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"Take his mouth, go on," someone says "look at him go, check that out. He's like a virgin."

There's laughter around him and someone twists the thing in his ass. "Fuck, he's not taking it like one." Someone snorts, scotch and ice splashing down onto his hair, dribbling over his eyes, cheeks, neck. People cheer and Tony tries to breathe around the cock stuffed down his throat, spit bubbling over his chin.

"Oh, boys," Baine says "use him hard. We'll send him back to Stane all wrapped in a bow."

More jeers. Someone grabs the stick they've shoved up his ass and it's replaced with a cock, thick and unyielding. He's fucked at both ends, fingers scrabbling for purchase on the carpet, knees burning and gasping for breath. He can't breathe. He can't think. And all he knows it that Baine is sitting there, sipping her martini, and watching the show -- 

Tony jerks up, gasping for breath. It's morning. He's in New York. His fingers tighten in the sheets and one hand grips his chest, heart ratcheting a fast bass beat throughout his body. Head spinning, palms sweaty, yeah, he just had a nightmare.

"Tony?" Steve says with concern. He's standing, tucking his black turtleneck into his combat trousers. "You okay?"

Tony blinks. "Fine." He gets out. "Fine."

Steve frowns, clearly not buying it. He's strapping on his belt, fiddling with the catches on his jacket. "Bad dream?" He asks through the velcro of his harness as he slips it over his shoulders.

"Uh," Tony exhales, rubbing his sleep-filled eyes "yeah. Yeah, something like that." He stares at Steve, who's sitting on the edge of the bed, strapping up his boots "Where are you going?"

"Emergency." Steve says, pressing a kiss to Tony's brow "They need me in DC. We might be flying out tonight, I'm sorry."

"No, no, don't, don't worry." Tony waves a hand. "I have stuff to do." He lies.

"I'm going to miss our meeting." Steve says, apologetically "Can you call and reschedule?"

Of course. The counselling. Both of them. Together. Tony had forgotten.

Or maybe he hadn't. It would explain the dream, and the strange tremors making their way down his fingers. "Yeah," he says "of course, just -- don't worry. Be safe out there."

"Oh you know it." Steve grins. "Take it easy. You got any work to do?"

Tony shrugs. "I'll probably just fuck around with some specs, it'll keep me busy. When d'you think you're going to make it back?"

"Fingers crossed tomorrow morning, maybe later. Shouldn't be more than two days, but you how these things go. I'll see you, okay?"

"Bye Stevie."

Steve presses one last kiss to his tousled hair. "Don't wait up." He whispers, and then he's gone.

 

"Fuck, he's sloppy."

Tony groans, tries to pull himself forward. He's lying flat on his belly, wrists bound in front of him, legs spread and he's scraping his elbows against the carpet trying to get away --

"Smack his ass again."

Tony hides his head in his arms.

"Could he take a fist?" Someone asks, conversationally.

"No," Baine says "but you can use a bottle."

"... ony. Tony. Tony!"

Tony blinks, world coming back to him. "What!" He blurts "Christ, what!"

Natasha narrows her eyes. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing just -- just thinking."

"Here." She passes him a book from the back of the shelf. "Steinbeck, 'S', put it over there."

Where is he again? Right. Ordering the bookshelf with Natasha because Steve's away, he has no work, and she's a pedant.

"Steinbeck." Tony sighs, throwing it on the 'S' pile. "You know, these are technically my books. I don't see why -- "

"What were you thinking about?"

Tony blinks. "Nothing."

"Whoops, that's a lie." Natasha says casually, throwing Anna Karenina on classics pile. "Tell me what's on your mind, friend."

"I'm fine, Nat, honestly."

She squints at him, abruptly dropping her books and grabbing his face with her hands. She drags at his cheek, checks his eyes. "Are you dropping again?" She asks, suspicious. Her breath is hot on his face, her soft touch too brittle. He bats her away.

"I'm fine." He mutters. "Just -- late night. Honestly."

"Missing Steve?"

"He's been gone, what, an hour? Forget it, Nat, c'mon."

"Is it the therapy? The couples thing? Are you worried?"

"Not really." Tony mumbles. "Just -- I don't know. Did Steve tell you -- ah, never mind."

"Tell me what?"

"Nothing."

"Tony."

"I don't know, you're close right? I'm not giving anything away."

"You know how much I love gossip." Natasha says, dead-pan. "Spit it out."

Tony lowers his voice, as if Steve will be there to hear him. "He wants to try... he wants to try day-to-day submission."

Natasha raises an eyebrow. "Seriously?"

"I know, right?"

"That's a big commitment, Tony. Why?"

"He says he it's like stress relief for him, you know? He says he used to do it with Barnes -- non-sexual, obviously, but still. He says that doctors don't recommend it so much nowadays but back then it was the go-to therapy. He reckons Bucky got just as much from it as him.

"Is this why you're going to therapy? To talk it over?"

"To get some guidelines, you know, together."

"That's -- I mean, I know how you feel about contracts, Tony."

"Right?" Tony says "It's not, I know it's not a contract. I'm fine with it. But he won't let us try other methods."

"Of... stress relief? For him?"

"Yeah."

Natasha looks left and right, and then leans in closer. "Have you tried... you know." She mimes smacking the air.

"Of course we have! He thinks it's some kind of abuse. Don't look at me like that, I've tried explaining to him that it's okay, that I like it. He thinks I'm damaged, Nat, he said that. I think he doesn't want to push me in case there's some kind of hidden trauma I'm not aware of." Tony makes a frustrated noise. "I mean, I get it, you know? He can be nervous. But it's like he doesn't want to trust me."

"I see why you'd be angry, and I see where he's coming from. Honestly, Tony? With your history, I would be wary too. Hold on, listen -- he obviously... really, really cares for you, okay? And when you feel that way, you don't want to hurt your sub. Not in way that'll really hurt them, you know? I think -- " Natasha sighs "I think it's just a time thing. You'll show him that you're not fragile. You'll match each others style. It's still relatively new to both of you."

"What would you do?"

"Huh?"

"If you were in Steve's position."

"With you?"

"Sure, me. Any sub with my background."

Natasha pauses. "I have a very different style to Steve. He's a lot more -- well, quite frankly Tony he's a lot more caring. I would have tried spanking you right off the bat to see how it made me feel. I take my sub's word for it -- if they say they're fine, they're fine. They know better than I do what their limits are."

"Right? Thank you!"

"But -- "

"But, but, yeah yeah, I know." Tony throws more books onto the pile. "I'm damaged, right."

A few men are milling around, sipping drinks and talking, a few more listening rapturously to Baine as she talks about all the secrets she's stolen from right under Obadiah Stane's nose. Tony's curled   on her lap, listening, and he's so deep he can't work words together to make a sentence. He has to sit there, listening to his own humiliation recounted for other ears while she gently strokes his hair, fucks his mouth with delicate fingers, tugs on his collar and calls him 'good boy' -- 

"Tony!"

This time, Tony jerks. "What?" He gasps, feeling trembly. "What, what, what is it?"

"You did it again." Natasha says "You zoned out." She presses a hand to his brow, squinting, and Tony thinks about how nice it is her hair is just two shades darker than Sunset Baine's. "Are you sick?"

"Not sick." Tony says, pushing her hands away. "I'm -- tired, maybe."

"Something's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong."

Natasha narrows her eyes. "Did you and Steve argue?"

"No!"

"And your sure you're not dropping?"

"Yes!"

Tony goes under a lot faster and drops a lot harder, that's a fact. Baine loved that about him. Once upon a time, Tony thought it was a blessing. Then there was the first party. Then there was Baine. Now, Tony knows that submissiveness is not a gift.

Natasha keeps staring at him. "You're shaking." She snaps.

"I'm not -- "

"Get me a drink, Stark." Someone slaps his ass and he stumbles, making his way to the small table. He pours out the liquor with as much grace as he can manage, picks up the glass as carefully as he can, but his hand is shaking so bad it's spilling over the sides.

"What the hell is wrong with?" The man grunts "I asked for a glass, not a cup of ice."

"I'm sorry." Tony says, trembling all over, no longer under but being hit hard by a drop "Don't, don't -- " the ice is hitting the sides of the glass and Tony raises a hand in supplication.

He was so young, wasn't that it? That was it. Tony wouldn't stand for that, now, he'd kick their asses, snap their necks. But back then he hadn't understood. All he had under his belt were a few contracts and one party disaster, he didn't have anyone helping him out. Everyone else, their parents arranged their first contracts for them, or they went through an agency, but Tony did it all himself and people took advantage, of course they did, even Obie should have paid more attention -- 

Tony swallows, hard. He's aware that Natasha has taken his wrist and is talking to him in low, soothing tones, although he's not panicking. He doesn't feel panicked. He just feels tired.

"It's a strange day." He mutters. "I -- maybe bed."

"Let me help." Natasha says, and Tony doesn't push her away. He trusts Natasha. She took care of him, after Baine. Tony doesn't forget that.

He runs through the past in his head. There was that first party, with Buckner. The contract with Baine. Various, awful, trysts in which doms mocked him or hurt him, left him in the morning not knowing which way was up. There was the incident at that Roxxon party as few months ago -- God, maybe Steve was right. Maybe he is just that damaged.

Natasha stands, offers her hand. "C'mon." She says "Let's go to your floor."

Tony lets her help him up, dusts himself off. "Ice-cream." He says. "You fancy some ice-cream? I sure do."

Natasha blinks. "Sure," she says slowly "why not?"

"Maybe we should get you an apron," someone chortles "fuck, I'd love to have a piece like you around the house Stark. Don't tell my wife, though!"

Tony laughs, feeling Baine's hand on his shoulder, and tells himself that there's only one week left --

"Chocolate fudge brownie," Tony says, reaching down for the cartons "or just vanilla? Maybe hazelnut whip. You tell me, what do you want?"

"The works." Natasha says lazily "You want coffee?"

"Coffee would be good." Tony admits, trying to shake the feel of fingers roaming up and down his body. 

 "What about this?" Nat asks, passing him a plastic bottle filled with a bright blue solution. "Try it."

Tony frowns, sipping at the nozzle. He gag. "Fuck, what is that? It tastes like ass."

"Electrolyte solution." Natasha says breezily, grabbing some mugs "Keep taking it. It'll help with the shakes."

Is it that obvious? Tony can't tamp it down at all. He doesn't know what's wrong with him. He sucks at it greedily, holding his nose and trying not to taste -- 

"Swallow. Swallow all it, Stark."

-- the disgusting mixture of corn-syrup and blueberries.

"Enough," Natasha says, snatching the bottle away "you're not supposed to drown yourself, Christ."

"Sorry." Tony blurts, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth. "Sorry, I -- where's the coffee?"

"I'll make the coffee." Natasha says gently "You handle ice cream, remember?"

"Right." Tony swallows. "Right. Ice cream. Ice cream. Where's the ice cream?" He retrieves the containers, slabbing out two generous portions into bowls. "Sauce?"

"Chocolate."

"Chocolate," Tony mutters "chocolate, chocolate -- where do I put the chocolate?"

"Try the cupboard above the sink."

Obviously. Tony squeezes a dollop of sauce onto each bowl and shoves two spoons into the cream. Natasha places the coffee mugs carefully on the table. Tony takes a moment to appreciate that coffee and ice cream are not traditional bedfellows but gets over it pretty quick.

"Eat slowly." Natasha chides softly. "You'll make yourself sick."

Retching. Gagging. He throws up into the toilet, shakily wipes his hand across his mouth.

Baine stands in the doorway, wearing only a silk robe. "What's wrong, lover?" She asks. "Come back to bed."

Tony's head hurts. "You're probably right." He admits, but he doesn't care. Ice cream is good, it's sugar not salt, it's not bitter and doesn't leave a thick, clogged throat. He swallows the coffee and it burns, scalding the frozen parts of his mouth.

Natasha is looking at him, carefully spooning ice cream into her mouth. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine."

Natasha nods. "I think we should watch a film."

Tony blinks. "What?"

"Let's watch a film." Natasha says "It'll be fun."

Tony stares. "You -- together?"

"Sure. What shall we watch?"

"Natasha..."

"Am I making you uncomfortable?"

"No!" Tony swallows, wipes his sweaty palms against his pants. "No. I just -- I'm busy today."

"No you're not." Natasha says "I don't think you're feeling too good, and I just want to keep a small eye on you until Steve gets home."

"I'm fine." Tony snaps. "Christ is this because of our conversation? That's why I just shouldn't bother telling you anything -- "

"Tony," Natasha says softly, taking his wrist. "Let's watch a film. And if you're feeling better after, you can be on your way. Just... indulge me."

Natasha could probably order him and he'd listen. She has that sort of standing in his life, now. She's a dom he's obliged to obey, like Obie, or Pepper on a good day. But she doesn't force it. Indulge me, she says, as if Tony sitting with her is something she wants from him, not something she's going to take.

"Okay." He says slowly. "Fine. Film. Let's do it." He slides off the stool, heading for the living room "What do you wanna watch?"

"You decide."

"I'd rather -- I'd rather not. Pick anything, honestly. I'm easy."

Natasha was telling the truth when she said she takes her sub's word for it. "Something older." She says "A comfort watch -- Disney? Dumbo. Let's watch Dumbo."

Tony blinks. "I don't know if I have that."

"I'll find it. It's short. You'll like it."

Tony raises an eyebrow. "Are we... we're going to watch a kids film."

"Trust me, you'll cry." Natasha says, throwing a pillow at his head. 

Tony feels uncomfortable. He and Natasha have never really -- they're friends, but they're not this kind of friend. As a rule, they don't spend time together. Which is strange, because Natasha has literally seen Tony off his head, she's seen him kneel. Tony thinks he doesn't know anything about her.

"You like Disney films?" Tony says, attempting to cover up the awkwardness before it sets in.

"Not particularly. But Dumbo was the first film I ever saw."

"Really?"

"Sure. Jarvis, find us a copy."

Natasha sits down next to Tony, she presses close. Her leg is warm against his. Tony resists the urge to pull away.

"Dim the lights." She orders, and Jarvis dutifully brings them down. It's good. It allows him to breathe a little deeper.

"There's a happy ending, right?"

"Obviously."

Tony settles, biting his thumb. It's fine. It's fine. Watch the film, and go. 

There's a gala, and Tony is on Sunset's arm. Two weeks into their eight-week contract. Tony goes to the toilet, hides in the cubicle until he hears a familiar voice.

"Obie?" He says "Obie!"

Stane blinks. "Tony!" He says "Kid what are you doing here? Is Baine here tonight?"

"Please," Tony blurts "fuck you've got to get me out of the contract. Please, Obie, get me out she's crazy. She's going to kill me -- "

"Tony," Stane says "Tony, relax. C'mon. It's your first solid contract, okay? You're nervous."

"No." Tony says, shaking his head "Listen to me, it's not just her. She brings people round, there are parties. Please I can't -- "

"Tony, you agreed to all that in your contract."

He knows, he knows, but he didn't think -- 

"If she wants to share you, well..." Obie looks uncomfortable "c'mon, Tony, don't make me have this talk with you. Your kinks are your kinks, I'm not -- c'mon."

Tony digs his hand into Obie's tuxedo. "Please don't make me go back." He whispers "Please, Obie, please, she's crazy."

"Let go, kiddo." Obie says, forcefully yanking away his hand "Let go. It's not as bad as all that, Tony. After last time, I'm not surprised you're a little wary of parties -- "

On screen, Dumbo is reaching out his trunk to curl it with his mothers, locked in a cage. "Does it pick up?" Tony asks, voice terse.

"There's a happy ending."

Tony squeezes his fingers into the pillow on his lap, makes a concentrated effort to just breathe.

"What shall we do for dinner tonight, lover?" Baine purrs, twisting her hand in Tony's collar.

"Anything." Tony mutters, going pliant as she presses a kiss to his lips. "Whatever you want."

"Such a good boy," she whispers "deferment, Tony, I've taught you well."

Tony swallows. "Thank you."

"I have a meeting next week. I promised them they could use you as the platter. God, they're excited, using Howard Stark's only son as their centrepiece." She mouths kisses up his neck "But don't worry," she assures "I won't let them touch."

Natasha gives a small laugh at whatever's happening on screen and Tony laughs along with her, quickly, just in case she thinks he's not paying attention.

She turns her head. "Are you okay?"

"Fine." Tony bites out "Just -- fine. Feeling sorry for the elephant, though, God, Nat, why do you have to do this to me."

"I always hated that old bastard." The woman says, dipping her sushi into a soy sauce pot balanced on Tony's belly. "The son doesn't look like him Sunset, sweetie, it's disappointing."

There are fingers teasing with the fabric of his briefs. "What do you say we unpackage him?" A man teases.

Sunset giggles. "Oh no, Darryl, tonight it's just look, no touch."

Natasha sighs, throwing a pillow onto the floor. "How are you feeling?" She asks, eyes still glued to the screen.

"Fine." Tony croaks, although his heart is beating in his throat and he can't keep the pictures from his head. "Can I -- " he bites it off. "Nothing."

"Can you what?" Natasha says, turning to look at him. She raises an eyebrow. Looks once at the pillow on the floor, and then back to him.

Tony sinks to his knees gratefully, resting his head on Natasha's thigh.

"Tell me what Stane's planning to do with Hammer industries."

Tony jerks in the chair, tugging against the ropes. "I don't know," he manages, so, so deep "I don't, I don't -- "

She lands the crop on his thigh. "Not the right answer, lover."

"Tony." Natasha is shaking him, softly "Tony."

Tony jerks. The room spins into focus. He'd forgotten where he was, that's not good. That's not good and it's very, very obvious.

"Sorry." Tony blurts "Sorry. I'm having a bad day, I'm having a really bad day. I can't -- I keep -- I don't know what's wrong." He shudders, runs his hands through his hair. "I'm gonna go to bed." He says "I'm just, I'm going to wait it out, okay?"

"Tony I don't want to leave you -- "

"I'm fine. I'm just having a strange day." Tony stumbles to his feet. "I'll go to bed."

"It's barely even lunch."

"I won't sleep, just -- relax. Read a book. I'm fine, Natasha, I'll see you around."

"Tony!"

"Don't." Tony bites "Just -- don't force me. Please."

Natasha takes a step back. "You're not mine." She says "I wouldn't do that."

Tony nods, jerky, biting at his nail. "Thank you for the film."

"You're welcome, Tony."

"Uh," Tony blinks "don't tell Steve. Don't tell Steve about this. I'm -- I'm damaged enough, he says I'm damaged enough. Don't tell him."

"If that's what you want."

Tony can't bear to say anything else. He gives a sort of half wave and twists, making his way to his bedroom, to their bedroom, his and Steve's. He rifles through his draws, searching for his collar, not the jewelled one just the plain brown leather, thin and supple, that sits easily on his neck. It's a perfect fit and, and it doesn't choke, and Steve got it for him so --

He finds himself sitting on the bed, collar in hand, winding it round the skin of his knuckles. Breathing easy. He kicks off his shoes and clambers onto the bed, switches on the TV on the wall opposite. Nothing makes him laugh like re-runs of The Office. He starts at season one.

Half watching, half trying to keep his focus, making a concentrated effort not to think about Baine --

"Mr Stern! How long has it been? I hear you're running for senate?"

"One can dream, Ms Baine, one can dream. And who's this?"

"You remember Stark's boy? Two month contract. Tony, be polite, say hello to Mr Stern."

God, he'd been slimy back then, as well. Tony still loves to remember the look on his face when he shouted him down at that committee. 

Baine hadn't even been that much older than him. It was what, a years age gap? She'd still been so young. How can someone be so fucking calculatingly vicious at that age? Tony had spent hours thinking about revenge after that, and all he could ever think of was giving her a taste of her own medicine, making her crawl and beg and be passed around like a party favour except she wouldn't be able to go under, she'd be horrifically, hopelessly aware for all of it, and when people touched her she -- 

It's disgusting. He doesn't want to think about that anymore. When Tony takes down Sunset Baine, it'll be worst than a few quick comebacks. He will systematically destroy her, and anyone else who ever touched him in that way. He will. He will.

Steve --

Steve was right. He's damaged. He's a broken thing. He presses the balls of his hands into his eyes, drags up his knees to his chest. Christ, he can't stop himself seeing, what's wrong with him today, why can't he --

"Don't swallow." He orders. "Don't you fucking dare swallow a drop. Kev, c'mere, keep filling him up. It's a fun new game, Stark's not allowed to spill or we use the bottle again."

That had been the worst party. Tony can't even distinguish the names, the features. Really, all he can picture is Baine, and how she hadn't lifted a finger, just watched as people used Tony for whatever they wanted. Had, had just sipped her drink, and when Tony had landed by her feet, gently tipped back his head at let him take a sip, just as a treat -- 

" -- for being so good." Baine purrs. "You've been so, so good for everyone here tonight lover, don't you think?"

Tony nods, jerky. His wrists burn from where they tied them with rope, his ass feels empty. Throat raw and he feels filthy, like he needs to wash in acid, but at least it was worth something, fuck, it was worth something, because he's good --

Tony feels irritated -- frustrated -- that today of all days he can't stop himself from thinking. He wants to drink, maybe, but he hasn't in so long, and it feels like a shame to give it up. Tony never said he was going to quit, but then he went a day without, and then another, and then another, and no one ever mentioned it but someone threw out the bottle on the main floor so people must have noticed and the last thing he needs is to be some kind of drunk on top of, on top of already being supremely damaged or whatever Steve said.

He doesn't -- he doesn't know. He just doesn't know. He plans on waiting it out. There will always be bad days, days where the hands feel like they're holding his wrists. Tony tries to think of Steve, instead, Steve holding him down fucking him gently, God, Steve would be so gentle. He probably wouldn't even tie him, he'd just take him soft and slow. Tony's never -- he's never had it like that before. Steve wants to wait.

There had been one man, Tony remembers, who had been gentle. When everyone else clamoured to pinch and punch and slap, this man had stroked. It doesn't help the memory at all; he hadn't helped. Tony remembers, he remembers turning towards him, lifting his chin, eyes begging and mouth pleading but the man had just smiled, and smoothed his hair, and pressed kisses to his brow.

It hadn't hurt, mostly. Tony was grateful for that. Baine hurt him, with her crop. Some guys, they'd smacked him around a bit. Mostly, Tony had spent his days in Baine's LA apartment drawing specs on napkins.

What was he thinking, an eight week contract. How is that a good idea? Why did he think that was a good idea? God, Sunset had been so persuasive. She'd been so lovely. She was nearly his own age, and Tony had thought -- it doesn't matter, anymore. He had thought that most people don't have the luxury of spending their first real contract with someone their own age. The first party, where he'd gone home with Buckner, they'd all been older than him. Tony had thought -- foolishly, naively -- that what he and Baine had could turn into something more.

That maybe, because their ages were so similar, it wouldn't be like a contract at all. Maybe it would be more like friends. A summer romance. Maybe, God, maybe they would spend their days laughing and drinking and at night Baine would lovingly, softly, take Tony under and he would be so good for her, treat her so well, he would make sure -- 

Whoever said that female doms are softer was obviously on the negative side of the IQ scale.

Tony screws up his sheets, kicks them to the end of the bed. He grits his teeth in frustration. His mind won't shut off. He can't focus on the show in front of him. It's still so early -- Steve won't be back for hours.

He admits defeat. Sighing, he makes his way to the bathroom, fishes out the sleeping pills from the medicinal cabinet and pops two, swallowing them both with a handful of tap water. They're extra strength, and they'll knock him out for twelve hours or so.

They're fast working, too, Tony thinks with relief as he lies on the bed. His eyelids grow heavy. The air seems to warm around him, cloaking him like soft fur. He's too tired to even lift the sheet back over his body, but it doesn't bother him. He drifts, fighting back visions of red hair and martinis until sleep drags him under.

 

"Tony," someone murmurs "Tony, sweetie. Wake up."

The voice is soft, and slow, and gentle. Tony smiles, presses his head against the pillow, pushing back into the warmth of their body. "Steve," he mumbles, eyes still shut.

"You gonna wake up for me?" Steve says, laugh in his voice "c'mon, sleepyhead, it's not that late. Wake up."

Tony rolls, burying himself into Steve chest. "Shh," he slurs, nuzzling against his neck "shh. Sleepy."

Steve detaches himself and Tony whines slightly, hand flapping for the blanket. God, those pills, they do their job. Definitely. How long did he sleep? Long enough for Steve to come back? No, that can't be right.

"Case finished early," Tony hears Steve say from the bathroom. "Thank God for it."

"Wha'?" Tony mumbles, lifting his head slightly "Steve?"

Steve appears in the doorway, wiping his hands clean with a towel. He smiles. "Hey you."

The sun it just setting outside the window. Tony must have slept for the best part of the day. "Why you back so early?" He manages, blinking sleep from his eyes.

"False lead." Steve says cheerfully. "I rescheduled our appointment for next week -- which you forgot to do, by the way. I have a few irate messages from the therapist but I'll live. Why so tired? Did you not sleep last night?"

Tony feels disorientated, in a way that only a drug-induced sleep in the middle of the day allows. "Uh," he says, wiping a hand over the drool on his chin "no, no. I. Yes? Fuck, I'm really tired."

Steve's all concern. "Do you want to sleep?" He says "You seemed a bit off this morning. How were your dreams?"

Tony shudders. "Fine." He mutters. "They -- fine. What were you called in for?"

"We thought we'd caught tail of some illicit HYDRA action in Mexico City," Steve sighs, throwing the towel into the hamper "it ran cold. Turns out it was just regular old terrorists."

"Mexico City?" Tony asks, interest piqued. "Isn't that -- "

"Where Roxxon have been pushing through the new car factory? That's it. We don't know," Steve shrugs "it could be related."

"You'd have to ask Baine."

"This is true," Steve sighs "right about now asking her some questions would be very helpful."

Tony frowns, rubs at his head. "What time is it?"

"Nearly six."

"Fuck." Tony breathes "I slept the whole day."

"You must have been tired." 

"Sure." Tony mutters "Tired."

Steve sits on the edge of the bed. "Are you... are you going to go back to sleep?" He asks.

Tony blinks. "Uh," he says "no, I don't think so."

Steve swallows. "So," he says "would you be up for... do you want to try..."

Tony stares. "Oh." He says "Oh! Right! God, you mean -- sure. Sure we can try. You mean -- where do you want me? We can just try kneeling, or -- "

"Whatever's easiest for you." Steve says quickly. "Whatever gets you into the mindset, you know? I mean -- do you have any experience -- "

"Hold on," Tony says "pause. Let me -- can I freshen up? I feel like a sewer."

"Sure." Steve blurts. "Sure -- can I help?"

"In the shower."

"Where else?"

Tony nods, slowly. "Okay." He says "Let's shower. And then, I don't know, do you have work to do?"

"I have files to look through."

"Then I can -- I can kneel, maybe. By your feet."

"That would be amazing."

Tony could do with that right about now, anyway. Sitting quietly by Steve's feet. Letting him stroke his hair. Tethered to the desk, maybe, tethered to reality. It'll be good. It'll feel good.

Tony smiles. "C'mon then." He says, standing. He strips off his T-shirt, pulls off his pants. There's no apprehension about being naked in front of Steve, no self-consciousness. No matter what he looks like, Steve will always run his fingers over his skin, press kisses to the top of his spine. Tony smiles, loosely, as Steve wraps his arms around his belly. He tugs Tony back possessively against his chest, lightly bites the skin of his neck.

"Looking good, lover." He breathes into Tony's ear.

Tony freezes, feeling bile rise up in his throat. His palms start to sweat. His head starts to swim. He blinks, fingers scrabbling at Steve's arms, desperate to free himself from their tight embrace. 

"Tony?" Steve says, voice troubled "What's wrong?"

Don't be damaged. Just -- just don't be damaged. Do this for him, do this for Steve. Don't be damaged, for one fucking second, don't let Steve know. Tony blinks, as if nothing's wrong, waves a hand. "Too tight." He says, with a smile.

Steve tilts his head, still looking mildly troubled. "Sorry." He says apologetically "Are you still bruised?"

Perfect, what a perfect excuse. "Yeah," Tony says casually "you coming?"

The water is hot, which is good. Steve runs the sponge over his shoulders, under his arms, lathers him with soft, smooth hands and slides himself against Tony's body. Steve groans. Tony remains silent, stiff, unable to be warmed by the water.

"Christ," Baine says, slapping her palm against the door "how long are you going to be?"

The water's freezing and Tony's shivering. "Just a minute." He croaks.

Steve turns his shoulders, twists him so they're facing. Gently, he takes Tony's hand, pressing the sponge into his yielding fingers. "Clean." He orders, softly.

Tony drops to his knees, bathing Steve with careful touches. He starts at his feet and works his way up, hands steady. He can do this. Steve doesn't have to know.

"Enough," Steve says, eventually. "Are you ready?"

Tony nods, dumb, and Steve smiles, pushes his damp hair back on his head. "Okay." He murmurs, drying them off. "Okay. Come here. I'm going to collar you, okay? Rules are the same as any other scene: if you need to break, safeword out. I will always listen."

"Yes Sir." Tony says quietly, feeling Steve's fingers tickle the back of his neck.

"Bring me your leash." Steve says, with just a hint of command behind it. "Kneel."

Tony lays the leash out, palms raised, head bowed. It's such an easy routine to slip back into. Steve clips him, tests the hold. "Good," he says "now crawl -- "

" -- faster." Baine laughs, drunk. "Faster, move faster."

Tony grits his teeth. "Stop," he says "stop it. Red, red -- too fast."

Baine grins, crop hitting Tony's flank. "Oh lover," she sighs happily "it doesn't stop till I say so, understand?"

Steve smiles down at him reassuringly as they reach the study. He carefully attached the end of the lead to the table, presses a pillow under Tony's knees. "Good?" He asks.

Tony nods. He feels himself going under. Steve is humming gently to himself, one hand playing with Tony's hair, the other scratching lightly at the papers with his pen as he highlights and reads.

It's feel solid. Steve's leg is a strong weight beneath his cheek, the leash clinks gently every time he shifts. The collar is thick, Steve's hand is light. It's as far from Baine as it can be, and Tony is fine. He's not damaged. He's being so, so good for Steve. Kneeling here, like this, is as close --

"You're pretty Tony." Baine says gently, scratching at the skin under Tony's chin like one would a dog. She winds her knuckles around the lead, tugs him close. "And you're such a good boy -- "

Tony's nails dig into the skin of Steve's thigh. "Tony?" He says, looking down "Are you alright?"

Tony inhales. "Fine," he manages "fine, Sir."

Maybe it works, because Steve returns to his files. Tony stares at a point on the carpet, head spinning.

"Take it," the man spits, and he's so drunk, Tony's so under "take it, take all of it."

Baine laughs behind him, pushing the toy deeper, and Tony bucks, makes a sharp, inarticulate noise so they call him a dog while Baine pulls the man behind him into a kiss and says "Watch, Tony, watch. This could have been you."

Tony feels sick. He can't stop seeing it. Lover, Steve had called him lover, but it was an accident, nothing more. Steve doesn't know, how would he know, there's no way he could guess. He's not damaged, fuck, if he could just stop seeing he wouldn't be damaged and Steve wouldn't hate him -- not hate, Steve doesn't hate him, but he wouldn't think it. Because that's what Steve said, he had said, "you're damaged" and Tony hadn't, he couldn't --

"You're a broken thing Tony, understand?" Baine hisses. "You broke. Don't forget that. You told me everything, and what does make you?"

Tony hangs his head with exhaustion, blood from where Baine had dug her red red nails into his cheek sliding over his chin along with all of Stark Industries secrets. "It makes me -- " Tony tries to find a word, genius brain pushing through the drop "it makes me damaged."

It's not true, though, he's not. He's not broken, Steve knows that. And Steve wouldn't love a broken thing --

"All I said was that I'm looking into help, me, on my own. It wasn't an excuse for you to jump on in, Tony, I don't need your help. Just because, just because you're damaged doesn't mean I have to be, understand? I don't know if it's some kind of, I don't know, knee-jerk reaction or -- "

Stupid Tony, stupid stupid Tony butting in where he had no business. Steve told him already he didn't want his help and then Tony had to go and make it ten times fucking worse and now Steve knows he's all faulty and screwed up like bad wiring.

"Just because, just because you're damaged doesn't mean I have to be, understand? I don't know if it's some kind of, I don't know, knee-jerk reaction or -- "

Enough. Steve doesn't think -- he doesn't mean -- he doesn't agree -- 

"Just because, just because you're damaged -- "

Tony huffs, presses his hands to his eyes. Stop it.

"Because you're damaged -- "

Tony had tried so, so fucking hard to be good. To be good for Steve. He thought if he could be good for Steve -- Baine told him he was bad. They all told him he was shit, he was such a shit sub, and then Steve told him he was the best, the most beautiful the greatest, and Tony, stupid, stupid Tony, he believed him. He fell for it hook, line and sinker. It was all a front. Steve thinks he's damaged, Steve knows he's damaged, and he's been thinking it all along, he's been playing games with Tony the same way the men at Baine's parties did, the same way they'd tell him how lovely he was and then laugh when he crawled after them begging for kind words. Maybe that's Steve's game. Maybe that's what Steve wants. Tony kneeling here, naked, in Steve's office, he's letting Steve do this to him because he's that desperate for any kind of love --

Steve should have just slapped him in the face. It would have hurt less.

"Red." Steve calls "Red! Jesus, Tony, can't you hear me?"

Tony drags up his head, mute. He closes his eyes, swallows. He can't even bear to speak, he can't even bear to look Steve in the eye. He's just made Steve safeword out of their scene. The only scene they ever do to make Steve happy and he's just made him safeword out --

It drives him just a little lower. He lets Steve pull him to his feet, push him into the chair. "Hold on," he says "blanket, blanket -- " he grabs a throw from the small couch, wraps it around Tony's shoulders "water? Do you need anything to drink? Just -- fuck, I knew it. I knew it. You were off this morning, I knew you were, I knew -- " Steve sounds distressed "I should have waited. I should have just waited, was it a nightmare? Did you see something? What's wrong?"

"You said I was damaged." Tony says quietly. "Did you mean it?"

Steve blinks. "What?"

"Last week. With, when we argued. You called me damaged. I didn't -- " Tony swallows "I didn't mean for it to come out like that. When I said I wanted you to get help. I didn't mean, I wasn't angry. You didn't have to shout, shout at me. You called me damaged. Do you think that? Because I," Tony exhales, tugs the blanket tighter over his shoulders "you know, I've been working real hard to just. To be really good for you."

Steve stares. "I called you damaged?" He croaks.

Tony nods.

"Tony, I don't -- I -- oh fuck. Oh, Christ. Christ, I just -- I didn't mean it. God that's so fucking inadequate but -- Tony, I didn't even realise -- I don't remember -- "

"It meant nothing to you." Tony says, voice low "You didn't even -- I've been, I've been obsessing all day and you -- "

Steve rests his head in his hands. "What did I say?" He groans "Tell me what I said."

"You said that just because I'm damaged doesn't mean you have to be. I shouldn't push my problems on you. Bring you down to my level."

"Fuck, I -- you didn't mention it. I meant -- Christ, I was angry. That's it, Tony, I was angry, not even at you, I was angry at myself because it scares me, having to accept that I'm -- that I'm damaged. So I used the wrong word. It's not what I meant. I meant, I just meant that we have two very different experiences. Two different sort of traumas. And you can't apply your reasoning to my issue. And because, I was scared, I was angry, it came out wrong. Tony I swear I didn't even notice I'd said it. I swear, I swear on my life, I swear on my mother's grave. Please." He takes Tony's hand in his, peppers his knuckles with kisses "Please, I didn't mean it. Please, please tell me you didn't take it to heart. When I say you're the best, it's because you are. You're the best sub I've ever had. I love you so fucking much. Tony. Tony?"

Tony closes his eyes, frowns, thoughts sluggish with the drop. "I thought I was being good." He says "Good for you, good, good for me. You told me -- that's what you said. I thought I could hide it. Or maybe that you wouldn't care I was damaged. I thought... I thought maybe you wouldn't care." Tony swallows, but the panic is receding. His head is spinning and Steve is staring at him, he looks so sad, Tony's sorry he had to make him look like that again.

Steve offers a hand. Tony takes it. Steve presses kisses to his knuckles. "Why today." He asks. "Sweetie you've been okay the past week. Why today."

Tony closes his eyes. "She said it too." He replies.

"What?"

"Sunset. Baine. She said it too. And I -- and I don't know what's wrong with me." Tony meets Steve's eye head on. "I couldn't get her out of my head. I couldn't stop thinking about -- about those weeks -- "

"The contract?"

Tony nods. "I couldn't -- fuck." Tony rubs his hands over his face "I still can't. I can feel their hands on me I can feel them I fucking swear. And maybe you're right, maybe it is just, just two different types of trauma because tell me you don't feel, feel breath down your neck and weight on your thighs and -- " Tony sucks in a breath "she told me I was damaged and I believed her. I still do. They did things to me -- "

"You said it wasn't bad, that first time. You told me -- "

"It was awful." Tony blurts. "It wasn't just, just the touching, because I can deal. It was the constant -- Baine was always there. There wasn't a second of privacy. She would bring in people I didn't know and it just, it fucking scared me. Nothing was my own, not my body, not my clothes, not my time. Not my mind, either, once she was done with me. And, and compared to the first party no. No it wasn't that bad. But weeks and weeks of Baine and -- " Tony breathes deep, feeling himself heading for a drop.

"It wasn't the touching." He says again "It's the things she said. She cut deep because I knew it was true. I dreamt, last night, I dreamt about one of her gatherings. After I'd told her everything I had on SI, she would just pass me around like a party favour. And this one party, they put things -- " Tony pauses "they -- inside me. They put things -- "

"If you can't say it, don't."

Tony swallows, gratefully. "I don't know why I'm saying this." He blurts "You don't want to hear this."

"Have you ever told anyone?"

Tony shakes his head.

"Do you want to tell me?"

Tony thinks. "I -- " he says "I just -- I don't know."

Steve's thumb drags softly over Tony's hand. "Shh," he soothes "you tell me whatever you want, Tony. I'm listening."

"It doesn't matter." Tony brushes away. He can see it's making Steve uncomfortable, or angry, or whatever. "It doesn't matter, Steve. It's fine. I'm here now. I'm with you. You... you love me. You love me?"

"More than the world."

"More than the world." Tony repeats, silently. Steve is still watching him, expectant. Tony looks up.

"I dreamt," he says "that I was at one of her gatherings. They'd always start the same way. She'd introduce me, and as the night went on, I'd get more drunk, I'd get further down, and I'd just -- I didn't want to. I swear, I swear I'm not a slut."

"I wouldn't care if you were, Tony, that's -- what?"

"But Baine had it down to an art, the way she'd get me to act like her party favour. All it took was -- " Tony has to swallow "all it took was one kind word. One kind word and I'd get down on my knees for anyone. That's what she reduced me to. And then, of course, they wouldn't be kind anymore. They'd slap me and fuck me. And I begged them to. Because I thought it was good enough, if I gave them everything they wanted, maybe -- " Tony looks down "I don't know. I thought maybe I'd get the kind words again."

"Tony." Steve croaks, voice raw. "Fuck, Tony -- "

"And then she called me damaged." Tony says abruptly, looking up. "She sat me down and explained that I was damaged. We had just spent the night together, just us. It was near the end of the contract. And she just -- she made me see. So I knew. I knew I was broken and -- " Tony gives a wry, sad laugh "and you can't be good for anything if you're broken."

"You're not damaged." Steve rasps. "Fuck her, fuck me. You're not broken. If you can sit here and tell me what happened, you're not broken. If you can get up every morning and live your damn life, you're not broken. You went on to save the whole fucking world, Tony, the world, how the fuck does it make you damaged? You're not. You're scared, maybe, you're allowed to be. I was an ass," Steve admits "worse than that. It -- that is not what I meant to say. It was the twisted version of my words. And -- how far under are you right now?"

Tony shrugs. "Barely."

"Okay." Steve says. "Shall we go to bed? And when you're more rested, we can talk this through. Properly. Or I can call the therapist and have our appointment moved to tomorrow. Your choice."

"My choice." Tony repeats. "My choice." He pauses. "Could we -- can we just... take a day."

"Take a day?"

"Yeah." Tony says, weakly. "I mean, if it's all right with you."

"And do what?"

Tony shrugs. "Stay in bed." He tries for a laugh. "You, you could draw, I could sleep. It would be nice to just -- to take a day."

"If that's what you want." Steve says, cupping Tony's face "Then that's what we'll do."

"I watched Dumbo today."

"Oh yeah?"

"Very sad."

"It's a happy ending though."

"Funny that's what Natasha said."

"Natasha? I wouldn't have pegged her for a fan."

Tony sighs. "Yeah, well she's full of surprises."

Steve stands. He holds out his hand. "You coming?"

Tony lets Steve sweep him into his arms. It's dramatic, and stupid, and he blushes, just a little, slapping at Steve's chest. Their bed is warm. It's clean. Steve throws away his clothes and climbs in, just as naked as Tony, lying down to face him.

Tony blinks slowly, memorising his face. Is Tony losing his mind, or are there the first sign of lines on his brow? He smoothes back Steve's hair where it's standing out of place, curls his fingers round his ear, feels his pulse.

"You're not damaged." Steve murmurs. "I love you."

Not damaged. Maybe. This time, when Tony sleeps, he dreams of flying elephants and Steve's hands on his waist as they twirl round and round and round.