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(The White Knight is) Talking Backwards

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He’s been trying not to think about the other Tony when he looks at the one he knows belongs here. Steve knows he’s probably been staring too much anyway over the last few days since they tore the world open again and swapped them back because this Tony has been smirking at him, his dark eyes veiled yet watchful. And he’s started calling him ‘darling’ in that slow, throaty way of his too.

He usually just calls women ‘darling’, so it’s annoying, of course. That’s probably exactly why he’s doing it, Steve figures.

No, this one is definitely his Tony. He’s been trying not to think about him that way either, but it’s hard. It’s not the only way he has to separate them in his mind of course – and they are separate, because, yeah this one is still a part of this ‘horrible’ world and so nowhere near as kind or open or… or pliant as the other one –  but it’s the easiest. 

It helps that his Tony nearly always smells of booze. He’s not sure what it is today, but yesterday and the day before it was bourbon. That he knows the scent of Tony’s main liquor of choice really isn’t helping his mood either.

Most of all he’s trying not to think about the way that other Tony let him fuck him because he has the same face, the same name as the man in his world. How the other Tony let him inside him – into tight and clinging heat – because he’s Captain America too and the same everything except not the man he loves but won’t tell. The man he went back to.

Steve had been angry at first, after the portal. When he saw the blue figure hug the one he’d fucked tight with obvious relief. Angry to see that impossibly happier shadow of himself touch what he’d had for such a short time. Then he’d been grim. And a little envious. Because maybe… maybe that other Tony would try now with his real Captain America, his real Steve, and then everything his counterpart had would be better than Steve’s own miserable lot.

Or maybe not. The other Tony hadn’t been complete sunshine and kittens. He’d called himself a screw-up. Was savvy enough to know Fury couldn’t be trusted not to try to confiscate his strange medical tech. Had spoken of his own Steve in a way that made him think the poor guy was practically enshrined on a pedestal in his head; more an ideal than a man. As perfection. An impossibly true hero. Something no man could live up to forever.

He should know. He’s Captain America too. And far from perfect. Especially now. Here.

“They had the Hulk. In their garden.” He looks up from his place leaning at the window to see his Tony now standing in the doorway of the lounge. This is the Ultimates section of the Triskelon, housed in the central tower. This level is kind of like a hotel; a fully furnished suite of rooms they all can stay in when on call. It gives them at least the illusion of privacy, even if he knows that’s a lie. At least no other SHIELD personnel are permitted entry without announcement and he’s not heard a page.

The other man has a tumbler in one hand, while the free one is linked behind his neck rubbing at it wearily. His dark hair is messy, his tie open, the throat of his dress shirt unbuttoned just to the hollow. The sleeves are rolled up his forearms, the creases sharp at the insides of the elbows. Steve had heard him return hours ago but had seen no sign of him until now. But there’s no oil or grease on his hands, so he hasn’t been taking things apart.  Maybe he’s been in the small back room he calls his office. Doing paperwork for his company or something. Steve looks at him for as long as he dares without seeming too obvious. He thinks the dark circles under Tony’s eyes look a little lighter than usual, though. His skin less pale. Had he been in the sun somewhere in that other world? It wasn’t something Steve imagined his Tony enjoying. Being outside in the sun.

“That Hulk kept a basket of kittens. They loved him. They followed him everywhere. He didn’t eat a single one of them either.” He lifts the tumbler to his mouth and shudders elaborately. Ice clinks loudly as he takes a deep gulp of the clear liquid within. Steve knows it isn’t water. It’s never water with his Tony. He watches as lips part to let the liquid in. Steve forces his gaze back to the window, remembering a mouth very like that one. Framed by beard and mustache in the same way. Lips parting the same way. The same movement of that long, graceful throat as he swallowed. Remembers the way those lips had stretched so eagerly around his cock. Reddened. Grown soft. Only not those lips. The other Tony’s lips.

It had been nearly a week before the rift-portal-thing had been re-opened to make the exchange.

Before it had he’d fucked that face half a dozen times. The narrow ass again too, with a better lube the other had brought along after the first time that felt like silk and let him sink to the root in one slide to the sound of urgent, gasping pleas for more. Steve had fucked the other Tony in every way imaginable, and the man had been more than willing. Eager for it. In a way that was heady even to remember. Yet even though it was his name he’d heard gasped out, cried out, sobbed out, he’d known it wasn’t him that Tony was calling to. Each time had hurt like a knife in the gut, but he’d not been able to stay away. Not from that pure warmth. That raw, open need.

His Tony’s eyes are hooded. Watchful. Nothing shows in them but faint amusement and, perhaps, boredom.

“Hard to believe,” Steve forces himself to say as he turns deliberately to look out the floor-length window beside him instead. There’s some kind of coating on the glass that prevents reflections, he realizes with a trace of annoyance. He can see straight out, with no hazy glimpses of the room behind to distract him. Or warn him. It is late evening outside but the thick city lights just beyond the harbor kill any sign of stars. There is nothing but the orange glow of streetlights, the white glare from the forest of tall buildings lit from within and the occasional passing running lights of night-going boats.

Right now he’d rather be miles away in his own apartment, even with the memories. But duty demands otherwise.

His Tony snorts. Ice clinks in the glass again. “You have no idea, darling. It was like some silly fun-house mirror of a place, all shiny and golden and impossibly naïve.”

“Hm,” he manages through the sudden tightness in his throat. 

There’s a laugh that’s edging on bitter from behind him. “It reminded me a little of you, actually.”

He turns then, gaze sharp, and finds the other man has moved closer, swaying a little on his feet even as he props a hip against the back of one of the closest of the ring of couches set in the middle of this room. The other’s eyes are hooded, yet fixed on him. He’s near enough now that Steve can catch whiffs of some kind of citrus in the drink. A flavored vodka, maybe. It’s not an alcohol he cares for much himself, but then what his Tony mostly cares about is the proof of whatever he drinks. Or how ridiculously expensive it is.

“He was like a big puppy,” his Tony says, still watching him with that veiled gaze, lips turning up at one corner now into something close to a rueful smile. “That other you. The great war hero. The deadly and fierce Captain America, scourge of Nazis and evil-doers everywhere. Yet still so earnest and kind and eager… He simply wouldn’t leave me alone, darling. Said he didn’t want me to get ‘lonely’ without you around; he was adamant that we had to be the best of friends because he and his me were. It was a little sickening, honestly.”

There’s blood throbbing in his ears now for some reason. A fist clenched at his side. “What did you say to him, Stark?” And it’s beyond stupid that he suddenly feels protective of his other self. His other self is happy. Happy enough to choose to stay out of his rightful time and place willingly.

His Tony just laughs again. “Nothing, of course. Despite what the tabloids say, puppies are actually safe from me.”

“He’s a soldier— Captain America, not some pet,” he says coldly, gaze still hard. His Tony’s expression sobers suddenly, all amusement fading.

“Oh yes,” he says, and then his expression heats somehow. “I saw him fight. You wouldn’t believe how many petty costumed pretenders they have over there.” Tony’s gaze flickers over Steve then in a way that makes his already taut nerves twitch. “In battle he was just like you. Ruthless. Determined. Efficient.”

Something hangs between them then. In the air. In Tony’s suddenly averted gaze and tightly closed mouth. In the sudden shortness of his own breath. “But?”

The silence stretches too long. Until finally, in a tone that he thinks was meant to be bored but fails when it hitches at the end, “I couldn’t convince him to stop hugging me.”

In two long strides he’s at the couch. The tumbler of ice falls unheeded to the floor, glass and contents making dull thudding sounds against the carpet as he presses Tony back against wood and padding.

There’s a sharp intake of breath, the smell of citrus and alcohol gets stronger, and then clever hands slide into his hair, over his back, lean thighs part easily to the hard thrust of his knee. He presses his face into a shoulder with a little less bulk than the other one’s; finds he was partially right. His Tony is more angular. Sharper. Worn down some by the medications used to treat his illness, but still strong. Firm. Solid. He holds on tight, feels lean arms press around him in return. Closes his eyes and draws a slow, unsteady breath.

“You fucked that other me, didn’t you?” Soft lips move against his ear to ask the question. There’s the newly familiar scratch of bearded chin contrasted by smooth cheek against his own too.

He squeezes his eyes closed tighter. “Right through the damn bed.”

There’s a tenseness in Tony now. A sucked in breath that turns, much too late, into a world-weary laugh. “Darling, you know he really…”

“Yes,” Steve interrupts harshly, flattening a hand against the supple slope of his lower back. Right above the belt. He’s much leaner, the muscles far more wiry than the other Tony’s, the bones more prominent, tendons visible, but the lines of him are still shockingly familiar. “I do. I did. He didn’t make a secret of it.”

For some reason that revelation makes Tony relax. He’d thought it might piss him off, but it seems not. “I hate to admit it, but I think that other me is an even bigger player than I am,” Tony says against his cheek with a low chuckle. “The sheer number of women who called for him… it was truly embarrassing after the first few days, darling, I assure you.”

“He’s an idiot if he thinks it’ll work,” Steve says, unable to keep the anger out of his voice now. Or to loosen his hold.

“Maybe,” Tony murmurs, shifting his face toward Steve’s. “Maybe not.” Then he’s pulling back enough to get their mouths together. He tastes of stale alcohol, lemon and bile, but Steve doesn’t care. His mouth is warm and eager and open too, his tongue dueling with Steve’s without hesitation. There’s none of the almost dazed, worshipful yielding of the other Tony, only an urgent, vibrant greed that matches, then fans his own.

They finally break apart for breath. Tony is sucking in air harder than he is, of course, but for some reason it’s Steve who has the shakes. Fine tremors wrack his arms and legs and his eyes sting. Then Tony looks up at him through those thick, dark lashes long enough to rightfully belong on a dame and smiles wickedly and his own breath dies in his throat.

“Did he fuck you?” Tony asks, and almost immediately laughs, long fingers trailing down the back of Steve’s neck and back up again, stroking the short-cropped hair and making no comparisons. “Oh my, I suppose not if that’s the look you gave him when he asked. Feeling threatened now are we, darling?”

He hates that Tony is right because it makes him feel weak. Petty. Even though he knows the rules are much, much different these days. Guys taking it from guys is no big thing anymore, really. Contrary to how he was raised, what he learned in the army. Yet Steve can’t stop the tightening of his arms around him, or the shift of his hips against Tony’s now either. And he’s still hard as rock despite the fact that his guts definitely went a little watery at the thought of taking a dick up his own ass.

“He didn’t ask,” Steve says finally, throat tight.

“Good. I’ll get one ‘first’ out of you then.” The faintly smug smile and sidelong look make him shift uncomfortably again. But he doesn’t let go, doesn’t step away.

Even if his face definitely feels warmer than usual though. “I don’t think so, Stark.”

“You’re leaving room for negotiation,” Tony says, brushing his mouth along Steve’s jaw to lip at the soft skin beneath his ear.  His mustache brushes teasingly and Steve hisses and turns his face into Tony’s neck, inhaling deeply as Tony whispers into his ear. “That’s promising.”

“I haven’t even had you yet.”

“Oh, we can fix that, darling…” Tony laughs, low and slow in his ear and Steve shuts him up with his mouth then. Rough and thorough.

He breathes through his nose as they kiss, not wanting to break away even as long, clever fingers creep down his back, dip beneath the line of his belt, and tease at the top of his ass. All he can do is shudder and take a deeper breath and spread his hands wider over the other man's back, hold on tighter. Tony smells like too much booze and some spicy, probably expensive, cologne that barely covers the faint hints of medicine and stress. The other Tony had a bad heart. For his Tony it’s the brain tumor. He wonders briefly if, – in all those other possible universes the big-thinkers had talked about – there is one Tony Stark who exists somewhere without a deadly flaw.

Somehow he doubts it.