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Love Across the Multiverse

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"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Tony says, looking at the assembled group of distinctly unfriendly aliens surrounding the two of them.

More aliens. Jesus Christ. This is going to be another one of those days where Steve wishes SHIELD had never thawed him out.

They're coming closer.

Tony braces himself, feet apart and head level, the way he gets when he's ready for a fight. He raises his hands, palms glowing blue.

One of the aliens, a blue-skinned man, presses a button on a small device in his hand. Tony's armor falls off of him in pieces with a resounding clatter, leaving Tony standing there, smeared liberally with that bizarre greenish gel he covers himself in, under the suit. He has a skintight undersuit on, black soaked green. His hair is spiked with the gel. He's... completely helpless now. Without the suit, he's not going to be able to contribute much to the fight.

"I don't think they're kidding, Stark," Steve says, and he raises his shield--

And then somehow he's lying on his back, paralyzed, and the same alien plucks his shield from his hands.

"Stay there," the alien says. It sounds to Steve like he's speaking English, but what he hears doesn't match up with the movements of the man's mouth. It strikes him that they are very, very outclassed here. "The director wants to see you before we send you to wardrobe and makeup."

Steve stares. Nothing about this makes sense.

The alien is retreating with his shield. He's defenseless now. The floor surrounding Steve and Tony is streaked briefly with a brilliant purple line, arcing up into the air, a dome of energy surrounding the two of them. A prison. His shield is outside the little dome, as are the pieces of Tony's armor.

They're screwed, Steve thinks, and he tamps down ruthlessly on the panic.

Tony, who is still standing, mutely offers him a hand up. Steve takes it. Tony's skin is vaguely greenish and still a little tacky from the gel. Steve wipes his hand surreptitiously on his pants.

"What--?" Steve begins, but he doesn't have time to say anything else, because there's another alien standing outside their dome.

This one's a woman. She's tall, pale-skinned, redheaded. She looks human, but Steve knows better. She's wearing some kind of khaki jumpsuit with a large number of belt pouches. She has a huge starburst tattoo over one eye; it's a little more extreme than what the kids these days are sporting, but it wouldn't be too out of place on Earth. She's clutching a clipboard and there's a headset mic perched on her face. She looks... frazzled, maybe.

"Welcome to Mojo Studios," the woman says. Her mouth movements still aren't matching up with the words he hears, but the alien translation... thing... has given her a bored voice, an accent that sounds almost Philadelphian. Steve wonders if it's all in his brain. "Mojo Network is pleased to inform you that you have been cast in Love Across the Multiverse, the Mojoverse's new galaxy-spanning show of true romance, produced by Mojo himself. Please confirm your identity."

Steve's brain catches and stutters on the words true romance.

"I knew a guy named Mojo in the reality TV business," Tony says, thoughtfully. "Mojo Adams. Bit of a weight problem. Had a nasty run-in with the X-Men a few years back."

The woman stares at them, unblinking. "Please confirm your identity," she repeats. She glances down at her clipboard, with an impatient little twitch of her hands. "Rogers, Steven. Stark, Anthony. Affiliation: Avengers. Planet of origin: Earth-616. Yes?"

"Avengers?" Steve asks, confused, at the same time as Tony says, "Actually, my name is Antonio."

The woman's eyes go wide and she says something that the translator refuses to render. "Excuse me for a moment."

She's about twenty feet away in the wide bay -- maybe the size of an aircraft hangar -- but Steve can still hear her spit harsh invective into her headset, and he holds up a finger for silence when Tony opens his mouth again.

"--no, actually," she hisses, "616 is not the same as 1610. I don't care if most of the numbers are the same. Can those idiots of yours in Multidimensional Casting not count? What the hell am I supposed to do with them? We're advertising Avengers, and so we'd better-- what do you mean, dead? Really dead?" There's a pause. "I don't know where you get off acting like this is my fault. We're shooting tonight and there's no time left to get more of them." She sighs and rubs at the bridge of her nose as she paces. "Fine, but if Mojo's upset, it's your neck, kid."

She stalks back to them, visibly fuming.

"You," she says, jerking her chin at Steve. "You're Captain America?"

Bewildered, Steve nods.

She turns to Tony. "Iron Man?"

Tony smiles one of those matinee-idol smiles, the kind that make Steve's stomach go funny and really aren't supposed to. "Of course."

"Right," she says, no-nonsense. "Good enough. You'll do."

"For what?" Steve asks.

She stares at him like she can't believe he's this stupid. Steve's not really fond of hitting women, but his fingers are itching for his shield. "The name didn't give it away? Here on Love Across the Multiverse, you will be competing with a variety of specially-selected couples. We'll interview you about your relationship, get some candid footage, and then, of course, you two will get on with the action."

"Action?" Steve echoes, blankly. Do they want to make them fight each other? It'll hardly be fair, without Tony's armor. His mind is still reeling from the word relationship, to be honest. There is no relationship here.

Tony glances over at him and smiles that bright smile again. "Cap," he says, in an almost cheerful, explanatory undertone, "I'm pretty sure they want us to fuck on camera."

"Yes, of course," the woman says, a brisk agreement, and the bottom drops out of Steve's stomach because-- no. He can't. He's not a queer and it's bad enough that he thinks about men sometimes, hell, even that he thinks about Tony sometimes, but he can't. He can't actually do this. "All requested supplies and materials will be provided. When the episode airs, all of Mojoworld will vote on which couple pleased them the most, and then the winners will be allowed to return home. The other contestants move on to our more adversarial shows."

Steve's mouth is dry. "You want us to... engage in indecent, pornographic acts. Perversions. With each other. While a planet watches." His jaw clenches. "I refuse."

She looks levelly at him. "You don't want to refuse, Captain."

She steps back and gestures, and a holographic image appears in midair. It's Clint Barton, sitting in a tiny cell. He's cuffed and shackled, and he grins bleakly at them. There's blood drying on the corner of his mouth. "Hi," Clint says. "They're telling me I'm your hostage."

Steve just stares.

"We do what they want," Tony says, "or they kill you?"

"I think so," Clint says. "I mean, obviously I've got my preferences here as to how this should go, but--"

"I'm in," Tony says, instantly, intently. Determination flashes across his face for a second before he's smiling again. The woman waves her hand; the image disappears.

Steve still can't seem to summon up any words.

"What?" There's an irritable look on Tony's face, for just a second, like he thinks Steve is judging him, and okay, maybe Steve's judging him, just a little. Tony's always been so... free with his affections, but how he can do this is beyond Steve. Does he think it's funny? Does he think it's a game? Steve wants to push him, to find out where that goddamn mask stops. But Tony's still smiling, once again, and it's all the mask. Like nothing can touch him. "It's not a big deal, Cap. It's just sex. Won't be my first sex tape." He winks. "And don't be like that. I know you've seen my sex tape."

Steve opens his mouth and shuts it again.

He might have found his thoughts drifting toward that tape at... inappropriate times. It happened. It hadn't been a problem. It is now.

"So we'll win," Tony says, and he's grinning now and this is the worst day of Steve's life. "We'll win and we'll all go home. Not a problem."

"You're awfully confident," the woman says.

Tony laughs, a throaty sound. "Darling," he says, "have you met me?"

She raises an eyebrow, unimpressed, and then gestures at four guards, who approach, weapons raised. "These gentlemen will escort you to the bathing facilities. You," she says, turning to Steve, "will go to wardrobe."

And then the containment field is down, and they're marching Tony away, and Steve's got his hands up as four more guards train more weapons on him, and he can't do anything, and Tony's gone--

He didn't even have a chance to tell Tony yes. Or no. Surely he was going to say no. They can come up with some plan to rescue Clint and get out of here. They don't need to do this. They don't need to go along with this.

Maybe he would have told Tony yes anyway. No, he tells himself, of course not.

Steve's trying not to blink into the lights. They've cuffed his hands to the chair, but he doesn't think the restraints are going to appear in the shot; he thinks they're filming from the chest up.

As escape plans go, attacking the makeup artist was not his best or most successful idea.

"Keep smiling," says a woman somewhere behind the camera. She has snakes for hair. She's holding some sort of futuristic rifle, with the kind of trigger discipline that suggests she knows exactly what she's doing and she's not afraid to shoot him. "And keep talking. We'll edit it all together later. Tell me how you feel about Tony Stark."

No amount of interrogation training has ever prepared him for this.

He wants to tell her to fuck off, but he thinks that if he does there is a very real possibility that they will stitch his individual words together into an unholy tapestry of misquoted lies and he'll have to listen to himself saying I want Tony Stark to fuck me.

He's not actually sure if that would be a lie.

The woman's finger slides to the trigger of her rifle.

"Tony's a good teammate," Steve says, because that's really the least he can say. On the one hand, ingrained habit means he doesn't want to give up anything to the enemy; on the other, there are hardly military secrets involved here, and he doesn't particularly want to get shot in the head for nothing. But he doesn't think an entire alien planet -- universe? -- should be privy to any feelings he has for Tony.

He doesn't have feelings for Tony, he tells himself. There are no feelings here.

Someone else -- a man -- makes a noise of disgust. "Told you we should have gotten the real Captain America."

I am the real Captain America, Steve wants to say. He thinks there's been some kind of mix-up here.

"Yeah," another man agrees, low, derisive. "At least that one likes Stark."

"Be quiet," snake-lady says. "This is the one we've got."

Steve rattles his chains in annoyance and is beginning to feel unfairly maligned. How the hell is he not good enough for them? "Hey," he says, indignantly. "I like Stark just fine."

Then he realizes what he's said. If he weren't shackled, he'd hit himself in the face. He's walked right into it.

Snake-lady rounds on him like she's stalking prey. It's a stance that goes far too well with her serpentine hair. "Oh?" she asks. "Tell me more." One of the snakes opens its jaws and hisses.

"He's--" Steve begins, awkwardly, shifting in his bonds and looking away from the camera. "He's-- he's a swell guy, okay?"

"Do you find him attractive?" the woman purrs.

Steve clenches his jaw. "No," he says, flatly. "Of course not."

He thinks maybe she's frowning. He can't quite see her face, but she has a disappointed set to her shoulders. There's a long, considering pause. And then she lifts her head and he's sure she's smiling now.

"But, Captain," she says, "doesn't he have a great ass?"

He can't not picture it. He can't. He's thinking about Tony's ass now. He could hardly have avoided it; it's like Tony wants everyone to look. It's not like he's made a special effort to notice Tony's ass, but his suits are immaculately tailored and show off every part of him to advantage. Tony's always showing off. Tony's clothes always cling just so -- nothing too tawdry, but there's a definite sensuality to him, to the way he inhabits his body. Just looking at him, Steve can imagine what fucking him is like. It would be slow and easy; Tony would be smiling, languid with pleasure. Oh Christ. Steve shifts in the chair. He really hopes they're not filming his whole body.

"Are you asking him these questions?" he asks, finally.

She nods.

He wonders what Tony's saying about his ass. It's probably very complimentary.

One of the guards finally releases the shackles as the other guard opens the heavy door in front of him. Steve doesn't have time to pay much attention to the surroundings before he is being shoved through the door. The restraints and a key are thrown in behind him, thudding onto plush carpet.

"You can keep the cuffs, in case you two want them to play with," the guard says. He's laughing. "Don't even think about escaping. We'll be waiting outside, and we're armed. Cameras are live."

The door slams shut, heavily. The way that resounded, it's probably too heavy for even Steve to break down.

Steve looks up, finally, catching his breath and taking stock of the room he's found himself in. It's a bedroom, with a generic hotel-room ambiance. The carpet is a little stained. There are science-fiction paintings hung on the walls, starscapes and ringed planets. Steve considers the fact that they're currently imprisoned by aliens and supposes it's not science fiction after all. There's one door that looks like it leads to a bathroom.

The ugly peach-striped wallpaper is dotted with little electronic glints that Steve bets are cameras, and he bets they're recording. There are a few more things that are probably also cameras, little swooping flying spheres. One of them is hovering in the corner.

But mostly there's a bed. A very large bed, with dark red covers and pillows piled high.

And in the middle of the bed is Tony.

Tony's lounging against the pillows. Unlike Steve, who is still in uniform because he had tried to make his escape before they'd dressed him, Tony is wearing a comfortable-looking robe, also red. Steve resolutely does not think about what Tony is -- or isn't -- wearing underneath it. His hair looks a little damp, but there's no gel anywhere on him anymore, so he must have washed. There's a bottle in Tony's hand. He's drinking straight from it, having abandoned such niceties as glasses; there are three more bottles, full of various probably-alcoholic liquids, on the bedside table.

"Oh, look at you," Tony says, cheerfully, and he grins. "What happened? Did you punch someone?" He sounds positively delighted.

Steve grits his teeth. "I don't want to talk about it."

"I can't take you anywhere," Tony crows, and it sounds like a compliment when he says it. He sloshes the bottle at Steve. "Want some Everclear? The alien version of Everclear, anyway. It's not the best thing I've ever tasted, but you know what they say about beggars and choosers."

"No," Steve says, scowling, and his gaze goes to the rest of the bottles. "Where did you get those, anyway?"

Tony shrugs. "Craft services. Did they not take you to craft services?" His eyes light up in glee. "Do you not get to go there if you punch someone?"

"Shut up," Steve says. He doesn't even want to be in a room with Tony, much less-- much less-- he can't even think it. "Did you get anything that wasn't alcohol? How drunk are you planning on being?"

Tony takes another sip and runs his tongue around his lips, and Steve does not stare, Steve absolutely does not stare. "Let's just say I am definitely not doing this sober, darling."

"I can't take you anywhere," Steve snaps. It's supposed to sound like a joke, but it doesn't, when he says it; all the fear and longing in him is coming out of him in rage.

"Fuck you, I'm charming," Tony shoots back, with more than a trace of actual heat, and he tips his head back to swallow a generous mouthful of liquor.

Christ. They're going to win the romance competition for sure, at this rate. Assuming the voters are deaf and blind.

Then Tony sighs, and for an instant he looks worn, tired -- but just for an instant. "Right," he says, once again cheerful. "Let's get this party started."

He looks almost eager. Steve's stomach roils in disgust. Tony wants this.

Abruptly Tony sets the bottle down on the nightstand, pushes himself up, and swings his legs over to the edge of the bed. He opens the drawer of the nightstand and retrieves a box of condoms and what is very possibly the largest goddamn bottle of personal lubricant Steve has seen in his entire life. Alien characters are printed vertically down the sides of it and there's a brightly-colored, very explicit cartoon drawing of a naked green woman and something with far too many tentacles engaged in... well. It's an educational experience Steve would have been entirely happy to skip. Tony's talking and Steve has no idea what he's saying, because Jesus Christ, how can anyone fit that many tentacles in there...?

He tries not to wonder if these alien perverts are going to be disappointed by human anatomy. He tries very, very hard not to picture Tony's anatomy and where any of it might end up in relation to him.

He thinks maybe he's still staring at it, because after Tony shoves all the liquor out of the way and sets the lube bottle on the table he waves a hand through Steve's field of vision. Steve snaps out of his daze, blinking.

"Earth to Steve," Tony says. His voice is brisk, but still with that indolence in it, the enjoyment of it all. He's so free. He just thinks of something he wants and he just-- he just does it. Like it's easy. "Top or bottom?"

Tony's tone is matter-of-fact, like he's asking a simple question, like it might even be a question about which bunk Steve wants. But it isn't, and he can't and the thought of it is awful and wonderful and awful because the idea sounds wonderful and it isn't right.

"Neither," Steve rasps. His voice is hoarse. He doesn't even sound like himself. He thinks maybe he's shaking. "I don't fucking care how much you want to shove your dick in my ass, Stark. It isn't happening. None of this is happening."

And Tony... changes. The mask slides off, and his eyes soften, and there's something kind, so kind, in his face, like he understands, and Steve hates it. He hates all of it.

It was so much easier when he thought Tony was only a louche womanizer and a drunkard. At least then anything he felt about Tony was tempered, in a way, with dislike and annoyance. There was no chance of him feeling anything... more... towards a man who acted like that.

It's even worse knowing that Tony is a good man, underneath.

Steve doesn't know why he's doing it, but he's walking forward, practically staggering, sitting down, and he's perched on the edge of the bed, a foot from Tony.

Tony reaches out, like he thinks touching Steve could somehow comfort him, but then he realizes his mistake and stops, drawing his hand back.

"Okay," Tony says, very softly, and there's no mockery in his voice, no leer in his even gaze. "Okay. This is a lousy situation, I know, but we don't have much in the way of other options. We have to. Believe me, this is not how I would have ever wanted this to happen." He lifts an eyebrow, making it clear that there are, perhaps, other ways he would have wanted this, but Steve can't think about that now. "I know you're straight. I know that." Tony grimaces. "But you-- you have to work with me here, Cap. It's going to be out of your comfort zone no matter what, but we can minimize the discomfort. If you trust me."

"I trust you," he says, his voice still raspy. Of course he trusts Tony. He trusts him with his life every day. "But I don't want you to--" He can't even picture it. Or maybe he can, too easily. "What are you offering, exactly?"

"A mouth is a mouth." Tony shrugs, shuts his eyes, and rocks back a little on the bed. "You don't have to kiss me. You don't have to touch me. I'm not asking for reciprocation." He opens his eyes and smiles an awful, bleak smile. "I give really good head. Just close your eyes and pretend I'm a girl. Pretend I'm Jan. Whatever gets you off."

"Jan and I aren't together," Steve points out.

Besides, he doesn't want to think about her doing... that. Before he'd gone into the ice, in the world he'd been raised in, the right world, it wasn't the kind of thing your gal would just do for you. You were supposed to be with someone nice. You wanted that, you went to a working girl. But that isn't the case these days. Jan had offered, more than a few times, and he'd even taken her up on it once. And while, yeah, he'd enjoyed himself, physically speaking, he'd just felt so goddamn guilty that he hadn't let her do it again. He'd never done it to her, either, even though he's been beginning to get the impression from TV and magazines that a nice guy these days, a real nice guy, is supposed to. She'd thought he was old-fashioned. A stick-in-the-mud. Dragging her down. Holding her back. And maybe she'd been right.

It's different thinking about Tony doing that for him. If-- if he's already queer, if he's doing something queer, it doesn't matter so much what it is. It still feels a little wrong, sure, but the wrongness doesn't add together with the part where the person on their knees for him is another fella. It feels like once he crosses that line, once he touches a man, everything would be allowed.

That's the terrifying part.

Even worse, he finds that he can picture Tony there. He wants to picture Tony there. The proposition sketches images in his mind: Tony crouched before him. His own fingers running through Tony's curling hair. Tony smiling up at him, his gaze dark-eyed and lustrous. Tony's lips, slick and wet, wrapped around his cock.

Tony would be good at it, of course; he's had so much experience. He'd know exactly what to do. He might not-- he might not even laugh at Steve's pathetic attempts, if Steve wanted to return the favor--

Christ. He's getting hard.

"Whatever does it for you, then," Tony says. As Steve awkwardly shifts position, Tony shrugs again, seemingly oblivious -- thank God -- to the effect of his earlier words. "I promise I'm not judging you."

He can't. He can't do this. He can't be the kind of man who does this. It would change him. He doesn't know who he'd be, on the other side of it, and he doesn't want to find out.

"No," Steve says, and he's shaking his head. "No, I-- that-- that won't be possible."

Tony sighs. "I thought you might say that," he says, and for an instant he looks so sad. Steve feels an awful empathetic tightness in his chest, because Tony's hurting somehow and Steve doesn't know what to do, he never knows what to do for anyone, and he's helpless and he hates it. And then Tony lifts his head. "Right. You go over there, into the bathroom."

Steve blinks. "What?"

Tony smiles, wide and charming, but the smile doesn't reach his eyes. "They want a show. We need to give them a show, darling. Luckily, I'm sexy enough for both of us." He runs his tongue around his lips again, a calculated gesture that just makes Steve go hotter and more miserable. "So you sit in there and I'll entertain the viewers. Unless you wanted to watch too?"

"No," Steve says, scowling, as heat prickles down his spine. He's lying, oh God, he's lying. He can just picture Tony, his robe falling open, fingers running over one peaked nipple, then lazily teasing himself into hardness, and-- no. The words snap out of him. "But that's not going to be good enough, is it? It's Barton's life, or have you forgotten--"

"People who veto plans A and B don't get to express an opinion on plan C, sweetheart," Tony says, and the endearment sounds like an obscenity.

Steve scowls again and pushes himself up off the bed, hands curled into fists. "Don't call me that." He stomps toward the bathroom.

"You won't like the other choices any better, sugarplum." Tony's voice has gone light and teasing again.

It's not real. The real Tony is gone, hidden again, and it's too late to-- to have something that means something, something true, something that isn't a tease or a game or a trick that will hurt him. If Tony touched him, Tony would see that he liked it, Tony would know, and Tony would use it against him, wouldn't he? That's how Tony works. He's seen him. It's never serious. Maybe Natasha was serious for him, but nothing after.

Nothing real was ever on offer.

"Shut up, Stark," Steve growls, as he finally reaches the bathroom. He slams the bathroom door behind him. Disappointingly, it doesn't even make a good, satisfying solid noise, not like the outer door had when the guards threw him in here.

He examines his surroundings. It's a basic dingy hotel bathroom, off-white, with a bright flickering light and a mirror above the sink, from which his own flushed face frowns disapprovingly back at him. There's a tiny bathtub with a shower head, a toilet, and then something next to the toilet that looks like a short metal rack of parallel bars with a row of sprinkler heads across the top bar, sitting on a porcelain slab with its own drain. Aliens. Steve wrinkles his nose. He absolutely does not want to know what that's for.

Something dark darts across the edge of Steve's vision, and when he looks up he realizes that one of the little flying cameras has followed him in. Great. Just great. He sits down on the edge of the tub and glares sourly at the camera. It makes a tiny whirring noise.

"Go away," he says, but the camera keeps hovering, still pointed at him.

If he breaks it, they'll probably just send in another one somehow. He thinks those are cameras on the edge of the mirror, too. He sighs.

"Hello out there in TV Land."

Tony's lazy, drawling voice is a little bit muffled, but the door is paper-thin and Steve's hearing these days is exceptionally good, better than a normal human's, ever since the serum. He hears the very faint creak of bedsprings and the slither of fabric over fabric as Tony presumably shifts position on the bed.

He's going to be able to hear everything.

He swallows hard. This... this is going to be a problem.

"You'll have to excuse us," Tony says, from the bedroom, obviously still addressing the camera, "but my... partner... is feeling a little under the weather. I'm afraid it's just me tonight. Don't worry--" and there's a pause here where Steve is sure Tony's smiling a rakish smile at the camera, looking at it through long, lowered lashes-- "I am more than capable of showing you folks a good time. I'm planning on having a very good time."

Tony's voice is low, sultry, full of promises, and despite himself Steve shudders with desire. He knows it's an act. He knows that. But damned if it's not a good one.

"Now, I don't know if you all have seen humans before," Tony continues, "so I thought I'd make this educational as well as fun. I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the kinds of things some of us humans enjoy, and maybe give you a few tips. I mean, I could just whip it out and go for it, but that's so... crass, darling. Crude. For my species, well, half the fun of it is in the anticipation. Denial. Teasing. Not revealing everything right away. Leaving it up to the imagination."

Steve can certainly imagine a lot of things right now. His mouth is dry. He swallows again; it doesn't help. He's getting harder. His cock is pressing uncomfortably against his heavy uniform pants, visibly distending the leather, and he hasn't even touched himself.

He wonders if the camera can see that, if it can see that he's getting hard just from listening to Tony, if everyone's going to see this and know.

There are more rustling noises. The bed creaks again. Tony's clearly moving around. Steve pictures Tony displaying himself for the camera, showing off the long, elegant lines of his body.

"The first thing you want to do," Tony says, over the muted creaking, "is get comfortable. Sure, there's a time and a place to be quick about it, and I won't say I've never sullied the Ultimates showers after a fight--" oh God, Steve thinks desperately, and he shuts his eyes, like that's going to make the words stop-- "but when you've got the time to luxuriate, you take it." A chuckle. "That's practically my motto. Anyway, what you want to do is arrange the pillows however you like them, maybe all fluffed up like this. Lie down. Prop yourself up on the pillows like so, if you want. Relax. Maybe have a drink." Glass clinks, and then after a pause, Tony sighs, pleased. "Good God, I don't know what you people spiked the drinks with, but whatever you did, I think I could go all night. You have got to give me some of this stuff to take home."

Steve puts his face in his hands and whimpers. Of course the aliens would have wanted to ensure a good performance. It's not like he's ever had problems with that; since the serum, his refractory period has been basically nonexistent -- which was honestly the only nice thing Jan had to say about his bedroom abilities when they broke up. The thought that maybe Tony could keep up with him sends heat all through him.

Christ, he's going to die, he wants it so much. And Tony hasn't even started.

And maybe, he thinks, maybe Tony wouldn't mind how bad he is. Or maybe he wouldn't be as bad. It's got to be easier with another fella, right? Maybe he could make Tony happy--

No. He can't do this.

"Right," Tony says, and fabric rustles again. "If I were in bed with company, there'd be some kissing first. That's with mouths." There's an air-kissing noise. "A lot of kissing, probably. I enjoy it. You've got your nice light kisses and then your filthy dirty kisses. Some people, they'll move right to the tongue, but it's important to have both, to really take your time. If it's a thing they like, do it for a while. It's not just something you do for a bit so you can get on with the sex. You want your partner to have a good time, you linger on everything that feels good to them. It's simple, really."

He bets Tony is a really, really good kisser. Tony could show him how to kiss. It's not that Steve doesn't know how, but he thinks maybe he's not that great at it; neither Gail nor Jan had ever said anything about his kissing abilities, and if he were good they'd have told him, wouldn't they? So of course, Tony'd have to kiss him a lot; Tony'd have to practice all the different kinds of kisses until Steve was sure he'd got it down. And if Tony likes kissing anyway, maybe Tony wouldn't think it was such a hardship to kiss him. Tony kisses a lot of people; what's one more?

Why is he even thinking about this?

"But I can't exactly demonstrate that," Tony says, and his voice sounds oddly tight, somehow regretful. "So you'll have to take my word for it." There's more fabric moving. "Anyway, there's usually some above-the-waist action going on, too. Chests. Here. Human anatomy. There you go." There's the flat sound of someone slapping flesh; Steve would guess Tony's got his robe pushed at least halfway off. He thinks about Tony, shirtless, displaying himself, and heat rushes down through him. "Depends on the person, of course, but a lot of people enjoy when you touch their chest. It's a lot of fun with women, especially, but you shouldn't rule it out with men. Me, I am definitely all about nipple play. See, you can maybe start by running your fingers like so -- mmm -- and then, after you've rubbed them a little, gently, maybe just pinch--"

Tony's voice breaks into a hoarse rasp and the sound goes right to Steve's cock. He whines high in the back of his throat; the breathy gasp doesn't even sound like him.

He can't touch himself. He can't. They're filming him. And if he can hear Tony, maybe that means Tony would be able to hear him. An awful, perverse thrill ripples through him at the thought: maybe Tony would want to listen to him. Maybe Tony would like it. Maybe he'd like it if Tony could hear him.


Tony moans again. "God, that's already so good." His voice is rough. He takes a few staccato breaths. "Anyway -- you should check, darlings, before you try this -- some people like it harder than others, and for them you can pinch harder, twist, bite -- oh, mmm, biting, biting is lovely -- oh -- remember you can use both hands, like so--"

Steve makes a fist and shoves it in his mouth to mute all the noises he wants to make in response. His teeth catch over the skin of his knuckles. The pain is sharp, but it is in no way a distraction from the thought of Tony Stark, ten feet away and playing with his own nipples for the camera.

Steve doesn't touch himself there; he knows he's sensitive -- hell, he's sensitive everywhere, since the serum -- but he's always thought it wasn't right, it wasn't for men, he wasn't supposed to enjoy a thing like that. But Tony enjoys it, clearly. Maybe Tony could show him that too.

He realizes his other hand is splayed across his chest. He can't feel anything through the uniform, of course, but hastily he puts his hand down, bracing himself more steadily on the edge of the bathtub.

Tony's panting quietly, little hitches of breath. A normal human wouldn't be able to hear anything, Steve knows, but he can hear it all. He knows what Tony's doing, even when he's silent. Tony's out there toying with himself. Working himself up. He's sure Tony's hard already, from the way he's breathing, from the way his voice sounded, from the barely perceptible scent of sweat and arousal underneath the sharp smell of liquor that pervades their prison suite.

Christ, Steve can smell him from here. His fucking senses have gone haywire. It feels like he's never noticed anything as much as he's noticing everything now. His body doesn't know how to tune anything out, and he can smell Tony and hear his soft breathing and his own body feels like a pulsing, live wire, and his hard cock trapped in his uniform is in agony from the sensation.

He shuts his eyes and takes a few slow, shuddering breaths. It doesn't help. His body is-- his body is betraying him and he thinks maybe he wants it to.

"Like that," Tony breathes, low and dark. "Ah, yeah, just like that."

Steve is going to die.

There's silence. Tony's still breathing, heavy, rasping. "Right," Tony says. "So-- so after that, you might consider moving your hands southward. Here, let me just get the robe off--"

Fabric slides, and Steve bites his lip hard.

"Like what you see, darlings?" Tony purrs. "There you go. I have to say, I've never had any complaints."

He imagines Tony leaning back on the bed, eyes half-lidded, legs splayed, showing off everything, hard and proud and unashamed, like he could never be ashamed, like he was never a scrawny kid who got called a fairy and got shoved face-first into walls, and maybe Tony wasn't. Maybe no one ever taught him he had to hide, and that's why he doesn't. Maybe that's why he shows off.

Maybe Tony would have let him watch. Maybe Tony would have let him see everything.

The bedsprings shift, and a cap flips open. "For my next trick," Tony says, with a throaty chuckle, "I'm going to need some of your fine lubricant. It would have been nice to have a volunteer from the audience as well, but that wasn't in the cards." His voice drops, shading into mournfulness.

Tony doesn't mean him, Steve tells himself. Tony could have meant anybody. Tony can have anyone he wants; there's no reason he'd settle for Steve. Tony probably has no idea Steve can hear him.

There's the sound of the bed creaking a little again, presumably Tony lying back down. "Okay," Tony says, voice still low. "There's-- there are a few points of interest around here. A lot of nerve endings." His voice is easy, a murmur of encouragement. "Pretty much anything you touch down here is going to feel good, though some of it's nicer than others. If you're sincere, if you're interested, if you pay attention to how your partner feels, it's hard to mess up. I promise. Take it easy. Sometimes people might neglect most of it and just go straight for the cock. Some days that's what you want. But if you're taking it slow, there's a lot of ground here. Stomach. Thighs. Inner thighs, definitely. Don't forget the balls. Oh, and the ass. Maybe just-- maybe just slide your hands all around a little, like that, mmm, see?"

Steve tries to keep his breathing even. Tony is -- God -- Tony is really teasing himself. Drawing it all out. He can't imagine spending that long on himself. It seems wrong somehow, like there are ways to enjoy his body physically -- training, running, fighting -- and this isn't one of them. Oh, it's all right to have sex, to enjoy sex -- with women, his mind adds -- but this is self-abuse, and it's-- it's not right. But it's like no one ever told Tony that. And Tony sounds so kind. So understanding.

Maybe Tony would be this kind if he were with him.

"And then when you're ready--" Tony's voice catches, a sharp gasp. "Yeah, just like that, make a circle with your fingers, just go slow and not too tight to start, you get your thumb just there, just -- God, this is too good already -- like that, just swipe it over the head, keep doing that--"

There's the unmistakable sound of slick flesh sliding over flesh, and Tony's low groans, and Steve knows exactly what he's doing out there; he'd know even if Tony weren't narrating every second of it. The sound runs right through Steve, and he shoves the heel of his hand against his cock, and his nerves light up in pleasure, pressure, pain. He's shaking. Christ, it would be so easy to unzip-- it's not like he's never jerked off next to another guy during the war, he just pretended they weren't-- he just pretended that the sound of it didn't do anything for him, because that was queer, right? That wasn't normal. He knew that. He knows that.

He's starting not to care.

But-- no. No. He can't.

"Don't-- don't forget," Tony says, his breathing gone shaky, the sound of his hand on himself a pounding rhythm underlying his words, "don't forget you've got another hand, and if you've got the coordination for it, you can -- mmm -- go back to your nipples--" there's more shallow breathing-- "or you can play with your balls, like that, oh, that's good. Or -- hey, can you folks still see if I put my legs like this? -- you can lube up your fingers, nice and wet, and then just slide a hand down here, get a finger or two in your ass." Tony groans, long and low. "If it's the kind of thing you like, that is. It's the kind of thing I love, darlings. You can see, can't you? You can see what I'm doing. You can see how much I love it."

Jesus Christ. He wishes he could see, he wishes more than anything that he could see what Tony was doing right now, fucking himself with his fingers. Just hearing it is the hottest thing Steve has ever heard; he doesn't think anything he's ever seen can even compare to the sound of this, of Tony, loud and wild and uninhibited.

With difficulty, Steve peels his hand out of his lap, and his fingers, white-knuckled, curl around the edge of the bathtub. His neglected cock throbs and strains against his uniform, torture and pleasure together.

Tony laughs, a low, filthy chuckle. "Now, while you're doing this, it can be very inspiring to -- shall we say -- think of a few things to help you along." From the sound of it, his hand speeds up on his cock; the slick, obscene noises are faster. Whatever it is, Tony's already thinking of it. "I'm very creative, and I have a lot of favorite fantasies. Would you like to know about them?"

Yes, Steve thinks, raw with need. His heart is pounding double-time. He licks his lips. He has to know.

He's dimly aware that he's never going to be able to look at Tony the same way after this, but there's nothing to be done for it. There's nothing he can do but sit here and listen.

"Well," Tony purrs. "Since you asked so nicely, darlings, I'll tell you. They're -- oh, fuck, that's the spot--" The words break off, and Tony groans. His hand is moving faster. "Honestly, my first fantasy? Cap, over there." He pants, a breathy moan. "Pretty much-- I pretty much imprinted on him; have you seen him?"

He can't breathe. He can't think. Tony wants him. Oh, God. Sure, Tony flirts with him, but Tony will flirt with anything that stands still long enough. He never thought Tony meant it, not for real.

Tony wants him.

"Captain America." Tony laughs again, a dazed sound, mostly air. "Responsible for so many sticky sheets, I cannot even begin to tell you. Mmm. Yeah." Slick flesh slaps against flesh. "Before I met him, I used to think about him fucking me. God, he could hold me up against a wall, pound me hard, make me beg for it, beg for his cock in my hole." Tony's panting, harsh rasping breaths dragging out between his words. "Used to make me come in like ten seconds flat, thinking about that."

Steve is dizzy. The room is wobbling around him and he wonders if maybe he can really die from lust, from denial. He thinks maybe he's on fire. Everything's burning.

"Then I met him," Tony pants out, "and I-- and I-- that didn't do it for me anymore. Oh, don't get me wrong, I -- ah, fuck, like that, nice and tight -- think he definitely could fuck me up against a wall, but that just-- it didn't work with the real Steve Rogers--"

A chill knifes through Steve's haze of arousal, icy and foreboding. Tony's going to say he doesn't want him anymore. He wanted the fantasy. Steve knows he's awkward with people, clumsy, always saying the wrong thing -- he doesn't even know, really, what Gail or Jan saw in him--

Tony breathes out and in and seems to slow his pace. "He was a lot to get used to, darlings. People were expecting someone perfect. No one's perfect. Walk down the Triskelion corridors, you'll hear people saying he should take the stick out of his ass. I don't think they understand him at all. And I think, I think he's trying to be perfect-- I think he thinks he always has to take charge, of everyone--"

Steve doesn't want to hear this.

"So I think about him--" Tony breathes harshly again, another low laugh-- "I think about showing him a good time. A nice, easy, simple time. Where he doesn't have to be in charge. Where he doesn't have to be perfect. Where he can relax. I want to be nice to him. I know-- I know he won't let me, but that's what I want."

What the hell? Steve's ears are roaring, ringing. Tony wants-- how can Tony want that? That's nothing like any of the things Tony should want, all frenzied animal lust, whips and chains and so many other perverse things. Tony doesn't want this. He can't. This can't be what he wants.

"I want to lay him out and take my time with him, touch him and kiss him until he knows how good I can make him feel. How good he can feel. I don't think he knows, himself. I don't think he thinks he should have it. I don't know, maybe he's afraid. But he deserves it. Deserves to have someone pay attention to what he wants. Deserves to have someone just lavish attention on him." Tony's hand is speeding up again. "I'd-- oh, yes-- I'd touch him, just like this, touch him all over, jerk him off nice and slow. Kiss him at the same time, maybe. Nothing too scary, nothing he didn't want. Just... something sweet. I want to make him happy."

Steve has no idea what to do with this information. His brain has possibly stopped working entirely. He can imagine it vividly, exactly what Tony is saying; if he stood up, if he opened that door, if he walked out there, they could do that. He could have that.

"I'd really like to suck him off," Tony says, almost dreamily, and Steve wonders if he's going to come in his pants. "I was really hoping he would let me. I can just imagine it." The sound of Tony's hand moving is faster, faster still. "It'd be great. Nice and easy. He'd be so big, he'd fill my mouth right up -- oh, fuck -- and he'd love it too. Mmm. I just-- I think about how happy he'd be, how much he'd get off on it. Oh, fuck, like that, yeah, there, right there."

Tony is about to come. Tony is about to come while thinking about him and Steve's going to sit here and listen to every second of it.

Tony's gasping now, and half his words are obscene encouragements to himself, in between the ragged breaths. "He'd-- oh, yes, yes-- he'd come in my fucking mouth, oh God, oh fuck--"

And then Tony groans, the sound ripped out of him, and Steve's sure Tony's coming and Steve's bowing over himself, eyes shut, as Tony moans and curses, and all he can feel is his own heartbeat thundering through him, through his head, through his heart, down through his cock and his eyes are shut so tightly his vision is white and he can't come from listening to this, he can't, he can't.

In the other room, there's a sigh, and the sound of slow, shaky breaths. Tony laughs a little, like his own response is an amazement even to him.

"And that's human sexuality, folks." Tony's drawl sounds pleased, if exhausted. "Hope you enjoyed the show. Don't forget to tip your waitress. I'll be here all night."

Steve grits his teeth and tries to breathe and tries to think about something, anything other than what he was just listening to. His mind keeps circling the thoughts, replaying every last sound Tony made, everything Tony said he wanted to do with him.

There's a lot of rustling in the other room, and then footsteps across the carpet. Steve looks up when Tony raps sharply on the bathroom door.

"Show's over, Cap," Tony says, perfectly normally. Cheerfully, even. "Mind letting me in there to wash my hands?"

Steve stares down at himself. He is obviously, visibly, extremely hard, and if Tony looks at him for even one second he's going to see that. There's nowhere to hide. There's no way to hide. Maybe Tony will be nice enough to pretend he doesn't notice. Maybe not.

"It's open," Steve replies, because what else can he say?

Tony steps in. He's got the robe on again and he's at least wiped off his hands at some point. He sighs, and his still-flushed face looks hollow, weary, tired. He doesn't look like the man who was just laughing and showing himself off for the cameras, who came with Steve's name on his lips. It was all an act.

He doesn't really look at Steve at all. Thank God.

"Well," Tony says, and the word is a heavy exhalation, almost morose. "So that was a thing that happened."

He pads over to the sink, runs the water, and starts washing his hands.

Tony didn't want to do this either, Steve realizes, and shame floods over him, heating his already-warm face, reddening his skin. But Tony did it, because someone had to, and because Tony -- God -- because Tony cared enough to try to get him out of it. It was all a performance. What if everything he said was faked? Maybe Steve's been tricked, trapped, and maybe Tony put him in here, said all those things because he wanted him to feel this way, awful and at the mercy of his own lusts, exposed, used--

Tony turns off the water, and Steve catches sight of Tony's gaze in the mirror, bright blue and piercing and if Tony just looks at him he's going to know everything, Steve thinks, hot with anger and need and terror, everything within him blazing together, the remains of everything that was ever holding him back gone on the pyre.

"You know I could hear you," Steve says, through gritted teeth, and it isn't what he wants to say at all but he doesn't know how not to fear this, how not to rage at this. "Every word."

Tony jumps, and for a split second his eyes go wide. He didn't know, Steve thinks. Tony didn't know he could hear him at all, and he's-- is he scared? Of Steve?

Then Tony smiles, wide and easy, like he's armored up, like it's all a game again. "What's a few filthy sexual fantasies between friends, darling?" he purrs.

Steve clenches his fists. That was the problem. They weren't filthy, they weren't. They were nice. He wants that. He wants Tony to be the man who would tell him what he told millions of aliens, and he wants Tony to mean it, and Christ, this is worse than going off to war. Somewhere underneath the mask Tony wanted him, but Steve is saying it all wrong, he's doing it all wrong, he can't ever get it right--

"Did you enjoy yourself?" Steve says, and the words come out of him in a terrified snarl and he didn't mean it like that either.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, Rogers?" Tony snaps, and he's turning to face him -- no, no, no -- and staring down at him. "You weren't even the one who had to... oh."

Tony's looking at Steve, eyes wide, and his gaze has dropped low, to Steve's lap, and he can see Steve is hard. Because of him. He knows. He knows. He has a strange look on his face, like he has to rethink everything he was about to say. Steve has flummoxed Tony Stark, the genius.

"Oh," Tony says again, very quietly.

Steve can't think of anything to say. There's no defense for this.

Tony's face shifts again. His eyes are still wide, a luminous blue, but they've gone a little less tight, and his mouth twists a bit in a sympathetic half-smile. I want to be nice to him, Tony had said.

"Hey," Tony says, and his voice is like nothing Steve has ever heard from him, soft and so gentle, like he could never think of humiliating Steve for this, and he ought to hate this, he ought to hate being coddled, but everything in him is a mess; he can hardly tell which way is up, and he just wants to feel better. "It's all right."

"It is?" He can't stop the needy question, the cry for reassurance; it's like his mouth is moving without him.

Tony sighs again. "It's just sex, Cap. Lots of things can turn you on. Sometimes sex is just sexy even if it's not anything you would really want to do. Just means you've got a hard-on. It doesn't mean you're gay. It doesn't mean anything." His voice is low, raw, desolate. Lonely. Why is he lonely?

"I--" Steve says, helplessly, and his mouth doesn't work, and he doesn't know what he's even trying to say. "I-- you--"

Tony meets his gaze then, and he swallows hard and tilts his chin up, bracing, like he expects that Steve's going to hit him.

"Unless," Tony says, softly, his voice barely more than breath. "Unless it means something, of course."

And that's it, Steve can't hold anything back anymore, and he's on his feet, staggering toward Tony, and he has just enough time to see Tony's eyes going wide in shock before he presses his mouth to Tony's.

Tony jumps once against him, a shiver of surprise, an jolt of electricity against Steve, before his mouth opens wide under Steve's. He tastes like liquor. His beard is scraping against Steve's skin. Steve's never kissed a man before; he's hardly even let himself think about it. But it feels right. Kissing Tony feels right, like he should have done this a long time ago.

Tony's arms go around him; Tony pulls him tight, and Steve's cock rubs against Tony's hip and he pants at the sudden rush of sensation and, God, if Tony keeps kissing him he could come, he could come just like this--

Tony pulls his mouth away, and Steve makes a little high noise of dismay that he didn't even know he could make. Somehow his hand has found its way to the back of Tony's skull and he's trying to drag their mouths back together. Tony huffs out a laugh and tips his forehead against Steve's; all he can see are the deep blue of Tony's eyes.

"You picked a hell of a time to have an identity crisis," Tony murmurs, but when he tilts his head back he's grinning. It's a fond sort of smile, a real smile, the kind that lifts up his whole face.

Steve kisses him again, hard and heavy, tasting him, then licking into him, because he wants Tony's mouth, he wants Tony's mouth everywhere, and he's holding Tony tighter, tighter still. He can feel Tony's body against his. Every inch of his skin feels like an exposed nerve, like Tony is touching him everywhere already. He's pushing Tony back, back until Tony hits the counter, until their bodies crash together roughly, until he can slide a knee between Tony's thighs and press up against him. Tony's mouth is heady and sweet, and Tony's moaning--

Then Tony's splaying his hand wide across Steve's chest, pushing him gently away.

Steve stares at him, torn, uncomprehending. "You wanted--" he pants. "You said you wanted-- did you not mean it, what you were saying earlier? That you wanted me?" Other, equally hideous possibilities cascade through his confused mind. He can't think. All he wants to do is put his lips to the pulse in Tony's throat, follow it down his body, taste the salt on his skin. "Or-- or-- am I that bad at it? Do you want me to stop?"

He never talked about these things with Gail or Jan. He never had to. He feels like he never allowed himself to, that he had to be confident and had to always know what to do, because women liked that in a fella, right? It's terrifying, being this vulnerable.

Tony smiles, a little quirk of his lips, and he lays his palm against Steve's cheek; the heat of him is a comfort. "Not at all, darling," he says, and the way he says it this time it actually sounds like an endearment. Like Steve's special to him. "You're lovely, and I meant every word of it. But you're all wound up, and that can't be any fun for you. Slow down a little, darling. Let me take you to bed. Properly."

Before Steve can even say yes, one of the cameras whizzes by, past his head. He'd... he'd almost forgotten. They're being recorded. "What about those things?"

"Fuck 'em." Tony flutters the fingers of his free hand in the air. "I mean, do you know anyone on this planet who's going to watch this? No. Are we planning on coming back here ever again? Fuck, no. As far as personal consequences to us, it's as if this thing has virtually zero circulation." He frowns. "Unlike my previous sex tape."

"Barton might watch it."

"Barton's in alien jail." Tony practically snickers. "They're not giving him a live feed of this. Besides, it's reality TV; there's going to be a lot of editing afterwards, where they figure out how to spin the footage and make a story out of it. Oh, don't give me that look. I know you've seen how the modern media circus works, and somehow I think there's a lot more of it in this place. We'll be long gone by the time the episode actually airs."

Steve bites his lip. "And you'll-- and you'll--?"

He doesn't know how to say it so it won't sound pathetic and weak. You'll take care of me.

Tony's hand is still on Steve's cheek; he slides two fingers across Steve's lips, slowly, and Steve shivers, because it's all so good.

"Sweetheart," Tony says, and his eyes are earnest, dark with desire, "I will make you feel so very, very good."

Steve smiles.

Then Tony steps back, looks down the length of Steve's body, and motions vaguely at Steve's erection, which is still very insistent. "Do you want to take the edge off first, or no? I can wait outside if you want. We've got all night, and I can definitely think of a few things to do in between rounds."

Steve shakes his head. It's not like there's going to be much time in between for him, but-- "No," he says. He doesn't want to just shut himself in here alone and get himself off. "I want-- I want it to be you."

"All me, huh?" Tony leans in, brushes a kiss on the corner of Steve's mouth, and takes his hand, tugging him back toward the bedroom. "I'm flattered."

It's easy to follow Tony, and before he knows it Tony's turned him around and is pushing him back. His legs hit the edge of the bed and Tony's hands are on his belt, but it's as if he's still waiting for permission; he lifts one eyebrow in a silent question.

"Go ahead, then," Steve says, roughly. He wonders if Tony wanted him to sound different. Polished. Experienced.

Tony's practiced hands unfasten his belt, but instead of getting his pants off, he then kneels and undoes Steve's bootlaces, hands sliding slowly over his calves like he's got some kind of kink for leather. Ignoring Steve's aching cock entirely, he stands back up, hands skimming up Steve's sides as he goes, tugging his heavy uniform shirt off, then the undershirt. Tony's fingers brush across Steve's bare chest like he thinks Steve is some sort of mirage, an insubstantial dream that might disappear.

Steve balances on one foot and then the other, bending down to get out of his boots and socks, and when he looks up Tony's still eyeing him a little dubiously, like he thinks maybe Steve is only okay with petting above the waist. Like he thinks Steve is his date to the prom.

Steve snorts, grabs Tony by the wrist, and puts Tony's hand to the fastenings of his uniform pants.

"Okay," Tony says, grinning. "Okay, I get the picture, Captain Third Base."

And then he's unzipping him and shoving Steve's pants and underwear down and Steve gasps at the touch -- God, Tony is touching him -- and he shudders and thrusts forward, crying out something that might have been Tony's name. He's dizzy, he's off-balance, he's so hard that he could come just like this, if Tony just brushes him one more time--

Tony's hand moves to his hip, and Tony's still grinning at him, bracing him, holding him up. "Easy there, Cap." He licks his lips intently and looks down. "That's nice. Didn't realize you were so close." He sounds like he likes what he sees, and Steve just goes hotter.

"Your fault," Steve says, maybe harsher than he meant to, but Tony just laughs, and Steve looks away and steps out of the remains of his uniform. He's naked now. Tony's still dressed. It doesn't seem fair. And he wants to see him, too; his imagination -- and his memories of Tony's damned sex tape -- can only do so much for him. He takes a breath. "Can you--? I want you to--" He sighs.

Tony's thumb is stroking little circles over Steve's hipbone. His gaze is intent but still soft. "You're going to have to use a few more words there, darling."

Steve takes another breath. "I want to see you."

"I can definitely do that." Tony's smile is a nervous little twitch of his lips, and then he's undoing the tie on the robe, letting the robe pool on the floor at his feet. "Is that good?"

Steve tracks the robe as it falls, revealing a long sweep of tanned skin. He knows that Tony takes care of his body, that he likes to make himself handsome, that he likes to be someone people want to look at. He's muscular, strong; Steve thinks some of that is due to wearing the armor and some is special effort, but he likes the look of him anyway, wiry and powerful. He likes that Tony's not afraid to stand up to him.

He puts his hand against Tony's side and spreads his fingers out over Tony's ribs, which rise and fall in a shaky breath. He strokes the hot skin underneath his fingertips and admires the look of him, broad shoulders tapering down to narrow hips. Tony is all soft skin, waxed smooth and bare, down to the neatly-groomed hair surrounding his hard cock, which juts forth, huge and dark. Steve guesses Tony was right about the drinks being spiked with something, because Tony looks so close already, considering that he's already come once.

Steve thinks maybe he's licking his lips. He wants-- he wants--

He doesn't know. He does know. He can't say it.

He realizes, stupidly, that he's just standing here staring at Tony's cock and maybe it would be polite to look him in the face. He doesn't know if there are rules for this.

When he looks up, he sees that Tony's been watching him. Tony's face is furrowed, brows drawn together, and he's biting his lip. Like he's nervous. Like he thinks Steve might not like what he sees. Like this is the moment where it's going to occur to Steve that Tony is really a man, and-- Steve doesn't want to think about what Tony thinks he might do.

"You like that?" Tony's voice is soft, breathy, sultry, but judging by the look in his eyes it's an honest question too.

The words catch in Steve's throat. He nods. "I-- yeah. Yeah," he says, more steadily. "I like that."

Tony smiles again. "Good."

And then he takes Steve's hand and leads him to the bed, and somehow they're lying down but all Steve can register is that Tony's body is pressed up against his, hot and alive and finally, finally here, skin to skin. He's on his back -- he's not really sure how he got on his back -- and Tony's stretched out next to him, one long leg thrown over Steve's thighs, one hand stroking patterns over his chest. Tony's fingers brush over Steve's nipple and he arches up, in pleasure and surprised and agonized frustration, because he wants Tony to touch him, goddammit, he's been waiting this long, and it feels like he'll die without it--

"Tony," he groans.

Tony's eyes go dark; there's a possessive twist to his smile. "Yes?"

"Please," he says, and he's never begged in his life, but he'll beg for Tony, God, will he ever beg for Tony. "Please, please, just touch me, please. I can't last-- I just-- I want--" He wants to come with Tony's hands on him. He's out of words; he can't even think anymore. His world has narrowed to the places Tony is touching him. All he knows is the fire.

Tony leans in. "Shh," he whispers. "Shhh, easy. I've got you, Steve, I've got you."

Tony kisses Steve again and slides his hand down Steve's stomach at the same time, wrapping his fingers around the shaft of Steve's cock. Steve sobs against Tony's lips in relief and gratitude. He's never been like this with anyone, never been this wanton, this needy; he's never let anyone see him like this. It ought to be frightening, but he can't think about anything except Tony's touch.

Tony's not teasing him. It's nothing like how he'd been lingering, slowly, for the camera. He gives him a few slow strokes at first, like he's trying to figure out what Steve likes best, and then his hand moves faster. His fingers are sure, his grip tight, and it's exactly, exactly what Steve needs right now. It's good. It's too good. He's going to come, he realizes. He's going to come and Tony's only just started touching him and he has to hold out. He's going to come in ten seconds like he's some kind of teenager who can't control himself.

He shuts his eyes, turns his face away from Tony, presses his cheek into the pillow. He can hold out a little longer. He doesn't want to embarrass himself. Tony's been with so many more experienced people, and Steve knows he can't measure up there, but he can at least try his best.

Tony's hand slows a little, and when he opens his eyes, Tony's running the fingers of his free hand over his jaw, nudging Steve's head back toward him. "Relax," Tony breathes. "Stop fighting it, handsome. Just let yourself feel good."

Steve tries to breathe. It feels like there's not enough air in the world. "Good?" he echoes.

"Mmm." Tony kisses him again. "That's the idea." And then he smiles again, that same dark smile that says he wants to do things to Steve that no one has ever done, that he wants to show him everything he's denied himself and make him love it. "I want to watch you come."

As Tony says it, he tightens his fingers around Steve's cock, and it's just perfect, right there, and Steve can't stop, can't hold anything back, and he shuts his eyes and arches up into Tony's hand and comes harder than he ever has in his goddamn life, crying out in relief and ecstasy. Tony strokes him all the way through it, strokes him until Steve slumps back into the pillows, boneless, temporarily sated.

When he opens his eyes again, Tony is smiling down at him. "That was beautiful, darling," he says, like Steve's the one who's done him a favor here. "You're gorgeous."

He looks down at himself and grimaces. Christ, he came a lot. There's come all over his chest, and Tony's hand, and they're a mess.

"Is there a towel?" he asks. His voice is too loud in his ears, a little brusque, and he realizes just after he's said it that that's not what he should have said. He should have kissed Tony, maybe thanked him. Cuddled with him. He should have said something suave and romantic. Tony probably knows exactly what to say.

But Tony just grins that wicked grin at him, holds up his spattered hand, and starts licking his fingers. He's licking up Steve's come. His tongue flicks out lewdly, and he winks at Steve, and there's a roaring in Steve's ears as he watches Tony suck on his own fingers, and he knows that Tony knows exactly what this is making him think of, knows it's making him picture Tony's mouth stretched around his cock, and he groans.

"Oh," Tony says, innocently, "did I miss a spot?" He kisses Steve's sternum once, like it's an idle impulse, and then slides down Steve's body, tongue swiping through the mess Steve's made, licking up every last drop. It's filthy and Tony's still grinning, like he loves it, and Christ, Steve's getting hard again already.

He can't ask for Tony's mouth. He can't.

"Tony," he gasps out, and that's really all he can manage.

"All clean," Tony says, with a bright and cheerful voice, and he pushes himself back up the bed, so his head's on the pillow again. "I don't know how you feel about kissing after, but I can either taste like you--" his gaze goes somewhere over Steve's shoulder-- "or a bunch of alien booze and you. Take your pick."

"Just kiss me," Steve growls.

"Kinky and demanding," Tony says, and there's a certain amount of relish in his voice. He doesn't seem to mind. He actually sounds sort of proud, even admiring, the way he had earlier when Steve told him he'd punched someone. "I like it. Come here, beautiful."

It doesn't even taste that bad, Steve thinks, when Tony's mouth meets his. Tony kisses him again and again, slow and gentle, with little light kisses; Tony gives him a little crooked smile and runs his fingers through Steve's hair. He'd never expected that Tony would be so sweet. He's seen the way Tony flies, the way he fights with the Ultimates, quick and clever, always chasing some sensation, some rush, higher and higher. He'd figured Tony would fuck the way he fights, fast and breathless and pushing for more, never wanting to come down. He never thought he'd be lying here in bed with Tony curled around him while Tony presses slow, lazy kisses to his mouth in the afterglow, like he's got nowhere to be for a year and wants to take his time.

He wonders if Tony's like this with everyone, or just him.

He wonders if he's done the right thing.

"Feeling good, darling?" Tony asks, and Steve wonders how many people he's said that to. If he's just another notch on Tony's bedpost.

"Yeah," Steve says. His chest feels a little hollow. He doesn't know what he's thinking. "I'm fine."

Tony frowns at him. "Just fine? I think we can do better than that." There's something oddly tentative in his eyes. "I want to do this for you. I want you to feel good. It's not... it's not being greedy."

He realizes, suddenly, that Tony is still hard, where their bodies are pressed together. Tony enjoyed this. Tony has-- Tony has thought about this. He has wanted to do this. He guesses maybe that's as special as it gets. Tony can check Captain America off the list.

But Tony's still here, and even if it doesn't mean anything more, he's offering, and he's kind, so gentle and--

Steve can't even remember the last time someone was this kind, and maybe he's a fool for falling for it, but he wants it, he wants as much as Tony will give, even if it's just another one of his acts.

"All right." He smiles back, and Tony... relaxes? Why was Tony nervous?

Tony's fingertips are tracing slow aimless patterns on his arm, and Steve's still hard, though less urgently than before; he feels sort of like he's floating.

"I won't push you," Tony says, "and I know you already declined, but I think the situation's changed a little, so: how do you feel about me blowing you?"

Steve suddenly becomes aware of his entire body, in a massive rush of tingling heat and arousal, as his body informs him in no uncertain terms that, yes, yes, he would be very interested in that. Tony wants to and it's not wrong, it can't be any more wrong than anything he's already done--

He opens his mouth and closes it again.

Tony's smile is softer-edged. "I'd really like to hear you say yes, darling."

"Yes," Steve whispers.

Tony leans in and kisses him, like it's a reward for answering correctly. "Not going to say any more than that?" His smile is devilish. "'Oh, Tony, light of my life, please suck my cock? Make it sloppy and filthy? Deep-throat me? Let me yank on your hair and fuck your mouth and use you? Let me come down your throat?'" He frowns almost contemplatively, as Steve is reduced to silence by the sheer obscene possibility of it all. "Or my face, darling. You can also come on my face. I wouldn't want you to feel like you didn't have options, after all."

He has no idea what to say. He can do those things? They can do those things? Tony wants him to do those things?

"You'd like that? Any of that?"

"Steve," Tony says, with a confident smile, "I like a lot of things. I do in fact like all of those things. I want to do whichever of them you want."

I just want you to be good to me, he wants to say, but he can't say that.

Tony runs his thumb over the corner of Steve's mouth. "How about we figure it out as we go along, then?"

Steve smiles, and Tony kisses him again.

He half-expects, impatiently, that Tony will just get it over with, but Tony seems to want to take his time with it, pressing more kisses to his lips, his jaw, the hollow of his throat, tracing his way down Steve's chest. Tony kisses one of his nipples, and Steve shivers involuntarily at the sudden rush of sensation, something indefinably just past ticklish. Tony grins wide and pleased, and then bends his head down and bites, and Steve gasps in surprise and arches up.

There are words coming out of his mouth, he thinks. They might be yes. They might be Tony. And then Tony does it again and again and brings his hand up to pinch Steve's other nipple and Steve realizes that somewhere in there his hand moved and is holding Tony's head to his chest and Tony is looking up and laughing and this has to be real, doesn't it?

And then Tony slides all the way down him and takes his cock in his mouth and Steve finds he can't really think about anything else. Tony looks up at him along the length of his body, like he knows Steve wants to see. And Steve does, though he knows how perverse he feels for liking it. Tony pulls back a little, just enough for Steve to watch Tony's slick tongue slide exactly where he likes it, just under the head, and then he gasps and thrusts up, a motion that he tries to check, because he wants Tony to be able to breathe--

Tony pulls all the way off and grins wide, like it's a dare. "Darling," he says, "I have no gag reflex. You're not going to be able to hurt me. Go for it."

Before Steve can say anything in reply, Tony is taking him all the way down, and Steve gasps at the feel of him, warm and wet, surrounding him everywhere, and he can't stop himself from thrusting in hard, and he wants this, and Tony wants this, and it was never like this before. Tony makes some sort of hum of acknowledgment and the sound goes all through him and he thrusts up again and again and he's going to come again already--

He doesn't want to come quite like this. It's too-- focused. He can't put it into words.

He taps Tony's shoulder, and Tony lifts his head.

"Something wrong, sweetheart?" Tony's voice is wrecked. His lips are red. But his brow is furrowed in concern.

Then he realizes what it is. Tony's not touching him.

He takes a breath and struggles for words. "Can you," he asks, "can you maybe, with your hands? Not in me," he says, hastily, because he can't, he can't, that's too much. "Just, you know. Around."

He hopes that's clear enough. And Tony won't-- Tony won't think it's strange, will he? Tony won't mock him?

Tony smiles. "It would be my pleasure."

When Tony bends his head again, his hands slide up Steve's thighs, and Steve shudders and nearly comes when Tony's tongue moves just so, over the head of his cock, as his fingers caress Steve's balls. Then slowly, ever so slowly, he slides two fingers past his balls, coming to rest lightly over Steve's hole. Everything in Steve seizes up in a rush of frightened anticipation because Tony wouldn't, not without asking, but Steve wants him to and then Tony rubs a little, not pressing in, and Steve gasps and shakes, trembling on the edge, because that is terrifyingly good, and he didn't know, he never knew, and somehow his fingers are twisted in Tony's hair, holding him down, keeping him there--

"Yes," he gasps. "Yes, God, Tony, do you know how good that-- I'm going to come--"

Tony's eyes flick open and he gives him a look that Steve has just enough presence of mind to recognize as hey, check this out, and as he takes Steve all the way down he slides his fingers forward to the skin just behind Steve's balls, presses hard and then everything goes white with pleasure and he's coming, he's coming, he's shaking, he's spilling into Tony's mouth--

When he can think again, Tony's crawled back up the bed again. There's come in his beard and he's grinning like this is the best thing he's done in his life. "That was lovely, darling," Tony says. "We must do this again sometime."

Steve looks at him, and he wants to, and he wants to, and maybe it would be all right? It wouldn't hurt to ask, would it?

"Can I do it to you?" His voice sounds so clumsy, nothing like Tony's seductive purr. "I mean, would you let me? Would you want that?"

Tony's eyes go wide, incredulous. He opens his mouth with a choked-off gasp, then closes it, then opens it again. Steve waits for him to say yes, and panic briefly swirls around him as he wonders whether he should have offered. He's committed now. Locked in. Trapped. Tony bites his lip. "You don't have to. I meant what I said before, about reciprocation. You really don't have to."

Steve takes a breath. He doesn't have to. He can do something else. "Or I can touch you?" he offers, hesitantly. "I could do that?"

Tony smiles; he looks a little relieved, and Steve thinks that maybe that was the right answer. He relaxes. Tony is so free with his smiles. He likes how it makes him feel, when Tony smiles at him, he thinks. He feels so easy right now. Everything feels good.

"Whatever you're comfortable with," Tony says, with another smile. "Your call."

Steve pushes himself down the bed, head against Tony's hip. Tony shudders as Steve slides a hand down Tony's stomach; he gives a little breathy gasp when Steve wraps his fingers around his cock.

It feels like touching himself, really. Familiar, in a way. He knows how to do this. He strokes slowly up and down the shaft of Tony's cock -- he's circumcised, and that's new for Steve, but other than that this is exceedingly familiar. He can do this, he thinks, watching Tony's cock slide through his fist. The thought brings a wash of relief. He can do this.

He looks back up Tony's body, and there's a faint smile on Tony's face. His eyes are half-lidded, indolent with pleasure.


"Good," Tony confirms. "So nice, darling."

He remembers how Tony had been moaning for the cameras, panting his name. Tony is so quiet. He likes this, Steve is sure, but he doesn't like it as much as other things. He remembers Tony smiling at him and saying we can do better than that. He wants to make Tony feel that good. He wants to put his mouth on him. Tony did it for him, after all. It feels wrong not to do the same. He's envied Tony his boldness. Well, he can be just as bold.

Steve pushes himself up on his elbow, leans over, and then carefully licks up the side of Tony's cock.

The reaction is immediate.

"Oh, fuck," Tony rasps out, and his fingers go white-knuckled in the sheets. His hips swing up, nudging his cock against Steve's lips, before he halts the motion. "You don't have to, you don't have to, but please," he says, and he's wide-eyed and begging and suddenly Steve is hard again, because it feels so good to do this, to make Tony this happy, because this is what Tony wanted.

He smiles and slowly, slowly, takes Tony's cock into his mouth. It doesn't taste bad, really, and there's something satisfying in the heaviness against his tongue, a feeling of being filled up by Tony. He likes that. His cock throbs in response, hot and needy.

"Like that," Tony says, breathless, incoherent. "Just like that, sweetheart. Keep moving your hand, oh, like that. You're so gorgeous. You should see yourself, darling, see your beautiful mouth -- oh, yeah, right there, like that--"

Steve's losing himself in the rhythm of it, breathing through his nose, in and out, as Tony shakes to pieces beneath him, sliding his hand faster and tighter. Tony's got to be close now, but it feels like Tony's waiting for something else, almost at the edge but not quite wanting to fall.

He remembers what else Tony was doing to himself, before.

He lets his hand fall from around Tony's cock; Tony moans a low, sad, complaint, but the moan rises as Steve slides his hand over Tony's balls and down and back and then lets his fingers rest just there. Tony's not dry at all; he's wet, and when Steve rubs one finger over Tony's entrance it's like Tony's entire body wants to let him in and Steve shudders at the thought of how arousing that is, pictures fucking into Tony, hot and tight, and his cock throbs and God, he's close--

Tony's head is thrown back on the pillow. "Please," he breathes, "please, please, Steve, please, I'm lubed still, you won't hurt me." He's gasping. "Come on, fuck, fuck, fuck--"

Steve's finger slides inside Tony as easily as anything. He's hotter and tighter than a woman, and he clenches down and Steve can just imagine how it would feel, sliding into Tony -- or Tony in him -- and when Tony relaxes a little he pushes another finger in, fucks him with two fingers, in and out and in, with his mouth still filled by Tony's cock--

Tony's gasping still. It sounds almost like he's laughing. His eyes are unfocused, and he's smiling, and Steve pushes his fingers in again and Tony sobs out, "I'm going to--" and comes.

Steve discovers he really likes swallowing. He's making Tony come, he did this, he made him feel good -- and when he finally lifts his head and slides his fingers out of Tony he realizes that his free hand is drifting down his body, and everything is bright and golden and he feels like he's floating as he strokes himself, just a couple more times, and he comes again, on a sigh.

"Wow," Tony says, dazed. "Did you just...?" He motions vaguely at Steve. "Because of me?"

"Yeah," Steve says. He liked that. He liked that a lot. He doesn't really feel like thinking about it. He knows that was all being recorded by aliens. He doesn't really feel like thinking about that either. He's not going to.

Tony sits up and offers him some kind of wipe for his hands. In a daze, he cleans himself off, and then Tony tugs him back up the bed, pulls him down, and somehow manages to wrap both arms and a leg around him, followed by the covers. He's been pinned. He squirms.

"Shh," Tony says, sleepily, in his ear. "Hold still. Cuddling now, handsome."

"Cuddling?" Steve asks.

"Cuddling," Tony mumbles, a beatific smile spreading across his face. "S'what you do. When you've had really good sex. With someone you like a lot."

Steve supposes he can handle that. He shuts his eyes, and he's fast asleep.

When he wakes, there's someone else in the room.

He reaches for the shield he doesn't have and then gives up and settles for yanking the covers around his waist by the time it's finally registered that the person in the room is the snake-hair lady. She's beaming at them. Behind her the door is open. The guards seem to be gone.

Next to him, Tony looks down at himself and then shrugs like he doesn't actually care if an entire alien planet sees him naked again.

"Hi," Tony says, cheerfully, like this happens to him every day. "What can we do for you?"

"Congratulations!" snake-lady says. "I'm here to inform you that you've been selected as the winners of Love Across the Multiverse. We just need a brief interview from both of you, if you'd be so kind." She's still armed -- albeit with a smaller pistol -- so it's not really a request. "Your companion will be released shortly, and we are returning your equipment, and then we will open a portal back to--" she looks down at the clipboard in her other hand-- "Earth-1610, is that right?"

Steve stares. "We can't have been asleep for more than a couple hours. How did you edit this, air this, and get a vote all in that time?"

Christ, maybe Clint saw them after all--

She laughs, a high titter of a laugh, like he's quaint. Steve's heard that laugh a lot. "Oh," she says, "did you think that the people actually determined the winner? No, no -- it's the producers! We showed a very rough cut of some highlights to Mojo, and he was so impressed that he declared you the winner immediately." She nods, enthusiastically. "Of course, it will be an unconventional narrative, overcoming one's own resistance for love, but we think it will play well with the youth. You understand."

"Show business, darling," Tony says to Steve, in agreement, and Steve is caught somewhere between outrage at turning his thoughts into a spectacle for the masses and righteous indignation at the failure of democracy. "Don't scowl, sweetheart; no one died. It was a good day." He catches snake-lady's eye. "Is there breakfast?"

"Complimentary," she confirms. "Down the hall and to the left."

Tony, still completely naked, gets up and wanders out the door.

Snake-lady beams at him again. "We're going to make you a star, Captain."

"I hate you," he says.

There's a flash drive dangling from Clint's hand as they walk toward the shining portal.

"No, of course I didn't get to watch anything," Clint says. "I was in prison. It was boring. They said this was the raw footage, though, of--" he shrugs-- "whatever you did for them. A free copy."

"Give me that!"

Steve grabs the drive away immediately, and Clint yelps and shakes his hand. "Ow!"

Faceplate down, Tony is chuckling. "Oh, you want a copy, Cap?" he asks. His voice is coy. "Oh, that's right. You didn't get to watch the beginning, did you?"

Steve flushes and is very glad that Clint is walking ahead of them.

Tony laughs, and his gauntleted hand is on Steve's shoulder, then sliding down to Steve's lower back. Steve leans into the touch and smiles.

He can't see Tony's face, but he's pretty sure Tony's smiling back.

Several Months Later...

"Cha'rtoq!" Sssssth yells, and Cha'rtoq grimaces and shoves her bag in one of the lockers and she's late, she's late, she knows she's late. It's Firstday morning, and the week is not getting off to a good start. "Come on! Two for you! Transit Gate B!"

She hates working the gladiatorial shows; the participants are much more violent, for one thing, and they film so many of them that they're always under much more time pressure than absolutely anything else. Still, they're the most popular shows on Mojoworld, and the pay's better than anything else, too.

When she hurries across the office to snag the hardcopy identification forms off Sssssth's desk, a piece of Sssssth's hair hisses at her and tries to bite her fingers. Definitely Firstday. It's going to be a long week.

"Anything I should know about these two?" she asks as she shoves the forms into a clipboard without reading them and grabs a stylus.

Sssssth barely looks up from her computer. "They've got pretty good tech; the neutralizers didn't work, so they've still got their weapons, but they're both still contained in the field."

"Thanks! Back in a bit!" Cha'rtoq calls over her shoulder, and she's running out the door because she really needs to finish the check-in -- or even start the check-in, because there are twenty fighters coming today and that's going to take a while. She really shouldn't have overslept. It's not a good idea to slack off at Mojo Studios. Then you find yourself in the games, Sssssth says.

She taps her tail on the walls, impatiently, all the way through the lift ride up to the gate levels. She shoulders a couple of Kree aside and then barrels down the corridor to Gate B where she can see the familiar restraint dome, already formed up.

There are two humans in the dome. They stand together, not quite back-to-back, not quite side-by-side, but it's a practiced stance, nonetheless, a combat stance. Like they've been fighting together for years. The one on the left is pale-skinned like some of the Kree are. He has blond hair and blue eyes; he's wearing a dark blue uniform with a white star on his chest. There's a shield on his arm: red, white, and blue, translucent, glowing with energy. Cha'rtoq sees what Sssssth meant about the tech level; the neutralizers won't work on this. Still, they're going to need their weapons for the fight, so it doesn't matter that they still have them, she supposes.

The other man is wearing a combat exoskeleton, in red and gold metal. It's dotted all over with energy nodes, bright spots of blue. There's a huge node in his chest, and two large nodes in his palms, which he has raised like his hands are weapons. The faceplate of the suit is pushed up. He's pale-skinned too, with dark hair on his head and face, and blue eyes.

Cha'rtoq thinks they look vaguely familiar.

She looks down at the identification sheet. Steven Rogers. Anthony Stark. Avengers. Earth-616.

She nearly purrs in sheer delight. She knows those names. She's watched their episode -- well, the one with the other versions of them -- of Love Across the Multiverse three times now. It was so romantic. And now here they are! She can hardly believe it! Well, it's not exactly the same people, because those ones were from Earth-1610, she knows, but it's almost the same, isn't it? Her friends are going to be so jealous.

They look a little different with their clothes on, of course. And they're different clothes. No wonder she didn't recognize them. Humans. Pfft. They don't even have very different colored fur or anything.

"Welcome to Mojo's Multiverse Gladiators!" she begins. "May I just say that it's an honor to have you here? You have been selected to participate in our single-elimination doubles tournament, all fights to the death--"

"What, again?" Stark rolls his eyes and folds his arms over his chest.

Rogers scowls. "Don't you people ever make anyone do anything except fight each other?"

"Hey!" she says, defensively. "Mojo Networks has an extensive and varied selection of programming! The episode of Love Across the Multiverse in which the two of you finally consummate your romantic relationship was the highest-rated show of the entire season across the entire network!" She glares indignantly at them. "It was very erotic and deeply touching."

There is dead silence within the dome.

Stark's eyes have gone wide and his face is very, very pale; Rogers' face scrunches up and he lowers the energy shield. She isn't very familiar with human emotions.

Rogers speaks first; he is loud, incredulous. "Our what?"

"Uh, Steve?" Stark asks. His voice sounds wobbly. "Is this... is this one of those things that happened to me that I don't remember?"

"Oh, it wasn't you!" Cha'rtoq says, hastily, while wondering why he wouldn't know that. "It was the two of you but from another version of your planet in the multiverse."

"Okay," Stark says, and he shakes his head, like there's something wrong with it. "Okay. Not us." His eyes look slightly watery. "I can-- I can live with that."

Rogers glances over at him, and then stops when he sees Stark's face. He turns and stares. "Maybe I want it to be us," he says, and his voice is almost too low to hear.

Stark's eyes go wider now, almost uncertain. "Steve, I-- oh, God, this is not the place for this," he says, and his eyes briefly meet Cha'rtoq's before he focuses on Rogers. "You can't-- how can you even want anything to do with me after what I--"

"Tony," Rogers says, very quietly, and he brushes two fingers across the exposed skin of Stark's face.

Stark smiles weakly.

This is even better than the show.

"All right," Stark says. "We win. We win their stupid show, and then we talk about this later. Right?"

"Right," Rogers says, and Stark smiles again.

Cha'rtoq checks their names off on the list. "Avengers, Earth-616, confirmed. Do you have any questions?"

"Yes," Stark says. "That show we were on, the love one--"

"What about it?"

Stark bares his teeth in a smile. She thinks that for humans that's supposed to be charming. "Do you think I could get a copy?"

"Tony!" Rogers says.

"What?" Stark says, in an aggrieved undertone. "Like you don't want to watch it too."

She purrs. "I'll see what I can do."

Sssssth has a couple of nestmates who work on Love Across the Multiverse. She's got connections. The week, Cha'rtoq thinks, is looking up after all.

Maybe Stark and Rogers will want to film a sequel.