it was so obvious what he needed.

 

His eyes fell to Steve’s neck. He could see his pulse, throbbing under his skin… such perfect skin… Tony could practically feel it giving way under his teeth, he could almost imagine that taste into being-

 

He remembered it.

 

He just knew that Steve would taste like that, that it would feel like that-

 

“Tony?” Steve asked again, an edge on his voice that just about got Tony’s attention.

 

“Please tell me nobody kissed me.” Tony joked on autopilot, still waiting for his brain to catch up.

 

*

 

Tony could not believe that Steve Rogers was moving in with him. No, worse than that – that Tony had actually suggested it.

 

What on earth had he been thinking? Well, no, he hadn’t been thinking – at least, not with his brain. He’d just come out with it, there amongst the debris of an especially determined little shawarma restaurant – well, you can always stay at the Tower, until they find your apartment under the rubble.

 

Really, it was unfair to hold him to it. Clearly, he’d still been in shock, when he said that – probably still concussed. And still high on the smell of Steve’s skin, still under the influence of whatever it was that flowed in his veins-

 

Which was precisely what made this whole thing a bad idea.

 

Tony still hadn’t faced the prospect that he might actually do it – it was very important to maintain his personal illusion that he had more control than that. He couldn’t face the idea that he really was a fairy tale monster, that his darkest moments of self-loathing might actually have some merit.

 

It was bad enough facing the reality that he wanted to.

 

Even acknowledging it as a fantasy felt like crossing a Rubicon. Until now, Tony had pointedly refused to think about how he was made… what he could hypothetically do to a person… He’d never once pictured actually biting someone until that painfully bright afternoon in New York.

 

He’d pictured it. Just reaching up and cupping the side of Steve’s face, guiding him down gently, because Steve would have let him, he’d have tilted his chin and relaxed his shoulders and let Tony sink his teeth into his throat-

 

He’d pushed the thought back in that moment, and in a thousand moments since – but he couldn’t make it go away. In fact, in the two weeks since then, Tony had picked at that idea like a wound, until it had festered and grown into something much more. He’d spent so many nights since then, imagining all the ways it could happen.

 

This was undeniably messed up, and the one thing everyone would surely agree on was that it was a very bad idea to have his man move in with him.

 

Not that he would do anything like that. But, y’know, there were plenty of other stupid things he could do, in this state…

 

…He wouldn’t even know how to do it, anyway. And there were things to know, he remembered that much. Yensin had tried to explain it to him, by his sick bed, the first night in that cave. The difference between feeding from someone and turning them, the physiological processes his body now went through…ways to do things safely… And Tony had been so horrified by himself and everything that was happening to him, he’d simply zoned it out. He’d made sure not to listen, because it that moment, he felt like if he looked right at any of it, he’d simply go mad. And now he had no idea where you were supposed to bite, or how he’d know not to take too much, or whatever that thing was about closing a wound so that someone didn’t bleed to death after the fact-

 

Jesus fuck, what are you doing?

 

Was he trying to work it out? What, in case he needed to know? This was sick. Even if it sometimes felt like the most natural thing in the world – that was sick.

 

He had to stop this from happening, he had to find some way to take the offer back, to run away from Steve and never see him again-

 

But of course, all of this was ridiculous. He couldn’t revoke that offer now… the idea of telling Steve he wasn’t welcome made Tony feel cold and dirty. Almost as bad as the idea that he was slowly giving into a demonic bloodlust. And it wasn’t like there was any point in putting either of them through it anyway. He’d still have to see Steve again, whether he made him homeless first or not.

 

This… problem, wasn’t going away.

 

*

 

Steve spent his first week in the Tower actively avoiding Tony.

 

He knew this was a bad idea before he even moved in. He’d sat in his little SHIELD bedsit – his ‘emergency accommodation’ – and listed all the ways in which this could go horribly wrong. It had ranged from all the things he and Tony could end up bickering over, right through to the risk that Steve would snap one day and fall to his knees in front of him-

 

Or just say something like that out loud. Jesus Christ.

 

And Steve didn’t really think he’d do anything like that; he’d not completely lost control of his faculties… But he couldn’t deny that he was always thrown in Tony’s presence. He always became painfully aware of his body, and suddenly all of his physical processes stopped being natural and it was a constant effort to remember to breathe and swallow. He was never confident that he knew how to speak English, never completely sure of what he might say.

 

And yet, he’d said yes.

 

And even when Nick had tried to talk him out of it, when Maria and Nat had made kinder interventions that would’ve worked perfectly well as an excuse, even though he’d had so many opportunities to duck out – here he was.

 

Because he wanted to be here, really.

 

He spent all of the time he was hiding from Tony wishing he could see him. Every time they bumped into each other, Steve’s heart would leap in his chest and the air around him grew thin, and everything suddenly seemed bright and exciting-

 

And most of those times they ended up fighting. Of course they did. About everything on Steve’s list, and other things besides. They picked at each other’s choice of words, and called out each other’s attitudes, and found reasons to take offence over the most trivial of things. And every time Steve walked away from one of those exchanges he felt guilty, and dirty-

 

Because he knew why he was doing it.

 

And he knew that he enjoyed it.

 

Tony was probably genuinely irritated – and Steve could hardly blame him. He thought some of Tony’s outbursts were unreasonable, but he had no doubt they were made in good faith. That if Tony was sniping at him it was because he was annoyed, and if he didn’t have a good reason in the short term, he could always argue that Steve’s general behaviour had put him on edge.

 

And Steve wouldn’t have been able to offer a defence, because Steve knew he was picking at Tony.

 

He never meant to at the time – it wasn’t that deliberate. But it wasn’t exactly deep, either. Steve picked at Tony because he was so desperate for any reaction from him. He took up every one of Tony’s challenges because he was delighted every time Tony made one. Because he liked sparring with Tony. He liked the way it made him feel. It felt as though he was finally scratching that itch – but he couldn’t make it go away. As soon as he stopped, the yearning for relief flooded back, twice as strong. He walked away from every fight feeling ashamed and inadequate and desperate to do it again.

 

So, he avoided Tony. And he waited.

 

Because he knew it would have to break eventually.

 

*

 

‘Eventually’ had ended up taking less than two weeks.

 

It felt longer, at the time.

 

By then, Tony felt as though he’d lived with Steve for months. He’d spent so many hours thinking about their fleeting interactions, filled so many nights with conversations that never happened… and other things.

 

So many other things.

 

He was still thinking though one of their previous exchanges when he got to the break room that night. Well, ‘exchanges’ might’ve been a bit generous… Steve had passed by him earlier in the evening, when he was on his way back down to the workshop, and casually commented, don’t overdo it. After which, Tony had spent a good three hours dissecting what Steve meant by that and why it was so irritating –

 

And, yes, how good Steve’s arms looked in that particular shirt.

 

He’d wondered if things would’ve been different, if Steve had been just slightly less attractive. If it might’ve at least been simpler, if he’d just wanted one thing from Steve. If Steve had been an average looking guy, who was never unexpectedly funny or surprisingly sweet or remarkably good with his hands…if, maybe then, Tony could’ve ignored this constant temptation to lick his skin. If it would’ve been easier to put his darker fantasies into a little box, if they weren’t getting intermingled with other fantasies.

 

And, after several hours of this relentless analysis, Tony had lost patience with himself. He’d given up on the work he’d barely looked at, and taken his grievances with him to get coffee.

 

And there was Steve.

 

Tony set his jaw, and cast Steve a cursory glance of acknowledgement before looking away. He could feel Steve there, just out of the corner of his eye, as he made his way to the sink – gaze pointedly averted.

 

He could swear he felt his heart beating.

 

“Still awake then?” Steve commented, lightly; and Tony’s blood immediately flared up.

“So you are.” He bit back. Not his best retort, but he was suddenly having difficulty threading bigger ideas together… He still refused to meet Steve’s eye as he reached up to open the overhead cupboard, ignoring the way the shape of Steve moved ever closer for as long as he could-

 

And then his control broke. When he looked down, Steve was standing right there on the other side of the counter, maybe two feet away from him.

 

“Are you going to be that defensive about everything I say?” Steve demanded. It sent a spike of adrenaline through Tony, just as he reached for a mug. The gesture came over too sharp, too aggressive – and missed.

 

He struck a row of glasses with far too much force, sending several of them crashing into the worktop with a battery of loud cracks. They shattered into tiny shards, thrown in all directions by the force of the impact. Both Steve and Tony leapt back in alarm, throwing their arms up – holding that defensive position for a few seconds after the destruction had clattered to a stop.

 

Tony felt a sudden wave of dizziness roll though his head, like his mind was floating away from his body…

 

He was walking around the counter…walking over to Steve… like he was watching himself do it… like he was mesmerised, or dreaming this whole thing…

 

He heard himself asking, are you okay? his own voice distant and echoey and unreal.

 

“It’s fine” Steve sighed, pulling a splinter of glass from his shoulder “I’m sure I’ll live”. And then a little bead of blood swelled up on his skin, a perfect shining jewel…

 

Oh God, that smell…

 

Everything faded out around Tony as that drop of blood grow heavier, the scent of it rising up around him like flood water. He felt his limbs tense, gearing his body for an action he hadn’t given it permission to take. Oh God, he was about to do something terrible. He couldn’t stop this.

 

And Tony knew this was the feeling he’d been searching for, since that dreadful morning in that doughnut shop with Nick. He knew now that he’d been right about Steve. But there was no swelling of enlightenment, no feeling of revelation or justification or relief. All of his previous priorities and challenges were just receding into nothing as that need in him grew stronger – the desperate, fruitless panic to avoid it-

 

Tony tore his eyes away from Steve’s neck and squeezed them shut for a second. When he opened them again he found Steve staring at him with such intensity, it was almost as overwhelming as the bloodlust.

 

Oh God, he wasn’t going to resist this. He couldn’t-

 

“Tony…” Steve’s voice was low, and dark, his eyes dropping to Tony’s mouth…

 

Tony just threw himself forward – or, no, he wasn’t doing any of this for himself. It just happened to him. He pushed Steve hard against the back wall, his hand already pulling a fistful of Steve’s hair, forcing his head back-

 

Baring his neck.

 

Jesus, stop, stop, you have to stop-

 

But he wasn’t stopping. He was dropping his head, to the thin trail of blood that now traced the outline of Steve’s collarbone. He was already running his tongue over Steve’s skin

 

Oh, fuck, that taste-

 

Tony could’ve bitten his own tongue off, he was so desperate for more of that tantalising taste just there at the tip of it. It was everything he remembered, but richer and stronger and with that perfect salty echo of Steve there just beneath it, and fuck, not enough, he-

 

Stop, you’ll hurt him-

 

But Tony couldn’t connect the frantic dialogue in his head to the desperate actions of his body. It was like screaming hopelessly at someone else, someone who didn’t even speak the same language, someone who literally couldn’t see what this manic stranger was shrieking about. Some primal part of him had taken over, and it understood that there was no way he could stop, that it would be ridiculous to stop. The screaming voice just didn’t see how right this was, how good this was, how desperately Tony needed this and that it would be impossible to stop-

 

And then the flat of his tongue finally reached the little wound at the nape of Steve’s neck. There was a sudden swell of blood over his lips, an overpowering abundance of sensation and emotion that he went to chase without another thought-

 

And then he heard Steve moan.

 

You are hurting him

 

And he had no idea how he did it, whether his body had finally listened to his head or if his body now just wanted to do something else completely, but somehow he managed to pull away. He jerked his head back from Steve’s neck, biting his own lips hard enough to draw blood. The hand that had been digging into Steve’s hip was pushed hard into the wall, breaking the plaster into a shallow indentation as Tony tired to see it all the way through to stepping away from him.

 

But he still had one hand twisted brutally into Steve’s hair, and he was still pressed close to his chest, and Steve’s neck was still right there, that little cut already swollen with more of that beautiful, life giving blood-

 

And then he felt Steve’s grab at the back of his head, pulling him in again.

 

Jesus Steve, stop, I can’t, I’ll-

 

“Do it Tony, please” Steve whispered, throwing his head back.

 

And Tony didn’t hear him. It didn’t even register that Steve was letting him do this, that Steve wanted this – Tony was way beyond that now. It was just that Steve hadn’t let him get away, and that had been the very last moment he might have. But Steve had held him there, and bared his neck, and made it easy-

 

And Tony did know how to do this.

 

He brought his hand down to Steve’s throat, pressing his thumb to Steve’s jaw to force his head back further, and brought his lips to his neck. He could feel Steve’s pulse throbbing under his skin, he could tell immediately where this power was concentrated. He sank his teeth into Steve’s flesh without a hesitation, like he already knew how it should feel, like he’d been expecting the way Steve’s skin split apart for him.

 

A burst of blood filled his mouth, the sudden wealth of flavour and sensation almost too much, but fuck, still not enough. He swallowed greedily, sucking against Steve’s skin, dragging huge gulps from his throat without any conscious thought. Tony heard a wet, choking sound that shot straight to his groin, right as the elation hit him. The immediate craving for the taste was swamped by a sudden rush of physical pleasure, personal power, bodily excitement… He slowed himself, swallowing more gently, his lips softer against Steve’s neck. He heard Steve whimper needily, and oh, it was good, the shape and smell and sounds of him were good, everything was good

 

Finally, Tony felt satisfied. Complete, and content, and right.

 

He pressed his tongue softly to Steve’s skin before he broke away, sucking at the wound long after he’d stopped bleeding it… sealing it…

 

He didn’t know how he knew to do that. But, suddenly, he felt like he knew how to do everything.

 

He tilted Steve’s face to him, carefully examining every detail for things he suddenly just understood. Steve’s skin was pale, but not dangerously so… Tony just knew that, he knew he didn’t have to panic-

 

He’d known at the time that he wouldn’t take too much. He trusted himself; he didn’t even question himself.

 

And looking at Steve now, his eyes blown wide and his lips wet and pouting and his cheeks already beginning to colour again, Tony just saw-

 

“It’s okay baby, you’re okay” He whispered, completely sure. He was sure of everything, now. He was sure of himself. He was powerful, and confident, and strong. It coursed through him, a physical warmth, an overwhelming surge of elucidation -

 

He felt strong enough to be soft, all of a sudden. He was confident enough to be kind. He was alive enough to see, to understand what Steve needed now – and he felt powerful enough to provide it.

 

He wasn’t embarrassed to try, now.

 

“Are you with me, Steve?” He soothed, loosening his grip into a firm caress.

“Tony…” Steve whispered, pleadingly, leaning into him. And Tony knew. He understood.

“It’s okay baby, I’ve got you.”

 

*

 

“Do it Tony, please-

 

Steve hadn’t meant to say it. He didn’t even know he was saying it. It had broken out of him the same way a scream would’ve – an immediate, physical reaction, something beyond his control

 

And God, he wanted that.

 

And he wanted this, he wanted Tony – he wanted Tony to hurt him. He needed it. And he just couldn’t bear the thought of coming this close and letting it go, he couldn’t cope with this desperate frustration anymore, he just couldn’t-

 

And then the searing pain of Tony sinking his teeth into his neck, and fuck, it hurt so good-

 

This.

 

And then there weren’t any thoughts. There was just the thrill of being held completely at Tony’s mercy, and the glorious pain, and the feeling of his blood being dragged from his veins, like his whole being was being caressed from the inside out. His vision brightened into blinding white, his heart ran for its life, he couldn’t breathe-

 

He clawed futilely at Tony’s back as his lungs began to burn with need, but there was no strength in his arms. He couldn’t push Tony away, he couldn’t even call out to him – and Christ that was good. He was completely powerless, vulnerable… free. His head was swimming, he was floating, he was lost in the vivid urgency of this one moment.

 

And then Tony pulled away just enough to let him breathe. It felt like all the air in the room rushed to fill the void in him, sharp and crisp and sweet, the sudden elation of it almost enough to tip him into unconsciousness. Every inch of him weakened in relief as took desperate, shuddering breaths, his limbs suddenly heavy, his muscles trembling.

 

He was dizzy.

 

Steve hadn’t felt dizzy since 1943. He’d not felt weak or out of control like this since he was a sickly little kid from Brooklyn. And this feeling had all the hallmarks of a treasured childhood memory, and all the excitement of being entirely alien… All of a sudden he felt so much, and yet it was all so easy, it all just washed through him. He was giddy, and tearful, and bewildered-

 

He felt alive.

 

“Are you with me, Steve?”

 

It was like music. A soft, sweet melody that felt immediately familiar. Safe…

 

Steve let his head fall forward, heavy and dull. He had to wait a second for his eyes to focus again. He found himself staring right at Tony, trying to put all the details of him together, trying to comprehend just how beautiful he was.

 

His lips were stained a dark, glossy red…

 

“Tony…” He whispered, like a prayer.

“It’s okay baby, I’ve got you” Tony soothed, stroking a gentle hand through his hair. Steve finally recognised the way Tony was looking him over, that competent, compassionate way he was examining him…looking after him

 

It was okay. Tony knew what he was doing, Tony would make this okay…

 

“You’re going to be okay” Tony promised, placing a soft palm over Steve’s heart. “Just breathe, take your time…”

 

Steve had fallen into it so completely that he hadn’t even realised it had happened. He’d just forgotten that there was any alternative to the moment he was in, any other way of feeling, that there had ever been any barrier between the two of them.

 

“Please, I want you, please…” He breathed, trying to pull him closer, still not finding any strength in his arms.

“Shhhh, it’s alright.” Tony smiled, holding him firm, “You already have me, I promise. You can have anything you want in the world. Just take it slow, okay? You have all the time you need…”

 

And Steve was just overwhelmed by a wave of love. There was no other word for it, no way to confuse it with anything else. And maybe it didn’t make sense, for him to feel such devastating affection and such intense devotion for a man he barely knew – but it did make sense. It felt so natural, so right, it made sense of everything else… Steve knew that he would die for this man. That he had already given all of himself over to him, ceded authority over his very soul.

 

“Please Tony…”

 

Tony’s eyes softened, those perfect lips parting in a silent promise as he leant closer. Steve felt his skin tighten, knowing something wonderful was about to happen-

 

And then he felt Tony’s lips brush against his, kissing him sweetly, like he was tasting him. Steve opened his mouth immediately, giving up and letting all of his weight fall into the wall as Tony stepped flush against him and kissed him deeper. And then he felt Tony snake an arm around his waist, pulling him back onto his feet, holding him close-

 

And, fuck, he was strong.

 

He was strong enough to hold Steve upright. Strong enough to pin him down… Right now, at least, Tony was every bit as strong as Steve was – stronger, maybe.

 

The very idea of that was intoxicating. And it all just melted in with how good Steve felt in that moment, and how beautiful Tony was, and how blissfully perfect this kiss was-

 

“Please Tony fuck me” He whispered desperately against Tony’s lips. He didn’t even know that he would never have said that, to anyone, ordinarily. He had no concept that he wasn’t as confident or as open as that, no idea that it might have been too forward or too embarrassing or anything else. The way he trusted Tony now almost went beyond trust as a concept. He’d have let Tony walk around his mind right now, and never thought to question it.

 

“Anything.” Tony smiled, taking his hand.

 

*

 

By the time they reached his bedroom, Tony had stepped into a different place completely.

 

He felt intoxicated and entirely clear headed, all at once. As though all of reality was bending and shifting around him – but the vision he’d been left with made so much more sense than the world he’d left behind. The idea of himself as he was in the real world seemed increasingly unlikely, and then disappeared completely, as he forgot ever being anything but what he was in this moment.

 

He was strong, and he was calm, and he had to look after Steve. That was all there was – and that was right. It was obvious, and natural… The stupid games they’d been playing up until now were the illusion, the irrational behaviour of immature children and unevolved beings-

 

This, this was how things fit together. Obviously, it was. And if this felt dizzy, and bright, and impossibly vivid, then it was because it was supposed to feel that way.

 

Everything was always supposed to feel this way.

 

He laid Steve down on the bed, kneeling between his legs, a firm hand pressed to the centre of his chest in a silent encouragement to lie still. He could see that shapeless desperation in Steve, squirming helplessly under his skin.

 

There was another version of Tony that would’ve been intimidated by this, or personally venerated, or something equally shallow. A version of him that would’ve been distracted by social myths or confused by obvious falsehoods. He remembered his own logic, but he couldn’t empathise with it – like thinking back to the ridiculous choices he made as a teenager.

 

If only he’d just seen Steve…

 

His beautiful, vital Steve, so alive with need and so consumed by all this pressure…

 

Tony knew how to make this better. He knew that this was what he was supposed to do.

 

“It’s okay” He whispered again, flattening his hands against Steve’s chest.

Please Tony-” Steve gasped, grabbing at Tony’s wrists, some of his strength returning as the serum fought to replace what Steve had given away. Tony just held himself firm, and smiled.

“Hush” He soothed, a warm swell of affection rising up in him as Steve whimpered urgently.

 

His poor Steve, so tense and desperate and so scared that this would be taken from him. His tired mind still scrabbling against the intensity of this, just because he was never allowed to feel. Tony watched the conflict behind Steve’s eyes, the responsibility he always felt to be good, the sudden panic that he didn’t know how to let go, the wide-eyed hope that Tony could help him now.

 

Tony felt such a feeling of completeness in that moment, knowing exactly what he was there for – what he was put on this earth to do.

 

He twisted his hands around Steve’s wrists, reversing that hold in one fluid motion, and then immediately pushing Steve’s arms up so that he could pin them just above his head. He deliberately held Steve for long enough to make him tug at the grip, to demonstrate for him that he couldn’t break away. He watched the way Steve’s body relaxed as he fought harder, the relief in his eyes as he put all of his strength into it and still couldn’t pull free. Tony held his ground for a good few minutes, until Steve had satisfied himself that he was helpless, waiting until Steve surrendered into stillness before he loosened his hold.

 

And then he put his hand back to the centre of Steve’s chest, and balled the fabric of his shirt into his fist, and tore it away from his shoulders in one clean, confident tug.

 

Steve gasped, his eyes widening in a delighted sort of terror. He’d leant up into the motion of it, and Tony took that opportunity to slide a determined hand under him and pull him into a sitting position. His lips found their way to Steve’s shoulder in a completely different way this time. More consciously than his earlier animal impulse. And he still didn’t know how he knew, but somehow it was all there. The base understanding of Steve’s body worked, of how his own body worked now, how this was supposed to feel. He kissed his way along Steve’s skin, soft and slow and deep, feeling every bone and joint and muscle until he found that perfect spot-

 

And sank his teeth hard into Steve’s shoulder.

 

*

 

Steve let go of a wild, feral scream.

 

This was the most wonderful pain he’d ever experienced, the most perfect sensation-

 

Oh, he’d never felt this much.

 

Tony’s fangs sank clean through his skin, slicing into the dense muscle just below his shoulder blade, burying themselves at the very heart of that tension he carried in his back. It was so sharp, so searing, so disorientingly, dizzyingly there. It was the blissful relief of pain that came with cutting through scar tissue, or lancing a wound. It was the primal, satisfying pain of finally reaching his limit, pushing up against the edge of himself with everything he had. His head was immediately flooded with endorphins, a high so intense that he got lost in the middle of it. His whole body fell loose in a frantic attempt to give himself to Tony, just abandoning all resistance to everything because he couldn’t think of how specifically to surrender to this.

 

He moaned as Tony bit down harder, another wave of dull pleasure rolling through him as the skin under Tony’s teeth continued to burn. Steve made a feeble attempt to rock against him, finding that his body was too weak and heavy and confused to help him. He heard himself make a pathetic little whimpering sound, his eyes suddenly hot with tears.

 

And then Tony pulled away from him. The slow drag of his teeth coming free of Steve’s flesh was almost as good as the bite…

 

He felt a thick, hot trickle of blood run down his back, before Tony’s mouth was over the wound again, sucking softly at the little cuts he’d made, and then running his tongue over them, healing them up… The conflict of sensations overwhelmed him, the gentleness and violence of Tony, the afterglow of that glorious pain mixing in with the tenderness of these affectionate little kisses. Like being at the crest of a rollercoaster, the feeling of being held so securely and the feeling of being thrown to his death, all at once.

 

He could hear himself whispering Tony’s name, over and over, like a sacrament.

 

And then Tony’s hands were on him again, kind but determined, stroking over his chest and shoulders, guiding him onto his front. Steve’s body relented for him, just following every gesture without thought to where it was leading, letting Tony do whatever he wanted with him. He felt Tony’s hand run down his spine, wet with blood, and the idea thrilled him beyond any rational thought – and then he was being pushed flat to the mattress.

 

There was a sudden shock of friction, and Steve recognised for the first time that he was painfully hard. He ground his hips down against the bed, beyond any concept of embarrassment, breaking out in an unashamedly whorish moan as he felt Tony straddle his waist and lean over him again.

 

He was more direct this time, dropping his head and biting into Steve’s other shoulder without any preamble. Steve screamed again, muffled by the sheets now, still rutting desperately against the bed. God, it was even better – the piercing grip of Tony’s teeth along with the solidness of him there at Steve’s back, and the low, grinding pleasure building in his groin-

 

And then he felt Tony let him go again, kissing and sucking and licking at the wound, his hands pining Steve to the bed by his sides.

 

“Again, more, Jesus, please-” Steve sobbed, trying to push back against Tony, burying his head into the pillows and arching his shoulders in a bid to offer himself up. But Tony just continued at his same steady pace, licking the blood from Steve’s skin now, slowly moving further down his back.

 

And then his fingers curled over the waistband of Steve’s jeans, ripping something as he tugged them roughly over his hips, just far enough to reveal the soft flesh at the curve of his lower back. Steve did his best to wriggle further out of them as Tony dug his thumbs into the skin above his hipbones. And then Steve felt Tony shift, and then the soft press of his lips at the bend of his waste, the slow, warm sweep of his tongue-

 

please, please, please, please-

 

And then a stab of blinding pleasure as Tony sank his teeth into Steve’s hip, this time jumping straight to his spine, his cock throbbing painfully as Tony dug deeper into his flesh. His whole body turned to water, every inch of him felt like it was trying to crawl towards Tony.

 

There, there, there, fuck, yes-“

 

There.

 

He’d found it. That deep irritation, that hidden void, that wordless, buried yearning – it was trapped there under Tony’s teeth, breaking apart under the strength of this, the pressure being drained from Steve’s body with every little suckled mouthful Tony took.

 

Steve could feel the blood trickling over his hips, fine, almost tickling trails of it running between his legs – he could smell it-

 

Another surge of electric pleasure ran through him, spreading through his pelvis, pulsing at the tip of his cock. Oh, God, he was going to-

 

And then Tony let him go again, and a truly agonised cry escaped him, and, God, he couldn’t remember how to beg, he’d forgotten the word more, he couldn’t-

 

Tony gripped Steve’s jeans again, tearing Steve all the way free of them. Steve gasped, kicked his legs open wide for him, tried to lift his hips – but Tony just put a hand to the small of his back, and forced him down again. And then he felt Tony’s thumb slip over his hole, and the jolt of pleasure was so intense that Steve couldn’t feel the rest of his body. He groaned, low in his chest, as Tony began rubbing his rim in firm, determined little circles, setting all of his nerves alight. And then he felt the sharp pleasure-pain of Tony pushing a finger inside him… the motion smooth… slippery…

 

Blood

 

Jesus, Tony was fucking him with his own blood-

 

His orgasm just crashed over him with no warning, torn right from the very core of him, his whole body shuddering with the force of it. He felt like he was screaming, but there was no sound. Oh, God, he wasn’t breathing, he couldn’t see-

 

And Tony was still pushing inside him, two fingers buried deep in him now, twisting

 

Jesus Fuck, Tony- ah, nugh- fuckfuckfuck-”

 

He wasn’t even soft before he felt Tony push against his prostate, his balls tightening painfully as his cock tried to jump to attention again. He was completely unaware of Tony loosening his own clothes, or if he ever grabbed a bottle of lube from the side table – he might’ve. The finer details were completely lost on Steve now. There was only the feeling of Tony moving inside him, the burn and ache of Tony opening him up, the build of that pressure deep in his gut.

 

“Oh, Fuck, Tony, I love you, I love you, please, I need- uh – Oh, fuck-”

 

And then, so suddenly, the breath-stealing heat as Tony forced his cock inside him, in one smooth, brutal thrust.

 

“OhGodOhGodOhGod-”

“Shhh, it’s okay baby, it’s okay” Tony whispered into Steve’s neck, so close that Steve could feel his lips brush over the still-tender flesh on his wound. It sent ripples over the surface of Steve’s skin, his body relaxing again as he felt the warmth and strength of Tony sink into him. And then he felt Tony slide into him another inch, taking as much as Steve would give him, filling him up completely…

 

Oh, it felt good…

 

Steve felt so full, so complete, like he’d been having to hold some part of himself open all this time and now he could just relax into himself, like everything was finally calm and quiet and right…

 

“Oh, Steve, you’re beautiful. You feel so good…” Tony purred, stroking a hand down Steve’s side, rocking into him slowly.

 

And, God, Steve wanted to feel good for Tony. He just wanted to be good for Tony, he wanted to give himself to Tony and belong to Tony and show Tony how good he could be and-

 

Tony thrust into him hard-

 

A sharp, hiccupping cry broke from his lips, and he felt Tony smile against his throat.

 

“That’s it sweetheart, so good for me”

 

And then Tony curled both hands over Steve’s hips, and began fucking into him fast and sharp. Steve missed a crucial breath, his heart fluttering in a near panic as he struggled to right himself over the top of this sudden onslaught of sensation. But it was good. It was all so good. The relentless, visceral pleasure, the burn of Tony forcing him open again and again – knowing that Tony was using him, brutally, that he was just going to fuck Steve’s body however he wanted to, that there was nothing Steve could do about it-

 

Steve’s cock throbbed angrily between his legs, but Steve couldn’t move to touch himself. He was almost scared of how intense it would be, how sensitive he was…

 

He didn’t want to touch himself.

 

He wanted to give everything over to Tony, he didn’t want to come unless Tony made him-

 

And, Jesus Christ, he was going to make him. Steve could feel it coiling inside him, tightening with every thrust, until it was hot and sharp and almost unbearable. Tears slid down his face, his breaths coming in broken, pleading gulps. Oh God, it felt so good it hurt-

 

And then Tony dug his fingertips into Steve’s hips, his thrusts stuttering urgently, groaning deep in his chest. He pulled Steve hard against him, burying himself deep inside him-

 

And dropped his head, and bit Steve’s shoulder so tenderly, not even breaking the skin.

 

Steve’s brain finally fried completely. The feeling of Tony coming inside him, the scratch of his teeth, the sound of Tony sighing – pleased with him – it was all too much. Something deep in Steve broke, and then he was just coming, and coming, whining helplessly as he let everything go…

 

He wondered if maybe he was dying. He didn’t mind. If this was dying, then it turned out dying wasn’t scary, it was peaceful and natural and blissful and right…

 

“It’s okay baby, you’re okay.” Tony was whispering… might’ve been whispering for a while…

 

Steve blinked up at him, suddenly confused about where he was.

 

“You with me Steve?” Tony put a gentle hand to the side of his face, his palm so cool against Steve’s flushed skin. Steve managed to work out that he was on his back now… that he must’ve blacked out for a minute there…

 

“Mm-hm…” Steve managed a little nod. He suddenly felt…washed out… strangely detached from his own limbs…dizzy

 

Tony smiled at him, and reached for something on the bedside table. The room rolled in and out of focus as Steve tried to follow the movement, but eventually he recognised that Tony was holding a washcloth.

 

“I’m going to get you cleaned up, okay?” Tony spoke softly, and Steve nodded without even hearing the question. Just, whatever Tony said…

 

And then he felt the warm, damp caress of the cloth over his neck. He felt Tony wash away a layer of dried blood that he hadn’t realised was there, until he recognised the simple pleasure of his skin washed clean.

 

“You were amazing, Steve. You are amazing, and beautiful, and strong…”

 

Steve let the words wash through him, hearing all the love and affection and security wrapped up in the melody of them, letting himself fall into this. Not really caring whether he floated on this feeling or drowned in it.

 

There was the feeling of Tony’s hands, methodically taking him to pieces, tenderly bathing and caressing and soothing every inch of him.

 

There was the sound of Tony’s voice, a constant lullaby, a feeling of reassurance that he couldn’t fall through.

 

There was the weight pressing down on him, the darkness crowding in around him.

 

He was suddenly so tired.

 

“Can I sleep?” He murmured. Needing Tony to tell him he could.

“You can have anything you need, sweetheart, always” Tony promised him warmly – but before Steve’s eyes could fall shut, he felt Tony’s fingers press softly to his jaw, a silent instruction to look at him properly. Steve complied, of course.

 

“I belong to you now, just as much. You understand that, right? That there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you, nothing you could do that would make me stop loving you – you know that, right?”

 

Steve felt a vulnerable heat swell up in him.

 

“You promise?” He whispered, as exposed and helpless as he’d ever felt in his life. Tony smiled at him.

 

“I promise.”

 

So, everything was alright.

 

It sank down over Steve like a heavy blanket. A feeling of perfect happiness and total safety that eventually just faded to black.

 

*

 

The feeling of confidence hadn’t faded.

 

Hours after the fact, Tony still felt high on the power of it. Everything looked brighter, the air tasted different, his whole body thrummed with a deep, personal contentment. He was clear headed, and strong, and alive-

 

And all he wanted to do was lie here and look at Steve.

 

He assumed that reality would come back to him, when Steve wasn’t lying beside him looking like a renaissance painting of God. In his current state of perfect enlightenment, Tony considered all the potential outcomes with a superior detachment.

 

There was every chance one or both of them woke up tomorrow and panicked. That, for reasons he couldn’t comprehend, they might suddenly go back to believing all the bullshit and caring about made up things like egos and point scoring. He was too aware now to understand his previous mindset, and aware enough to recognise that it happened. That he did spent his entire life in a social construction, anxious about invented challenges and confused about things that were perfectly clear… he had to accept the possibility that it would happen again. That the aftermath of this could be messy…

 

But it wasn’t going to happen while Steve was right here. That much was obvious.

 

Looking at Steve’s perfect face, so open and innocent in sleep, it was impossible to feel anything but total serenity. Tony knew that Steve never slept peacefully. He’d contrived enough excuses to watch him since he’d moved in to know; Steve usually slept as though he was simply dozing, his body never completely relaxed, his forehead creased in thought or flickering through nightmares-

 

Tony looked down on him now with an elation that was part compassion, part pride.

 

That’s it baby. Rest.

 

He hoped he could remember this tomorrow. It seemed such a shame, for him to have so clear and wonderful a purpose in life, for it to be right there in front of his eyes, and him never be able to see it. To spend endless hours looking in all the wrong places for some meaning to his life, when all the time he’d been put on this earth to look after Steve. All he had to do to be good was everything he wanted to do anyway, and it was all right here-

 

He couldn’t quite see how he was going to fuck that up, but he had to be prepared for the eventuality.

 

But it was okay.

 

He might not know it in the morning, but he knew it beyond any question right now – Steve belonged to him, and he belonged to Steve. He was meant to make Steve happy; that was all he was meant to do. And, even if they ended up taking the slow route, or the messy route, Tony knew they’d get there eventually. All of his roads ended in the same place, as it turned out. It would be okay in the end.

 

He knew that now.