“What is it?” Steve asks, frowning at the cup in his hands. Reed’s expression is nothing but earnest, but Steve has seen that look precede far too many catastrophes to trust it.
Reed blinks. “You have a very complex physiology, Steve. We hardly know anything about it, and I’m curious to see how certain things affect you as compared to how they’d affect someone without metahuman abilities. The effects of this compound on your autonomic nervous system will be vastly different from, say, their effect on-”
“Reed, what are you doing to Steve?” a familiar voice calls, and Steve turns in time to catch Tony walking through the door. His first reaction is to smile, but his brain catches up before he can carry through – Registration, freedom, rights, the fight he and Tony had had a few nights before. Steve concentrates on the cup he’s still holding. The liquid inside looks innocuous enough; it’s not bubbling or glowing or anything weird. It looks a lot like cough syrup, but it’s thinner, and doesn’t smell medicinal at all.
“Steve?” Reed says, and Steve’s head snaps up. Reed mimes lifting a cup and drinking from it, and Steve sighs and raises the cup in Tony’s direction.
“Here’s to my autonomic nervous system,” Steve says, then drains the cup. Tony lifts an eyebrow, tips a cup that Steve hadn’t noticed he was holding towards Steve, and does the same.
Reed smiles. “Let me know how it affects you, will you? I’m very interested to see how you each react to the solution.”
“Will do,” Steve replies, slipping out of the room before Tony can say anything. He doesn’t want to relive their fight, and he certainly doesn’t want to rehash it in front of an audience.
Steve can’t help but think about his fight with Tony, though. It’s actually nearly all that he thinks about, even though he normally enjoys watching mindless things on television. There’s a faint itching feeling beneath his skin, like his shirt is over-starched and a little uncomfortable. In fact, the more he dwells on the fight he’d had with Tony, the more uncomfortable he feels.
“Seriously,” Clint complains, “what gives? Are you sick? I thought you couldn’t get sick.”
“I’m not sick,” Steve says irritably. “I’m just – I’m going to the gym. I need to work through some things.”
“Yeah, if by ‘things’ you mean ‘punching bags,’ then sure,” Clint mutters. Steve pretends not to hear him as he gets up and walks from the room.
The gym isn’t empty when Steve gets there, and it’s all he can do to keep himself from turning right around and walking back to his room when he sees Tony working the heavy bag. He stays, though, watching from the door as Tony lays into the bag, working up a sweat far more quickly than Steve has seen him do before.
The itching feeling beneath Steve’s skin increases tenfold.
“Tony,” Steve says when Tony pauses, and Tony’s head snaps around to meet Steve’s gaze.
“There you are,” Tony breathes, like he’s spent the past hour searching for Steve instead of trying his hardest to hit the bag from the ceiling. “Steve, God, where have you-”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Steve mutters, crossing the length of the gym and standing a few steps in front of Tony. There’s something trying to make itself known in the back of his mind, something that feels like a protest of some sort, but the itching explodes into buzzing as Tony takes a step forward, then another.
“Steve,” Tony says, and Steve can’t be sure who reaches out, who touches whom, but Steve is sliding his hands into Tony’s hair and Tony is arching up into him as their mouths meet.
The buzzing intensifies until Steve feels like his skin is vibrating, like Tony has to be able to feel it beneath the fingers he has digging into Steve’s forearms.
“Tony,” Steve says, “Tony, Tony,” and he pulls until their bodies are flush. Tony groans and drops a hand down to curl around Steve’s hip. He rocks up against Steve and bites his lip, and Steve can see the way his eyelashes flutter down, how his chest heaves as he draws in breath after breath.
“We should,” Tony says, but Steve lens down and swallows the rest of Tony’s thought. Tony surges up and into Steve, forcing him back a step and then another, and then his back is flat against the wall and Tony is rocking against him faster and faster. He moans when Steve reaches down and grabs at his ass.
Steve blinks, and then he’s lifting Tony up and rolling until Tony is the one against the wall. His legs wrap tightly around Steve’s waist, and his mouth is on Steve’s neck, sucking and biting and humming against his skin.
“More,” one of them says, and Tony’s arm wraps around Steve’s shoulders as Steve moves backwards, supporting Tony easily. They’re on the floor, somehow, Tony on his back and Steve pressed down against him, and Tony’s legs tighten further around Steve’s hips and he thrusts, and Steve moans and ruts down against him.
“Clothing, clothing,” Tony mutters, getting his hands between their bodies. He’s nothing if not efficient, and it’s no time at all before he has a hand inside Steve’s pants. He pushes insistently until Steve lifts his hips, and when he settles back down he’s bare against the cotton of Tony’s sweatpants. It’s not enough, so Steve wraps his fingers around the side of Tony’s pants and yanks, and then it’s perfect, skin sliding against slick skin. Tony spreads his thighs and Steve sinks against him, leaning in until their bodies are a breath apart, hips rolling together. Tony kisses him messily, tongue and teeth and lips moving with no precision, and when he fists one hand in Steve’s hair and grabs Steve’s ass with the other, Steve grunts and comes, spilling hot and sticky on Tony’s thighs, his shirt, his cock. Tony makes a sound that could be a gasp and grinds his hips against Steve, and then his back arches and he whines high in his throat as he comes.
There’s nothing but the sound of panting for a long while. Steve buries his head in Tony’s shoulder and breathes in, trying to figure out what just happened, and why he’s feeling more balanced now than he has in a long time.
It’s only when Tony chuckles softly into his ear and murmurs, “Better?” that Steve notices that the itchy feeling beneath his skin is gone entirely.
“I think,” Steve starts, but there’s a sudden clattering sound from the doorway, and Peter’s voice is yelping, “Oh, God, my eyes, my eyes-” and then there’s just the sound of Tony’s laughter as Steve drops his head back onto Tony’s shoulder and sighs.
Okay, Steve reasons, it was strange. It was weird, and it was probably caused by – something, but he honestly doesn’t care about the hows and the whys of what had happened in the gym. He’s more interested in sitting down and talking to Tony than he is in figuring out why they’d felt the need to jump each other.
For once, Tony seems to agree. He’s sitting across from Steve, fingers curled delicately around his coffee mug, staring into the liquid as if he’s worried that coffee is going to somehow invade the world. “So, Registration.”
Steve sighs, wishing he had his own mug of coffee to contemplate. “I’m sorry I blew up at you.”
Tony jerks his gaze away from his mug and looks straight into Steve’s eyes. “What? No, no, Steve. I’m sorry that I wouldn’t listen to you.”
Steve huffs out a laugh. “So now we’re going to fight over who’s the sorriest?”
“Me,” Peter yells from the other room, “definitely, definitely me.”
Tony smirks and raises his voice without looking away from Steve. “I keep telling you, Peter, you’re not going to find better porn out there-”
There’s a thin wailing sound, and Tony’s smirk widens, crinkling the lines around his eyes. It’s not the first time that Steve has looked at him and thought beautiful, but it’s the first time that he’s considered the word as more than a casual observation.
“We should take another look at the paperwork,” Steve says. “There’s got to be some way to work through it.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Tony agrees. “It’s not going to come between us.” There’s a note of finality to his words, a ringing sort of certainty that Steve believes with ever fiber of his being.
“No,” Tony snarls, slamming his fist into the sheaf of papers on his work bench. “Christ, Steve, will you just listen to me for ten seconds-”
“Me?” Steve shoots back, scratching furiously at the back of his hand. “Listen to yourself, Tony! You aren’t making a lick of sense-”
“-because you can only think of your view on things as making sense-”
“-I thought we were trying to compromise on this!”
“Are you even interested in compromising?” Tony asks furiously. “That would mean you have to give up an inch of ground, Steve, and so far you seem pretty fucking unwilling to consider doing that.”
Steve barks out a laugh that hurts more than anything else, and he’s not quite sure why he reaches out and snags Tony’s wrist, but suddenly he can’t breathe with how much he needs to touch Tony, to pull him in and bring their mouths together. Tony makes a noise that isn’t quite a protest, and he smacks his fist into Steve’s chest hard before opening his hand and grabbing at Steve’s shirt.
“This isn’t a compromise,” Tony gasps when Steve pulls away.
“No,” Steve agrees, “it isn’t,” but then he kisses Tony again, kisses and kisses and kisses him. The paperwork flutters to the floor when Steve sits on the work bench, dragging Tony between his thighs. Steve manages to get his hand into Tony’s trousers and wrapped around his dick, and Tony curls his fingertips into Steve’s shoulders and rocks into Steve’s fist hard and fast. He makes that same whining gasp as he spills over Steve’s fingers.
Tony doesn’t waste any time in drawing Steve’s hand from his trousers and pulling it to his mouth. He darts his tongue out and runs it up the side of Steve’s palm, and Steve is so entranced by the sight that he jumps when Tony’s other hand squeezes him through his pants. Tony laughs around two of Steve’s fingers and squeezes again, and Steve rubs against him. Tony undoes Steve’s pants one-handed and wraps his fingers around Steve’s cock, and then he sets up some sort of alternating rhythm, jerking Steve with one hand and guiding Steve’s fingers in and out of his mouth with the other. Steve lets Tony set the pace, and he settles on just the right side of punishing. He doesn’t seem surprised when Steve shouts and comes in an almost embarrassing amount of time.
“See, that’s how you compromise,” Tony says into Steve’s hair, and Steve has no idea what he’s talking about, but he nods and wraps his arms around Tony’s waist and holds on.
“So you aren’t experiencing any sort of reaction at all?” Reed sounds almost disappointed over the phone. Steve frowns.
“Well,” he says, wondering if he should bring up his inability to be within ten feet of Tony without wanting him, but deciding against it when he feels himself blushing at the thought. “I haven’t really noticed anything, no. Do you need me to come down for blood tests or something?”
“No,” Reed says, and yeah, he definitely sounds like he’s down about something. “Look, is Tony there? I’d like to ask him how he is.”
Steve frowns, thinking. “He was working on something in his office. I can patch you through to – oh, wait, here he is.” Steve waves as Tony walks into the living room, carrying a folder bulging with paper. He tosses the phone to Tony, who sets the papers down on the coffee table and plops down beside Steve on the couch.
“Reed,” Tony says, sticking his feet up on the table and listening. “Not really, no – well, I’m running a little warm, but that’s not unusual – no, really.”
Steve tunes him out and reaches for the folder he’d dropped on the table. A few of the papers sticking out have familiar phrases on them, and he has the feeling that Tony had been looking for him to talk about Registration again.
It only takes a few minutes for Steve to carefully lay the papers down. “Tony, what the hell is this?”
“You didn’t just ask me that,” Tony says, but he sounds more amused than anything else, and Steve realizes that he’s still on the phone. “My sex life? Really?”
There’s a buzzing on the other side of the phone, presumably Reed defending his question, but Steve’s too wound up over the papers to think about the possibility that Reed had known that his experiment would affect their sex lives. “Tony, could you talk to Reed later? We really need to discuss this.”
Tony shrugs a shoulder and hits a button, tossing his phone to the table. “Reed, you’re on speaker,” he says, turning to Steve. “My sex life is none of your damn business, and that’s what I’ve come up with after several days of thinking about it, so I really hope you have a better idea if that doesn’t fit your exacting standards.”
It takes a moment for Steve to sort through what part of that statement had been directed at him, but he narrows his eyes when it clicks together. “Tony, this expressly contains several items we agreed should be left out.”
“It’s a work in progress,” Tony replies as Reed says, “Wait, are you two talking about Registration?”
“Yes,” Steve snaps. “Tony, I agree that something needs to be done, okay? We’ve gotten that far, but this-” He gestures to the papers. “I thought we were compromising on this.”
Tony throws his arms up. “What the hell do you want me to do, Steve? There’s only so much of the original law that I can excise at this point, and you’re not willing to help with the writing-”
“-I’m not good at that, Tony, you know it, we decided you’d do the writing for a reason-”
“-you don’t want to be there while I’m working on it, it’s like you just expect me to translate your will into legalese-”
“-you told Pepper not to let me in today, I tried-”
It’s at about this time that Steve notices that they’re nose-to-nose, literally touching each other. Tony breathes in sharply, and then he’s moaning into Steve’s mouth as Steve leans back and pulls Tony down on top of himself, and for a while, they’re completely occupied with each other, groaning and thrusting and biting and stroking.
Neither man hears Reed’s quiet voice over the line. “Well, that’s exactly what I was asking, actually,” he says, and then he hangs up.
There are days when Steve wonders if he and Tony are going to have to be chained to chairs in order to get through this whole Registration mess. Separate chairs, and with at least a table between them, though it might have to be more; it seems like every time they start talking about the proposed law, it degenerates into arguing fairly quickly, and even more quickly into sex after that. It doesn’t make sense, not really; Steve has never really been the kind to be turned on by harsh words, and he knows better than to think that Tony is, either. They get to fighting, though, and then the buzzing starts beneath Steve’s skin, and then Tony touches him and they can’t stop from there.
The thing is, though, that after they’re done, after they’re sweaty and sated and finally get all of their clothing off, they can talk. They talk and talk, mostly about Registration, sure, but also about the whys of their positions, which leads to revelations about Tony’s past that Steve hadn’t known, and to Steve haltingly telling Tony more about his own life.
It takes them nearly four months to sort out the entirety of the new Superhuman Responsibility Act, and when they finally finish reading through the sheaf of papers that doesn’t involve either one of them swearing, Steve slumps back against his chair and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Did we really do it?”
“I think we did,” Tony replies, sounding slightly stunned. “I think – I mean, it’s not perfect, but then again, laws very rarely are. I think this will cover all of the bases we both wanted to cover.”
“I think you’re right,” Steve says, closing his copy of the folder and setting it on the table. He stands and stretches before offering Tony a hand. “Let’s sleep on it and give it one last check tomorrow, and then we can decide where to go from there.”
“Sleep,” Tony says, grabbing Steve’s hand and stumbling into his chest when he gets to his feet. “Sleep sounds like a better idea than anything we managed to put into that packet.”
Steve laughs and rubs at Tony’s back. “Come on, then.”
Steve sleeps for almost nine hours; Tony is still out cold when he finally pulls himself towards lucidity. Steve heads for the bathroom and then the kitchen, fixing breakfast and decidedly not looking through the stack of papers still on the coffee table. There will be time for that later.
Tony wakes somewhere around hour thirteen, stumbling downstairs in his pajamas, hair a wild mess around his head. He downs two cups of coffee before nibbling on some toast that Steve had made when he’d heard Tony coming down the stairs, and when he finishes, he sighs and smiles a little. “That wasn’t a dream, right?”
“Nope,” Steve confirms, glancing at the table. “We should go through it again, but we got it done without killing each other, so I’m calling this a win.”
Tony laughs. “Let’s read it later,” he suggests. “Let’s celebrate first.”
“What did you have in mind?” Steve asks, but Tony’s sly smile explains it all, and Steve really doesn’t have any objections to following Tony back up the stairs to their room.
Clint is draped across the entirety of the couch. Peter is balanced on the armrest near his feet, and Steve is sure that Clint is only just restraining himself from kicking out and unbalancing Peter. He figures that it probably has something to do with the way Peter would shoot webbing at Clint if he kicked. The thought is kind of hilarious, and Steve cracks a grin.
“What’s the joke, big guy?” Luke asks, settling carefully into an armchair. Steve shrugs and lets his smile broaden.
“It just feels like we have a lot to celebrate,” he offers, sitting back into the loveseat. He leans a little towards the middle, and the shift in the cushion makes Tony slide sideways into him. Tony snorts, apparently amused, and settles more firmly into Steve’s side.
“We did finish retooling the SHRA,” Tony points out as Peter starts the movie. Tony had called a few people, who had called a few more, which had led to the gathering in the living room. There are about fifteen people lounging around, and it isn’t quite a party atmosphere, but the mood is relaxed and there’s food and plenty to drink. Steve nods back when Reed waves at him before turning to face Tony.
“Don’t call it that,” he says. “That’s what the old one was called, and if you keep using the old acronym, people aren’t going to differentiate between that thing and what we made.”
“We changed ‘Registration’ to ‘Responsibility’,” Tony points out. “It’s the same acronym, and the whole title is a mouthful.”
Steve frowns. “Maybe we should figure out a new name for it, then. I’d really rather people didn’t think about Registration when that’s not what we’re pushing.”
“They’ll get that it’s different,” Tony grouses. “If you and I are both standing behind it, nobody is going to think it’s the old law, Steve. We had a few pretty public disagreements over that one.”
“It should have a new name,” Steve says stubbornly. “It can’t be that hard to come up with something.”
Tony glares. “Seriously, Steve, let it go. We’ve put literal blood, sweat, and tears into the thing, and I would much rather we stay finished with it.”
Steve picks up the folder and flips through the pages. “It shouldn’t take that long, Tony, we just need to-”
“No,” Tony says firmly, taking the folder out of Steve’s hands and tossing it towards the floor. Steve would be surprised that none of the papers fall out on the way down, but he’s too busy glaring back at Tony.
“You want it to be associated with what it used to be?” Steve asks, shifting until he and Tony are facing each other on the couch. “After all the work we put into it, that’s what you want people to think of when they hear about it?”
Tony throws his arms wide. “Steve, we know everyone that this is going to affect,” he says. “Several of them are here. Nobody is going to mistake this for Registration, and if they do-”
“-they’re going to, Tony, at least at first-”
“-that is exactly my point!”
The room is deathly quiet, and Steve is really only peripherally aware of anyone else being present by this point. Tony is glowering at him, and Steve is trying to take even, controlled breaths to get his temper back under control. He has almost managed it when Tony hisses, “Lay off it, Steve.”
That’s the proverbial straw. Steve grabs for Tony and hauls him in, leaning back so Tony is sprawled on top of him, and they’re kissing furiously in a matter of seconds. Steve shoves his hands down the back of Tony’s trousers and grabs Tony’s ass in his palms, squeezing roughly. Tony makes an incoherent noise and rolls his hips down against Steve’s as Steve pushes up into him. They’ve got it almost down to an art form, the way they need to rock against each other to get the thrumming beneath their skin to stop, and it’s only a minute before Tony is hissing into Steve’s ear and biting his shoulder through his shirt. Steve flips them when Tony slumps down on top of him, grinding his hips against Tony’s thigh a few more times before collapsing.
Tony cards his fingers absently through Steve’s hair until Steve pulls his head back and looks down at him.
“Oh, God,” someone whines, and Steve abruptly realizes that they’re in the living room with a whole host of other people. He looks over and meets Peter’s horrified gaze. “I’m just going to-” He stands jerkily and makes a beeline for the hallway. He’s out of sight in less than three seconds.
“That was entertaining,” Clint drawls, looking at them with far too much interest, “but what the hell, guys?”
Reed clears his throat a little uncomfortably, and everyone turns to look at him. Steve takes the opportunity to bury his head in Tony’s shoulder and wonder how he’s going to be able to make this right. “Um,” Reed says, “this might actually be my fault.”
Tony curls his hand around the back of Steve’s neck, keeping Steve pressed firmly against his shoulder. “I think you’d better explain that in a little more detail.”
Steve isn’t quite sure what to say when Reed finishes his explanation. He doesn’t understand the particular details of it, but he doesn’t need to. He gets the basics of the situation. “Let me just restate this so I’m sure I’ve got the important parts down,” Steve says slowly. “You thought that the original SHRA was going to cause a lot of issues, so you drugged Tony and me so we’d stop fighting about it and change what needed to be changed?” It’s a miracle that he can speak considering how much he’s blushing, but if Reed is the one that did this to him and Tony, then he already knows the sordid details.
Reed glances at Steve’s face. “I didn’t just think it, I knew it,” he says, a little sharp. “I built a device that lets me look into realities that aren’t too far removed from ours. One of them had the SHRA go through much as it was, and the results-” Reed shudders, this time meeting Steve’s gaze full-on. “You died.”
Steve flinches, and he can hear Tony’s intake of breath. “I couldn’t just – I knew if you two talked about it instead of fighting about it, you could change things,” Reed says earnestly. “I figured if there was a way to make you actually discuss things rationally-”
“So you dosed us with some sort of compound that makes us fuck instead of fight,” Tony says blandly.
Reed flushes. “It redirects your energies, yes.”
“So if I had picked an argument with, say, Logan,” Tony starts, but Reed shakes his head quickly, so fast that Steve is slightly surprised that his face doesn’t stretch a little.
“It’s keyed to the two of you, and to the SHRA,” he says. “If you’d been arguing over what to get on a pizza, nothing would have happened.”
“Nanotechnology,” Tony says in that same flat voice. “Tell me you at least came up with some sort of countermeasure for this, Richards.”
Reed looks slightly offended. “Of course I did, Tony. You and Steve are welcome to come down to the lab at any time, and I’ll reverse the effects of the solution.”
“Great,” Tony says, standing from the table. “Lead the way.”
Steve isn’t quite sure how to ask the question that’s nagging at the back of his mind, and he’s positive that he doesn’t want Reed to be the one to answer it. He grabs Tony by the elbow after Reed heads out the door. “Tony.”
Tony glances up at him. His face is nearly expressionless. “Steve.”
“Is this,” Steve starts, then swallows. “When Reed reverses whatever he did, are we-”
Tony’s face clears, and for a moment there’s nothing but pure affection on his face. “Reed didn’t create any false feelings or memories or anything like that,” he says. “He exploited what was already in place, but no, him shutting the nanotech down isn’t going to change anything.” He brushes his fingers across Steve’s cheekbone. “Well, we’ll probably stop jumping each other every time we get pissed off, but it’s not going to change the fact that I want to be with you.”
“I want to be with you, too,” Steve says, catching Tony’s hand in his own. “You’re sure that he didn’t – create any feelings?”
Tony’s face abruptly shuts down again, and he tugs until Steve lets go of his hand. “If his nanotech forced you to sleep with me when you didn’t want to, I swear to all that’s holy-”
“I was talking about on your side,” Steve interrupts. “I didn’t – Tony, I’ve wanted to be with you for ages. I just wasn’t sure what your reaction would have been.”
Tony relaxes. “Same here, Steve. Almost word-for-word, in fact.”
Steve smiles and grabs for Tony’s hand again, pulling him in and resting his lips against Tony’s temple. “So we actually have Reed to thank for getting us together?”
Tony snorts as he settles his arms around Steve’s waist. “Let’s not tell him that.”