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A Borrowed Body

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The sun is out when Steve arrives in San Francisco. The taxi driver, who insists on carrying and stowing Steve’s luggage for him, can’t stop talking about how unseasonably hot it is. The dashboard thermostat reads 72F. 

Fog creeps up the edges of the sky as they approach the Pacific, but is still overwhelmed by clear blue. “It’s never like this in the Presidio,” the driver says as he takes Steve’s bag and starts carrying it toward the little inn where Steve has a room. 

Steve hums noncommittally. 

“You here for fun? Going to see the park and the bridge and all that?” 

“I might visit Alcatraz,” Steve replies, lifting his luggage out of the man’s arms and carrying it into the tiny lobby without another word. 



He travels the city on foot, which doesn’t take him far—his body is old and weak without the serum, and he’s not going to push himself when there’s nothing at stake but his pride. Mostly he keeps to the Richmond District, and sometimes he cuts through the park to the outer Sunset. He buys a new phone next to a surf shop and blocks all the phone numbers he can think of before they have a chance to track and call him. 

Steve sits at cafes and at parklets and on the damp sand of Ocean Beach. He tells himself he likes looking unremarkable. He walks to the Sutro Baths, decides he doesn’t want to embarrass himself by falling over in the ruins, and finds a nice rock to sit on instead. He drinks hand-brewed kombucha, matcha ginger lattes with oat milk, and coconut water. He pays for everything with cash, including his motel room. 

One day he walks all the way to 9th Avenue and buys a fresh Tartine sourdough loaf. He spends the rest of the day recovering at a picnic table under a eucalyptus tree, eating chunks of bread with unsalted butter and looking out over the ocean. 

Most of the people he overhears at the beach seem to be locals. They bring tote bags of blankets and shawls and express nonstop surprise at the warm weather and how they didn’t even need the jacket they brought. They play music on their little waterproof speakers and don’t seem to care when the sound is overwhelmed by the waves. 

The sixth day of his trip, the temperature rises to nearly 90F. The restaurant attached to the inn is little more than a glorified covered patio, and his waitress spends the whole morning apologizing for the heat. He finishes his omelette and walks out to the beach. It’s packed, and no one is dressed like a local. 

The next morning he sits at his usual spot at the inn’s attached diner, watching people walk their dogs, wait for the bus, and listen to music on their headphones. He thinks a woman across the street might be walking a potbellied pig on a leash. 

He’s halfway through a grilled cheese sandwich with avocado when his phone buzzes. 

He sees it before he feels it. It happens before his eyes, while he’s wiping grease off his fingers with a paper napkin. 

A liver spot recedes, then vanishes entirely. The saggy, wrinkled skin on his hands retracts, growing taut and smooth. By the time he has his phone out, his hands are perfect, nimble and rosy. His reflection in the phone is that of a young man with thick blond hair and hard eyes. 

He already knows who the message is from. He probably knows what it says, too. He opens it anyway. 

You’re welcome. 

Stop by this afternoon if you want it to last more than a day. 



A car from a rideshare app takes Steve to North Beach. He rents a little powerboat and spends the time it takes to reach the island not thinking about anything. Once he’s out on the water, he eats the pizza he bought from a street vendor at Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s cold and congealed and probably wasn’t any good even when it was hot and fresh, but it’s been awhile since he could eat crap without worrying about the consequences, and he wants to indulge himself while he can. 

A harbor porpoise swims alongside him until it can’t keep up with the boat any more. The sky is dotted with fluffy, rococo clouds when he ties up the boat at a little dock. 

Everyone tells him it’s supposed to be foggy and gray. He wonders if Tony’s found a way to bring some Southern California sunshine out here with him. As the first thought he allows himself to fully form about Tony, it could be a lot worse. 



Steve finds Tony on a lounge chair wearing a tiny red bathing suit. The lenses of his sunglasses are tinted a matching crimson; the thin metal frames are gold. The sun is bright enough that Tony’s closed eyelids are visible through the tinted lenses. 

“No disapproving looks allowed on my island.” 

“You don’t know what kind of look I have.” 

Tony sits up and opens his eyes. His skin looks lit from within. He smirks, nastily, his eyes narrowed. “Now I do. And it looks like I was right. Cheer up, you’re young and strong again.” 

Steve balls his hands into fists. “And why is that?” 

Tony’s on his feet now, eye level with Steve. For a moment, Tony looks blank, thoughtful, almost bored. Then he laughs, a bright, uncanny sound. Steve’s not sure the last time he heard Tony laugh so fully and loosely, free of bitterness. “That’s what you came here for.” 

“And I’m supposed to believe you’re in the habit of just giving people what they want?” 

Tony grins, and Steve can’t quite picture how his real smile looks. “You know, I’m so glad you brought that up.” 

Steve lets Tony take his time, watches as Tony ostentatiously bends over to retrieve a cocktail glass from a slender acrylic side table. Wind skims across the surface of the swimming pool, rippling Tony’s reflection. He swirls the pale chartreuse alcohol before drinking it. Vapor sublimates off the foggy, frozen glass as Tony knocks it back, leaving only a thin medallion of lime. 

Steve wonders if it feels hot out to Tony, if he even feels the ambient temperature any more, or if the swimsuit and the cold drink are all for show. 

He doesn’t ask Tony for details. He doesn’t say anything about the alcohol. 

Tony strides forward and wraps an arm around Steve’s back as tendrils of silver-white armor circle toward Tony like satellites losing orbit. The armor crawls over him, a snake shedding its skin in reverse, and when his jet-boots kick in he lifts Steve with him. Steve dangles in Tony’s grip, a dead weight, as Tony locks his mouth onto Steve’s and forces it open with his tongue. 

Steve doesn’t flinch, but his body jerks. Tony’s kiss is all gin and teeth and tongue and the bite of lime juice over fresh cuts. He takes his time, lips pushing and tongue prying at Steve’s mouth, kissing like he’s trying to steal Steve’s breath away. 

“You’re going to make it up to me,” Tony says. He doesn’t draw his face away; his lips graze Steve’s while he speaks. “You’re going to keep making it up to me.” 

“Fuck you,” Steve growls, getting an arm between them and pushing. 

Tony drops him. 

It’s barely five feet, but Steve lands hard. Too hard. He lands twisted up wrong, one knee bruised through his jeans, a scrape on his face, winded. 

He should’ve been able to catch himself, at least. To roll to his feet. Instead he pushes himself up and finds his arms slow and heavy. His vision tilts and whirls and he shakes with the effort it takes to sit. His body looks as young and strong and ripe as ever, but his muscles feel sore, spent. 

“What the hell did you do to me,” Steve says. 

Tony’s plastic face is bent into a smirk. He lands toe-first like a ballet dancer and Steve wonders if he knew exactly what would happen when he came here and if he hoped this would happen and what he would do if he had a choice. 

He thinks all of those questions have the same answer. 

“You gave your body to me,” Tony replies, like Steve doesn’t already know that. 

He hasn’t yet managed to get to his feet, and cranes his neck to watch Tony’s approach. His movements are impossibly fluid, entirely effortless. He grabs Steve by the hair and holds him, forcing their gazes to meet—not that it occurred to Steve to look anywhere else. 

“Let’s play a game,” Tony purrs. “It goes like this: I’m the powerful lord of an opulent island prison, and you’re my captive.” 



When Steve wakes on the floor of his bedroom the next morning, his body is young and flawless and every bit as strong as it looks. He has a vial of dormant Extremis in his pocket, a note rubber-banded to it. It reads, 

These will stay active as long as you keep your end of the bargain. 

You’ll find that certain aspects of my design will cease functioning should you get within 10 miles of me. 

See you in 4 weeks for your refill. 


Steve can’t feel anymore where Tony touched him. 

He remembers Tony undressing him, spreading him out in one of his many bedrooms, pulling the cheeks of Steve’s ass apart. The way he worked Steve open with toys, sloppy with lube, refusing Steve the feel of his skin until he shoved his cock inside, hard and huge and bare. He remembers the names Tony called him, the relentless way Tony took him, hour after hour, Extremis getting him hard again moments after coming, telling Steve about the way his needy hole sucked him in, how tight and desperate and then how loose and sloppy his ass was, how only Tony could fill him up right. He never touched Steve's cock, but didn't stop him from humping the mattress until he came, and kept fucking him into the wet spot like it hadn't even happened. 

It’s wrong to miss it. It’s wrong to want more. Tony used him, like he always does, and he’ll do it again. 

He’ll do it again, Steve repeats to himself. He’ll do it again. This is the most comforting thought of all. 



Steve goes back to work. He answers no questions about his restored strength and youth. He worries that everyone guesses—or knows—how he got it, but he can’t tell if there’s any evidence of that or he’s just paranoid. 

He does his job and little else. Once a month, he goes to San Francisco. 

Steve used to owe his body to the US Army. They’re the ones who fixed it for him, turned it into a weapon. So he used it as one, and pointed it where they told him to. 

He’s used to having a borrowed body. This is one he gets to pick what to do with, mostly, even if Tony’s the one who owns it. So it’s easy, really, to owe his body to Tony. 



It’s 54F and overcast when Steve lands in San Francisco. A private car service takes him to a hotel in Pacific Heights; the driver doesn’t say a word beyond, “Sir.” 

A smiling man meets Steve in a lobby that feels like a marble and glass monument to art deco decadence. He has the glossy, too-smooth features of a low-tier Extremis upgrade. He passes Steve a keycard without touching him or addressing him by name. 

Tony’s left him a note; a paper one. How quaint. It’s on a corner of copy paper totally unlike the hotel letterhead that sits on the polished mahogany desk. His handwriting is the same, blocky and utilitarian. There are depressions in the paper under each letter, deeper at the joints; Tony used a crappy ballpoint pen, the kind that left-handers have to fight against to keep from jumping over the paper. 

Have fun for a couple of days. I’ll send a car when I have time for you. 




Steve jogs to the marina, then hugs the coast along the edges of the Presidio, Lincoln Park, Golden Gate Park, and the Outer Sunset. At the zoo he turns toward the financial district, and at the ferry building he heads back toward his hotel. 

The next day he visits Coit Tower. He climbs up and down the stairs twice before he starts getting strange looks. He wanders through the streets of Telegraph Hill, counting wild parrots. After the forth he climbs Coit Tower twice more; none of the faces he sees are the same. 

He jogs up and down the stairs on Lombard Street while cars of tourists slowly wind up the road. The sun glares through the solid wall of fog, casting no shadows on the coral-colored bursts of hydrangeas. 

He sees a mobile shower truck on Van Ness and, without entirely making up his mind to do so, follows its entire route through the Tenderloin and South of Market. Steve’s family was never so poor they lived on the street, but it was a near thing more than once. Maybe he wants to remind himself of that. Maybe he wants to remind himself how far he’s come. Maybe he wants to remember what empathy feels like. 

In the morning he takes the light-rail on full loops of its route. Its resemblance to New York’s subways are superficial at best. The train lurches and shudders, but he stays standing, not needing to hold a railing to keep his footing. The sound of it hurtling along its track is louder than a Kree warship—and positively quiet compared to the banshee wail it makes each time it turns a corner. It renders Steve’s thoughts inaudible. 

When Tony sends for him, it’s with a self-piloted helicopter that lands on the roof of Steve’s hotel. 



Today Tony tastes like whiskey and a woman’s genitals. When he finishes fucking Steve’s face, his come tastes sweet, like he’s been eating nothing but fruit. 

Steve notices the hickeys while Tony fucks him. They’ve bloomed into patches the color of worn ballet slippers. The way they dot Tony’s flawless chest is almost artful, disorder drawing attention to the perfection underneath. 

“Jealous?” Tony whispers, pinning Steve’s wrists above his head. He nuzzles Steve’s shoulder, then bites it. He grinds his teeth against Steve’s skin until he draws blood. “You know what you mean to me, Steve.” 

For the first time, Steve tries to pull away. This isn't Tony, not really, and Steve knows exactly what he means to him

Tony laughs and releases Steve’s wrists. He laughs harder when Steve tries to push Tony off of him, when he twists, trying to roll them over and drag his hips away from Tony’s. 

Tony keeps driving into him, making satisfied little moans each time Steve tries to escape. 

“Get off,” Steve growls. “Stop.” 

Tony’s breath is hot on Steve’s skin. “Steve,” he says, speaking so quietly Steve has to strain to hear, letting more and more of his weight fall into Steve, lips close and wet. He wriggles, like he can go deeper, like he can make this even more intimate. “Don’t be silly.” He sounds amused. His thrusts are leisurely, dragging slick and hard in Steve’s hole. 



Steve tries to notice when Tony slips him something or injects him. Instead, he wakes up naked on his bedroom floor, just like the month before and the one before that, this time with something shoved in his ass. There’s come in his hair and on his chest and thighs. The place Tony bit has healed, but the specks of blood are still there. He rises to his feet, finds the flared end of the plug sticking out of him, and pulls it out all at once. What lube there’d been is long since dried, and the toy drags roughly across his passage. 

He sees the writing on his arms when he tosses the dildo away. Tony’s written on him. Tony’s written on him in marker and left him like this with his curtains wide open. Hope you’re thinking of me, his forearm says. Refill in one month, a bicep reads. Beside it is a crude sketch of a syringe with droplets spilling out the tip. Below that is a drawing of a penis, also with droplets coming out the end. His other arm has a laughing Iron Man faceplate and a note that says, Consider practicing before next time? The sloppy virgin thing is only cute for so long. 

Steve walks to the mirror to check his back. It’s covered in writing and lewd drawings. There’s an outline of a handprint on one asscheeck. Inside are the words: To remember me. At the small of his back it says, Tony Stark was here, with an arrow pointing at his asshole and several more penis drawings. 

He looks away from the mirror before he punches it. He lets anger push out any other emotion. 

He doesn’t have to clean it off. His uniform would cover everything. 

He doesn’t even have to shower. He could stay like this all day. 

This time he can’t stop the shame when it blooms, hot and red in his veins. 



Tony rents an apartment for Steve’s next visit. The note on the bed says, I’ll find you. —TS

Steve rides the light rail toward Antioch this time, then back to the San Francisco airport. He watches the immobile faces shared by everyone crowded into the car during rush hour, unchanging even as the train screeches and rattles. 

There’s a woman in one of the single seats along one side of the car, a backpack on the floor between her legs, a handbag resting on top of that, and an upright bass in a hard case wedged between the wall and her arm. There’s an open bottle of cola under the seat behind her—the man sitting there has both feet on the seat and his arms wrapped around his knees while he dozes, forehead bouncing against the window. Every time the train jostles, the puddle draws closer to her backpack. The woman eyes it, warily; other than the cola and a few inches around each seat, bodies fill every square inch of floor in the train. 

She’s small, with delicate bones, and her head hits the window beside her a good six inches lower than that of the man behind her. Her eyes flick between the puddle and the LED sign announcing the next stops. Occasionally, her eyes drift shut and her shoulders begin to relax, only for her to jerk upright again. 

She gets to her feet after the train lurches away from UN Plaza, removing her phone from her handbag and then zipping it up again. She unlocks it, taps the screen a few times, then unzips the purse, replaces the phone, and zips it up again. As Steve watches, the mauve circles under her eyes fade away into smooth, tawny skin. A scar on her forehead— Steve didn’t even realize he’d noticed it—disappears. Her breasts and ass swell, filling out her clothes. There’s definition to her arms, now, and she looks not so much scrawny as slender and elegant. 

She hangs her purse across her body, puts on her backpack, and lifts the upright bass without any visible effort. When the train grinds to a halt at the 24th Street Mission station, she shoulders her way out of the car, against the opposing floor of boarding commuters, her dark hair lustrous and glossy even under the harsh fluorescents of the train. 



Steve wakes up the next morning in Tony’s bed. He wonders if Tony flew out and carried Steve back himself. 

“Wake up, old man,” Tony says, and his smile lights his eyes so bright and blue that Steve forgets for a moment to hate himself and everything that’s about to happen. 

“Do you use Extremis to knock me out?” Steve asks. 

Tony, naked and honey-colored in the morning sun, takes hold of Steve’s chin and kisses him languorously. Steve closes his eyes and lets himself kiss back. Today Tony tastes like Irish coffee. 

“Usually,” he says, petting Steve’s hair. “Are you going to fight me this time?” 

Tony snakes a hand down Steve’s side to his ass, curling his hand so his fingers are in Steve’s crease. Steve shivers. “No,” he promises. 

“You want to be strong that badly?” Tony circles a finger around the edges of Steve’s hole. “Or do you want me that badly?” 

“Do I act like someone who wants you?” 

“You do,” Tony says. He sinks back against the headboard, pulling Steve into his lap with him as he does. “Even if I hurt you?” 

“I’m here, aren’t I?” 

Tony takes Steve’s nipple between his teeth and bites. He grabs Steve’s wrist and sets his hand down so it’s cupping Tony’s cock. Obediently, Steve starts to stroke Tony’s length with the pads of his fingers; he knows what Tony likes, now. 

“I want to hurt you,” Tony says. 

He pushes his finger in, two knuckles deep. Steve squeezes his eyes shut. “I can’t stop you.” 

“You’ll let me use you however I want,” Tony says, like he’s agreeing. It isn’t a question. 



Steve learns to tell without a second glance who’s using Extremis. Not all of them are beautiful, or even confident. They still dress in old hoodies that smell like weed and sweat and tobacco, they still wear Birkenstocks and yoga pants and carry scarves and jackets even in summer, they still wear high-heeled boots and department store skirt-suits, still wear essential oils and off-the-rack suits and thrift store neckties, still shuffle across the city on the ragged hems of their too-long blue jeans. But they’re young—they look young, all of them—and they move with the desperation of the young. 

Steve finds bars that only accept customers who have Extremis activated. The doormen are quick to let Steve inside. One asks him what upgrade package he has. 

One night at an Extremis bar in Nob Hill, a woman with pearly skin and a fervent look in her eyes takes a seat next to him. She taps her Louboutins fast as a hummingbird’s heartbeat. “I’ve met Tony Stark, you know,” she says. 

“Have you,” Steve says into his nearly full pint. He can’t explain to himself what he’s doing here. 

“I’m sure I could introduce you,” she goes on. “You’re just his type.” 


“Oh, do you only see women?” The hope in her voice sickens him more than anything she’s said so far. 


“Well,” she says, undeterred, “I’m sure together, the two of us could get into one of his really good parties. He’s even sexier in person, I swear. He moves like some kind of jungle cat. Those really jacked ones, you know?” 

Steve’s phone buzzes. He pulls it out of his pocket and checks it without excusing himself. 

Limo out front will take you to one of my really good parties. 

Gate crashers will be forcibly unsubscribed. 



“You know,” Tony muses, skimming his fingernails up and down Steve’s torso, “I would have done anything for you.” 

Steve’s naked, flat on his back in one of Tony’s huge minimalist beds, Tony straddling him. He tries not to let any expression show on his face. This isn’t the first time Tony’s said something like that. Steve’s not sure what the point is; is he supposed to believe that? 

“And now you’ll do anything for me.” Tony grins. His teeth are porcelain-white. “What do you want today, Steve? Maybe we want the same thing.” 

“Why?” Steve asks. Tony’s already reaching for his bag of toys, the big leather one with the silk rope and reinforced cuffs—Steve’s opinion is irrelevant. 

“So I can give it to you, of course.” 

“And I’m supposed to believe you’re in the habit of just giving people what they want?” 

Tony smiles wider, and Steve can’t quite picture how his real smile used to look. “Not people, Steve. Just you.” 

“Right, because I can give you something no one else in this city would try to pay you to give.” Like Tony has ever failed to remind him how he fails to live up to much more eager partners. 

“Don’t be dense,” Tony snaps, amusement gone. “You’re special and you know it.” 

“Oh yeah? How am I supposed to know that?” 

Tony sneers down at Steve. “Playing dumb doesn’t suit you.” 

“Pretend I’m not playing.” 

Tony smiles, a parody of tenderness. He lifts a spreader bar from the bag and makes a show of examining it. “Oh, you know me, Steve,” he says sweetly. “I’m sentimental.” 

Steve scoffs.

Tony laughs, delighted. “Well, maybe not. But I have fond memories, let’s say.” He’s holding a collar now, a narrow band of metal with four D-rings evenly spaced around it. “Being in love with you wasn’t all bad, you know.” 

“No,” Steve says. “Don’t.” He tries to roll to one side and knock Tony off him—but of course he doesn’t have the strength. 

Tony doesn’t get to say this, not now. This is a humiliation too far. 

“No?” Tony laughs again. He catches Steve’s wrists in one hand, his movements instantaneous and effortless. “Can’t stand the reminder of when you were the one calling the shots? Or do you just like to pretend you never noticed what you did to me?” His expression darkens. “Disappointing you is devastating, you know, for those weak enough to care.” 

He’s lying. Tony’s always lying, and now that he’s like this, it’s like breathing to him. “You never let me stop you from doing exactly what you wanted.” 

Tony tosses his head back as laughter bursts out of him. “Wow,” he says, still half-hiccuping and snickering. “Thank you, I needed a laugh like that.” When his laughter subsides, he cocks his head, eyes slowly raking across Steve’s exposed skin. “To think I used to hold such a high opinion of you I never noticed how stupid you are. Steve, Steve. My dear, naive, idiotic Steve. I spent every day of my life trying to live up to you. Everything I ever did—including the things you hated me for—oh, especially those—I did trying to protect you. Love makes even me stupid, apparently.” 

Steve tries to tug his hands away; Tony’s grip tightens in response. His skin crawls. He’s never been more aware than this moment that the man with him isn’t Tony, not really. “Don’t say that to me.” 

“What, don’t like the truth all of a sudden?” 

Steve wants to wash Tony’s mouth out with soap. “You don’t get to say that to me now!” 

“Oh, you precious thing!” Tony chuckles. “Is that it? Were you hoping to hear it some other time?” 

“Shut up. Don’t say things you can’t follow through with.” 

“But this is adorable,” Tony croons. “That’s why you’ve been so eager to give it up? Do you love me, Steve? Do you care?” 

“Don’t you dare—” 

“What do you think you’re going to do? You’ll let me take anything I want.” 

Steve will give him anything he wants. There’s a difference. He refuses to say so out loud. He feels his cheeks flush: his anger and shame have to be clear on his face, and he can feel it spreading, pink and hot, down his neck and chest. He tries to use his legs to give him leverage and ends up futilely twisting his body, Tony’s weight and grip holding him in place. Steve knows the strength Tony allows him in his presence, and he knows the strength Tony affords himself; he knows it’s pointless. But his rational mind can’t overpower the drive to get away. Tony can’t say these things to him. 

“I’ll stop coming here,” Steve says.  

“You won’t. You want power as much as I do.” 

“Not like this. I’ll stop coming here.” 

Tony snarls and slams his weight forward, his hands gripping Steve’s arms, their chests flush together as he pins Steve under him. “Then I’ll keep you here. Don’t you get it? You’re mine now, and you’ve just told me you always have been.” 

“Don’t fucking say that!” 

“Right, not if I can’t ‘follow through,’” Tony sneers. They’re so close together that their noses brush; Tony’s face floods Steve’s vision. “And what would following through look like, Steve?” 

“Not like this.” 

“This is what you’re getting.” When Tony draws away and releases Steve's hands, it’s to fit a bar gag in his mouth and strap it in place. Steve tries to knock Tony's arms away; Tony disregards this entirely. He flips Steve onto his belly and presses his face into the mattress, arms pinned behind his back. 

The adamantium cuffs are next, a set for each of Steve’s limbs. Then the collar, as if Tony’s point isn’t already made. He doesn’t need to bother with the rare metals, with Steve weak like this. Tony must like the reminder that Steve used to need them—that Steve could need them, if Tony chose it. Once Steve is immobilized to his liking, Tony prepares Steve cursorily and then drives into him in a single violent stroke. 

“There you go,” Tony says, his hands gripping Steve’s hips with bruising strength. He punctuates each word with a thrust that rocks the bed. 

Tony pulls out the second he finishes and replaces his cock with a plug. He doesn’t bother with lube, just slams it past any resistance and walks away. Steve can't turn his head far enough to see him, can't call out to him through the gag. With the senses left to him, he tastes the leather and metal of the bit in his mouth and hears a shower running in a nearby room. Tony doesn’t return after the water stops. 

Steve counts his breaths. He doesn’t bother trying to break or slip his restraints. Ten minutes pass with nothing but the forced air of the environmental system skimming Steve’s skin. Tony’s come is dry and itchy in Steve’s crease and down his thighs. A quarter of an hour. A half. Steve fills his mind with numbers to the exclusion of anything else. He reaches a count of two thousand breaths—nearly an hour. He wonders if Tony’s going to leave him like this until the last trace of Extremis vacates Steve’s body. He wonders how Tony will look at him once he’s no longer beautiful, once his body no longer belongs to Tony. 

Five thousand four-hundred fifty-four breaths. Five thousand four hundred fifty-five. Five thousand four hundred fifty-six. Five thousand four hundred fifty-seven. Five thousand four hundred— 

He nearly sobs when Tony touches him again. A hand in his hair, gentle at first, then gripping, tugging his head back. 

“Still breathing?” Tony asks. He smiles when he sees Steve’s red eyes, the tracks of tears down his cheeks. “You miss me that much?” 

Steve keeps utterly still, but Tony must see some expression in his eyes because his grin widens before he shoves Steve’s face back into the mattress. 

Tony fucks him again, his nails scratching lines down Steve’s back. He’s used Steve’s body in all sorts of ways, before, fucking between his thighs, along his crease, strapping Steve down and riding his cock, grinding against Steve’s chest until he comes. He touches Steve all over, sometimes, in all kinds of ways—clamps on his nipples, suspended in elaborate knots from hooks in the ceiling, heavy smacks to his ass and thighs, shoving his tongue into every part of Steve he can find. But taking Steve in the ass is his favorite. Steve thinks he likes the simplicity of it, how little effort he needs to expend to touch Steve so thoroughly and intimately at once. 

It shouldn’t be a relief to feel Tony’s cock drag in and out of him, he shouldn’t relish the burn each time Tony withdraws far enough that his cockhead catches on the rim of Steve’s battered hole. But Steve understands what's between them now: this isn’t the first time one of them has enacted violence on the other, and it may be the most truthful. 

His body is Tony’s to have and to hurt. If Steve’s heart is broken, too, that’s his own doing, and when Tony grabs Steve’s collar, forcing his head back and cutting off his airway, the pain nearly matches inside and out. 

“You love it,” Tony whispers in Steve’s ear, wrenching Steve’s head back further. “This is all you’re good for: a fuck. A hole for me to use. If you were any more pathetic you wouldn’t be worth the trouble. There are people in this city who’d pay me to pick them, you said so yourself. Everyone wants to give themselves to me: their money, their power, their bodies. You aren’t special. You’re just the one in front of me right now.” 

Tony pulls out before he finishes and spills over Steve’s crease. He replaces the plug with the same lack of care as before and sets to rearranging Steve to his liking. He undoes the cuffs pinning Steve’s ankles to the bed and locks them together instead, then his wrists behind his back, and tugs Steve up until he sits on his knees. 

“You’re such a fucking mess,” Tony says approvingly, then draws Steve in and kisses him over the gag, lapping at the drool dripping out of the corners of Steve’s mouth, skimming his teeth over Steve’s lips, mouthing at the bar lodged between Steve’s teeth. “If you’re good, I’ll take this off you tomorrow. Give you some water. Let you blow me. Can you be good, Steve?” 

When Steve remains still, giving no reply but his gaze locked on Tony’s, Tony chuckles. He takes hold of Steve’s face and rocks it up and down in a nod. “There you go.” 

He chains the collar to the bed and then leads Steve off the mattress and onto the floor. “You’re sleeping there tonight,” Tony says. He tosses Steve a blanket, saying, “Don’t try to pretend you don’t hate the cold,” then settles into bed and turns away from Steve. 



In the morning, Tony pulls the gag down and tips a glass of water into Steve’s mouth. It’s hard to drink without controlling the cup himself, and half of the contents sloshes down his face. The smile Tony gives him makes him shiver. 

Tony makes himself comfortable sitting on the edge of the bed, arranges Steve flat on his stomach, and places Steve’s head in his lap. His groin smells like his expensive bodywash, his arousal adding a note of musk. “Open wide,” he says, a smile in his voice, driving his cock into Steve’s mouth the moment his lips touch the head. 

With his mobility limited like this, all Steve can do is try to use his neck and shoulders to draw his mouth along Tony's length. Tony quickly loses patience with this and grabs Steve by the hair, using it to drag his head up and down. Then he grows bored of that, too, and grips Steve by the back of the neck, shoving Steve’s face down onto his cock and bucking his hips so it hits the back of Steve’s throat. The freshly-shaven hair at the base of his cock scratches Steve’s dry lips. 

Steve nearly whines when Tony pulls out. He tells himself it’s because his throat is still so dry and raw, that that’s why he craves a burst of Tony’s thick come hitting the back of his tongue. Tony takes himself in hand and finishes on Steve’s face. He makes pleased sounds when Steve tries to lick it up without being asked. 

“I like you desperate,” Tony remarks, and replaces the gag. “You’re going to have to be patient again, now. Can you do that? Wait your turn like everyone else?” 

Tony reattaches the chain on Steve’s collar so the length connecting it to the wall is shorter, confining Steve to the bed. That done, he tweaks one of Steve’s nipples, winks, and leaves. 

He’s gone for hours. Steve’s thoughts deteriorate into a tangle of counted breaths and suppressed thoughts. 

Tony was in love with him. He said it like it was a given, something Steve already knew, and here, now, alone on Tony’s bed, face crusted with dried spit and come, Steve knows it’s true. It’s this thought that curls him into a ball, clutching his knees to his chest, letting sobs wrack his entire body. He cries until he’s empty. His body is a void, his tear ducts dry. He’s filled only by the gag and the plug, the places where Tony left substitutes for himself. 

He dozes in and out of sleep, dreaming of Tony touching him. Thirst and soreness keep him from losing consciousness entirely. In a moment of wakefulness, he knows he can’t go through this again. He can’t bear to see San Francisco again. It’s supposed to be a mirror of Tony, bold and brilliant and beautiful, but it feels like a reflection of Steve, instead: desperate, eating its own tail, needing Tony to save the day. He cries again, dry, choking sobs, until he wears himself out and his thoughts slip from his grasp once more. 

When Tony returns, he’s dressed in a three-piece suit, and he’s not alone. A woman in a crimson dress has her arms around him and her tongue down his throat as he backs into the bedroom, tugging a barrel-chested man along by the hand. Steve smells sweat and whiskey. Several more eager couples follow behind Tony and his partners, in various states of undress. A woman kicks off her four-inch heels and shimmies out of a skin-tight pair of jeans before she notices Steve. 

“You get started without us, Tony?” she asks, clearly aiming for light and pleased and landing closer to confused and disappointed. 

“Don’t worry about him,” Tony says, not bothering to look away from the woman in front of him. His snakes his hand down the back of her dress as he kisses down her neck. “He’s just here to watch.” He unhooks the woman’s bra and tosses it aside, then adds, “You can touch him, I guess. And come on him. I like to aim for his pretty face.” 

Steve pulls at his bonds, useless as it is. He should’ve expected this, should be surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. Tony’s been spoiling him, letting him have Tony all to himself, and now he’s going to pay for his presumptions. He tries to shake his head, but Tony’s not looking; the man with him is working Tony’s suit jacket off his shoulders while the woman slips her arms out of the sleeves of her dress and peels the top half down her torso. 

The others aren’t there for long, really. Not nearly as long as Tony was gone. Tony and his partners claim the bed, so Tony’s right in the middle, and he doesn’t push Steve away when he leans against him. Tony never takes off his shirt or pants, but Steve can feel his skin through the fabric, can feel the muscles in his arms move as he lets first the woman, then the man, ride him. Steve shuts down his mind and focuses on the points where his body touches Tony’s. 

It isn’t so bad. More than one of Tony’s guests tries to hurt Steve until he responds, but none of them have the strength, stamina, or training to do more than smack his ass red and raise welts on his back and arms. Large as the bed is, there isn’t enough space for more than two or three at a time to use him, and mostly they laugh at his lack of response and rub off on his skin to pass the time until a more active partner intervenes. Even when Steve loses direct contact with Tony’s body, he imagines he can feel his weight on the mattress, that as long as Tony is in reach, Tony has him. 

One of the women rides Steve’s thigh while she waits for a more active partner, and a couple of the men jack off onto his chest. Three people come on Steve’s face; one of them is Tony. A fourth takes hold of the gag, bending him back and getting to her knees like she’s going to sit on his face, but Tony catches her at it and yells her out of the room. The surge of gratitude Steve feels is distinctly out of proportion with the action, but he sinks into it, imagining that Tony’s is the only scent in the room, that Tony’s is the only mess cooling on his skin—that the hands in his hair are Tony’s, the grip on his bicep is Tony’s, the hand snaking up the inside of his thigh and the fingers searching his crease and finding the base of the plug—the grunts, the high-pitched moans, the smacks of a palm hitting taut skin, the wet sounds of mouths and genitals and skin and lube—all Tony’s. 

All of the people in the room are Tony. All of their bodies, Tony’s. Tony becomes an infinite being, every feature and surface of him dedicated to Steve. 

More than once an unexpected breath in his ear or a sudden, cold touch shock Steve out of his daze, but the panic that swells in him is quick to roll over and let the stupor overtake him again. Each thrusting, gasping body in the room owes its beauty and strength and vivacity to Tony. They’re Tony’s as much as Steve is.

So it’s Tony touching him. It’s Tony mouthing wet kisses down his spine, raking fingernails across his ribs, choking him with a necktie, striking him with a riding crop. 

When at last Tony’s body is singular again, he eases the gag out of Steve’s mouth and rubs his back while he gasps and cries. Once Steve catches his breath, Tony replaces the gag and fucks him again. Tony still hasn’t undressed completely, his wrinkled clothes hiding the lithe lines of his body, and with each thrust the zipper of his fly rasps against Steve’s skin. If his attention is elsewhere, if he’s operating armor or meeting shareholders or designing bombs in his brain, he gives no sign of it. He fills Steve up and lets him imagine that he has Tony to himself. 

Tony goes slow, telling Steve how good he was, the way he didn’t interfere in Tony’s fun, how he laid back and acted as decoration for Tony’s little party. Steve sobs with the joy of Tony’s cock and gives himself over to Tony’s praise. 

Maybe Tony will let him stay here forever.