When the deception burned vinegar and battery acid in his throat, the lies scarring his tongue and evidence of his duality lay across the apartment, ignored by Tony but so obvious to him, Steve found himself at a stalemate with himself. Every new defense, excuse, falsehood brought the a sharp, bitter spike of pain to his chest, cracking his ribs open and laying him bare for when he stared at his sweat-soaked expression in the bathroom mirror at three in the morning. Bloodstains on the bath mat and bruises across his ribs, gun powder on his gloves where they lay in the laundry hamper. When was the last time that he’d actually had time to sit down and use the easel in the living room?
When was the last time that he’d actually gone out and done what Tony had thought he’d been doing?
It hurt, deep and sharp, to be lying like this to the man of his dreams. To bright eyes and rumpled clothes and curls- to the goatee and the arm covered in mathematical equations and the spine that curled tight around him in the dark after movie nights. It was painful, plain and simple, to be doing this.
But he was The Captain.
And he was not weak.
And then there came a day when Steve found out exactly what that meant.
Before- before Tony was kidnapped by the Red Skull, before Tony knew anything about Steve’s actual occupation, Steve was just his overwhelmingly vanilla boyfriend. Tony was a playboy, experienced, kinky; Steve was apple pie and missionary position with the lights off.
Tony thought that Steve was apple pie and wet dreams about Wonder Woman and the American ideal, and Steve was rather disinclined to dissuade him of this notion. Especially when that very notion led to Steve kneeling at the foot of the bed, hands clasped behind him, eye-level with Tony’s red thong clad erection and between the billionaire’s knees. Calloused fingers ran through his hair, sending shivers down his neck and making his eyelids droop with a satiated sigh, Steve’s forehead resting on the inside of one thigh as he breathed deep, letting Tony pet him gently.
“You’re such a good boy,” he rasped, smoothing blond strands off of Steve’s forehead and sliding forward on the bed, cupping the back of his neck firmly. “You’re going to do what I tell you, right, baby?” Steve let out a small whimper, pushing into his touch, looking up at him, blue eyes begging for it, for the loss of control (and Tony didn’t know, couldn’t know, how badly Steve needed to give it up. To not be responsible for anyone else’s life- not even his own life. To not be giving orders in the field, not be bandaging the wounded and mourning the dead and lying alone at night and-)
“Yes,” he murmured, tilting his head up for a kiss, Tony’s teeth drawing blood to the surface of his already kiss-swollen lips and pulling a gasp from his throat. And then Steve found out exactly what it meant to be weak.
What it meant to be powerless, what it meant to follow every order- and it was so different from when he’d been young, when he’d been sickly and small.
And god, there was such a divide between being weak and just blindly giving himself over and being strong enough to trust Tony with himself. It was almost harder for Steve to just give himself over to this man- this man who didn’t even truly know who Steve was. The lies burned brighter in his throat for a few seconds, muscles juddering and swallowing thickly and- Tony’s lips pressed so gentle on his cheek, and he just- gave it up.
Gave up himself, all of himself, to Tony (to his love), everything he could give, save his secrets. Trusted him. And let himself go.
After- after Tony had come back from the warehouse, but before he disappeared into a cave and the sand and the nightmares that haunted Steve for those three months, it was a long, long time before Steve knelt at the foot of the bed like that again.
“I need you to,” he’d said, gruff, with head bent, his hands in the sink as he did the evening’s dishes. “I trust you to.”
Tony didn’t reply.
And he left the dishes dripping water onto the dishtowel on the counter, sitting on his bed in the dark and running his thumb along the curve of one of his guns, the smell of metal lingering on his fingertips long after, pressing against his face when he slept on the left side of the bed (alone) and waited for the sun.
And he wrapped the nylon ropes around his wrist while he watched the news on TV, while he waited for his radio check in to call him from patrol. While he ignored the smell of Italian take out getting cold on the kitchen table and the lack of ratty vans by the door.
He pressed the blindfold to his mouth a month out, shutting his eyes and feeling the silk touch him and letting it trail down across the hickey Tony had left him the other night, right over his heart, while he sat in the back of the car on the way to a drop point. Stuffed it in his pocket, sliding out of the car, ignoring Bucky’s quip about guns and being happy to see him.
Let Tony fuck him, missionary position, in the dark, every other night at his apartment and all the rest at Tony’s.
But it wasn’t quite what he needed.
It wasn’t quite the same, walking into the room in one of his suits, sliding onto the bed behind a sleepy tony and pressing his face to the man’s shoulder, breathing in the smell of sleep and sex and sunlight all at once. Undoing his tie and his fly and nudging his shoes off, the clink of dog tags about Tony’s neck jingling like bells in the shadows of the night. Tony’s curls were brushing against his cheek as he turned his head into the other man’s neck, biting and sucking and exhaling heavily when he went to put his hand on Tony’s half-clad hip and found that he’d never set his gun down.
“Fuck-“ and Tony was turning, Tony was staring curiously at the cold metal pressed to his iliac crest, empty, safety firmly on. Tony raised an eyebrow, that old smirk coming to him, that old smirk too close to Steve’s face and he swallowed so hard. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, pressing back, pulling the gun back, trying not to let his hips jerk as he caught the flash of smooth, tanned skin against gunmetal-steel-oh my fucking god- he was hard, so hard, panting almost and trying to drag his eyes away and trying not to let Tony see and-
And Tony saw.
“You trust me, huh?” He said softly, pressing a hand to Steve’s wrist and pushing down, not letting him pull away, pressing the gun back against his stomach. “Trust me that much, babe?” Steve nodded, slow and heavy and disbelieving. It was like the first time- it was like the last time they’d done this, two weeks before Tony had gone missing and far too long ago for Steve (for Steve’s mental state). “You wanna give it up for me, big boy?” He was purring against Steve’s throat and Steve’s brain (cock, stomach, mouth) said bite.
And didn’t it feel so good when Tony did.
When Tony pulled the gun from his hands, pushed him down on the floor, put the barrel to his lips and he felt-
Safe, safe, safe. Loved and safe and trusting and he moaned so loud around the metal, took in Tony’s smirk, knew he’d never be able to look at Tony working on his defense contract blueprints without getting hard ever again. And fuck- so different from being out in the field, from barking orders into a comm, from aiming up shots next to Bucky and packing boxes and wrapping stab wounds. From out in the field, where he owned everyone- gave orders for everyone. Different even from his weekend job, from telling kids how to draw and how to paint and how not to ruin art supplies.
Here, he didn’t give orders to anyone.
It felt like a freedom he couldn’t have anywhere else.
And in the morning, he rubbed a thumb along the barrel of the gun, watching Tony’s chest rise and fall so comfortingly in the dim light, crossed by the slats of sunshine coming through the blinds, waiting for him to wake up.