Tony doesn’t believe in “happily ever after.” There’s “happily ever hour,” “happily ever three days,” hell, if pressed, he’ll even throw in “happily ever a few years,” but that’s pretty much his limit right there.
It’s not that he’s a pessimist or anything, he’s just realistic. People get tired of each other, of the lives they’ve created for themselves, of seeing the same person day in and day out and having to deal with little quirks that were charming once upon a time but get more and more annoying with each passing day. There’s no one to blame. It just is.
And he’s fine with that for the most part. He’s grown up knowing there was never going to be a “ride off into the sunset with his one true love” type of moment, or at least, not without stopping by the convenience store on the corner to buy several bottles of alcohol and possibly some ear plugs for when the yelling starts.
So even though it’s a shock to wake up in a strange bed next to a naked Steve—and damn, does he do naked well—the bigger shock is that for a second, Tony finds himself wishing he did believe in fairy tales and happy endings and that true love could conquer all, and he can’t even say why. He just does, and it makes him sadder than he’s been in a long time.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” Tony tells Steve as he roots around for his clothes. Woah. Just how much did he have to drink last night? Obviously, it had to have been a lot considering the size of his headache and how his day’s going so far, but apparently he’d tried to imbibe the whole damn bar if the smell of his shirt is any indication. He could probably get drunk off the fumes alone.
“I don’t understand,” Steve says, and Tony can’t help but glance over, even though the sight of Steve sitting forlornly on the bed, sheet wrapped around his waist, does nothing for his conscience. He still can’t believe he debauched Captain America. He’s going to hell.
Sadly, he doesn’t even remember it, which is totally not fair.
“Look, didn’t Fury warn you about me? Coulson, maybe?” He finally finds all his clothes and talk about Walk of Shame, sheesh. Apparently, Steve has a deep hatred of buttons, because Tony doesn’t have a single one left.
“Well, yes, but what does that have to do with anything?” Steve asks, and damn it, he should not find that confused expression so adorable.
Tony sighs. “Look, Steve, I’m not really a long-term kind of guy. I have ‘commitment issues,’” he tells him, making air quotes out of habit, “and I’m not really ‘boyfriend material.’ Do you understand?”
Steve's brow furrows. “No.”
Ah, fuck it. When in doubt, make shit up.
“Okay, well then, let me be clear. I really like you. You’re a great guy, you’re fantastic in bed,” he assumes anyway, although, considering how sore he is right now and the hickies all over his body, he can safely say he had a great time, “and I enjoy being with you, but you and I would never work. I have . . . certain needs. Always have, always will, and even though I have vanilla sex every now and then, I can’t be in a lasting relationship with someone who can’t cater to my, well, to be honest, fetish. I’m sorry.”
“I . . . you . . . really?”
“Yup, sorry.” He wonders if he started drinking now, could he get drunk enough to forget this morning, too? It’d be better for his peace of mind if he didn’t remember that his first reaction to waking up next to Steve had been to want cuddles.
“Um, what kind of fetish?”
Tony blinks. “Say again?”
“What kind of fetish do you have?” Steve asks, blushing but determined. “Maybe I could . . . .”
“Ohhh, I don’t think so,” Tony says quickly, his brain rifling through his rolodex of fetishes and trying to settle on one that’d be shocking enough to make Steve give up on him but not shocking enough to make Steve avoid him permanently. “It’s pretty bizarre, and coming from me, that's saying something.”
“I want to know,” Steve says stubbornly
Well, crap. Okay, okay, fetish, fetish . . . not leather, because, in their line of work, who didn't? BDSM? No, Steve might actually try to hit him or let Tony hit him, and that would just end in tears. Speaking of which, crying, maybe? Or watersports? Dirty talk? Daddy—ugh no, Steve had known Howard after all; he’d never be able to look him in the eyes again. Furries, maybe? Although Steve already wore a costume, and he might think exchanging one outfit for another wouldn't be a big deal.
Tony has to give himself a mental shake to get the image of Steve in a golden retriever costume out of his head.
“Feathers,” he blurts out when he heard the bird call outside. “I can’t get enough of them.”
The look on Steve’s face is almost worth all the trouble. Almost.
“Yeah,” he says shaking his head sadly. “I know, I know. I can’t explain it. My therapist has all sorts of theories, traumatic experience growing up, my favorite TV show as a kid having this hot model who always wore ostrich feathers, my pet parakeet—I can feel you judging me, Steve, it’s not nice—weird stuff, you don’t want to hear it. But, what’s a person to do? I’ve come to terms with it, and sure, it means I’ll never settle down with anyone, but it’s probably better in the long run. I’m sorry that I dragged you into this though, Steve. I can’t believe I got so drunk that I hit on you—”
“No, it’s my fault,” Steve says, gazing down at his hands. “I’ve been—I was the one that approached you. I didn’t realize you were so . . . I wouldn’t have asked if I’d known you’d had so much.”
“Oh. Well.” He clears his throat, because that’s unexpected. It makes him feel guiltier than he already was, and fuck, that’s saying something. “Still, no harm, no foul, right? I mean, it was an accident basically, and this shouldn’t affect our relationship—our working relationship at all, right?”
Steve doesn’t say anything, just looks at him, naked and kind of miserable, and okay, yeah, time to go.
It should be easy to walk out at that point, hell, he’s got a long habit of it after all, but he pauses at the door, his eyes darting back to the forlorn figure on the bed. “I’m sorry,” he says again, and the worst part is that he really is.
He gives Steve a few days, flying out to check up on his house in Malibu. News travels fast, and he’s got several invitations to various parties by the time he lands, but he turns them all down. For some reason, he’s not in the mood for company.
He does design three new weapons for the suit during his free time. He’s not going to lie, it makes him feel a lot better.
By the time he gets back to New York, he’s halfway convinced that he’d imagined Steve’s expression as he was leaving, and just in case he hadn’t, he tells JARVIS to remind him to introduce Steve to some of Pepper’s friends, someone kind and funny and good, and he ignores the way his chest aches at the thought. It’s better this way.
He doesn’t make a conscious decision to sneak into the mansion, but it’s what he ends up doing. Well, what he tries to do. Stealth’s never exactly been his forte. Still, he makes the effort, because . . . well, just because.
It’s all for nothing, because no one’s home—which isn’t anti-climactic at all—but he chalks it up as practice or something else that’s hypothetically good for you, but totally sucks in the meanwhile, and stomps into his room.
Where he sees . . . uh . . .
He doesn’t say anything for a while, an embarrassingly long time as a matter of fact, but in his defense, it’s not every day that he walks into his bedroom to find Steve sitting on his bed with his lap, the comforter and bits of the floor covered in feathers (most of them red with a smattering of gold, and coincidence? He thinks not).
“Hi?” he says, and honestly, he’s ridiculously proud of himself for getting out something other than hnnnnnrgle.
“I’ve been thinking,” Steve begins, very earnestly, but Tony’s have a little trouble focusing on his words, what with the nakedness and the feathers shifting every time he so much as breathes, and it’s probably the most indecent game of peek-a-boo Tony’s ever seen.
In. Out. Up. Down. Swish. Swish. It’s mesmerizing.
“Huh?” he says, blinking furiously. It’s a struggle to look up—pretty—but he does, managing to focus on Steve’s eyes, which . . . are also pretty, damn him. “What?”
Steve sighs. “Did you hear a single word I said?”
“I heard three,” he says with as much wounded dignity as he can muster, and uh oh, that look on Steve’s face does not bode well for him.
Steve’s shoulders straighten, the same way they do when he’s about to confront (aka vanquish) the enemy, and there’s a voice in Tony’s head that’s shouting Red Alert! Red Alert! but it’s about five seconds too late, because Steve stands up, feathers falling everywhere, just, everywhere, and with them, the last of Tony’s resistance.
He has a moment to realize that even though he didn’t have a feathers kink when they started out, he’s going to have one by the end of it, and then Steve’s grabbing the front of his shirt and yanking him down on the bed, feathers exploding into the air.
“What are you doing?” he gasps, but he feels that it lacks something considering he’s groping every available body part he can get his hands on.
“You said you could never be with someone who couldn’t accept this,” Steve says, crushing feathers against his sides as he rolls them—and ow, shafts are hard—okay, what did he just think—the vanes tickling his skin. “I can accept this, Tony.”
There’s a part of him, undeniably a very small part, that wants to admit the truth: that he lied, that while the feathers are much more appealing than he would’ve imagined, it’s only because Steve can make just about anything attractive.
But Steve’s rubbing against him, and there are feathers sticking out of his hair, making him look slightly demented but still unbearably sexy, and there it is again. The fleeting wish that this were real, that he could have it always.
It’s more effective than dumping a bucket of cold water on him to snap him out of it.
They’ve walked this road once already, but at least he had total inebriation as an excuse. There’s nothing to hide behind this time.
“Steve, I don’t—”
“I can accept this, and whatever other stories you come up with until you’re ready to give us a chance.”
He’s so focused on what he’s planning to say that he doesn’t understand what Steve means at first, but when he does, he’s reluctantly impressed.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says, picking up a feather and twirling it between his fingers. “But if I did, I’d say that I had no idea a national icon was supposed to be so devious.”
He sees Steve starts to smile out of the corner of his eye, and Tony heart clenches. Steve is going to be the end of him, and he should probably be more panicked at the thought, but he’s not. Maybe it’s worth it. Maybe it always has been.
“I don’t know, I think I’m just devious enough to keep up with you.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he mutters, and he strokes the feather down Steve’s neck in order to distract him.
It works remarkably well. Like remarkably.
“Admit that you’ve given yourself a feathers fetish,” he says laughing, because oh, the irony. Steve swats at him.
“It’s not a fetish,” Steve mumbles. “Besides, you were supposed to get in a few hours ago. I got bored.”
“Oh really? How bored are we talking here? Bored enough to experiment maybe?” he asks and sits up, straddling Steve’s legs and ignoring his protests to grab more feathers and conduct his own tests.
He should probably be fighting this more, should come up with something that Steve will believe, or if all else fails, tell him the truth. He’s not meant for happy endings, not like Steve, who deserves to be happy and should be with someone who can do that for him.
Except it’s difficult to make his case right now, what with Steve laughing so hard, the feathers tickling his side. And Tony knows he should back off, but when he accidentally brushes over Steve’s nipple, making Steve jerk and catch his breath, the last thing on his mind is stopping.
He does it again in order to evoke that same reaction, and then again, watching as Steve shivers, his hands going from trying to block Tony to sliding down his body until they’re wrapped around his thighs. If that and the erection Steve’s sporting aren’t permission, than he doesn’t know what is.
He starts with barely-there touches across Steve’s lips, along his jaw, over his pulse which beats faster and faster. It’s not that he’s teasing—well, not much anyway—but he likes how bright the red is against Steve’s flushed skin, likes Steve’s responses even more, the way he jerks and trembles when Tony finds a particularly sensitive area, the small sounds that force his lips to part when Tony runs the feather down the length of his cock.
It has to be torture, all these light caresses that aren’t much in and of themselves but still manage to result in tensed muscles and fingers digging into his thighs, and Tony isn’t above taking advantage of that, laying one touch upon another until he finally has to move away before Steve actually hurts him.
That has its own rewards, however, because it opens up new territory, Steve’s inner thighs, the vulnerable skin between his legs. Really, there’s so much to explore that Tony doesn’t even care that he’s still fully dressed, not when Steve lets out a strangled moan as he brushes the feather over his balls, when Steve shudders all over as Tony strokes the juncture where thighs meets ass. The clothing becomes a nonissue, however, when he leans down and takes Steve’s cock into his mouth, wriggling the feather further back, because Steve finally breaks, and damn it, there go the buttons again.
Not that he’s really complaining.
He stares up at the ceiling afterward, sweaty and surprisingly content, a stupid grin on his face and feathers sticking to some very interesting places, and he thinks, yup, even hung over and unable to remember anything, he’d been right. A great time had definitely been had by all.
His smile fades as he realizes he doesn’t want to give it all up just yet. Is it really that horrible of him to want to cling to this for a while? Especially when Steve wants it, too?
Maybe he isn’t meant for a happy ending. But this is more of a beginning, isn’t it? And the end . . . well, the end is what it is, and who knows what’ll happen in the meantime?
“So,” he says, eyeing Steve speculatively, pushing aside his thoughts for later. “Going back to your previous point, you could accept anything? Like, anything? Even if I said I could only be with someone who enjoyed being tied up and covered in whipped cream—”
“You have no sense of shame, do you?”
“Mmm, not as such, no.”
Steve laughs, rolling to his side so they’re facing each other. “Well, don’t expect me to encourage you.”
“Oh, come on. You did say anything,” he says, shifting a little closer, and damn it, they have to do something with all these feathers. That is a very important part that just got poked.
“True. I did.”
“Steeeeeve . . . .”
“I guess you’ll just have to hang around long enough to find out, won’t you?”
Tony lets out a huff of air, his mouth twitching. “I guess I will.”