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You're Walking the Wire (between pain and desire)

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Steve wakes up because Tony’s hand is curling around his erection; it’s less of a jolt, and more of a kind of dreamy surfacing from deep water. Tony’s breath is warm against Steve’s neck, and he’s pressing butterfly-wing light kisses to Steve’s throat. Steve’s arms fold up around Tony automatically, and he doesn’t think at all when he bends down and kisses Tony’s forehead.

“Hey,” Tony murmurs, his voice a little morning gruff. “How would you feel about fucking me?”

Steve’s cock, already cradled in Tony’s fist and thus hard as a rock, jerks at the same time that Steve’s body gives a little twitch of surprise. He almost asks if Tony is serious, and then realizes that might actually be kind of insulting. Instead he says, “The answer to that question is always yes.”

“Beautiful,” Tony says, and leans away for a moment in a full body stretch, his back crackling. “How do you want me?”

Steve considers that for a moment, feeling a little giddy. He wants Tony in any way, in every way, and it takes him a few seconds to sort through all of the possibilities to locate his ideal.

“I want to finger you open,” Steve says. “I want to be able to watch; I’m not sure the best position for that.”

“Either on my knees or on my back,” Tony says easily. “It depends on what you want to see.” As he says it, he shifts over onto his back and lets his thighs fall open. Steve’s mouth goes a little dry, and Tony is smirking just a little. “I like it both ways,” Tony adds, smiling a little wider, probably at the dumbfounded look on Steve’s face.

There isn’t much question, really. Steve wants to see Tony’s face while he works Tony open with his fingers, but. Well, he’s spent some time imagining what the line of Tony’s back would look like, and... “Can I have both?” he blurts.

Tony smirks a little. “You can have whatever you want. Just move me however you want me.”

Steve’s cock does little push-ups of excitement, and Steve manages to get up to his knees without any injuries involved. The lube is sitting right out on the bedside table, like Tony doesn’t care who might come in and see it -- he probably doesn’t -- and Steve captures it and settles himself into the V of Tony’s thighs, letting his gaze linger on the lithe, naked length of Tony’s body for several seconds. Tony watches him, still faintly smiling, and then frees a pillow from the pile of them at the head of the bed and arches his hips -- Steve’s breath catches in appreciation -- and slides the pillow under his ass.

“Don’t get shy on me now, Captain,” Tony murmurs, cocking his knees and spreading them wide.

“Not,” Steve says, because he doesn’t feel like he can be any more articulate and still be believable. He pops the top on the lube and pours some onto his fingertips. He glances at Tony, unsure how much he should be using.

“Too slick is always better than not slick enough,” Tony says, and Steve dribbles more lube into his hand. “You’re going to be fine,” Tony tells him, and Steve lowers his hand and rubs the pad of his index finger against the the entrance to Tony’s body experimentally. Tony sighs and rocks a little downward on the bed, and Steve takes that as permission to slide a finger into Tony. He is hot inside, smooth and clenched around Steve’s finger. Steve barely gets the chance to slide his finger in and out once before Tony murmurs, “Give me another.”

Steve twists his wrist and presses another finger carefully inside, and Tony is still hot and tight, but this is clearly something Tony is used to. This time Tony lets Steve stroke into him for nearly a minute, getting a feel for what he’s doing, then says, “Turn your wrist about eighty degrees,” which Steve does, and strokes in again. “Good, now slide your fingertips around there, you should feel... ah!”

Steve feels the difference in the texture, and spends a little while just gliding his fingertips along Tony’s prostate while Tony makes soft little gasping sounds of pleasure. Tony’s cock, lying across his stomach, jumps a little when Steve presses harder, and Tony lets out a muffled, “Fuck.” Steve’s cock jumps at the way Tony’s voice sounds. “Scissor your fingers,” Tony breathes, holding his hand up to demonstrate, which isn’t actually necessary. Steve’s had it done to him; he knows what Tony means.

He works his fingers apart, pulling Tony open a little, repeating it, then brushing at Tony’s prostate again, feeling Tony shudder around his fingers. “Right, another,” Tony murmurs throatily, and Steve takes the time to add a little more lube before he works a third finger into Tony. Tony clenches around his fingers for several seconds, as if resisting the invasion, and then relaxes all at once. Steve glances up and Tony’s flushed all the way down to the arc reactor. Tony’s lips are parted, and he’s breathing quickly through his mouth, his eyes dark the way they always get when he’s wanting.

A heady sense of power prickles at the back of Steve’s neck, but he isn’t sure what to do with that power, even when he’s been given it. He tips himself forward on his knees, careful to keep his fingers pressed deeply into Tony, and when he draws close, Tony tips his face up and accepts hungry, urgent kisses almost passively, cooperating completely, but not driving them the way he usually does. His mouth is soft and wet and open, but he doesn’t bite at Steve, and when Steve pulls back, Tony looks a little dazed.

“Is that enough?” Steve asks, a dry whisper of nerves and anticipation, and Tony’s face softens into a smile, complete with crinkles at the corners of his eyes.

“You’re good to go,” he says, a husky drawl, and Steve feels that prickle of power again.

He withdraws his fingers carefully and spends two seconds deciding how he wants Tony, before he slides his fingers under Tony’s hip and urges him over. Tony cooperates easily, as if it’s nothing to have Steve manhandle him onto his belly and then draw him up onto his knees.

Tony’s back is an elegant line, the curve of his ass all taut and bunching muscle, and Steve drags one hand down Tony’s spine, thinking distantly about how much he likes it when Tony does that. Tony lets out a little sigh and spreads his knees wider. Steve can see the slickness of lube around his hole, and it looks ridiculously small. If Steve didn’t already know for a fact that Tony could take him, he’d be doubting it, just looking at him.

“Come on, Captain,” Tony says, and Steve can hear that he’s smiling in his voice. “You know you want to.”

Steve does want to, maybe more than he’d ever considered that he would, but looking at Tony like this is unspeakably good, too. His hands are shaking a little, and his spine feels like a tangle of live electrical wires, and he realizes he’s trying to picture his cock sliding into Tony and mostly failing, but it kicks his body into gear. He drizzles more lube directly onto his cock, making sure he’s very slick, because Tony still looks so small, and then wipes his hand more-or-less clean on the sheet.

He catches Tony’s hip in his free hand and uses the other to guide his cock until the head is nestled between the cheeks of Tony’s ass, and Steve can feel the slight clench of Tony’s hole when he starts to push his way in.

Tony lets out a long, low sound and drops abruptly to his elbows, angling his back beautifully, which Steve would take more time to appreciate except that he can feel Tony’s body stretching for the head of his cock, and he can’t appreciate anything as much as the way it looks to watch his cock sink into Tony’s ass. He feels the abrupt forward motion as the head of his cock slips all the way in, and Tony groans and immediately starts pushing back onto Steve, so that Steve can only stare down and watch, mouth open, as more of his cock disappears into the tight, hot sheath of Tony’s ass.

“God, that’s, yeah,” Tony says, his back flexing. “You can, fuck, however you want to try it,” and Steve has never heard Tony so incoherent during sex, it’s usually all precisely sharp and angled words that scrape Steve raw, but it isn’t bad. It makes the frission of power at the nape of his neck jangle even more pressingly and sends all the blood rushing to Steve’s cock so that he feels light headed for a few seconds, but then he closes both hands around Tony’s hips and drags him the rest of the way onto his cock, hissing a little at the shift and clench of Tony’s body surrounding him. “Oh, yeaaaah,” Tony groans, and Steve’s hips jerk in response, pulling out and shoving right back in a moment later. Tony’s back arches and his hands clench in the sheets.

There is a white twist of lust searing away all of Steve’s higher brain functions, and he shifts his knees wider, pushing Tony’s knees even farther apart, and he drags Tony off his cock until just the head is inside and then snaps his hips forward; there is a soft smacking sound when Steve’s pelvis meets Tony’s ass, a sound that makes Steve’s breath falter and his hands squeeze hard at Tony’s hips.

“Go ahead, bruise me,” Tony says roughly, and Steve chest hitches out a sound like a pleading growl. His next thrust is harder than he means it to be, but Tony just makes a throaty sound of appreciation, and before Steve really knows he’s doing it, he’s got a rhythm going, a rhythm punctuated by Tony’s groaning appreciation and the few words that he manages to grate out, like, “I can take it harder,” and “Angle down just a little... oh my God!” On that last, Tony tightens down around him so hard that Steve pauses to catch his breath, and Tony hisses, “Don’t stop, don’t...” before Steve manages to get his hips into motion again.

Tony either has no control over the sounds he’s making or doesn’t care about them, each gasp and hiss and shudder of Tony’s body dragging Steve deeper into the shove and jerk of their skin slapping together, Tony still pushing back against Steve as though he can’t stand the idea that he may not be getting every inch. There is something so provocative like this, his body rocking in time with Steve’s, and while there isn’t the kind of dirty talk that Steve has come to expect from Tony, that doesn’t mean Tony shuts up. He groans at Steve to go harder and faster, and Steve presses a thumb against the inside of one of Tony’s ass cheeks so that he can open him up and see how red and stretched he is around Steve’s cock. It looks absolutely obscene, and Steve jerks into him hard in response, a grunting little sound escaping his half-open mouth.

“Yeah, just, almost, touch me, I...” Tony stammers out, and Steve reaches around Tony’s hip to get a firm grip on his cock, his rhythm never faltering for all that he feels like he could come any second, too focused on Tony’s obvious pleasure to care that much about his own, no matter how insistently it’s tightening his balls and churning in the pit of his belly. Tony yelps, an honest to God yelp, when Steve’s hand closes around his cock, and he stops pushing back almost entirely as he jerks his hips, shoving his cock through Steve’s hand. Steve shifts and sets a new pace, his cock heavy and thick with desire, and he knows before Tony comes that he’s going to, his whole body going taut and shivering, and then his ass clenches and tightens on Steve’s cock, sending Steve into a frenzy of rough, erratic strokes, and Tony says, “Your cock is perfect, so wide I can feel the burn. Come on, Captain, I can take it, bruise me, use me, come inside me...”

And Steve loses the rest of what Tony is saying when he arches forward, cock throbbing, and releases his tenuous control, feeling how Tony gets slicker and how he twists his hips and shoves back, making Steve’s eyes roll up into his skull.

He isn’t sure how long it takes, but he comes back slowly, his hands still wrapped around Tony’s hips. He unclenches his fingers and immediately sees the fingertip bruises pressed into Tony’s skin, half dismayed and half turned on at the sight of them.

It’s Tony that pulls forward slightly until Steve’s cock slips out of him, and Tony again who wriggles around on his side and tugs Steve down beside him. Tony is kissing him languorously, his lips already red and swollen so that Steve assumes he’d been biting at them. Tony kisses his neck and his collar bone, and then slides his tongue across one of Steve’s nipples. Steve shivers, and Tony laughs, looking slightly up at Steve, his face relaxed and amused.

“Good as you thought?” he asks, pushing Steve’s hair off his forehead.

“Better,” Steve admits. “The way you sound,” and Tony’s smile goes soft and satisfied.

“You fuck like a pro,” Tony says, sending a little shiver of humiliation down Steve’s spine. “You’re lucky I’m not inclined to share; I could make a fortune.”

Steve feels his face heat, but doesn’t look away from Tony’s gaze. “I don’t want a fortune,” he asserts. “I’m entirely in it for your body.”

Tony’s mouth drops open for just a second, and then he is laughing, a deep belly laugh that sets Tony’s whole body to shaking against Steve. “Lucky me,” he says finally, and wriggles down to rest his head on Steve’s shoulder. “I’m a secret cuddler,” he says, like it’s an admission.

Steve, who has already noticed this, says, “I won’t think less of you in the morning.”

Tony snorts. “It is the morning, jackass,” he says fondly. “And while I’d love to lay here until we both get it up again, I’ve got an agenda.” He rolls away from Steve and props himself up on his elbow. “We could cover it in bed, but I think you’d be better off with some food in you.”

Steve is almost always better off with some food in him, so doesn’t argue.

“Take the shower,” Tony says, and kisses Steve on the chin. “I’ll take care of breakfast, first.”

**

Breakfast turns out to be the pastries that Tony had taunted him with several days ago, and Steve forces himself to wait until Tony is out of the shower before he tears into the white paper bag and helps himself to two, a large glass of chocolate milk sitting beside him.

“You’re so wholesome it’s revolting,” Tony grumbles as he fires up his coffee machine.

“I feel like saying that to someone who just had his cock in your ass might be a little bit off the mark,” Steve says, grinning and licking the sugar off his lips.

Tony looks like he’s considering that. “No,” he decides finally. “Fucking is totally natural and wholesome.”

Steve grins as he watches Tony tear into a pastry like he hasn’t eaten in days. Tony eats like a velociraptor, tearing directly into the middle of the pastry to get at the filling, and then picking apart the rest of it to eat at a more sedate pace.

Tony’s cheeks are still flushed from the sex, and Steve can’t help being a little charmed. Still, Steve doesn’t even try to bring up Tony’s “agenda” until Tony has a full cup of coffee at his elbow. Steve watches, somewhere between amused and appalled, when Tony downs half the cup, which is still steaming energetically enough to scald a normal person’s esophagus.

Steve might have made a joke, except Tony hooks a foot under his stool and drags Steve over so that their knees bump. Steve is pretty sure he’s blushing, but he can feel his lips are quirked, pleased.

“So, okay,” Tony says. “I know I told you I’ve been all up in SHIELD’s business.” He looks a question at Steve.

“You also told Fury that you tracked and didn’t hack,” Steve says, amused.

“Six of one,” Tony says, waving it away. “The point is, I was researching my own specific file, which I consider fair game, when I came upon the stuff about the Avenger’s Initiative.”

“Okay,” Steve says, not sure Tony’s logic is all that based in reality, but willing to let it slide.

“You weren’t in it at the time, they hadn’t found you yet,” Tony continues. “But there are a couple of other people that are, people you haven’t come across yet. Did they brief you on any of this?”

Steve considers. “Brief, no,” he says finally. “But it was mentioned that there were other people that could be called in, but they had to be…” He tries to remember Fury’s words, and then shrugs a little. “‘Handled with care.’”

Tony snorts. “Nick Fury: Master of the understatement,” he says. He’s opening his mouth to say more when his phone rings.

An instant later, Steve’s phone rings, too.

“Steve Rogers speaking,” Steve answers.

“Captain Rogers, this is Agent Coulson. We’ve recovered some information on the computer device you found on the Hydra agent that was holding the hacker hostage. Director Fury wants you on base immediately. Bring your equipment.”

“Okay,” Steve says. “I’ll be right there. Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“The Director wants to give this briefing to everyone at once,” Coulson says. “If you’re at the Tower, I suggest you let Stark give you a lift.”

“I take it he’s consulting,” Steve says neutrally.

Coulson’s pause is so minute as to be almost nonexistent. “Something like that,” he says. “Get here soonest.”

“I’m on my way,” Steve says.

Tony is just getting off the phone when Steve hangs up. He gives Steve a long look. “JARVIS, do a soft and hard line sweep of the entire tower and a two block radius for redline equipment.”

“Yes, Sir,” JARVIS says.

“What does that mean?” Steve asks.

“It means we both got a call to report to SHIELD thirty seconds after we started talking about the other potential members of the Initiative,” Tony says. “That doesn’t strike you as an unlikely coincidence?”

“Coulson said it has to do with the computer thingy I found on the Hydra guy,” Steve says.

Tony sighs. “I have got to get some technology jargon programmed into you as soon as is humanly possible.”

“Right,” Steve says, amused. “In the meantime, we should probably go?”

Tony sighs. “Get your stuff and meet me on the launch pad.”

**

Fury paces around the front of the table they’re all seated at, a large computer screen lit up behind him. “The handheld device the Captain recovered was so damaged that we had to mostly rebuild it to find out what it had been used for,” he says grimly. “The flash drive was Initiative sensitive information, but we didn’t think there had been an uplink at any point.” His grim expression gets, if anything, even grimmer. “The device the Captain found was used to upload the information from the flash drive and route it to an untraceable ISP sometime before we arrived on scene. That means we have to assume that Hydra has at least some, if not all, of the information on the Initiative.”

He paces back and forth in front of the computer screen, and then grimaces a little and uses a tiny remote to pull up an image of a green giant pulling apart an Army tank with its bare hands. He clicks it again, and the image is replaced by a rangy, dark haired man in glasses with intelligent eyes.

“This is Doctor Bruce Banner,” Fury says. He looks at Steve. “In an attempt to recreate the super soldier serum, he was exposed to what should have been lethal levels of gamma radiation. The result was this.” He flips back to the first image again. “The Hulk. SHIELD has been monitoring Doctor Banner’s location for more than a year; he’s number one on the Army’s Most Wanted List, so we’ve taken the liberty of giving him a little cover. We don’t think he’s what the Army thinks he is. In fact, we think he could be a member of the Initiative, if he decided that he wanted to be. All that aside, all the information SHIELD has on Doctor Banner was on that drive, which means that very soon, Hydra is likely to make an attempt to capture Doctor Banner. This would be very bad, even if Banner wasn’t also the Hulk, but the fact is, if Hydra tries to take on the Hulk, they will have to evacuate Calcutta to keep him from pulling it down around their ears.”

He sighs wearily. “We weren’t ready to do this,” he admits. “We wanted more time to contact Banner and get a read on him. But as it stands, we’re responsible for his safety, and we need to get him out of there ASAP, whether he likes it or not. The mission is to recruit if possible, but under the circumstances, it’s more important that Banner be informed of the situation so that he can make his own getaway if he doesn’t want ours.”

Coulson steps in. “Fortunately, our intelligence indicates that Hydra’s power base in that area is almost negligible. They’re going to have to transport people and weapons, and neither of those things are especially easy in that area. We’ve got a little time.”

“Three days,” Fury interrupts. “We’ve put together a comprehensive report on Banner and on the Hulk, and that should give you plenty of time to become familiar with it and settle on a plan to engage him. Any longer, and the situation just gets more complicated. He should be relatively safe for three days, but I want you in Calcutta before sunrise on the fourth day.”

“And why am I here?” Tony asks, for once sounding serious, though the glare Fury gives him is blistering. “No offense, and I’m happy to help, but this does not fall under my consulting contract. Am I ground support, tech support, moral support? Am I taking over development on some sort of anti-Hulk containment system that probably doesn’t have a chance in hell of working?”

Fury looks at Tony for a few long seconds, and then, as if it pains him, says, “You did good work yesterday.”

Tony blinks, and only manages to say, “Thank you,” which means he really is surprised.

“You know about the Initiative, and you’ve gone out of your way to protect it,” Fury says slowly. “If you’re interested, there’s a position for you on the team.”

Tony cocks his head and looks at Fury for a solid ten seconds. “Does this have anything to do with the fact that Captain America thinks I’m awesome?”

Steve resists the urge to cover his face.

But Fury actually smirks a little. “Yeah. It does.”

“Okay, then,” Tony says without the slightest hesitation. “Sign me up.”

**

They spend the morning watching footage and reading reports. Steve understands why SHIELD has kept their distance. He’s read the file and seen the footage, and the truth is, nothing they’ve got will stand up to the Hulk. At first, Steve hadn’t even been able to grasp why Fury wants him. He’s immeasurably strong and close to invincible, but he’s also completely uncontrollable. Having him on their side seems like a good way to force them to take out one of their own on a regular basis, and no good team can cohesively function like that.

It’s Tony, leaning over his shoulder to watch the footage for the third time, that makes it make sense in just a handful of words. “He’s not actually mindless in that form. People have been hurt, but they’re usually people he either doesn’t see or people that are too stupid to get out of his way. Even with all those civilians, he only took out people shooting at him with that car.” He looks down at Steve, his eyes bright with energy and intelligence. “Do you know how hard it is to aim a thrown car?”

Steve doesn’t, but he turns back to the footage, looking for something else this time. Looking at who doesn’t get hurt. The fourth time through, he’s convinced that Tony is right. Stronger than he realizes, less aware of potential dangers to civilians than Steve would like, but not actually mindless and murderous. Even when people are trying to kill him, he only hurts the ones directly in his path as he tries to get away. And, even them, he merely slaps them out of the way, which can be deadly, with his strength, but not deadly in a way that indicates he enjoys inflicting pain. He could have just as easily smashed them into paste with his bare hands. He could have used his fists like hammering in a nail. He could have ripped them apart.

“That still leaves us with the problem of how to convince him,” Steve says. Then corrects himself: “Them.”

“Who can we even send in as first contact?” Natasha asks. She looks completely composed, but the question is telling. Steve suspects it’s her way of making it clear that she doesn’t want to be chosen for this particular assignment.

Steve doesn’t frown, but he does put it on his mental shelf of things to address later. If Natasha is genuinely afraid of the Hulk, that could be a problem.

“I’ll do it,” Tony says, and they all turn to look at him in surprise. Tony looks back, brow arched sardonically. “What? If Banner has anything in common with anyone, it’s me. He’s a genius and a scientist. Even without his alter ego, the more brains in this operation, the better. Besides.” He pauses and then smiles a little sharply, not a genuine smile, but a deflection. “If he does go on a rampage, I can at least fly.”

And there’s nothing Steve can argue against there. If it has to be one of them, in the suit, Tony is the one least likely to get hurt. Nevertheless, he says, “We’ll all go.”

Tony opens his mouth to argue, but pauses readily enough when Steve holds up a hand.

“At the very least, the rest of us can run damage control if he does go on a rampage, while you lead him out away from the city.” This plan scares Steve spitless; the idea of putting Tony on the altar like a completely inappropriate virgin sacrifice makes him want to break things. But it’s part of having Tony on the team, a part Steve had been totally cognizant of when he’d made the push, and he can’t hem Tony in and keep him at the safest edge of the action. Tony would just resent it, and Steve is not that selfish. Though he wishes that he was, sometimes.

“Are we taking artillery?” Clint wants to know. He glances at Coulson first, but Coulson has his attention politely fixed on Steve. Steve wants to say yes, and knows all the reasons he should say no. He pauses for a long moment, and then looks to Tony.

Tony looks a little surprised, but pleased. “I don’t think so. I think there’s a chance that Banner will listen to me, even with you guys there for backup, in a way that he won’t if I bring a small army with me.” His eyes go distant and reflective. “I know I wouldn’t be all that keen to trust someone who wasn’t upfront with me about who I brought with me and why. And honestly, there really isn’t that much that’s effective against the big guy, and the few things that are even likely to make him step back a ways are things the suit already has. No sense in putting SHIELD people out there as targets. And Banner isn’t inclined to trust the military as it is, and may not see much of a distinction between the Army and SHIELD. Better if we keep it Initiative business.”

“He’ll have to know SHIELD is involved,” Coulson says.

“Yeah, I’m not planning on lying to him about anything,” Tony says, still a little distantly. “It’s more of a matter of spin.” Steve can practically hear Tony’s brain humming. “I do think that there’s one thing we can’t do,” he mutters. “Are we sure we can’t get a bead on your Asgardian first?”

“We’re making progress in communicating with Thor, but even if that was ready, we still wouldn’t have a way to transport him here,” Coulson says.

“Banner could probably help move that along,” Tony says. “It’s not his specialty, but he’s as smart as Foster, and he’s got a solid background. Give him a few months of peace and quiet, he could catch up with her.”

“He’s that smart?” Clint asks, sounding impressed.

“He’d be one of the leading pioneers on the cutting edge of Nuclear Physics if he hadn’t, you know, turned himself into a monster. His work is still peerless, and after so many years out of the field, you don’t know how rare that is. He could do it. He just needs the resources.” Tony’s smile is a little more real this time. “And I’m good for nothing if not for resources.”

“Is he as smart as you?” Steve asks, genuinely curious. He’s met Doctor Foster and had listened to her and Tony exchange ideas that became less and less comprehensible the longer they spoke, and he knows she’s brilliant in her field, but Tony had mentioned that she was a super specialist, which Steve had taken to mean that she is a genius, but not quite the same kind of genius that Tony is. Tony knows something about everything, and given a couple of days to really focus on one thing, can absorb it like a sponge and speak it like a fluent second language.

Tony seems to consider the question. “I can’t really say for sure until I talk to him, but from what I do know, I’d say he’s closer than anyone else I’ve met.” It should sound like ego, but Tony is still kind of zoning, so it comes out weird, almost a little hopeful.

Clint and Natasha exchange arched brows and glance at Steve, who just shrugs very faintly.

“At any rate,” Tony says, shaking off that distance, “he’s definitely worth SHIELD’s time, even without the enormous green rage monster.”

“SHIELD doesn’t have a lot of need for Nuclear Physicists,” Coulson says dryly.

“You’d be surprised at what a Nuclear Physicist could do for SHIELD,” Tony says. “The armor plating on the helicarrier, for example. A scientist of Banner’s calibre could theoretically decrease the density and increase the strength by manipulating the cohesive bonds....” He stops, as everyone is staring at him blankly. “Anyway, he could create a chemical compound to use during manufacturing that could make it way better.”

“Couldn’t you do that?” Coulson asks.

“Not at this point,” Tony says. “I know enough to speculate that it can be done, but not enough to actually do it. I’d have to spend some time boning up.” He doesn’t sound self-conscious at that, either, which is a vast improvement regarding the way he communicates with the rest of the world normally.

“There’s one thing we can’t do, though,” Tony says again, giving each of them a moment of serious eye contact. “We can’t wait three days to do this.”

Steve opens his mouth to ask why, but he’s surprised when Coulson just nods, looking tired.

“Why?” Steve asks.

“Because if we do, SHIELD is going to send us in there with a small army, and we can’t let that happen. Banner might be willing to talk with me, or even all of us, but if he thinks we’ve got Hulk-busters waiting for us in the woods, he’s going to freak out, and that kind of freak out comes with a deadly green radiation monster. We have to get there before Fury, even if all we do is warn him off.”

“Can we do that?” Steve asks, mostly the whole room, but primarily Coulson.

“You can,” Coulson says. “He’s going to roast me alive over a pit full of spikes and venomous snakes, but I’m in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Stark.”

Tony’s brows wing upward, and Steve can see him gearing up to say something really obnoxious, but Natasha interrupts.

“An armed escort won’t be Fury’s call, and he knows that. The World Council will make that decision. That’s why he gave us three days. So that we could get out there and get it done before a serious go-team can be scrambled.”

“I need a few hours,” Tony says. “I need to read up on some things so that I can talk to him on his level. What do you think, leave from the Tower at midnight?”

Coulson’s brows arch just a fraction, but he only says, “I take it you have access to a top secret aircraft that you swore you’d only built five of.”

“I said five or six,” Tony says, waving it away, but he’s looking into the middle distance, his mind already working.

Steve leaves him to it, herding the rest of them through reading and rereading reports and watching as much footage as there can be found, just so it looks like they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

**

They take a Quinjet, Tony’s current favorite military toy, developed specifically for SHIELD, and, according to Tony, bulldozed into active engagement faster than any aircraft in the history of the world. But Tony had been smug about it, too, smug that he’d been able to do it, more smug about the amount of money SHIELD had thrown at him for it. Also according to Tony, there is probably no real commercial demand for it, and he will never give the military the plans to build it, so in spite of all that money from SHIELD, Stark Industries is not really making money on the Quinjet. Apparently, it’s the principle of the thing. Tony doesn’t mind not making money as long as it looks like he’s making money. Steve does not understand this philosophy exactly, but he’s grateful anyway. Instead of it taking twenty hours to make it to Calcutta, it takes about five. Tony had grumbled -- he apparently could’ve done better in the suit -- but he’d agreed to stay with the rest of them for the sake of “safety.” Steve could sense the quotes when Tony had said it, but doesn’t care about that either, as long as Tony agreed.

It’s Natasha that comes up with the idea to use a local girl as a combination of bait and courier, and Steve objects to putting children into dangerous situations, but is argued down by everyone else, citing the fact that Banner isn’t dangerous until he actually realizes he’s been lured. They leave Tony with the briefcase suit in one of the local ramshackle homes that they’d paid lavishly to borrow for a few hours, and will likely pay even more lavishly for if Doctor Banner ends up flattening it.

Steve, Natasha, Clint, and Coulson stay in the Quinjet, put down about a mile outside the city, maybe half a mile from where Tony is waiting for Banner. The plan doesn’t hinge on them being able to get to him instantly. It hinges on Tony being able to get away from Banner within the handful of seconds it takes him to change. They’re only there to make sure to turn Banner away from civilians if things go wrong. The house Tony’s in has been thoroughly wired, however, complete with Tony’s nearly invisible microcams, so they will all be able to listen and see what’s happening from every conceivable angle.

Steve hates this plan. He wants to be in the room with Tony. He’s aware, intellectually, that there is absolutely nothing he could do there. In fact, his presence would only slow Tony down if Tony has to rabbit. He still does not like it.

It takes about twenty minutes of waiting -- Tony, on one monitor, opens up the traveling bar Steve hadn’t wanted to let him bring, and makes himself a martini, without any apparent concern about anything, while Steve is practically vibrating out of his seat with nerves -- before the little girl shows up, slips through the viewing range of the cameras for about three seconds, and then bails out a window in the back wall.

Banner pauses in mid-stride, eyes a little wide, and then shakes his head, the ghost of a rueful smile playing around his lips. “Should have got paid up front, Banner,” he murmurs, and Steve, abruptly and guiltily, realizes that this is not a drill. Bruce Banner is a real man, not a vessel for the Hulk, and Steve wants to call take backs for the whole mission. How could they possibly do this man any good?

But there’s Hydra, and there isn’t any real choice.

Tony says, “Doctor Banner. I’m glad you came.”

Banner starts and turns, but he doesn’t look angry or afraid, just startled. He looks at Tony for a long moment and then asks, “Is that a martini?” almost casually.

“Yep,” Tony says cheerfully. “Want one?” He turns and gestures toward the horrible traveling bar. “Or something else? It’s not a full bar, but it’s pretty well stocked.”

“Why is Tony Stark in Kolkata with his portable wet bar?” Bruce asks, again, almost casually, like he’s asking that question of himself, and just happens to be doing it aloud.

“To talk to you,” Tony says, smirking. “What is Bruce Banner doing in Calcutta without lab space or equipment or minions?”

“I’m going to guess you already know that answer,” Banner says, finally sounding a little wary. He nods his head at the wet bar, though. “Gin and tonic?”

“Sure,” Tony says, and turns his back on Banner entirely to mix him a drink. Steve sees Banner watching Tony do it with the expression of a man that’s wondering if Tony is for real. Steve has seen that expression on the faces of lots of people. “You want lime?”

“If you’ve got it,” Banner agrees, and puts down the oversized leather bag he’s carrying, leaving it right next to the door.

Tony turns around with a gin and tonic on ice, lime a green smile floating in the glass, and offers it to Banner. Banner hesitates for maybe two seconds and then visibly decides to leave the safety of the open door and cross the room to take the glass. Steve doesn’t know Banner well enough to read him the way he can read the rest of his team, but he thinks Banner is more curious than anything else. Which is probably what Tony had been going for.

Banner takes a swallow of the gin and tonic, arches his brows a little, then knocks back the whole thing. He hands it back to Tony, who is grinning a little. “Ice,” Banner says a little self-consciously.

“Sure,” Tony agrees. “Another?”

“Just water?” Banner asks, and Tony again turns his back on him and starts poking at ice cubes. Banner watches him do this with the same kind of bemusement as he had the first time, but when Tony turns back with ice water, just says, “Thanks.”

“My ice is your ice,” Tony says, which would sound innocuous enough, except that Steve knows Tony well enough to understand the implied scope of the offer.

Apparently Banner gets some gist of it, because he asks, “Is that so?”

“It is,” Tony says simply.

“What do you want, Mister Stark?” Banner asks, and puts his glass down on the table. He doesn’t look suspicious exactly, though there is suspicion in his voice. He mostly looks just weary.

“I want you to come work with me and some friends,” Tony says. “I want to recruit you.”

Banner laughs without amusement. “You’re going to be disappointed,” he says.

“Maybe,” Tony allows. “But I’m going to try anyway.”

“I can’t be around people,” Banner says without apology.

“And yet we found you in downtown Calcutta,” Tony says, with a sardonic smile. “Besides, your issues with other people are part of why we want you to work with us.”

Banner says nothing for several seconds. “Who are you working for?”

“Do you want a list, or just what’s pertinent to you?” Tony asks seriously.

Banner looks a little taken aback. “Pertinent to me,” he says eventually.

“Okay. I am not actually employed by, but am working with, SHIELD on something called the Avengers Initiative. There’s a lot of rambly explanations, but the short one is that SHIELD is looking to form a response team of people to protect against or combat the growing threat of superhuman, meta-human, and alien persons that normal human forces aren’t adequate to contain.” Tony pauses. “They have you on the list as brawn, but I’m willing to bet we’ll need you for brains just as often.”

Banner just blinks at Tony.

“I know, I felt the same way. Still feel the same way, sometimes. But you’re not cut off from all forms of communication over here. You have to know what I’m talking about.”

“Aliens?” Banner asks, as though to clarify.

“Not only have we met at least one alien race, but we know from that contact that there are many, many more worlds out there with the capacity to bridge the distance from their worlds to ours,” Tony tells him. “The one we met was a friendly, for which we’re all grateful, but at least one man, to use the term loosely, from the same world was not. They leveled a small town in New Mexico when it came to blows. And just so we’re clear, that was one alien against one other alien. No armies, no battle royale, but just your average fistfight, which just illustrates my point. Even if you don’t count meta-humans like you or mutants, which you probably should, because they actually have fighting factions, but if we concentrate solely on our alien visitors, we need something in place to protect people. We are outclassed so badly that it’s beyond daunting and over the line into full-fledged terror. We need people that have superior abilities of our own.”

Banner laughs humorlessly again. “And you think you’re going to convince the... the other guy to fight with you? You know it doesn’t work like that. You don’t direct him, like a trained dog. He escapes and then he destroys everything in his way.”

“Except we both know that’s not quite right,” Tony says easily. “I’ve watched the footage, all the footage, and the ‘other guy’ has certain patterns of behavior. He doesn’t attack civilians. He’ll run into a group of soldiers trying to kill him before he’ll turn the other way and wade through a civilian crowd. We have video evidence of ‘him’ doing this half a dozen times. He doesn’t fight to kill, though his strength is so massive sometimes he does kill. Even so, I’ve done some extensive hacking--” he pauses to give Banner a smile that is both evil and amused “--and I’m confident in the statistics I’ve put together. Property damage is enormous, but loss of civilian life is almost non-existent. The few cases where it’s been documented, all sources seem to agree that it was accidental on the part of the ‘other guy’ or that it was some civilian doing something stupid and getting himself killed. The military loss of life is higher, but I don’t think it’s as high as you think it is. There have been a lot of injuries, many of them massive, but as far as actual casualties, the numbers are under one percent.”

“And you think that makes it okay?” Banner says, visibly bitter. “That the other guy only goes after people that go after him?”

“No, but I think it it says something about the ‘other guy’s’ priorities. And while I don’t think that I personally could point him in a certain direction and shoot him like a cannon, I think that you can. I think that you have. I think that you always do.” Banner has stiffened, face a taut mask, but Tony doesn’t stop. “SHIELD is willing to bet that we can somehow harness your monster, Doctor Banner. Personally, I don’t think we can do it without your cooperation. So I brought you something that might make you think about the offer.”

“What?” Natasha says. “What is he talking about?”

“Whatever it is, he didn’t discuss with me,” Steve says grimly, concerned but somehow not very surprised at this revelation.

“Biochemistry and radiation are not my field,” Tony is saying. “But I’ve been working on this for a while, and I think it’s going to be effective, though it may be only to a limited degree. I’m betting you could take what I’ve got and improve it, but for now, this is it.” He pulls a tablet from his pocket and passes it to Banner.

Banner takes it, squinting at the tablet for a moment, then pulling a pair of wire framed glasses out of his shirt pocket and absently putting them on. He spends at least two minutes staring at the screen, his brows furrowed in concentration. Then, abruptly, his brows wing upward in a look of surprise so broad that Steve feels a pang of sympathy for the Doctor. Tony surprises Steve like that all the time. “You can’t have tested it,” Banner says finally, but he’s gripping the tablet tightly, as though afraid Tony will try to take it from him.

“No,” Tony agrees. “How would I? And that’s yours. You get that no matter what you decide.”

“What the hell is it?” Clint asks.

“No idea,” Steve says a little impatiently.

Banner laughs a little. “Not that I could use it, without...”

“I know, but I’ll help with that, too, no matter what you decide,” Tony says. “I have the resources to set something up for you, wherever in the world you happen to be.”

“Why?” Banner asks, obviously baffled.

“Because I can help,” Tony says. “I can, so why shouldn’t I?”

Banner doesn’t seem to have any response to this.

“You can’t take it all the time,” Tony says. “It would eventually kill you. There’s too much gamma radiation in your blood; I might be able to do better given time, and I will try. You know as well as I do that you’re much more likely to succeed. And it won’t stop the transformation entirely. Any situation in which you would normally turn into the ‘other guy’ because you’ll die if you don’t is still going to trigger him. But it should eliminate accidental transformation brought on by any other strong emotion. The gamma spikes that go along with anger or fear are probably going to be dampened enough to let you keep control. Pain is harder to predict.”

“The problem isn’t with the emotions, exactly,” Banner says, absently running a finger over the screen of the tablet. “It’s with the surprise. If it’s just anger or just fear or just pain, I can control it. But if you add surprise into any of those.” Banner shrugs tiredly. “So the suppressant might be helpful if I’m aware that I’m going to be in a situation in which I might experience any of those combinations; I can take it as a prophylactic. But if I can’t take it all the time, it doesn’t change my life much.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Tony says, and sounds like he genuinely is. “I wish I could do better. Given some more time, maybe I can. But it’s not my area.”

“But that you even managed this much,” Banner says, shaking his head. “It must have taken...” He shakes his head again. “Why would you do it?”

“Because I think we can help each other. You get this, no strings, Doctor. But if you come to work with me, I have everything you need to make it better. And I think the ‘other guy’ can do it. I think you both can. Especially if you have the ability to transform at will.”

“But will it work in both directions?” Banner wants to know. “The other guy isn’t me. People think that he has to be some part of me, and I don’t deny that the potential had to be there for the accident to have happened. But we don’t share thoughts. I rarely remember anything while I’m him.”

“I think he remembers being you,” Tony says. “It’s the only thing that makes sense, behavior-wise. If he isn’t at least partially driven by your personality, he’d be completely amoral, like a toddler acting out. But he isn’t. There is thought, driving him. Maybe not yours specifically, maybe something that split off from you at the point of the accident, but he recognizes things and responds to them with more than just animal intelligence.”

Banner’s expression is pinched. “I think that makes it worse,” he says. “I don’t think I can help you. It’s too dangerous if you’re wrong.”

“You can pull up the footage on the tablet,” Tony says. “You can watch it and see for yourself.”

“That’s classified,” Coulson says, but he sounds resigned rather than angry.

Banner puts the tablet down quickly, as though it might bite. He looks positively ill. “I don’t want to see that,” he says.

“But maybe you need to,” Tony says, but carefully. “Maybe if you watch it, you can stop killing yourself about it.”

Banner looks up sharply. “Is that what I’m doing?” he asks, voice brittle.

“That’s what it looks like from here,” Tony says.

Banner slumps in his chair. “And if I say no, you have a team ready to convince me,” he says dully.

“My team is here,” Tony says. “Because if you freaked out, we wanted to make sure we could keep your attention and lead you out of the city. And because they’re overprotective. But we’re not here to kidnap you, Doctor.”

“You’re sure?” Banner asks. “You’re sure SHIELD isn’t tagging along for the ride?”

Steve watches Coulson run a quick scan on all frequencies, and then shake his head.

“Not this time,” Tony says. “Though I have to say, if you don’t want to be an Avenger, it might be a good idea to pick someplace else to be. I don’t think they’ll try to pick you up -- they’ve known where you are all along, and I know they’ve laid some false trails to keep some other people from pinning you down -- but I can’t be absolutely sure of it.”

“Then I can meet them,” Bruce says. He doesn’t sound like he believes it at all.

Tony reaches up and touches his radio. “Captain?” he asks.

Steve takes a deep breath. “Secure the Quinjet,” he says. “We’re all going to meet Doctor Banner.”

Tony looks pleased. “Probably five or six minutes,” he says. “They’re a half mile away.”

Banner looks surprised, but just nods.

Steve turns away from the monitors and leads them through the edge of the jungle and up to the house where Tony and Banner are waiting. If there’s any talk between the two of them, it happens off radio, and Steve is sure that there is and annoyed at Tony for not keeping the mic open. It’s only a few minutes, but a lot can happen in a few minutes, and Steve doesn’t like being out of touch.

The last thing he expects when he approaches the house Tony and Banner are in is laughter. “...and then he...” Tony gasps.

“With the chairwoman!” Banner agrees. He’s got a deep, throaty laugh. “And the Dean laid one on him, and everyone...”

“...just left him there, and he wakes up with no memory of the night in the conference room with a black eye.” Tony is howling with laughter.

Steve knocks politely on the door frame.

Tony and Banner both swing around to look at him. Tony looks glad to see him. Banner looks like he doesn’t believe what he’s seeing.

“Not the original,” Banner says flatly.

“The one and only,” Tony says firmly. “We found him in the ice.”

Banner stares. “You’re part of the Initiative?” he asks finally.

“I am. Tony, as you know, is Iron Man. This is the Black Widow--” Bruce jerks, like he recognizes her name. “--and this is Hawkeye. The gentleman in the suit is Agent Coulson. He’s our handler.”

Coulson snorts. “Which means I try to tell them what to do, fail, and cover it up in my reports by making it look like they did what I told them to do in the first place.”

Banner’s lips quirk a little. “And this is it?” he asks Tony, turning serious eyes on him.

“This is my team,” Tony says. “I trust them not to fuck this up. SHIELD wanted to send in the armed and armored boys.”

“Tony avoided it by leaving two days early,” Clint volunteers. He offers a hand to Banner. “It’s good to meet you, doc.”

Banner takes it gingerly and shakes Clint’s hand. Then they go through a round of hand-shaking. By the end of it, Banner seems a little more relaxed.

“How long have I been on SHIELD’s radar?” he asks Coulson.

“Since Harlem,” Coulson says solemnly. “Since you fought the Abomination of your own free will.”

Banner seems to consider that. “It wasn’t entirely of my own free will.”

“There wasn’t a single civilian casualty caused by the Hulk,” Coulson says.

Banner looks like he’s received a nasty shock, but recovers quickly. “So you think you can control him,” he says.

“We think you can control him,” Tony says. He turns his back on Banner and rummages around in the bottom of the wet bar. He takes out a bottle of bluish liquid and a syringe. “I brought enough to last for a while, but it has to be kept cold.”

“And you want me to shoot up with your untested serum now, because?” Banner asks.

“Because I want to talk with... the ‘other guy,’” Tony says. Steve keeps the rest of them from moving or showing surprise with a quick glance even as he’s cursing Tony for keeping this part of the plan from him. “The suppressant works on gamma spikes, not on low level gamma radiation. If you’re calm, and you’re medicated, you should be able to transform in a state that’s as close to calm as you or he can get.”

“Talk to...” Banner says, aghast. “He’ll rip you apart!”

“I don’t think he will, but I’ve got my suit. I can change into it first. And the rest of them will make sure there are no hiccups in the plan.” Tony pauses. “Look at it from my perspective, Doctor. Getting agreement from just you doesn’t make sense. It just means that the next time the ‘other guy’ makes an appearance, he’ll be confused and disoriented.”

“You’re assuming he’s going to remember this at all,” Banner says, but Steve can feel the nerves in his voice, and Banner makes short work of attaching the syringe and plunging it into the bend of his elbow. “I’m not even sure I want to agree to it.” Banner sinks into a chair, shaking. “Put on the suit,” he says. “And. If the rest of you could step out. He doesn’t do well with being surrounded.”

“So you’re going to do this?” Tony says, sounding pleased.

“There’s basically no safer way to test the serum,” Banner says, and passes a hand over his face. “Swear to me that you’ll get the hell out as fast as you can if it looks like he’s going to turn violent.”

“You’ve been doing this,” Tony says, sounding less surprised than satisfied. “Letting him out in controlled circumstances.”

“I have to,” Banner says, shaking his head tiredly. “The longer I wait between incidents, the worse the incidents are when they come. There’s a cave I go to.” He shakes his head again. “I still think you’re insane.”

Steve half agrees, but Tony just pops the case and presses his fists into the armor. It clicks and whirs to life, shielding Tony from sight within just a few seconds.

“That’s not your strongest suit,” Banner says.

“No. Carrying the strongest one around it awkward. But it is my fastest suit, so it’s a toss up as far as a means of escape goes.” Tony pauses. “How do you know?”

Banner smiles slightly. “When you fight, it’s always in the red and gold. The case is for emergencies, in case you have to fight without warning.”

“You’ve been watching my footage. I’m flattered, Doctor,” Tony says.

“When I get the chance.” He pauses this time. “You haven’t been in the field with your team yet. I think I’d have heard if Captain America put in an appearance.”

“We’re still putting it together. The rest of the team handled one small incident, but there weren’t any civilian witnesses. But the team isn’t really complete. We want you, and another guy that’s proving a little hard to contact.”

Banner is physically calmer with the serum in his body. “If I could just use it all the time,” he mutters.

“Too much gamma in your blood,” Tony says. “You’d die. But I mentioned that I have everything you could possibly need to re-engineer the compound and make it better.”

“You mentioned,” Banner says, sounding almost amused. He glances around at the others. “Step out?” he asks politely, but firmly.

Steve leads them out, far enough away that they can’t be easily seen, but still close enough to hear what’s going on. It’s a quiet night. Sound carries.

“Does it usually take stripping down?” Tony asks, sounding kind of amused.

“No, but this is one of two sets of clothes I own, and I’d rather not shred them,” Banner replies, a little wry.

“You’re taking this part far better than I thought you would,” Tony says.

“Oh, I still think you’re crazy,” Banner says. “But I’m reasonably sure you can get out if things get violent, your team is here to help corral him if necessary, and how else am I supposed to find out if the serum works?” There is a short silence. “Besides, I heard somewhere that you were a genius.”

“Not my area,” Tony says. “But yeah. I’ve been working on it for months. I knew you were up next. It seemed like the thing to do.”

“The rest of your team seemed surprised,” Banner notes.

“I didn’t see the point in telling them until I felt confident enough that it would work.”

“Well, this is the endgame. If it doesn’t work...”

“It’s going to work, Banner,” Tony says. “It’s all I’ve got. It has to.”

“Bruce,” Banner says quietly. “I think if you’ve been experimenting for months on a way to make the other guy controllable, you can call me Bruce.”

“Good luck, Bruce,” Tony says, which is directly followed by the crackling-liquid sounds of Banner’s transformation, accompanied by screams that are clearly more anguished than enraged. When it passes, there are several seconds of silence.

Then a massive voice booms, “Banner let Hulk out?” It sounds more puzzled than anything.

“I asked him to,” Tony says, voice flattened and mechanical through the suit.

“Who?” Hulk asks suspiciously.

“Tony Stark,” Tony says. “They also call me Iron Man.”

“Metal suit,” Hulk says almost thoughtfully. “Hulk can still smash.” But it doesn’t come across as a threat as much as it does a simple statement of fact.

Tony laughs. “Yeah, I don’t doubt it. But I’d rather you didn’t.”

There is a low creak and a crunch from inside; before Steve can panic, Tony says, “Sure, pull up some floor. Make yourself comfortable.”

“Hulk see metalman better closer,” Hulk says casually.

“Yeah, okay. That makes sense, since Banner is nearsighted,” Tony says. He sounds excited.

“Why talk to Hulk?” Hulk asks.

“Because I’m trying to get you and Banner to join a special fighting team, and it seemed wrong to ask him and not ask you,” Tony says seriously. “Since you’ll be doing a lot of the fighting.”

Several seconds go by in silence. “You make... drug?” Hulk eventually asks.

“Yeah. Something to help Banner control the transformation,” Tony says. He doesn’t sound scared, exactly, but he’s clearly nervous.

“To lock Hulk up?” Hulk’s voice is a growl.

“No,” Tony says seriously. “To make it so that when Banner transforms, you don’t come out enraged or hurt or confused. So that he can let you out like this, to talk to, when you’re safe.”

“Hulk never safe,” Hulk says. The sadness in his voice is so wide that Steve feels it behind his breastbone.

“We want to change that,” Tony says gently. “We want to make you and Banner safe.”

“Banner puny,” Hulk says matter-of-factly. “Never safe.”

“We’d do our best to keep him safe until you can come out and protect him,” Tony says. “Protect all of us, really.”

Hulk grunts. “Who all?”

“My team,” Tony says. “We want you to be part of our team.”

“Want Banner? Or want Hulk?” Again, there is such a breadth of sadness behind the words that Steve actually craves something to do to help ameliorate it.

“Both,” Tony says. “Sometimes Banner, sometimes Hulk. It depends on what we’re doing.”

“Hulk fight,” Hulk says, matter-of-factly again.

“You’d be great in a fight,” Tony agrees. “We could really use your help.”

“Who we?” Hulk asks again.

“Do you want to meet them? They’re outside waiting.”

Coulson and Steve exchange a look -- this is about as dangerous as it gets -- but Steve sees on Coulson’s face the same thing he feels on his own: resignation. No matter what, if Banner agreed, they’d all have to meet the Hulk at some point. This calm, curious version of him seems like it might be the best option.

“Meet,” Hulk agrees, and Steve hears another crunching sound as the Hulk presumably stands up. “One,” Hulk adds.

“I’m up,” Steve says, and no one argues with him.

Tony, on the earpiece, says, “Come on in, but just one of you.”

Steve crosses the dirt dooryard and has to duck a little to get through the door. Tony is still safely encased in metal, and the Hulk is... well, Steve having to duck through the door is nothing to the way that the Hulk is half crouching.

“I’m Steve Rogers,” Steve says, carefully meeting the Hulks eyes. “They also call me Captain America.” He’s abruptly glad he’s got his cowl down. The Hulk looks him over carefully, looking a little pensive.

“You gun?” Hulk asks.

“No,” Steve tells him. “I don’t like guns, but sometimes I have to use them.” He holds out his hands to demonstrate his gunlessness.

“Not hurt Hulk,” Hulk says firmly. “Guns puny.”

“I wouldn’t try to hurt you, with or without a gun,” Steve says just as firmly. “I don’t hurt my team members.”

“Want Hulk fight?” Hulk asks.

“If you want to fight with us, I’d like that,” Steve says.

Hulk considers him for a long moment. “Who?” he asks.

“Who else?” Steve guesses, and Hulk gives him a ponderous nod. “Clint Barton,” Steve says. “We sometimes call him Hawkeye. He uses a bow, not a gun.”

“See Hawk-guy,” the Hulk says, and Steve has to bite his lip a little to keep from grinning. He doesn’t know how he can tell, but he’s sure Tony is laughing behind the faceplate.

“I heard that,” Hawkeye says over the earpiece. “Am I coming in?”

“Just take it slow and easy,” Steve says, and takes a few steps inside to clear the door.

Clint comes in with his bow slung over his back and his hands out to the sides.

“Hawk-guy,” Hulk says.

“Close enough,” Clint says. “How’re you doin’, big guy?”

“No guns?” Hulk questions.

“I know how to use guns,” Clint says, “but I prefer my bow.” He reaches over his shoulder and tugs at the end of it. “I would never use a gun on you.”

For whatever reason, Hulk seems inclined to take Clint at his word.

“Woman,” Hulk says, and Steve’s brows arch. Can the hulk smell the difference between a man and a woman? Does he have super senses, to go along with all that destructive strength?

Natasha steps in the door, hands out. She’s got at least three guns on her, and isn’t trying to hide it. Steve can smell the slight sour smell of fear on her, but she comes forward fearlessly.

“Natasha Romanov,” she says, voice tight but steady. “I use guns. I don’t have super powers.”

“Super powers?” Hulk asks, looking at Steve.

“She’s not very strong like you or covered in metal like Tony,” Steve explains. “She needs her guns to survive.”

The Hulk seems to consider this. Then he says, “Smell like tea.”

Natasha seems to smile automatically at this. “I had a cup of rooibos in the jet to calm my nerves,” she says. “Like Doctor Banner had some of the drug Tony made to help you be calm.”

The Hulk seems to accept that. “If no…” he looks at Steve, “super power, why fight?”

“Because I’m good at it; it’s what I know how to do.” She says firmly, “I am not puny.”

The Hulk seems to consider this as well. “Not puny for human,” he says finally. “Should teach Banner.” Something edges Hulk’s voice; it takes Steve a moment to realize it’s humor. “Banner puny.”

“We’ll teach Doctor Banner anything he wants to know that he thinks might help,” Tony says.

“Teach Hulk?” Hulk wants to know.

“What do you want to learn?” Tony asks, the armor filtering out the interest Steve is sure Tony is feeling.

The Hulk pauses for a long time. “Letters,” he finally says.

“You want to learn to read?” Tony asks.

“Banner read,” Hulk says. “Hulk bored.”

“We can certainly try,” Steve says, feeling almost as bad for Hulk as he does for Banner.

“Hulk not monster,” Hulk says. “Hulk saves Banner. Team save Banner?”

“Team save Banner and Hulk,” Steve says seriously. “You are just as important.”

Hulk looks at Steve for long moment, as though trying to read him. He eventually says, “Don’t smell lying.”

“I try never to lie to a friend,” Steve says gently. “We’ve got one more member of our team to meet. Are you ready?”

Hulk nods ponderously.

Coulson comes in on cue, his hands out and splayed. He looks nervous, but Hulk’s face lights up with recognition. “SHIELD fight soldiers,” he says. “Stop them follow Hulk!”

“Hello, Hulk,” Coulson says. And then to the rest of them, “We’ve met once before. I didn’t think you’d remember me.”

“Blow up soldier-tanks,” Hulk says. “More hair.”

Clint snorts out a helpless laugh.

Natasha says, “Your classified field agent file must be interesting reading, sir.”

“Hulk fight for SHIELD?” Hulk wants to know.

“Hulk fight for Avengers,” Tony says. “SHIELD helps Avengers.”

“What name?” he asks Coulson.

“Phil Coulson,” Phil says.

“Hulk trapped,” Hulk tells them, looking at them all briefly to show that he’s talking to everyone. “Tired. Phil Coulson make…” He seems to be struggling to find a word the wants, and finally settles on “...path.”

“No one wants to let the Army get their hands on you, Hulk,” Coulson says. “SHIELD saw you were in trouble. They sent me to help.”

“Phil Coulson,” Hulk repeats. “Saved Hulk.” He sounds a little stunned, but he also sounds a lot more like he might accept their help. He looks at Phil again. “What Hulk fight?” he asks. “Not kill puny humans.”

“We don’t know yet,” Steve says. “Probably not humans unless they attack us first. We think other super-powered people or hostile alien forces.”

Hulk looks puzzled. “Alien?”

“Non-human,” Tony says.”Things like the Abomination.” Hulk bares his teeth briefly at the name.

Hulk is silent for several long seconds. “Banner agree?”

Tony tosses a look at Steve, and Steve fields the question. “Not yet. Doctor Banner won’t agree unless you do.”

Tentatively, Hulk says, “Banner better. Let Hulk out in cave, let Hulk run and smash.”

“He’s starting to understand that you need things,” Tony says. “He’s trying to figure out how to give you things you need.”

“Hated Hulk,” Hulk says. “Now worries.”

“He’s still learning,” Tony tells Hulk.

Hulk sinks back down onto the floor, crushing it in several spots, his shaggy head held low. “Banner let Hulk out now he has drug?” he wants to know.

“Anything that would have brought Hulk out before to protect Banner will still let you out,” Tony says. “All the drug does is make sure you aren’t scared or confused when Banner lets you out.” Tony pauses. “I can’t promise you, but I think Banner will let you out more.”

“Hulk tired,” he says. “Hulk be on team if Banner want.”

Then he’s shrinking down rapidly, skin mottling from green to pink, and Doctor Banner is sitting in a crater in the floor, naked.

“Can someone please hand me my pants?” he asks.

Coulson passes him his stack of clothes and they all turn their backs while he puts them on, except Tony, of course, who has no sense of propriety whatsoever.

“He said…” Tony begins, but Banner waves a hand at him.

“I know what he said,” he says. “I was there.” He looks at Tony. “I wasn’t in control, but I was aware, and I was there.” He sounds like he doesn’t know if he should be amazed or traumatized by the fact. “It must be like that for him, at least some of the time,” Banner says dazedly. “He mentioned me reading. He…” He shakes his head. “The formulae has a hexaquadragon base. If I could build it up to a stable dodecahedron… we might be able able to actually… talk.” He looks at Tony. “Maybe not all the time, but some of the time. It’s chemically a stretch, but I wouldn’t have guessed you could have taken it as far as a hexaquadragon, and it’s not even your area.”

“Before you commit to anything,” Tony says, drawing back the faceplate, “you should know. We’re not here totally out of the goodness of our hearts. We want you; you’ve been included in the file for the Avengers Initiative since the very beginning. But the reason we’re here right now, is because Hydra managed to hack SHIELD just enough to obtain the information on the Initiative. So we want you, but even if you don’t want us, you have to get the hell out of here and keep yourself out of circulation as much as you can. Hydra is going to be looking for you.”

Banner actually smirks a little. “The other guy and I agree that Hydra doesn’t count as puny humans,” he says. “If they do find me, they’re going to be sorry. But it’s immaterial. I won’t sign a contract until I see how this is going to work out, for me and for the other guy. But I’m willing to do a trial basis, in exchange for Tony Stark’s laboratory equipment and tools.”

“You could have those anyway,” Tony says, with a dismissive wave of one hand. “But for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re going to regret this, Bruce.”

Banner looks a little dubious, but says, “There’s only one way to find out, really.”

In the Quinjet, on the way back, Tony sits next to Banner and distracts him from what is a very clear desire not to be in a flying vehicle. Steve watches them, more than listens; they’re talking science, and a lot of it Steve doesn’t understand. But they’re tipped toward one another, knees bumping, talking with their hands and touching almost casually, Tony grabbing Banner’s arm when he gets excited about something, Banner leaning over, arm under and tangled around Tony’s, to do something on Tony’s tablet.

Steve likes Bruce Banner as well as he can, for as little as he knows him. But there is definitely something he doesn’t like about watching him interact with Tony, watching Tony interact back.

Steve reports to Fury, confirming that the package has been secured; Fury wants Banner on SHIELD property, which Steve shuts down without even considering it, no matter how he actually feels about the man.

Banner would feel abandoned and betrayed and locked up, and Steve understands exactly how badly that would go.

Steve eventually ends up telling Fury that SHIELD isn’t capable of containing Banner if he has an incident, and that Tony might, and that Banner will be staying with them, at the tower. Almost incidentally, he adds that he wants Barton and Romanov with them as well -- they both listen to him say this without objecting -- and that having all of them together just increases their chances of taking care of Doctor Banner if it becomes necessary to do so.

Tony apparently overhears just enough of this to nod in Steve’s direction, and shoot a cheeky grin at Clint and Natasha.

“He’s going to ask if the two of you need separate quarters,” Steve predicts, just to give them fair warning. “If you have to hurt him, try not to do it too badly.”

Clint laughs and Natasha kind of smirks. It’s Clint that asks, “What about Coulson?”

Coulson shakes his head. “I’ve got to be at SHIELD, at least most of the time,” he says. “It’s in the Initiative’s best interest if I’m there running interference for you.”

“Tony will assign you quarters anyway,” Steve predicts, smiling a little this time.

Coulson doesn’t look surprised.

The flight is long, which only Steve seems to notice. Clint and Natasha stay up front in the pilot’s section; Steve can hear them talking, but doesn’t make any attempt to use his enhanced senses to hear what they’re saying. Coulson is up to his elbows in his laptop, probably trying to make them sound as little like idiots as possible, and Tony and Banner keep their heads together the whole trip, talking about things Steve doesn’t understand and laughing at things that Steve doesn’t understand why they are funny.

Steve feels like there is a thundercloud rolling around inside his brain by the time they land at the tower, and Tony invites Banner to come take a quick look at the labs.

Steve isn’t sure where that leaves him. Should he make his way to his own suite and settle in there for the night, or will Tony expect him in the penthouse? Steve isn’t even sure which of those options he’d prefer.

Except his mind seems to be in a state of turmoil that Steve wants Tony to… He doesn’t even know. Just that he wants Tony to help him ease down into that space in his head where nothing is complicated, so he stops at his suite to change out of the suit and get pajamas, though he isn’t sure he’ll be invited to stay the night, and makes his way to the penthouse. He stands between Tony’s bedroom door and the door to the prop bedroom for almost a minute, trying to decide if he’s still welcome in Tony’s private space. The idea that he might not be makes him tense enough that he chooses to invite himself into it.

He leaves his pajamas on Tony’s chest of drawers and sort of stands there, waiting.

It’s close to half an hour before he hears voices, and when he steps out into the hall, Tony and Banner are still talking animatedly, and Steve realizes he’s jealous without having any idea what to do about it. He recognizes that he’s overreacting to the situation.

Of course Tony and Banner have things to talk about. They’re in a league with each other, intellectually, and it’s probably something neither of them get to experience that often. But Steve doesn’t like the way they’ve fallen together like they’ve known each other for years, and he definitely doesn’t like Tony bringing Banner to the penthouse.

When he’s been standing there for another fifteen minutes and neither of them notice him there, Steve says, “Tony,” in a way that is more of a demand than a request for attention, and then isn’t sure how to unsay it in that way.

Tony looks at him, brows a little arched, and then gives him a single nod. “Let me just get Doctor Banner settled in one of the suites, and I’ll be right back with you,” he says, and the inflection in his voice is odd, too, though Steve isn’t sure exactly what makes it odd.

Banner is looking between the two of them curiously, his intelligent eyes a little veiled, and makes no objection to Tony leading him to the elevator. When the two of them step inside and the door closes, Steve lets out a harsh breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and goes back into Tony’s room.

There is an unpleasant mish-mash of feeling grinding in his chest that he isn’t sure what to do about. Despite what he’d told Tony about being jealous and being able to break in half anyone that caused it, Steve really doesn’t have much experience with being jealous. He can’t even say what his problem really is, except that Tony had been so instantly easy with Banner, and that it was clearly mutual, and that Tony had left to see the labs with Banner without even telling Steve what he should do about tonight.

Which doesn’t make sense, either. Steve wouldn’t have expected Tony to mention anything in front of the rest of the rest of the Initiative anyway. He paces the length of Tony’s room several times, trying to settle down and figure out what he’s really feeling, but Tony returns before Steve can work it out, and before Steve really knows what he’s doing, he catches Tony and sort of herds him into a corner, and kisses him. Tony’s hands come up, either to encourage or discourage, Steve isn’t sure, but Steve catches them both between his and Tony isn’t resisting Steve kissing him in any way, but he’s also not kissing Steve the way Tony usually kisses, which is all demand and heat and force.

Steve is already pulling back a little, confused, when Tony says, “Careful with my hands; they’re how I make my living, you know.”

Steve releases his hands immediately and backs away across the room, feeling a little like he’s been punched in the chest at the idea that he might have been hurting Tony. “I…” he says. “I would never hurt you.”

“I know,” Tony says, and turns away from Steve for a moment to kick his shoes off, leaving them in the corner. He’s watching Steve while he does it, though, head turned a little, and even though he’s in motion, there’s something strangely still about him.

Steve isn’t sure how to react to that oddness at all, or the way that Tony is watching him carefully, like he doesn’t know what Steve will do, and is just waiting to decide how to respond to it.

They both stand there for long seconds, lots of space between them, and Steve’s uncertainty about the situation is boiling up into something dark and anxious.

“What do you want, Steve?” Tony asks, his voice very steady. Tony’s use of his first name always means something, even though Steve has never been entirely able to pin down what, but this time it feels a little like a blow.

“I want, what do I always want?” Steve snaps, and then hesitates when he hears the tone of his own voice. He reigns it in. “I just want to be here with you.” Except that isn’t what he wants, exactly; he knows it, even though he still isn’t sure what it is that he does want.

Tony looks like he knows that isn’t what Steve wants, too. He says, “We can do whatever you want.” He shrugs out of his shirt, and then bends to take off his socks, but he doesn’t actually look away from Steve at any time, and that steady, focused look is starting to get to Steve.

“I don’t understand,” Steve says. “I want you. I always want you.”

“But how is it that you want to have me?” Tony asks evenly.

“I don’t understand,” Steve says again, though he does, a little. He’s just not sure what to do with it.

“You basically took a bite of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and you’re holding it in your mouth,” Tony says. “You’ve already taken the bite, Steve. Now you have to decide whether to spit it out or chew it up and swallow it down.”

Steve feels a muscle flex in his jaw. Tightly, he says, “I don’t think Biblical metaphors are what this conversation needs, Tony.” But the metaphor itches at Steve anyway, because he’s starting to understand what Tony is getting at, and he doesn’t know what to do about it.

“Okay, then,” Tony says, his voice low and soothing. “Put more factually, tonight you’ve done some unusual things, or at least things that are unusual for you. You’ve exerted control over my interactions with another person, you’ve placed immediate demands on my time, and you’ve initiated control over a sexual situation. These things taken together can be reasonably construed to mean that you want something from me. What is it you want, Steve?”

And Steve is following Tony’s logic just fine. It’s just that, put all together like that makes it sound like Steve had some kind of goal in mind, and he didn’t, doesn’t. He doesn’t know what he wants. “I just want…” he says uncertainly, and shakes his head. “I want to be with you.”

“And you’ll wait for four days while I’m in the workshop without a word, but won’t wait half an hour while I get Bruce a place to sleep?” Tony asks, but gently, like he already knows the answer.

“I didn’t mean to…” Steve starts, but he knows it’s a lie, and can’t finish. “I can’t explain,” he says, more truthfully.

“You did mean to,” Tony says. “And that’s okay, Steve. I will lay down and let you do whatever you want to me, if you want that. Not just right now, but probably almost any time you want that. You just have to decide if that’s what you want. It’s your choice.”

Steve almost flinches at the word ‘choice.’ He doesn’t know enough about what’s going on to be trusted making choices, and it sounds good, Tony laying back on the bed and letting Steve do anything he wants sounds good, but it’s also somehow unnerving. He wants it like a twisted little hook in his brain at the same time that he thinks it won’t be right, doing it like that, that he’ll do it wrong, or won’t know what to do at all.

“I don’t know how to do things,” Steve says quietly. “Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“Are you planning on hitting me or cutting me up?” Tony asks.

“No, of course not!” Steve cries, and realizes he’s tried to take a further step back from Tony when his heel hits the chest of drawers. “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Then I don’t see how you could do it wrong,” Tony soothes. “It will just be different, not wrong.”

Steve reaches for Tony uncertainly, even though they’re still all the way across the room from each other, but Tony comes to him immediately, his face still calm and steady, and when Steve dips down to kiss him, Tony leans up into it as if this isn’t completely new. There is no pushing to Tony’s kissing, although there is still lots of tongue and Tony nipping at his lips; Steve finds himself making up for the lack of pushing by doing it himself, without really meaning to, just feeling it happen and feeling Tony give way to it, and Steve is abruptly rock hard and itching to press Tony down onto the bed and do things to him. What things, he isn’t sure, but just things that he hasn’t been able to do before, things that Tony’s control always overrides.

Steve angles his body so that Tony is backing toward the bed, his hands on Steve’s arms for balance; Steve’s hands are at Tony’s hips, pushing, and Tony’s breathing is fast in a way that seems to switch Steve’s brain from cautious interest to dedicated intent. Steve slides his hands between them to unbutton Tony’s pants, and Tony stops when Steve stops moving him. Steve slides his fingers into the waist of Tony’s pants and underwear and skins them both down at once.

Tony’s cock is hard, and Steve takes a few seconds to stare at it from up close, his mouth watering as it always seems to when confronted with Tony’s cock, but that isn’t what he wants right now. Or rather, it’s what he wants all the time, but it’s overshadowed by something else right now. It’s enough to know that he could if he wanted to, that he could do it any way he wants to, and maybe he will, but not until he puts Tony where he wants him. He can’t help the way that thrills at his nerves, that he can put Tony where he wants him, that Tony is his to do that to.

He glances up at Tony and sees that his eyes are dark, which makes Steve’s cock jerk where it’s trapped in his jeans, and sends twists of want curling at the back of his brain. When he stands up, Tony’s gaze follows him, and there’s no fear in it, but there is still that careful steadiness, something a little watchful, and that’s good, too, the way that Tony looks like he doesn’t know what to expect at the same time that he looks ready to stop Steve if it goes wrong.

Steve nudges Tony backward a little more, until the bed is right behind him, and then sort of tumbles him onto it, pressing mostly with his body, his hands only guiding, so that Tony doesn’t land wrong. Tony takes an unsteady breath, and Steve thinks of having Tony naked under him while Steve is still dressed, which does something for him, a power thing, he understands, though he isn’t sure why he wants it. Nevertheless, he doesn’t do anything but kick off his shoes while he urges Tony back further onto the bed with his bulk. He dips down to kiss Tony again, letting himself do it as hard as he wants, and Tony lets him, while Steve’s hands curl around the tops of his shoulders, and then slide up his arms to catch his wrists.

“Steve,” Tony says carefully, and Steve pulls back, some part of him disappointed, sure that Tony doesn’t want this, some part of him maybe a little relieved. But Tony only says, “I don’t like to be held down. It has some not-good connotations for me.” Steve releases his wrists at once, but Tony catches Steve’s hands before he can pull them entirely back. “If what you want is immobilization, though, that’s something I can handle. Reach behind the headboard.”

Steve does, and finds a dangling chain that ends in a buff colored leather cuff. There’s another on the other end of the headboard. Steve’s belly is tight with want and fear.

“So this is okay?” he asks, uncertain but still wanting. “You don’t have…”

“Two totally separate things,” Tony says. “If you want me helpless, you can have that.” He looks completely calm at the idea. No, that’s not true. His eyes are dark and heated, and there is a faint flush on his face; his breathing is unsteady and Steve can see the beat of his pulse in the side of his neck. He’s not calm; he’s excited. He’s not scared. That’s the difference.

Steve’s hands shake a little as he fits the cuffs around Tony’s wrists, and then just leans back to look at him, his hands held a little up off the bed, arms a little outstretched. Steve had never thought to try to picture it, but it’s gorgeous on him. He doesn’t look helpless as much as he just looks held, and Steve is pretty sure that’s how he wants it. He can’t quite get his head around Tony being helpless, but having him held still for Steve is enough to make his blood pound in his cock and his throat.

Steve, almost without thought at all, shifts himself to kneel between Tony’s thighs; Tony spreads them wider to give him room.

Steve surprises himself -- and Tony, if his gasp is anything to go by -- by reaching first for Tony’s balls, weighing them in one hand, and exploring the texture of the skin with his fingertips. He’s never has his hands on Tony here, though he’s had his mouth on him. Tony’s cock jumps against his belly, and Steve tugs at them a little roughly, the way that Tony sometimes tugs at his. Tony makes a low noise that makes Steve shiver, but doesn’t make him stop.

Then he lets his hands wander over Tony, a thing he’s done before, either deliberately, like the first time in Tony’s office, or just reactively, after things were mostly finished and his hands had just wandered. He touches Tony’s belly button, though, just drags his thumb across it, and Tony’s nipples, not tentatively, but rough, he wishes he had nipple clamps, really, but he pulls and twists and Tony grates out sharp sounds of pleasure once they start to look reddened and swollen from the attention. Then Steve can’t resist using his mouth on them as well, feeling the tightness of them, and the way they taste a little different from the rest of Tony’s skin, a little raw, maybe, from the way that Steve had handled them.

Tony’s hips rock up off the mattress and his cock bumps against Steve’s chest, and Steve doesn’t try to do anything about it, likes it, even, that Tony wants to touch Steve enough to rock up against his shirt.

He shifts his focus a little, and he has wanted to put his mouth on Tony’s scars for a long time, since he had first seen them, and he’s never had the chance. If he moves his hands over them, even, Tony usually moves away. And now Tony can’t move away, and Steve doesn’t bother with his hands. He licks at them, feeling the texture of them under his tongue, and he can tell which ones that Tony can feel by the way that Tony shivers, and he mouths at those, memorizes them, even drags his teeth across them gently. Tony makes a low, tight sound that Steve understands isn’t entirely pleasure, though it’s not pain either. Not physical pain. Tony doesn’t really understand. He thinks of the scars as something apart from him, done to him, and Steve understands that. But to Steve, they are just some of the hundreds of inches of skin that Steve wants to touch, part of Tony like the arc reactor. But he doesn’t want to hurt Tony, not even in a non-physical way, so he moves on, down the muscles of Tony’s belly.

When he pushes at Tony’s thighs, Tony spreads them immediately, and Steve buries his face in the crease between one of Tony’s thighs and groin, just to breathe there, inhale the way Tony smells, all male musk. He bites Tony there, carefully, and Tony’s back arches. He lets out a little cry that is surprise and pleasure mingled, and Steve’s hands capture Tony’s hips and hold them while he does the same to the other thigh, biting harder this time, trying to find Tony’s limit. Tony just groans, though, doesn’t try to stop Steve until Steve is concerned enough to stop himself. He licks at the bite mark, and feels Tony’s balls shift and pull up against his cheek.

He wants to pull open his pants and get a hand on his cock, but he’s not ready for it to be over. He levers his body up and buries his face in Tony’s neck, licking and then biting hard enough that Tony’s body goes tight with it, but the sound he makes is a helpless sounding huff of breath that glints sharply in Steve’s mind, just the way that it sounds helpless (even though he doesn’t want Tony to be helpless, but it feels good anyway, that sound). Then he sucks at the skin around the bite, aware that he’s going to leave a mark and that people will see it unless Tony makes a serious attempt to hide it. Steve doesn’t care. Steve wants them (Banner) to know anyway.

“Kiss me now,” Tony says, but it’s not an order. It’s a request, and a shaky one. Steve licks at Tony’s lower lip and Tony tips his face up, mouth open, until Steve dips down again and kisses him. Tony’s mouth is frantic in a way that it usually isn’t; Steve has felt Tony kiss with desperation, but never with this, where it feels like Tony is almost speaking into the kiss, like he might be begging silently. His hips are rocking up again, pressing his cock against Steve’s belly, and Steve could kiss him like this forever, really.

“I want,” Steve says, almost stammers, but is determined to get it out. “I want to do something to you.”

“You can do whatever you want,” Tony says, breathless and obviously sincere. He’s still flushed, his eyes dark, but they look a little hazy now.

“I mean something that, what’s something that you’ve never done to me?” Steve asks. “Something you like that you’ve never done to me. I want to do something like that, something first.”

Tony’s eyes clear just a little, though his breathing doesn’t slow, and his cock is still pressed tightly to Steve’s belly. “I’ve mentioned it, but I haven’t done it yet,” Tony says. “You could rim me.” Then Tony shivers just a tiny bit, and Steve is hungry for anything that would make Tony respond like that just at the idea of Steve doing it to him.

“How?” Steve asks, one of his hands trailing across Tony’s chest again.

“It’s, uh,” Tony says. “You understand how to perform oral sex on a woman?”

“In theory,” Steve says, frowning a little.

“Rimming is performing oral sex on a man, on and in his ass,” Tony says. “There are a lot of nerves back there, and it can be… really good. Some guys don’t like doing it. It’s okay if you don’t like doing it, Steve.” But Tony is still shivering a little, his cock jumping.

“You’d have to turn,” Steve says, thinking.

“You can put the cuffs back on once I get up on my knees,” Tony says, and Steve can hear the pounding of his heart, literally.

Steve reaches up and undoes the cuffs, and Tony seems to understand something that Steve hadn’t known, because he lays still and waits for Steve to draw him up and turn him. Steve buckles the restraints around Tony’s wrists again, and then backs up, thinking. He catches Tony’s hips and tugs him so that his back is a long, gorgeous expanse of muscle, and then presses Tony’s knees apart with the backs of both hands.

Tony’s ass is as gorgeous as it always is, bunched with muscle, and Steve has seen it, but with Tony spread like this, it feel like he’s seeing a secret. Tony’s hole is small and there are soft, dark hairs that Steve explores with a fingertip -- Tony shudders and pants softly. He leans forward and smells Tony; it may not be sexy, but he’s not sure he’s capable of doing this to someone without making sure they smell good first, but Tony does. There is a muskier scent here than there had been between groin and thigh, but there’s nothing that smells bad about it. And Tony has days he spends in the workshop and comes out in clear need of a shower, but for the most part, his personal hygiene is very good.

Steve’s hands look huge spreading apart Tony’s cheeks, Tony is compact, muscular, but not broad. He slides his thumbs close to either side of Tony’s hole and pulls him open, and Tony makes a short, harsh sound.

Steve, feeling like he has no idea what he’s doing, and exactly what he wants to do, at the same time, leans in. He can smell Tony, sweat and male musk, and he flicks his tongue experimentally across the pucker of skin he’s holding stretched with his thumbs. Tony’s body arches and shudders at the same time. Steve runs his tongue along the length of the crack of Tony’s ass in a broad stroke, and then again when Tony gasps, and then when he’s wet and Steve is still holding him open, he slips the tip of his tongue against the pucker of Tony’s asshole. The muscle spasms and Tony is trembling, and Steve wonders if it’s been a long time since anyone has done this for Tony, or if Tony just likes it that much.

He discovers he doesn’t care which it is. He presses with the tip of his tongue, feels the muscle give a little, and then swipes broadly against that tight flesh again, works his tongue around it, licking across and against it, making it wet, and when he leans in and really presses with his tongue, Tony lets out a brief cry as his hole opens up for Steve’s tongue, and Steve pushes in quick and hard, before the ring of muscle can close up again.

“Steve, Steve,” Tony pants, and Steve feels that same sense of sharp possessiveness at Tony using his first name at the same time as he feels a little lost at it. He concentrates on the former, draws his tongue back just a little and then pushes back in further, and Tony rocks back against Steve’s hands as though to fuck himself on Steve’s tongue. Lust digs deeply into the pit of Steve’s belly, and when he pushes his tongue into Tony’s hole again, he lets Tony rock back a little, take it in further, and Tony moans, “Steve,” in an almost begging kind of voice that drags Steve in so that he’s pulling Tony open harder, fucking into him with his tongue while Tony trembles, his hands jerking a little at the restraints. His voice is unsteady when he says, “Fuck me, you can fuck me right now, whenever you’re ready, you don’t even have to do anything else to open me up, I can take it, Steve, you can…”

But Steve doesn’t fuck him, though hearing Tony beg him to is like being on fire from his thighs to his navel, he just keeps at Tony with his tongue, pushing spit into his hole and making his tongue flat and wide once Tony is open enough and he can, and Tony is choking out little sounds that Steve recognizes, but even like this, he doesn’t want to see Tony cry, understands that it won’t do the same thing for Tony that it does for Steve, so he snakes his hand underneath Tony and wraps it around his cock.

Tony goes perfectly still, body like a bronze sculpture, and Steve shoves his tongue into Tony’s hole and jerks Tony’s cock, and it shivers there on the edge for a few seconds that seem very long, but probably aren’t, and then Tony’s hole clenches down around Steve’s tongue -- Steve does not let it be pushed out, just works it in harder -- as Tony’s cock jerks in his hand and Tony makes a harsh, breathless sound of pleasure and relief.

Steve doesn’t pull his tongue free until all the tremors have passed through Tony’s body, and then he jerks back and snaps the restraints around Tony’s wrists clumsily free.

“Steve,” Tony says, still breathless, and Steve flips him onto his back where he can see Tony’s flushed face and dazed eyes. He takes Tony by the shoulder and crawls up his body until he’s straddling Tony’s waist, jerking his pants open and his cock out and into his hand as he does it, and then he’s just dragging his own pleasure out, the head of his cock pressed against Tony’s skin every few seconds as he jerks his cock, but when he comes, when Steve comes it is deliberate, he draws himself up and aims as well as he can and watches his come streak across the blue glow of the arc reactor, feeling a little more like Tony is his with every pulse that streaks across the facing.

“Oh,” Tony says, and his eyes are huge and blown dark, though he still looks a little shocked, but things like that never stop Tony, and he says, “Yeah, that’s what this is all about, so that you can mark me, so that you can cover me in your come and lay a claim, make sure I know that I belong to you, and it had to be there, right there, so there’s no mistaking who I am when you did it.”

Steve blinks at hearing it said right out loud like that, like Tony could read his mind, and he feels himself blushing, but still can’t deny the satisfaction of having done it, of being able to look down and seeing his come painting Tony’s arc reactor.

“I’m yours,” Tony says, and Steve looks up at him, mouth dropping a little open. “If you need to do this to really feel it, you can do it whenever you want, but Steve, I’m yours already, and you’re mine. There isn’t anyone I’d rather be with.” Tony’s eyes are still all pupil, hugely dark, but they’re serious. “You can have this if you need it, but I don’t need it as proof. I already know.”

Steve slowly uncurls his hand from around Tony’s shoulder, and only as he’s doing it does he realize he had… that he’d done the only thing Tony has ever asked him not to do, he had held him down so that he could come where he wanted, had pressed Tony’s shoulder into the mattress and…

“I’m sorry,” he croaks, curling his left hand into a fist and drawing it back away. “Tony, I’m sorry,” he repeats thickly.

“Why are you sorry?” Tony asks, looking genuinely puzzled, reaching for Steve and catching him above the elbows before Steve can retreat down the bed to a safe distance. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t need it to remember you, but it was absolutely one of the hottest things I’ve seen you do, and you can do it every day if it makes you feel… happy, or secure, or however it is it makes you feel.”

“Not, not that, but I, you asked me not to, but when I pulled you over I couldn’t think except that I wanted… that, what you said, to… mark you up, and I held you down.” Steve flexes his left hand and gestures at Tony’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean to, I only wanted to keep you still, but I…”

“You didn’t hold me down,” Tony says calmly. “I would have let you know if I had felt held down. You just used my shoulder for a brace, and that’s fine.”

Steve is trying to blink back the burn of tears behind his eyes, because Tony could have never got out from under Steve’s hand if Steve hadn’t wanted him to, no matter what Tony says, Steve had…

“Steve,” Tony says quietly, making Steve go still. “Quark.”

Tony lets go of Steve’s arms, and Steve backs himself all the way down to the foot of the bed, wrapping his arms around his chest. He’s scared and bewildered at hearing his safeword come out of Tony’s mouth, but he understands that it means to stop.

Tony sits up and closes the distance between them, his knees almost touching Steve’s. “Do you remember what I said about the safe word?” Tony asks. “That we would stop and talk about it so we didn’t make the same mistakes again and again?”

Steve nods. He remembers the conversation clearly. He’d been sitting at Tony’s feet and desperate for Tony’s touch.

“Steve, if you had put your hand there and I had said ‘quark,’ what would you have done?” Tony asks.

“Stopped,” Steve says without thinking. “The safeword means stop.”

“And you would have recognized that even though I had said your safeword, not mine?” Tony asks.

“Yes,” Steve says. “You don’t have one.”

“I do,” Tony says. “It’s quark. We’ve just never been in a position to discuss it, and it didn’t occur to me that you needed telling, because you didn’t need telling. If I had said it, you would have understood it to mean that I was telling you to stop. Right?”

“Yes,” Steve says, hunching over a little, relief welling up behind his breastbone. “I still should have been more careful,” Steve says.

“And I should have explained it better,” Tony says. “When I say I don’t like to be held down, I mean that I don’t like faux-rape. I don’t like to play that game, with me as the victim. It takes me to bad places. Your hand on my shoulder while your jerked off on my arc reactor is not a bad place for me.” He lets out a dark little chuckle. “Is actually a really good place for me,” he says. “No one but you has ever treated it like it was… well, anything other than strange or unsettling.”

“It’s beautiful,” Steve whispers.

“I always kind of thought so,” Tony says. “Then again, I built it with my own two hands three different times to get it really right.” He cocks his head. “If it hadn’t been the arc reactor, where would you have aimed it?”

“Your face,” Steve admits, calming a little at how calm Tony is.

Tony laughs. “That’s a classic.” He reaches out and unwraps Steve’s arms from around his chest, keeping and holding one of Steve’s hands. “How do you feel?” he asks.

Steve has to give the question some consideration. It had been good. Having Tony had been good. But now that it’s not actually happening, he feels unsteady in his mind, like he doesn’t know where he’s standing, and he’s not used to that with Tony, and doesn’t like it. The back of his neck itches with the purveying sense of not-rightness, of not-balance, and he thinks he might do it like this with Tony again some time, but not some time soon. He feels too much like he he’s trying to be something he’s not suited for.

“Unsettled,” he says finally, because he’s not sure how to explain. “A little out of control.”

“I thought you controlled yourself very well, Captain,” Tony says, and Steve feels his body start to uncoil at just that, just that one point of familiarity that indicates how he should be. And though his body uncoils, his cock actually hardens. When he looks up, Tony is watching him carefully. “It was your first time,” he says carefully. “And you got us both off hard. If you want it that way, it will get easier.”

“I… I don’t think,” Steve says. “Maybe if you need me to,” he says in a small voice. “Even maybe I might need to. But I don’t think I want it very much. It doesn’t do the same thing, for me, and I’m not very sure that I like the things it does do.”

“You never have to do it again, if you don’t want it,” Tony says matter-of-factly. “You were good, but I don’t need that to survive, and I don’t want you doing anything that makes you feel bad afterward.”

“Not bad,” Steve says. “But not right. Like I don’t remember now how to feel right.”

“I can make you remember how to feel right, Captain,” Tony says seriously. “But coming back from the other side is a journey. We can take it a few steps at a time over a few days, or I can break you all the way down.”

Steve remembers Tony saying it, that he wanted to break Steve; Steve remembers thinking that he would let Tony do it.

And his skin feels on all wrong, and he doesn’t want to know how long that will last if they go a little at a time. And it’s not even that. It’s that he needs to be brought back, and Tony will know how to do that, and he wants to do it all at once, because Tony will enjoy doing that, Steve knows he will even though Tony’s face is telling him nothing, he knows Tony. Tony wants to push Steve to his limit, he wants to see what it looks like when Steve crumbles.

“It’s better all at once,” Steve says hoarsely, hearing the fear in his own voice. It never really goes away when he knows Tony is going to hurt him, even though he loves it when Tony is doing it. And this is more. Tony has been clear that it is, but Steve hardly needs it. He can feel that this will be more. Maybe that he needs it to be more.

Tony leans over to get to the nightstand and opens the drawer, pulling out a pill bottle. He shakes a small white pill into his hand and swallows it dry.

“What’s that?” Steve asks.

“Something much better than Viagra,” Tony says. “Some of us don’t have an instantaneous refractory period.” He pulls something else from the drawer, and captures the lube that’s sitting on the top of the night stand. “One other thing,” he says. “Take your clothes off.”

Steve half-staggers to his feet and manages to get undressed only a little clumsily.

Tony shows what he’s holding to Steve, and Steve kind of recognizes it. It looks like the toy Tony had made for him. Except instead of a slim part to slide into him, this thing is nearly as wide as Tony’s fist. It narrows near the base, but not that much, just enough to hold it in, and Steve understands that it’s for Tony, so that when he’s ready, he can do what he likes, push right into Steve, have him open already.

Steve crawls back up the bed, pausing, and Tony says, “There is fine.” He smooths a hand along one of Steve’s ass cheeks. “Just try to stay still; I promise, it will fit.”

Steve kind of finds the idea suspect if Tony feels like he has to actually say it, but he holds still. Tony works him open with his fingers first, and this is something Steve is familiar with, something that helps still that unsteadiness, feeling himself going slick and open under Tony’s hands. It isn’t until Tony has worked three fingers inside him for at least five minutes that he attempts the buttplug, and Steve grates out a sound of pain while Tony presses it into him, and has to grab the headboard to keep himself from trying to pull away from it. The first part had gone in fine, but it just gets wider and wider and wider, and Steve feels a little like he had while impaled on the armor’s cock, like he might just not have enough give in his body, and would snap apart. He lets out a desperate moan of relief when it finally slides all the way inside, feeling a little sweaty and shaky from the experience, though it hasn’t killed his erection. He feels how the narrower part is still stretching him, even though it’s smaller compared to the rest. He’s not at all prepared for Tony to urge him to sit up, though, and to feel the thing shift inside him. He’s abruptly concerned about how he’s going to manage to walk.

Tony just rolls him over on his back though; he slides up beside Steve, up on one elbow, looking serious. “I need you to listen to me. Are you in a place where you can do that?”

“Yes,” Steve says, though his voice isn’t entirely steady. It’s less lust and more like he’s off balance, poised between one thing and another thing; he even understands what those things are. The desire to have Tony in that possessive way, and the desire to be taken back away from that feeling, so that he feels about Tony how he’s comfortable feeling about Tony, about what he wants from Tony. “I’m sorry about… I was jealous,” Steve says swallowing hard. “I know that isn’t fair, but…”

“Jealousy isn’t about being fair,” Tony says gently. “It’s about feeling like you’re losing something, and I don’t want you to feel that way about Bruce. So try to think of it a little differently. You’re not losing something. I still want to be with you, and no one else. I’m gaining something, though. Someone I can talk to in a way that I can’t talk to anyone else I know. If you need me to reassure you that that’s all it is, I can do that without you having to shove me down and putting yourself into a state of confusion. But, Steve, I don’t want you to feel like anyone is taking anything from you. I promise, I’m not takable that way. I promise Steve.” Tony’s voice is steady and careful and gentle all at once, but it’s all insistent and sincere.

Steve believes him, and some of that relieves a little of the crush of hurt he hadn’t realized was pressing inside his chest. “I’m sorry,” he says.

“Don’t be sorry. But remember to tell me if you start to feel that way; I can take care of it before it turns into something you don’t like the feel of, if you just tell me you need that, okay?” Tony asks.

“Yeah,” Steve says a little roughly. “I think it’ll be better when I actually know him.” And Steve does think that. He hopes that, anyway.

“Good. Now, for the part I need you to listen to. I told you I can bring you back all the way down, but that it would be hard. I need you to understand that it will be harder than anything I’ve done to you. That I’m going to hurt you more than I ever have, and that I’m going to make you do things and say things that you’ve never said or done. I’ll use the flogger, because out of everything, it’s what really works best for you, but I’ve never used it on you the way that I will tonight, if you decide you want that.” Tony’s eyes are still serious and watchful. “I’ll tear you apart with it, Steve, and I won’t stop until you beg me to stop.”

“Captain,” Steve says, without meaning to.

Tony slips a hand through his hair. “Captain when I’m sure of what you want, when I know we both want the same thing. The Captain will do almost anything I say. Steve when I’m trying to tell you something that you need to understand and agree to ahead of time. Steve when I need you to think.”

Steve blinks a few times, and then nods his understanding.

“The flogger can draw blood, if I want it to, Steve, and it may go that far to put you in the right headspace. And if you need to safeword, you should do that, but if you don’t, I’m not stopping until you beg me to stop, for whatever reason that is, whether it’s because you need something else, or if you need a different kind of pain, but not because it’s too much. If it’s too much pain, you safeword. Do you understand the difference?” Tony’s gaze is piercing now.

“Yes,” Steve whispers.

“And it’s going to have to be some pretty fucking sincere begging, Steve. You’re going to have to make me believe it. And when you stop me, you’d better know why you’re stopping me. You’d better know what it is you’re stopping me to do, whatever it is you still want or need, you’re going to have to tell me that. I’ll give you whatever you need, but you have to be able to articulate it in a way that I can understand. And when that is over, no matter what kind of shape you’re in, I’m going to fuck you until you remember that no matter what else happens between us, your body essentially belongs to me.” Tony pauses for a long moment; Steve can tell it’s a pause, Tony just waiting to see if Steve has any questions or if he’ll object. Steve keeps his mouth shut and waits. “I need you to tell me yes, Steve,” Tony finally says. “Other things, other times, I don’t need this kind of specific permission. You’ve already given me permission. But for something like this, I need you to say yes, understanding what you’re saying yes to.”

“Yes,” Steve says.

“Do you understand?” Tony demands.

“You’re going to break me,” Steve says.

Tony’s expression softens a little. “Not quite. Or not in a way that can’t be fixed, in any case. But I’m going to take you down hard and painfully, and I’m going to make you help me do it.” He pauses again. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Steve. We can do this more gradually over a few days.”

“But I’ll feel like this, like I can’t find my balance, until you do it,” Steve says. “I don’t want to stay like this. So, yes, I understand. I don’t know, but I understand, and I don’t want to wait a few days.”

“Okay,” Tony says gently, and presses a warm, dry kiss to Steve’s mouth. “Okay. Then get up, Captain; you and I have someplace to be.”

Standing is difficult, and actually walking seems almost impossible with the plug inside him. Steve half-staggers as he follows Tony across the hall and into the kink room, breathing unsteadily at the way the thing stretches him, but also how it sometimes moves around just right and sends a bright wash of pleasure through Steve.

Tony pauses for a second, apparently just to make sure Steve is steady on his feet, and then says, “Go to the bar.”

Steve, unsure of how he’s going to deal with the bar with just the plug inside him, let alone the way he sometimes loses control of his knees, walks over to it anyway. Then he blinks a little, and realizes that at some point, Tony had done what he’d said he was going to do. He’d installed a mirror behind the Saint Andrew’s cross, stretching almost all the way across that wall, and the cross itself is different. It looks mostly the same, bulky, immovable, but the metal is a slightly different color and the edges of it are smoother, more rounded. The chains are different, too, that same light colored metal, and Steve feels a little frission of fearful excitement. It almost certainly means that Tony has done something to it, something meant to make it stronger, more likely to resist Steve’s real strength. He shivers a little, and makes himself be still so as not to go investigate it.

The bar is directly above his head, but he can see himself clearly in the mirror. He watches for several seconds, thinking, and then turns around to face the other direction. He wants to see at the same time that he doesn’t want to see, but there’s a quiet kind of itch in his brain that makes him think that he can only handle seeing so much. That he doesn’t want to see now, it makes that divisive sliver in his mind flare, his muscles tense at the idea. He’ll have to watch later, because he doesn’t doubt that Tony is going to put him on the cross at some point, because Tony is light years from stupid, and he’ll understand that the cross is a kind of an anchor point that Steve is going to need. But he can’t imagine the thought of watching now, while he’s still in-between.

Tony watches him position himself, looking thoughtful. “Do you not want to see this part, or do you not want to see at all?” he asks.

“I feel like I can’t look at it yet,” Steve tries. “That seeing too much might be more than I can process. But I’ll have to see when I’m on the cross, so it seemed better not to see this part.”

Tony think about that for several seconds. “Turn back,” he says flatly. “You’re going to watch everything I do to you.”

Steve blinks a little. If he has an explanation for something, Tony usually accepts it. Tony pushes, but if Steve has a reason, like he’d had a reason for wanting the cross in the first place, Tony usually rolls with it. Steve thinks of digging in his heels, and recognizes almost immediately that that is one of the reasons that he’s here. There is some kind of difference between the way he’s reacting to Tony right now than the way he usually does, and Steve doesn’t want that. He wants to be easy under Tony’s hand and Tony’s whip, the way that he feels safe and good. He doesn’t want this halfway state, where he automatically questions what Tony tells him to do.

Steve turns back around slowly, though, because things are different this time. He’d known they were going to be. He just has to trust Tony to know what he’s asking for, and to know how Steve will deal with it.

He can see Tony in the mirror, behind Steve and opening the giant cabinet. There are drawers in it, and Tony pulls open a couple of them, and comes out with something leather, not anything to hit him with or tie him with, but otherwise Steve can’t tell what it is.

Tony doesn’t make him wonder what it is for very long. He circles around Steve and goes down to one knee, unfolding the leather in his hands into what looks like a pair of shorts. Steve frowns, trying to get his head around it, and Tony says, “Step in, Captain,” holding them open for Steve do step into.

“What is it?” Steve asks.

“I’m going to tell you,” Tony says, voice a little hard. “But I won’t be answering any other questions you might have tonight. This is about putting you in your place; I know you know that. Part of that is accepting what I do, Captain, without always getting to know what it is or why I’m doing it. So, this is part of a chastity device. Normally it has equipment built into it, things that make it hard for a man to get hard or have an orgasm, but I’ve taken those parts out. Now all it is is a way to protect your genitals while I hurt the rest of you. Now, step in, Captain.”

Steve, wordless and a little more afraid than usual -- Tony always answers his questions, and ‘putting Steve in his place’ has connotations that seem to make him prickle with something like outrage at the same time that he wants to be in his place -- steps carefully into the leather, and Tony draws it slowly up his legs. The end result is that Steve can see in the mirror that he looks like he’s wearing the skimpiest pair of leather shorts imaginable. They’re tight and oddly smooth, and Tony has to bend his cock far to the right to get it to stay inside, even though there’s a kind of… pouch area in front that cradles Steve’s balls and part of his cock. Steve sees himself in them and feels his whole body flush with humiliation, his face hot with mortification. They look obscene, they feel obscene, something about them makes Steve want to strip them down and walk away.

He doesn’t because that place in his mind is like a hook, like he had felt it earlier, something dissonant that isn’t usually there, something he doesn’t want to keep. He stands still while Tony runs his hands up his thighs to his hips, pressing his fingertips against the leather for a long moment, his face sharp with something that isn’t quite arousal, but more like satisfaction.

Steve’s mind skips backward a little, to the idea that Tony thinks his genitals need to be protected, and then back a little further, to the first time in this room, when Tony said he liked the bar because it meant he could strike from any direction. The deductive leap from there isn’t a hard one to make, and Steve’s belly rolls with heat and fear. Tony has cropped his front before, but he understands that this will be different. He isn’t sure how it will be different, but he knows anyway.

Tony disappears behind Steve again, back to the cabinet, and reaches up onto a shelf, pulling down something that looks like a black leather neck brace to Steve. Tony considers it for a moment, and then reaches further back onto the shelf and pulls out another one, putting the first one back. When Tony comes back, he stands behind Steve, and Steve bites back his questions.

“Tip your chin up,” Tony says, and Steve has to pull against that hook of resistance, indecision, but manages to fight it back and do as Tony asks. Tony does something -- Steve can’t see in the mirror, Tony is behind him -- that clinks a little, and then reaches up with the neck-brace-thing, open now into a wide curl of leather, and wraps it around Steve’s neck. It forces Steve’s chin up, just the shape of it, especially when Tony pulls both ends around behind Steve and tugs a little. It’s not too tight, nothing that hampers Steve’s breathing. He hears clinking again, buckles, Steve decides, and then the thing is around his neck, but that doesn’t really describe what it is, what it feels like. It keeps his neck straight, it keeps his chin up, but it also at least partially immobilizes Steve’s head, or at least makes it hard to move it. He can turn a little to either side, but the back of it seems as tall as the front, and it kind of cradles Steve’s head.

In the mirror, Steve looks and doesn’t know how he feels about what he sees. There is another wash of humiliation, his face flushes deeply, but there’s something about the way it looks that he likes, too, which just makes the humiliation more profound. He’d like to ask what it is, what it’s for, but he does his best to ignore that urge, and just accept what it is, what it does. It keeps his face tipped up. It actually supports the weight of Steve’s head in a way that makes Steve relax a little without being sure why. It feels a little like the way bondage feels for him. Like being held still and supported at the same time. He watches his own blush fade, and Tony runs his fingertips along the leather as he circles around to stand in front of Steve again.

“I don’t want to hit you in the face,” Tony says, which is apparently all the explanation he’s willing to give, but Steve can see how the thing, the collar, he guesses, would keep Steve from tipping his head down, and he knows that when Tony hits him, his head falls forward a lot of the time. Tony’s face is still sharp, but there is heat in his eyes now. “You’re going to stay on your feet,” he says flatly, an order. “If you can manage to come in those shorts, be my guest.”

“Okay, Tony,” Steve says, voice rasping a little.

“Scared?” Tony asks.

Steve would normally nod, but finds that he can’t do it in the collar.

“Yes,” he admits.

“Good,” Tony says. “I’m warning you now, both because you might need the warning, and because you should know this is not something that’s safe to do to a submissive that is not Captain America,” Tony says. “I’ll be hitting you in places I would never hit a regular person. If at some point in the future you’re ever on the other end of the flogger, make sure you find out well ahead of time where it’s safe to hit someone.”

Steve can only hazily imagine himself being on the other end of the flogger, even though Tony hasn’t hidden the fact that he might want that at some point (and… and it’s easier to imagine now that he’s had Tony under him like that, but Steve pushes that back, lets it stay hazy; there isn’t any point to this if he doesn’t at least try to cooperate), but he says, “Okay, Tony,” again, because he’s not sure what else to say.

Tony walks away to the wall of dangling leather things and takes down the flogger that Steve is familiar with. Steve’s skin prickles, and he feels a drag of lust and fear at the sight, but he’s still tight with the kind of tension he doesn’t usually feel at this point. Tony takes down something else, too, something that looks a lot like the flogger, except shorter. The longer flogger Tony leaves on the counter by the cross, like a promise. The shorter he brings over to Steve.

Steve understands why the shorter flogger without having to have it explained to him.

“Hands up,” Tony says. “You’ll find grips; wrap your hands around them.”

Steve looks up at the bar as much as the collar will let him; he isn’t happy with the freestanding nature, the not-bondage of it. He’s pretty sure Tony could put him on the cross on his back. On the cross, Steve wouldn’t have to worry about the place in his mind that can see smears of his own come still a little slick on the arc reactor. He could let go.

“I’m going to tell you, because maybe I wasn’t clear,” Tony says, low and calm. “The trip from one side to the other, especially this quickly, is a journey, Captain, and one that you’re not equipped to make on your own, not when you’ve never done it before. If you don’t do this, you’re going to find yourself hung up in your mind about what you want. We can still do this gradually. It doesn’t have to be done like this, like a dial being turned abruptly from one end of the spectrum to the other. But you said you wanted it this way. If that’s still the case, then put your hands on the fucking bar.”

Tony’s tone is so level and quiet that Steve reels a little at what is clearly a threat and an order, and he’s relieved when his arms go up mostly of their own volition, and he grips the bar in both hands, searching for the grips and finding them, indentations in the metal, grooves that his fingers slip into naturally, but he can feel himself bristling too, can feel his jaw clenching and the tension in his muscles.

It’s clear that Tony is right. Steve isn’t thinking clearly; the having Tony, the possessing him, there is something about it that hangs in his mind. Yesterday, Tony wouldn’t have even have had to ask Steve to reach for the bar, let alone given him an order. Steve feels the prickle of it without knowing what to do to stop it, and he does want to stop it. It had been good to have Tony like that, but it doesn’t feel good now. It’s just confusing and upsetting, but he doesn’t know how to make it stop, and he hates the lack of the easy way it usually is, where it all feels natural, and Tony telling him what to do is welcome, not something that makes him want to snarl.

He wonders if Tony had known it was going to be like this for Steve; he doesn’t think Tony had. Tony would have warned him, Steve is almost sure. Tony isn’t having any trouble, but presumably Tony has made the switch back and forth before. And maybe it’s the way it had all started, with the jealousy. Maybe if it had just been something Steve had wanted to try, without that negative base emotion, maybe it wouldn’t be like it is. Steve tries to keep the idea of it in mind, to not decide he never wants to try again because of the way he feels right now.

Tony slides his fingers through Steve’s hair, his face a little gentler now. “That’s a step,” he tells Steve softly. “There will be more steps, but this is the first one, and I know it was hard. But you did it, and you’re going to be okay. I promise. Do you believe me?”

“Yes,” Steve says hoarsely, and he does, but… “I don’t feel right, Tony. Something in my head doesn’t feel right.”

“I know,” Tony says. “Doing things the other way around takes a different mindset, a different way of thinking, and you don’t know enough about it to ease back from it. So we’ll do it this way, and it will work, I promise, but I’m going to ask you one more time anyway, because this is important, Steve. This is going to be hard; we don’t have to do it all right now.” Tony doesn’t look worried, but the look he’s giving Steve is intent, like he’s trying to read in Steve’s face whether or not he understands.

Steve will freely admit that he doesn’t understand, but that doesn’t matter. He doesn’t want to fight that sliver of his mind that makes him balk under Tony’s direction. He isn’t sure how that might cross over into his regular life, but he gets the feeling that wouldn’t be good, either. And he doesn’t want to want to resist, to fight. He wants all the things that he usually gets from Tony like this.

“I don’t like the way it feels,” Steve says. “It’s like a splinter in my head, like I’m hurt in some way that isn’t life threatening, but still painful. I need that to go away.”

“It was that hard for you?” Tony asks, looking thoughtful and a little worried at the same time.

“I think it was because I started out upset,” Steve says, and closes his eyes. “I didn’t do it for a good reason. I did it to prove a point. It might be different, if I had better reasons.”

“That may be so,” Tony says. “Either way, the next time one of us wants to try it the other way, we’ll work you up to it first. This time, I’ll bring you down, and it starts with you doing what I say without knowing why I’m doing it. You like it that way, Captain. You don’t even want to know what comes next. That’s part of what makes it good for you. Tell me.” Tony’s voice is a demand.

“I…” Steve says, and tries to drag his mind together, aware of that part of him that wants to balk, but pushing it ruthlessly away, back. “I don’t want to know. It’s better for me if I don’t know, or don’t understand,” he says, and can feel himself shivering a little.

“Good, Captain,” Tony says, and reaches up to tug at Steve’s hair, his smile warm. “That you can still admit it, that’s a step. You’re doing so well.”

Steve flushes with humiliation, but it’s twisted around a kind of helpless relief. He’s taking steps. Tony is telling him when he’s taking the right steps. He imagines it in his mind, that restless, prickling place in his mind like a tear, imagines Tony as a needle, Tony’s words and actions as thread, stitching that place closed a little bit at a time. He breathes in once, hard, and exhales a little, trying to make his body relax.

“The collar helps, doesn’t it?” Tony asks. “It’s a physical reminder of what I want from you.”

“It feels like the rope, a little,” Steve says, and remembers how the rope had been, holding him together from the outside. “Or a little like regular bondage. Like I know what direction to go in.”

“And you like that,” Tony murmurs, and drags his fingertips across Steve’s chest, as though just because he wants to. “You like being told, and you like being controlled.”

“Yes,” Steve admits, voice squeezed down into something tight, and it almost feels like a little flash of pain to admit it, and his shivering is rapidly evolving into actual shaking.

Tony runs his hands along Steve’s chest in sweeping, soothing motions. “Good, Captain, good. Being able to tell me that right now is a step. Do you need me to tell you when you’re being good, Captain? Do you like that, does it give you comfort?”

“Yes,” Steve whispers, his hands clenching around the bar, feeling that if Tony doesn’t start something physical soon, he’s going to stop being able to hold himself where he is.

“You’re ready for me to hit you, aren’t you, Captain?” Tony asks, but gently.

“I feel like if you don’t soon, I might… I don’t know what I might do. I don’t want to walk away, Tony, but it feels like I might.” Steve can hear his tone, begging almost, asking Tony to give him what he needs so he can stop resisting, and it just makes the resistance flare harder. He grinds his teeth and forces himself to stay still, concentrate on the feel of the collar, which Tony is right, does help. Not like being tied down would help, but it’s enough of that feeling to cling to.

“I understand, but do you want it, Captain?” Tony asks, voice low and dark. “Do you want the pain?”

Steve opens his mouth -- he does, he wants it -- and for a moment can’t bring himself to say it. Tony circles around him and rests a hand in the center of Steve’s back firmly, that place where Tony always touches him, to soothe him and hold him, and Steve’s relief that it works, that he can feel himself relaxing at the presence of Tony’s hand in that spot, is immense enough to make his eyes burn a little.

“Yes,” he manages, voice a little mangled. “I want it.”

“I know,” Tony says, low and rough. He circles around and drags one hand down the front of Steve’s chest again, this time with the tips of his fingers, his short nails just enough to drag lines of warm pain down Steve’s skin. “I know you do,” Tony repeats, and takes a step back from Steve. He shakes his right hand, the one fisted around the handle of the short flogger, so that the myriad strands of leather make a sound that is both rattling and hissing. His eyes are dark and eddied with some deep thing that holds elements of lust, but other things, too, that Steve can’t identify as easily. “What is your safeword, Captain?”

“Quark,” Steve says at once, feeling his shoulders tighten even as his cock feels heavy with craving between his thighs.

“And when will you use it?” Tony asks.

“If it’s too much or I need to stop,” Steve says a little more slowly.

“And when will you beg?” Tony asks, tone still low, but a little gentler now.

Steve has to think about that for several seconds, replaying what Tony had said in his mind, trying to feel his way around the edges of it -- he can’t imagine it, not quite, and knows he would have been able to yesterday, and hopes that he will be able to again tomorrow -- and finally says, “When I need something else, and if I know and can tell you what it is.” He can feel his face flaming, that hook in his mind somehow bristling against the idea of laying himself open for Tony with that kind of begging, but he yearns for it, too, wants to be made raw and willing and open.

“Good, Captain,” Tony says, a rough purr, and then he pulls back his arm, rocking back a little on one heel, and Steve watches the blow coming, tensing, and it sears high across his chest, catching both of his nipples and dragging him up to his toes. His head tries to fall back and the collar holds it firm, but he hisses in a breath that is harsh and hot. Tony doesn’t do it again at once, but pauses there for an interminable moment, his body poised in that striking stance, but unmoving. “Look in the mirror,” he says quietly. “Look at the marks.”

Steve shifts his eyes to the mirror obediently, an almost easy obedience, and sees the bright red swath of skin, the way there are several lines of it a deeper red than the rest, and sweat breaks out on his body, everywhere at once, so that he suddenly feels too cool, and like the only thing warm on his body are the marks, and that he wants to be warm like that all over. Relief rushes through him at the feel of it, the genuine want, he wants to want that, and he can still feel that hooking place in his mind that wants to uncurl his fingers from the bar above him, but it’s like it has moved back a little distance, and he can see how it’s going to work, he can feel that it can work, and he chokes out a little sound of gratitude that Tony seems to hear and interpret correctly, as it brings a sharpish little smile to his lips and a glitter to his eyes.

“Good,” Tony says. “Good, Captain, watch the marks.”

Steve, unable to find his voice, nods in the tiniest fraction that the collar will allow, which seems to be enough for Tony.

He rocks back and swings, lower this time, across the planes of Steve’s vulnerable belly, and some of the strands of the flogger flick across the leather around Steve’s hips and make a snapping sound that makes Steve’s back bow a little even as the blow warms that section of his too-cool skin. He makes a sound, a croaking little cry that sounds almost lost to his own ears, and sees the lines on his belly blossom into redness before his eyes.

“You are so fucking gorgeous, Captain,” Tony murmurs, and then draws back and strikes between those two blows, the strands of the flogger curling around his lower chest, and Steve watches Tony’s face for a second, drawn by the sound of his voice, sees the tightness around his eyes and the flicker of satisfaction on his face. “The mirror,” Tony snaps, and hits Steve again, and Steve’s moan is as much for the look on Tony’s face in those stolen seconds than it is for the bite of the flogger low across his hips, even more of the strands striking leather, and through the leather biting, just barely pressure, but present, at his cock. “Beautiful, look at what you are for me,” Tony says, and then strikes again at the top of Steve’s chest. Steve’s nipples tighten and sting and he chokes out a sound of pleasure that contains something else, some kind of relief sound, and that hook is pulling less and less at his mind, especially when Tony doesn’t stop this time, just draws back his arm and works his way methodically down Steve’s chest, laying new stripes of hot, welcome pain across those that are already there. Every jerk of his body jostles the plug inside Steve, sending arcs that are sometimes pleasure through him, but some that are just awareness of the size of the invasion, the alienness of being held open. The feel makes his face want to blaze with humiliation and he forces it back out of the front of his mind, concentrating instead on Tony and what Tony is doing with the flogger. Steve’s body jerks and he watches his chest redden all over, some places rising white with welts, and he sees his face smooth out into something gentle and open, and when he realizes that he’s fighting back the sounds that want to spill out of his mouth around his ragged breathing, he fights back the desire to hide that way and when he cries out, for the first time, open-throated pain traced around with the joy of release, Tony pauses.

“Good, let me hear you come undone with the pain, Captain, you sound so good,” Tony says, and steps in to lean toward Steve and slide his tongue across some of the welts, just wet and hot at first, a little stinging, and then teeth scrape Steve’s skin and Steve whines helplessly, wishing he could look down his body and see Tony’s teeth against his skin, first the welts, and then his nipples, which is enough to make Steve scream out a hoarse little sound of surprise and pain and fear and want so deep his cock aches with it and Tony, in the mirror, shudders full body, hard enough that Steve can see it clearly, and it merely ratchets that want up further in his mind and across his skin. Tony bites Steve’s left nipple hard and then rocks back again, swinging before the cry fully escapes Steve’s lips, so that when the flogger slams into his hips, the strands of it heavy and bright against his leather-covered cock, the sound comes out broken off in the middle, part hoarse cry then arcing upward into a half-sob of need. His cock aches trapped in the tight leather of the shorts, and he wishes, God, he wishes Tony would have left them off so that he could have felt the whole force of that blow, hard enough to hurt him even through the protection of the leather, and the inside of the leather is slick and wet against his cock now with his precome.

“This is what you are, Captain,” Tony says, and strikes again across his hips, hard again, hard enough to make Steve’s body shudder even as something splinters sharply in his mind, some kind of denial that he doesn’t want to feel or make, but which is still there, something that wants to insist that he’s more than this, which doesn’t seem to accept that this is what Steve wants to be. He sobs out a little cry, helpless and lost again, and Tony’s eyes are fixed on his face as he swings again, the same place, leather biting at Steve’s lower belly and groin, Steve’s hips rocking as if in anticipation, so that he arches into the blow rather than back with the force of it. “This is what you are,” Tony repeats, low and threatening and hot and fierce and so, so compelling, and swings, and Steve arches and the bite of the flogger is so hard that Steve shudders, his hips stuttering, and he comes with surprise so complete that he merely hangs stunned from the bar, open mouthed and wet-eyed as Tony continues to strike him there, just a little more gently, until Steve’s body stops its convulsive shuddering and the inside of the leather is unbearably slick sliding against his cock, which continues to jerk and twitch even after most of the rest of Steve has gone still and calmer, not perfect, but better, that sharpish resistance in his head far away.

“Pain slut,” Tony says, deep and harsh into the sudden quiet, and Steve jerks at the words, feels his face flame and tension slam into his shoulders. He forces his fingers tighter around the bar -- for a moment, he had been sure he was going to let go and back away from Tony, from those words that grate and resonate in his head almost in equal measure -- and shakes his head, but the collar barely allows the motion, and he isn’t that surprised when tears sting at his eyes and spill down his cheeks. “Yes,” Tony insists, stepping in close and wrapping one hand around the back of the collar, giving Steve a little shake. “Say it,” Tony demands, his gazed fixed on Steve’s, his eyes locked and holding Steve’s gaze so that he can’t even think how to break away, doesn’t want to break away, desperately needs to break away. “You know you are, we both know what you are, what the pain does to you, the way you crave it, Captain, you were arching into the flogger. You need it, your body needs it, you love the pain, you’ll do anything for it, so you say it, admit it.”

“I… can’t,” Steve sobs, that bright dissonance in his mind briefly sharp and hard, pain slut, his humiliation is so deep it’s like it’s own kind of pain, but there is something in that, too, something he is both fighting and reaching for at once, desperate for all of the things that Tony has given him before, aching to be that thing, to be aching and open for Tony, yes, craving it while some sharp sliver of his stupid brain tries to deny what is so obviously real and true and right.

“You came for the flogger across your cock,” Tony growls into Steve’s ear. “So beautiful and so eager you couldn’t stop yourself, you’ll never be able to stop yourself, it’s what you are.” His voice goes soft, almost gentle, but still with that rough edge of lust that does as much as his words to kindle Steve, hard again, trapped in the tight, slick leather. “Tell me that you’re mine,” Tony breathes, and Steve has no problem with that, he huffs out a little hoarse sound of relief at being able to do it.

“I’m yours, Tony, I want to be yours,” he whispers harshly and wishes he could turn his head enough to press his face against Tony.

“Mine,” Tony agrees. “My pain slut, Captain, mine, and I want to hear you say it.”

Steve chokes out a soft sob and Tony releases his collar and scrapes his nails down the front of Steve’s welted body; Steve shouts and arches into the painful caress, and Tony cups his cock through the leather, the heel of his palm pressing painfully against Steve’s erection. Steve grinds mindlessly into the pressure, aware of the ache of it, but wanting it, Tony’s touch, even through the leather, enough to make him cry out.

“Pain slut,” Tony whispers raggedly, his breathing harsh, and something cracks apart in Steve’s chest, something brittle and sharp. “Tell me, Captain.”

“Your pain slut,” Steve half-slurs, half-croaks, tears closing his throat, his head pounding with humiliation, shame and desire pressing against the inside of his skull.

Tony kisses him, all teeth and the rough press of tongue, and Steve opens for it and lets Tony plunder his mouth, totally willing to let Tony use him in whatever way Tony wants, that splinter in his mind a bright ache, but distant enough to ignore in favor of the heat and brilliance of Tony’s mouth on his. Tony breaks away with a little gasp and Steve hears something thump to the floor without wondering what it is. “Get down on your knees,” Tony hisses, his hands coming up to cover Steve’s hands on the bar for a moment, prying Steve’s fingers open as though he understands that Steve might not be able to let go on his own yet.

Steve’s hands ache, but once the metal of the bar is gone from his grip he drops to his knees in front of Tony, mouth already open, knowing, and Tony doesn’t pause or hesitate, just presses forward and in, both hands fisted in Steve’s sweat-damp hair, forcing himself in and down, past what is comfortable, past whatever reflex might have stopped Steve before the chair and the suit and the gag, and the head of Tony’s cock scrapes into the delicate tissues of Steve’s throat so quickly that it’s painful. Steve’s hands clench at his sides, but that flash of pain, the raw scrape of Tony’s cock in his throat sends his mind reeling, his body tightening again, more, when Tony lets out a harsh little cry and rocks his hips, burying himself deeper, so that Steve can’t breathe or think except for the words, those two words, pain slut, that seem emblazoned in the forefront of his mind in a way that he thinks can never be erased, in that same way that the way Tony looks when he comes is embedded into Steve like ink under his skin, as if he’s invisibly tattooed with the hot look Tony’s eyes have when he hurts Steve and the taste of Tony’s come, things he never wants to lose and things he can never lose, no matter how he feels about them.

Tony drags his cock back and away, out of Steve’s throat and then out of Steve’s mouth entirely. Steve makes a wretched, half-coughing sound of objection even as air pricks like cold needles at the abused flesh inside his throat, his hands reaching out for Tony automatically, to pull him back. Tony bends slightly and slaps them away, first one and then the other, even as he keeps one hand fisted in Steve’s hair. Steve’s hands drop obediently back to his sides, and Tony says, “Good, Captain, you don’t get to take me here, you don’t get to decide, you only get what I give you, you take what I let you have. Do you understand that?” Tony’s voice is hoarse and taut, and Steve nods, remembers that he can’t with the collar, not really.

“Yes,” he croaks, looking up Tony’s body to watch the darkness of Tony’s eyes, the flicker of lust and satisfaction on his face, and Steve can feel that sliver of unrest in his mind sliding further back, away, out of this moment.

“Good, that’s a step, Captain, putting yourself in my hands is a step,” Tony almost croons, his hands moving to cradle Steve’s face for a moment, infinitely gentle. Steve leans into it, his cock sliding slickly in the leather of the shorts, the plug in his ass, which he’d almost forgotten about, shifting and pressing against him in a way that makes him shudder and burn hot with humiliation again, but even that isn’t enough to overcome the pleasure of hearing Tony tell him he’s being good, that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and he hitches in another breath that stings at his raw throat as Tony runs just the tips of his fingers along the sides of Steve’s face in the lightest of caresses.

“You’re doing so good,” Tony says. “Having you is so good.” Tony says that last in a lower voice, a little grating, and then catches Steve’s chin in his hand and locks gazes with him again as he had before, in that way that makes it seem impossible for Steve to escape his eyes. “Do you want to suck me?”

There is no hesitation about that, no dissonance to fight in Steve’s mind about that, and he groans out, “Yes, Tony, please,” and Tony strokes the side of his thumb along Steve’s lower lip.

“Still eager for that, no hesitation,” Tony says almost musingly. “Something you want all the time, Captain? My cock in your mouth good enough that you want it no matter how else you might want me?”

“Yes,” Steve admits, face hot, but the humiliation of admitting it isn’t painful; even before, when Steve had had Tony laid out on the bed and under him, his mouth had watered at the thought of Tony’s cock in his mouth, there just isn’t any question about it being good for Steve, no matter how he gets it.

“So a pain slut and a cocksucker,” Tony says, low and jagged, sounding both harsh and delighted. “Is it better for you if the cocksucking hurts, Captain?”

Heat flashes through Steve and for a moment his mind feels sharp and almost outraged, but he shoves it back, balling his hands into fists, his eyes stinging. “I… I don’t know, Tony,” he breathes, but the idea is, it is… he doesn’t know. “I don’t know, but it’s always good, every way has always been so good.”

Tony’s face gentles a little at Steve’s obvious confusion, but his fingers tighten around Steve’s chin. “But that part doesn’t bother you, does it, Captain. Being a cocksucker, being such a natural at it, you don’t feel any need to resist that or hide it.”

It’s not precisely a question, but Steve answers anyway. “No, your cock in my mouth is, my mouth waters if I even think about it, Tony, it doesn’t matter how you do it, it’s always good, it makes me feel… helpless and… strong at the same time.” Steve doesn’t know how to explain it better than that, but Tony’s expression is full of understanding, and Steve is just relieved to see it.

“I’m going to fuck your throat,” Tony says, “but I’m not going to come for you, Captain. You don’t get to have that power.”

Steve’s eyes sting and his vision blurs, some kind of helpless disappointment in knowing Tony won’t come in his mouth, but he still wants it, though he doesn’t get the chance to tell Tony that (perhaps Tony already knows), because Tony slides his hand from his chin into his hair again and drags Steve forward at the same time that he steps in close, and Steve tips his head down the tiny fraction the collar allows to angle his mouth right for Tony’s cock, and again Tony doesn’t hesitate to go all the way in deep, rough and harsh, scraping the inside of Steve’s throat raw and cutting off his air in one swift, sure arch of his body. Steve’s hands come up, not to resist but just because he wants to touch, and then hover uncertainly in the air.

“You can touch me, Captain, you wanting to touch me while I use you is a step,” Tony says, voice throaty and low, and Steve chokes out a groan that is almost silent around Tony’s shaft buried in his throat and lets his hands rest against Tony’s thighs, fingertips pressing into the dense muscle there for a long moment, and then stroking, almost petting at Tony’s skin. Tony doesn’t move for several seconds, just keeps himself buried to the root in Steve’s throat, and then he rocks into motion, strokes short and hard, keeping the head of his cock pressed firmly into Steve’s throat. Steve can hardly do anything to make it cooperative, but he keeps his lips closed and presses with his tongue. Tony whispers out a rough moan, his hand tightening in Steve’s hair, and fucks his unresisting mouth with rough insistence, leaving Steve’s head feeling light and almost empty, all his attention fixed on Tony’s cock in his mouth, the relief of not feeling any need to resist immense and welcome as he strokes his hands around the backs of Tony’s thighs and up to cup his ass, not pressing, not attempting to do anything but touch, to feel the flex and thrust of hard muscle under his palms, grounding him firmly even as he gets more and more light-headed from lack of oxygen the longer Tony fucks him.

He gasps out a shocked, hungry-desperate sound when Tony finally drags his cock out of Steve’s mouth, the air like razorblades in his throat, and is totally unprepared for Tony to bend down before Steve has even caught his breath and press the heel of his palm hard against Steve’s cock in the leather of the shorts. Steve cries out and coughs at the same time, shaking, dark spots dancing in his vision even as he arches up into it, head swimming and disconnected, the pleasure-pressure-pain of Tony’s hand on his cock somehow existing in a delicate balance with the harsh, raw feel of his throat as he drags in breath.

He thinks dazedly that he’ll come, he feels like he is only an instant away from it, and then Tony eases up that pressure and Steve gasps out a painful sob of disappointment and need.

“God, fucking you is like being a millimeter from insanity,” Tony says hoarsely, dropping down to one knee and shoving Steve back so that Steve automatically catches himself with his hands behind him. The plug shifts and seems huge, somehow even bigger than it had been going in, and Steve lets out a soft little whine. Tony’s face is intent and intense, his eyes glittering black, his mouth open with hard, fast breaths. “You burn for me, Captain, you kindle and ignite, you’re so good, so raw for me.” He catches Steve’s chin again and kisses him hard, teeth biting at Steve’s lips and tongue and Steve surrenders to it with only a single, prickling shiver of resistance.

“Pain slut,” Tony breathes against Steve’s mouth, and Steve sobs out a short, harsh sound and tries for a moment to pull back, but Tony’s hand on his face and the collar don’t allow it. “You want me to come in your mouth, you want me to let you come, but you want to be on the cross more than you want either of those things, don’t you, Captain?” Tony demands, still speaking with his lips half-pressed against Steve’s open, panting mouth.

Steve shudders and tries to think, that sliver of whatever it is, resistance or defiance, the need to hold back something or to fight off something flaring bright in his mind at the idea of being on the cross at the same time he remembers the feel of being on the cross, held still and open and helpless, immersed in the deep well of his own pain, how good it had been. He’s strung out between the two things, and has a confused image of his own come streaking the arc reactor and the rush of power and possession it had given him, and then a slightly clearer image of the picture Tony had taken and shown him of Steve on the cross with is mouth wet and open and red and his face dazed and gentle, and that sliver of resistance recedes and he nods the tiny fraction that the collar allows him to nod and feels that his face is wet with tears and hot with humiliation, but that isn’t enough for Tony.

“No, you ask me,” Tony grinds out, twisting his fist in Steve’s hair and rocking his head back as far as the collar will allow it to go. “You want it, need it, and you don’t get to pretend it’s something I do to you and you let happen. You crave the cross, you’re desperate to let go, tell me that’s true, say the words and I’ll give it to you, Captain, don’t make it less in your mind than what it really is, don’t try to pretend it’s surrender when it’s so much more than that.”

And it is so much more than that, surrender, yes, that too, but also more, a gift he gives to Tony so that Tony can give something else, something even better, back to Steve. The prickle in his mind is distant, and Steve’s voice is a croak, throat raw still from Tony’s cock, but it’s firm and sure when he says, “I want to be on the cross for you, I want to be held open like that,” and Tony’s eyes flash with something like triumph.

“Good,” he breathes against Steve’s mouth. “You’re doing so good, Captain.” He stands and drags upward at Steve’s hair until Steve staggers to his feet, and then nearly drags Steve, clumsy and wanting and unresisting, over to the new cross, with its slightly paler glint of metal. He shifts and presses his hand between Steve’s shoulder blades, stroking down his back in a way that makes Steve shudder with something like relief, and then pushes him forward until Steve’s front smacks up against the cross, flashing bright arcs of pain against his chest. “Hands up,” Tony directs, and Steve fights off the wave of ever lessening resistance in his brain and raises his arms, and Tony’s hands are quick and sure, like he knows how hard it is for Steve and is making it as easy as he knows how.

A manacle closes around his right wrist, familiar and foreign at once, and even as it ratchets tighter around Steve’s wrist like it had done before, Tony is closing its twin around Steve’s left wrist. Steve huffs out a harsh breath, feeling his spine loosen, and leans into the cross, held now, helpless now, so that his own mind can’t stop him, can’t stop this, and he’s barely aware of this manacles closing around his one of his ankles, he’s so relieved, his chest and groin aching where they touch the hard metal of the cross, but not so much that Steve doesn’t press forward a little harder to feel the sting and pull as his arms are stretched out and above him, tightening the feel of the welts across the front of his body.

Tony’s hands slide around his waist, doing something Steve can’t quite grasp for a long moment, and then the leather around his hips loosens and Tony drags the shorts down his legs, leaving the slick, warm tangle of it around the ankle Tony has already bound, and pushing Steve’s other leg further to one side so that Tony can bend and attach that manacle as well.

Tony leans in and reaches around Steve for the belt, for a moment his whole naked body pressed against Steve’s back, and Steve whines out a little moan of pulsing want at the feel of it, and Tony strokes down his back lightly, and then fastens the belt around his waist.

Steve can see Tony’s face in the mirror as he does it, the concentration as he watches his hands fastening the buckles; he can see the streaks of his dried come across the arc reactor, but this time it just sends a jolt of grating want shuddering through him, nothing splintering at his mind now that he’s bound, now that he’s fixed and held and possessed by Tony. Tony takes a step back and his eyes scrape along Steve’s back and ass, dark with want that just intensifies Steve’s own want. Tony’s face is an almost neutral mask, in contrast to the look in his eyes.

Tony looks up and meets Steve’s eyes in the mirror.

“You want me to hit you now,” he says, not a question, but Steve senses that it requires an answer anyway.

“Yes,” he says, that aching place in his mind barely twinging against the admittance. “I need you.”

Tony smiles, not sharp but bright with pleasure and a little greed, his eyes brightening. “I know,” he says, and then, more softly, “I need you, too, Captain. I need you under my hands and under my whip. I need to watch you unravel for me.” He steps close again, and Steve jerks in shock when Tony touches the plug still buried in his ass, pressing lightly at first, and then tugging at it so that it pulls at Steve inside, stretching his hole a little, aching and feeling perfect at the same time. Tony lets go and the bends and flips a switch somewhere near Steve’s feet and Steve feels his whole body lowering slightly, the chains holding his arms to the arms of the cross stretching and pulling more taut, and it takes him a few long seconds to realize that he’s standing in a depression now, the whole section of floor he’s on lowered, and the flash of understanding is sharp and makes his cock jerk and spill precome down the length of his shaft as he shivers at what Tony has done, made it so that Tony can fuck him while Steve hangs helpless from the cross. Tony is smiling wickedly at him in the mirror, and Steve is sure his own face must be showing something raw and needful, but doesn’t look to see, doesn’t want to know how he looks.

“Tell me what you need,” Tony orders, but even as he’s saying it he’s moving around Steve to the low counter and picking up the long, dark length of the flogger, running the strands of it through one loosely coiled fist. Steve’s throat locks up tight, a last kind of choking resistance to laying himself bare to Tony even though he wants it so badly, can see so clearly in the mirror that Tony wants it just as much. Tony shakes out the flogger and snaps it in the air with a heavy, rough sound, his face going tight. “Tell me what you are and what you need, Captain,” he demands, his dark eyes blazing.

Steve turns his head and buries his face briefly against the curve of his own bicep, struggling with himself, with his need, and doesn’t expect it at all when the flogger slides across his back, barely a tap, the leather strands of it more a caress than any kind of pain.

“You can do this, Captain,” Tony says, and rests his hand against the spot he’d struck, pressing. “You can be this; all you have to do is let go of before and focus on now, what you need now, being in my hands and being in my power and being under my lash.” His voice deepens. “You need it, so tell me, give yourself over to me, and I’ll give you what you need.” He leans in and presses a kiss against the side of Steve’s face. “You can let go now, Captain,” he murmurs. “You don’t have to fight what you are.”

Something in Steve’s chest loosens, something hard and tight, and he feels his whole body loosen in response to it, and more importantly, more immediately, that tug of resistance in his mind dwindles away into distant unimportance, close enough to gone that Steve lets out a hoarse little sobbing sound. “I need you to hurt me,” he rasps out. “I need to be your pain slut.” And while it still makes Steve’s face burn to say it, still spills humiliation through his mind, it lights up his body at the same time, like admitting it, meaning it, wanting all of it along with all of what it means is enough to make him feel light and loose and yearning.

“That’s so good,” Tony says. “Hearing you say it is so good.” Tony’s voice is almost a growl, and Steve lifts his face to look in the mirror, to see the look that goes with that voice, and Tony’s face is stark with need and lust and a kind of desperate greed that makes Steve’s breath catch and his balls tighten with the reflection of that lust. Tony leans in, his fingers skating along the back of the collar. “Do you want this off?” he asks, seeming to actually be mostly neutral on the matter.

Steve boggles for several long seconds, his mind trying to decipher the answer; he genuinely doesn’t know. The collar is warm from his skin and a little damp from Steve’s sweat, but it isn’t uncomfortable. It had helped, before, with his hands wrapped around the bar and nothing else to hold him steady, but he’s held firmly now, and he doesn’t think he needs it to help him maintain a good headspace. And. The collar forces his head up, forces him to see everything, and some things Steve doesn’t necessarily want to see. Some of the blows, seeing them will be good, but he remembers what it’s like not to see them coming and that is good, too, better to be able to hang his head and just let it happen, let them come without knowing.

“Yes,” he says finally, a little hoarsely. “I like it, but it’s… more than I need.”

Tony either understands all that Steve isn’t saying, or doesn’t care one way or the other. There is the faint tug and pull against the back of his neck and the jingle of the buckles coming loose, and Steve’s neck, once freed, bows forward almost at once, so he only sees out of the corner or his eye that Tony merely sets the collar on one of the low counter to deal with later.

Tony runs his fingers through the short hairs on the back of Steve’s neck, and then leans forward to press his lips against the newly naked skin, his tongue darting out to lick away sweat, slick and warm, and then his teeth closing on that skin, bright pain, enough to make Steve’s back arch even as he deliberately doesn’t lift his head, giving that skin to Tony, letting him bite until Steve whines out a low sound of pain that Tony reacts to with a short, hard sound of satisfaction. “Pain slut,” he murmurs against the back of Steve’s neck and Steve shudders.

“Yes,” he whispers. “Please, Tony.” His whole skin feels awake and alive now, waiting for the bite of the flogger. The front of his body stings and aches, but it’s not enough, he remembers the denser, harsher feel of the bigger flogger and he knows that if Tony hits him, if it goes on long enough and hard enough, that splinter of resistance in his mind will go away for real, not just distant but gone, and he wants that badly.

“I want to know how much you can really take, Captain,” Tony murmurs and bites again at the back of his neck, but just for a moment this time, the brief sharp slide of teeth. “You remember when to use your safeword?” he asks.

“I remember,” Steve answers, and doesn’t tell Tony that he can’t imagine using it, the skin hunger for the pain is so intense now.

“And you remember when to beg?” Tony asks, low and steely and threatening, sending heat twisting through the cradle of Steve’s hip bones and causing his cock to jerk once, hard.

“When I know what I want,” Steve answers, though he can’t quite imagine that either, as all the times before Tony has always known, he’s never had to ask for anything.

“Exactly,” Tony says, low and satisfied, and leans in to press soft lips to Steve’s temple. “When what I’m doing takes you far enough that you can see where you want it to go, you beg me to stop and you tell me where that is, and I’ll take you there, Captain.” Tony shifts and nudges at the base of the plug in Steve’s ass with his knee and Steve gasps out a hoarse sound at the shifting pressure, the fullness and the way it holds him open. Tony makes a low sound and brushes his lips across Steve’s temple again. “I promise, it will be good,” he whispers against Steve’s ear.

“I know,” Steve says thickly, feeling the words pulled from somewhere deep in his chest. “You’re always good, you always know, Tony, thank you.”

Tony chuckles. “You are so absolutely welcome,” he says, hand coming up to rest in the center of Steve’s back for a long moment, just pressing, steadying. “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” Steve says, his eyes already leaking tears. He looks into the mirror and sees Tony looking back, all the lust and greed still banked in his eyes, but his expression oddly gentle. “Help me,” Steve hears himself beg, and Tony’s eyes flicker up to his, but he merely gives Steve a slow nod and steps back.

Steve lets his head fall forward again, waiting, breathless and eager at the same time his body is singing with tension, and he can’t stand the juxtaposition of it, he wants that feeling of freedom, of letting go, of being entirely under Tony’s power and being happy to be there.

The sound of the flogger moving through the air is loud, a heavy rush, and Steve closes his eyes, and then the pain slams into his back, a swath of heat, dense and wide, sprinkled with sharp prickles from the knots in some of the strands, and he shudders under it, his skin again feeling cool and aching to be warm. He rocks forward a little at the blow and the plug inside him shifts, and a surprised little sound, half-moan, half-whine escapes him, and Tony says, “You’re beautiful, Captain,” in such a rough, sincere voice that it clenches Steve’s chest tight with emotion beyond resistance or surrender, something he knows now, something only for Tony, something deep and intense and on the edge of desperate.

“Please,” Steve says. “I want to be yours.” And it’s almost easy, that humiliation still there, heating his face and prickling across the expanse of his mind, but he needs Tony to know, and the humiliation is only another facet of the thing as a whole, only another way to hurt for Tony, to be hurt by Tony, in a way that he doesn’t want to resist.

“You are,” Tony says, and swings again, the blow landing lower and pressing Steve hard against the metal of the cross, which is still cool, though it’s warming now with the heat of Steve’s body against it. “Whatever else you want, this is what you need the most.”

“Yes,” Steve admits on a hitching little sob, and Tony strikes again, low across his ass and the backs of Steve’s thighs, rocking the plug hard into Steve so that he groans and his back arches at the pleasure, the pressure, the heat, all of it so real and present, so much more important than that sliver of resistance far back in his mind.

Then Tony goes to work on him for real and Steve understands for the first time that Tony has never really worked him over, not the way that he can, not even with the crop at Steve’s apartment. That Tony is capable of so much more than he’s ever shown Steve, capable of taking more and giving it at the same time, the blows hard and rhythmic, a harsh and brutal rhythm that makes Steve’s body bow and arch against the steady presence of the cross, makes the plug inside Steve shift and press, makes the sounds that escape Steve escalate from low, huffing sounds up to helpless, open-throated cries that are almost screams. Steve’s back, ass, and thighs are first hot and scraped and then bruised and welted, each strike a detonation of pain that is as good as pleasure, or better, the purely physical tangled up with the mental, so that each blow loosens Steve’s body and lightens his mind, something pure and hedonistic, something to take without having to ask, and Tony talks the whole time (Steve comes, the first time, without preface at Tony’s first sentence, which is, “I need you like this, spread out and helpless for me to have any way I want you.”).

He tells Steve how good he looks, he tells him how he sounds, how needy Steve is, how good Steve looks under Tony’s whip, how much Tony wants to hurt him, words that make Steve’s blood race until they all start to run together under the pull of Steve’s need, and Steve comes again, arching against and shuddering under the totality of the pain, Tony’s voice like a caress even when Steve can’t make sense of the words anymore.

Tony doesn’t stop or pause until Steve’s back is screaming with pain, every motion pulling at his skin excruciating, agonizing, and so, so good, and when Tony does stop finally, abruptly, he says, “You’re bleeding, now Captain. I’ve cut you.” His tone is oddly neutral, and Steve can barely lift his head to look at Tony in the mirror. While he’s struggling to do it, he becomes aware that he can feel the cut, just below his shoulder blades, but only because he can feel the wetness of blood seeping in superheated rivulets down his abused back. Tony’s face is nowhere near as neutral as his voice. It’s avid, his gaze fixed on Steve’s back, on Steve’s blood, and he licks his lips like he wants to lick Steve’s blood off of his skin, the idea of which sends such a jolt of shock and want through Steve’s cock that he shudders and feels it pull at his body in waves of bright pain. When Tony meets his eyes in the mirror, there is a question there, a careful one, though even with that care, he doesn’t try to hide his lust (bloodlust, Steve thinks, with another full body shudder) from Steve.

Steve understands the question implicitly, there is no confusion. “Don’t,” he grates out, his voice wrecked and unsteady, “you don’t have to stop, I’m still, I can take more,” and there is the faintest edge of begging to his tone, Steve can hear it himself and knows Tony can hear it, too. “Please,” he says, and lets himself go, feels that splinter of resistance in his mind fade into almost nothing, so distant it cannot touch him here, when he’s like this. “Tony, please,” he repeats, and Tony steps close to Steve and Steve watches with dismay as he lays the flogger on the low counter, but then Tony’s hands are stroking across Steve’s ass, lightly, but electric with pain, and he is pulling the plug firmly out of Steve, making Steve gasp a little at the loss of that fullness.

“I’m going to fuck you while you bleed for me,” Tony says softly, and Steve’s body jerks with a sudden coil of lust at the idea. Tony doesn’t give Steve time to agree or object, but just presses the head of his cock against Steve’s hole -- Steve can feel that he is still loose and open from the plug -- and shoves in, his hands biting harshly into Steve’s hips.

Steve chokes out a little scream as the front of Tony’s body presses against his back, but he pushes back as much as he can at the same time, wanting and revelling in the feel of Tony’s hard cock forcing him open, hotter than the plug, rougher and feeling wider because of the heat and the… the reality of it, the feel of skin dragging inside him, and Tony’s hips slap against Steve’s welted ass. Steve jerks helplessly at the pain, shuddering, and Tony says, “Oh yes, Captain,” and drags his cock out and shoves into Steve again, and this time he does the thing Steve had seen in his eyes, he bends his head and slides his tongue across Steve’s back, hot and agonizing against the slice of the wound, and Steve jerks like a badly made bit of circuitry, toward and away, his body wracked with shudders, and he comes like he hasn’t come in days, so hard and fast that it hurts almost as much as his back, makes him scream, a real scream, not just a cry, as Tony thrusts hard into him again and again, and Steve never wants it to end. His vision is a pale blur, he is sobbing and moaning at the same time, and Tony’s breath is a hot, painful prickle against Steve’s abused skin. “God, yes,” Tony breathes, “God, you’re perfect, Captain, everything I need, need you so much.”

Being told that he is needed, not merely wanted but needed clenches Steve’s chest and chokes off his breath, lust like a recoil of his orgasm causing his hips to snap as though he could come again just from hearing it, but it’s something deeper that truly resonates, spreads heat that wells up from Steve’s belly and through his chest, up through his lungs to spill out his mouth, “Need you, Tony, need you, need…” while Tony takes what he wants from Steve, and what Steve wants desperately to give him, which is all of it, everything.

“You’re perfect,” Tony whispers hoarsely, “You give over so much,” and then Tony’s hands are pressed against his welted shoulders and dragging down his wounded back, and Steve shouts out his pain and need even as Tony’s thrusts become harder and erratic, and at the end he buries his face in Steve’s neck and moans, something jumbled that contains the words, ‘want’ and ‘need’ and ‘yes,’ but doesn’t actually string together into a complete sentence.

When Tony shudders into stillness, finally, leaning against and into Steve, his weight pressing Steve into the cross and his skin dragging against Steve’s back and ass, Steve revels at how wet he feels, how dragged open and apart he is, not just his ass around Tony’s cock, but everywhere, everything pulled apart and sliced open so that it feels like Tony has him completely, inside and out. His face is wet, but he isn’t crying, he is transported, exultant, and Tony kisses his shoulders and the back of his neck, his breath coming in harsh pants across Steve’s skin, feeling cool against his overheated skin.

Tony draws out slowly -- Steve whimpers a little at the loss -- and circles around to one side of Steve, catching his chin to make Steve turn his head and look at Tony. “Still with me, Captain?” Tony asks, and Steve blinks and nods, turning his face so that his cheek presses against Tony’s palm. “If we go on, you’re going to bleed more,” Tony tells him, face hard, eyes hot. “Do you want that?”

“I… I’m not ready for it to be over,” Steve whispers, struggling a little to admit it, still, but not as much. “I need…” But he doesn’t know what he needs exactly, only that it’s more, deeper.

Tony nods as though he understands what Steve doesn’t know how to articulate, and kisses his mouth once, lightly, and then turns and picks up the flogger again. His grip on it is white knuckled, and Steve can see that Tony is still hard in the mirror, and that his skin is gleaming, golden with sweat and exertion. He looks perfect, gorgeous enough to send another spasm of heat to twist and expand deep in Steve’s chest, and lower, between the cradle of his hipbones, tugging at his cock and his balls, tangling at the base of his spine like a nest of live wires.

“I can do so much to you,” Tony says, his voice quiet and almost reverent. He brushes his lips against Steve’s shoulder. “You’re every sadist’s dream, Captain.”

“Just yours,” Steve chokes out, voice thick with want he knows Tony can hear and doesn’t want to hide anyway. He means it with every part of him, his body, his mind, his heart, and the danger of allowing himself to love Tony is insignificant compared to the rewards.

Tony nods, face both possessive and touched with something that looks a little like amazement, but he doesn’t say anything else as he steps back, shaking the strands of the flogger out to untangle them.

Tony’s cock is still hard, Steve sees, and wants him inside again, almost as brutal as the beating, but there is more to it, something else he wants that he can’t quite grasp yet, but he knows it will come to him, Tony will use the flogger, and it will clarify everything the way that the pain does, and he thinks for the first time that he’ll be able to figure out what he wants, the place that Tony has told him that he wants to go, he’ll see it when the time is right, and he’ll be able to say it, to tell Tony what he needs, it will come and Steve will know it when it does. Tony had said that he would, and he trusts Tony, believes Tony.

Tony takes a rocking half-step back and swings, and Steve goes limp against the cross, taken by the pain, that resistance barely a faint glimmer so far distant that it doesn’t matter, and when Tony strikes again he feels the sharper pain of his skin breaking beneath the blow, and he screams, but it’s good, better than good, almost euphoric, and he’s never been more grateful for being what he is, for being Captain America, for the way that the serum makes this possible for him, lets him take more than any normal body could safely give.

It goes on for some time that Steve measures only in the length of his screams and the way that he can see droplets of his blood spattering the floor and the mirror, a long and delirious time in which he is firmly anchored in his body at the same time that his mind feels distant and clear and gentle. He catches glimpses of Tony in the mirror, the avarice and the exaltation and the heavy thrust of his cock from between his thighs, and between one blow and the next he knows what it is, the feel of Tony taking him so completely apart can end in only one way, in the same way, almost, that it had ended earlier, with Tony beneath him, except more viscerally, more powerfully, and he screams for Tony to stop, the words coming out broken and cracked in his throat, raw with his screams, “I know, please,” he screams, he begs, “Stop, I’m ready… Tony, stop, please, I please, I know, I need, please, I need… I know where, I can see… need you…”

Tony lets the flogger fall, dangling loosely from one hand, and steps up behind Steve, not touching Steve’s bleeding back, though his hard cock brushes against Steve’s ass, smearing something hot and wet across his skin that might be Tony’s precome or might be Steve’s blood, and it doesn’t matter which.

“That’s right, that’s good, Captain,” Tony soothes, a harsh whisper, lips almost touching Steve’s ear. “Take a breath and tell me, give it to me so that I can give it to you.”

“I… I…” Steve pants, and then takes Tony’s orders and takes a long, deep breath before he tries again. “I need you to come inside me, but not, I need it where you always live, Tony, I need it, I need you under my skin, need you to come on my back, to… to mark me inside the hurts…”

Tony says something low and rough and probably profane, but Steve is still trying to explain.

“You… you live there all the time, make it real, make it so you leave your come inside me all the time, in me, under my skin,” he repeats, knowing that he can’t be making much sense but desperate to be understood.

He expects some kind of argument or some kind of request for clarification, but Tony just says, “Oh, yes, Captain,” and drops the flogger on the floor, bending to release Steve’s ankles from the manacles, and then reaching up to free his wrists. “Steady,” he says, as Steve wavers on his feet, only the belt around his waist keeping him balanced, and then that is falling away, too, with a rattle of buckles and a clank against the cross. Tony has Steve by both shoulders, grip strong and sure. “Step up, Captain,” he snarls, and Steve moves in the direction that Tony’s hands are pushing him, stepping up out of the depression, his whole body feeling too loose, muscles lax, as though the only thing keeping him from falling are Tony’s hands, and then Tony is pushing him down and Steve drops sharply to his knees on the carpet and lets Tony’s guiding hands press him down onto his belly, where the carpet, as soft as it is, drags across the welts on the front of his body, awakening all that pain again as if it were brand new, and Steve shudders at it, and at the drag of his cock against the carpet, both unbearably good and achingly painful at once.

He feels Tony straddle him more than sees it, he has one arm up, pillowing his brow on his forearm, and his vision is an indistinct blur. Tony’s thighs bracketing his welted hips are blood hot against his skin, and Steve whines out a sound of pain all twisted up around a plea.

“You’re perfect, I can’t believe I get to have you,” Tony says, and then leans up and forward, bracing one hand beside Steve’s head. “Mark you as mine because you beg me for it.” Tony’s voice is rough and breathless and he shifts and the head of his cock drags across Steve’s bloody black.

Steve cries out, pain and want, and turns his face so that he can see Tony in the mirror, braced above Steve, his hand wrapped around his cock and jerking roughly at himself above the red ruin of Steve’s back. Steve can’t see his own back clearly, the angle is bad and there is too much blood, but Tony’s cock comes away smeared with red, which then stains his hand, and Tony is twisting his hips forward, shoving his cock into his own hand, his face in profile twisted with concentration. “Tell me again,” he demands, his back arching with his thrusts.

“Under my skin,” Steve begs hoarsely. “In the cuts you made on me, your come mixed with my blood, Tony, so that it’s always there, I can always feel you…”

“Yes,” Tony growls, and, “Mine,” and then his back bows deeply and he comes, hot and salty and painful against Steve’s raw back and Steve moans and presses his cock against the carpet, shivering and coming too at the burn of it seeping into his cuts, and it feels perfect, perfect, slick and sliding into the wounds and that faint spark of resistance winks out as though it never was at the feel of being marked like this by Tony, claimed and owned and hurt and held.

He doesn’t go away as he sometimes does after an orgasm that intense, but is instead deeply present, locked into his body, all pain and warmth, lax muscles and sizzling-pain nerves and the feel of Tony above him, breathing hard, each puff of breath icy against Steve’s hot back. He feels right, everything in his head slotted perfectly in place, that slow, easy feeling of being under Tony’s control completely and willingly, the way it makes him as perfectly content as he can imagine being even as the salty sting of Tony’s come burns as it cools against his skin, under his skin, in the cuts Tony had opened across his back.

Tony leans forward and down and places an open-mouthed kiss against the top of Steve’s shoulder, using both hands to brace himself now; Steve can see his own blood on Tony’s right hand and it makes him shiver. “Are you with me, Captain?” Tony murmurs, and Steve glances away from Tony’s hand and meets his gaze in the mirror. Tony’s hair is damp with sweat and his skin gleams with it, but his face is open, relaxed, he looks gentle and happy, his eyes bright with something, pleasure and satisfaction, something good that fills Steve’s chest with warmth.

“Yes, Tony,” he says, hearing his own voice, a hoarse whisper, drawn out and mellow, easy like his mind feels easy, relaxed like his body feel relaxed.

“How do you feel?” Tony asks, watching Steve’s face intently.

“Perfect,” Steve says, truthful and helplessly honest, answering the care he can see in Tony’s eyes. “Better than I’ve ever felt.”

Tony smiles, oddly tender. “Everything settled in your head?” he asks.

“Yes,” Steve says, and smiles, slow and soft-edged. “Thank you.”

Tony laughs warmly. “You’re welcome. You were amazing.” Tony shakes his head. “Better than amazing. Like a dream. The kind of thing you think can only work in fantasies.”

Steve can feel his cheeks heating with pleasure. He isn’t sure what to say to that, so says nothing.

Tony eases backward and goes up to his knees, turning his face to survey Steve’s back. His expression is hard to decipher in the mirror, only in profile, but Steve thinks it’s still pleased, still gentle. His cock is still half-hard between his thighs and Steve wonders if Tony will fuck him again. Steve can feel how loose he still is; his balls are slick with Tony’s come that had spilled out of his body, a fact that makes him shiver with want and humiliation at once, but that is good, too, the feel of it is a warm rush in his mind as it stirs his body. Everything about this moment is good and right and perfect.

Tony’s eyes crawl across Steve’s back and ass, and he makes a low sound, almost something pained. “My come mixed with your blood is one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen, Captain,” he says, low and sincere. “Blood play isn’t really very high on my list, sexually, but this… Seeing you like this is like witnessing the birth of the universe.”

Steve blinks a little, a little shocked at the analogy, and his chest blooms again with heat somewhere deep, behind his breastbone, expanding in a painless explosion of pleasure and contentment. He doesn’t know how to say what he’s feeling and isn’t entirely sure Tony would want to hear it even if he did, but he shudders full body and sighs out a soft moan, and Tony leans down and kisses the hinge of his jaw from behind, soft press of lips.

“Can you stay with me a little while longer?” Tony asks, low and gentle. “I know you probably don’t want to move, but it’s best if we clean you up before the blood dries.”

“Whatever you want,” Steve says, meaning it down to his bones. “Anything you want.”

“You’re already everything I want,” Tony murmurs, and Steve shivers with that deep, good feeling of being totally Tony’s, under Tony’s power and in Tony’s control, where he is free not to think at all about what he might need because Tony already knows. “Slide up onto your knees,” Tony says, skimming light fingertips along the back of one of Steve’s thighs where the pads of his fingers sting along welted skin that craves that tiny, almost innocent pain.

Steve shifts back and up, and every motion pulls at the welts on his front and the fiery lines that Steve assumes are cuts on his back. He has to go slow, his head swimming with the pain, but in a way that makes him want to moan a little, each jolt a reminder of Tony’s touch and Tony’s presence and the way that it feels to be Tony’s, Tony’s to do with as he wants. It’s enough to render him half-hard again, though his groin aches almost as fiercely as his back. Tony’s hands guide him with the lightest of touches across Steve’s ribs and hips and the tops of Steve’s shoulders, all places Tony’s flogger hadn’t bitten him too deeply.

Tony steadies him for several seconds once Steve has made it to his hands and knees, open palm pressed to Steve’s belly with enough support to keep Steve up until some of the trembling in his arms subsides.

“Just stay on your knees, that’ll be easiest right now,” Tony coaxes, and moves around to face Steve to catch his chin in one hand, tipping his head up. Tony’s eyes are dark and satisfied and gentle as he looks at Steve for a few long seconds. “How do you feel? Steady?”

Steve thinks about it for a moment, and then nods. “Steady enough,” he says, his voice that slow, almost drunken slur that it is sometimes, after. “If I don’t have to go far.”

“Just to the bathroom,” Tony says. “If you think you can make it that far. If you can’t, it’s okay. Just tell me so that I can bring what I need to you.”

“Don’t leave me,” Steve says at once, an unabashed plea.

“I won’t,” Tony says, low and soothing. “I’m right here.” He runs a hand through Steve’s sweaty hair. “We’ll go slow, and I’ll be right beside you.”

Steve leans his face into Tony’s hand, and Tony brushes his thumb along Steve’ lips. Steve shivers and shifts again. “I think I can… everything feels so…” He isn’t sure how to finish. Good is true, but not quite correct. “Right,” he finally says.

Tony’s lips curl faintly. “Good,” he says. “The whole point was to make things feel right to you.” He touches Steve’s lips again with the side of his thumb. “How is the pain, now that you’re not about to come? Still good?”

“Yes,” Steve says, face heating a little. “It doesn’t hurt the way hurt usually feels.” He pauses, sure that that sentence doesn’t actually make sense, but unsure of how to clarify what he means. He stretches his mind a little, trying to come up with an explanation that has more meaning to it, but finally shakes his head. “I don’t know how to say.”

“I know, you don’t have to explain it to me,” Tony says. “Remember, I told you that opening yourself up to pain in a controlled environment is not the same thing as being hurt out in the world, when you don’t want it.”

“Yeah,” Steve says, vaguely remembering it, but not dwelling too hard on it. Things are soft and warm in his mind, a low buzz of contentment that he’s entirely willing to give himself over to without any resistance.

Tony says, “Are you going to be able to crawl, Captain?” sounding amused and maybe a little smug. “Because you’re not moving.”

“I, yeah, Tony, I’m sorry. I feel… distracted.” Which is not the right word, but Steve can’t do any better. He eases forward, working to coordinate his arms and legs, hyper-aware of the way that it hurts him, all over and so good, and still he only manages forward movement when Tony closes a hand around the back of his neck and begins to exert careful pressure, and then doing what Tony wants is enough to push him into motion, though he gasps a little at the bright red pain that pulls at his skin as he moves.

“Good, Captain, it’s not far,” Tony murmurs, walking on his knees beside Steve and exerting that firm pressure on the back of his neck. Steve obeys that guidance automatically, grateful for it, even, and he isn’t sure how long it takes, only that he’s fully hard again by the time they move from carpeted floor to the tile of the bathroom. “Just rest here a minute,” Tony says, getting to his feet.

Steve hears the bath start running, and then Tony is spreading a towel out onto the floor in front of Steve and urging him forward again. Something about that strikes Steve as distantly funny, Tony covering the tile to save Steve’s knees after bloodying Steve’s back, but it’s a barely there amusement, almost drowned out by the pulse of pleasure and pain still thrumming through his body.

He lets Tony tug him forward onto the fluffy towel and guide him forward until Steve’s brow bumps up against Tony’s hip. Tony holds him there for a moment with gentle pressure, his strong fingers massaging the back of Steve’s neck. Steve lets his weight rest against Tony, feeling like a sponge, soaking up the feel of Tony’s hand rubbing across his skin and the easy affection of Tony’s grip.

“Do you want to see your back?” Tony asks. Steve looks up at him, and Tony is smiling a little. “You’ve wanted to every other time,” he explains.

Steve smiles almost as much in reaction to Tony’s smile as to his words. “Yes, I…” he says, voice still that slow, soft curl of sound. “I think I need help up, though, and maybe you should hold onto me, because every time I see I get…” He trails off, uncertain how to say what he means, how the look of his back the other times had left him feeling both achingly desirous and almost weak, like seeing the marks Tony leaves on his skin is so… is just, is like a revelation every time, a shock that makes him need Tony’s steadiness to ground him.

“I know,” Tony says, eyes bright, smile broadening so that crinkles appear around his eyes. “I don’t know that I’ll actually make you bleed for me very often unless it’s something that you end up craving, so I want to make sure you get a chance to see it this time. I’ll be right here.”

It takes Steve three unsteady attempts to get to his feet, even with Tony’s hands helping him, and then he has to close his eyes and sway there for several seconds at the way that the new position pulls at all his hurt places, and at the way he can feel Tony’s come leaking out of his stretched hole, humiliated and heated by the idea at the same time. Tony waits patiently, holding him carefully by one hip and one elbow, and when Steve can finally open his eyes again he realizes that he’s leaning into Tony heavily, and Tony has had to widen his stance, muscles in his chest and arms bunched, to handle Steve’s weight.

“Sorry,” he whispers, though he mostly isn’t.

“I will hold you up all night if that is what you need,” Tony says, voice so gentle that Steve sways forward into Tony a little more at the sound of it, at the sincerity. Tony leans up and plants a soft-mouthed kiss at the corner of Steve’s mouth, and Steve sighs, utterly content against Tony’s body, feeling his hands on Steve.

Eventually he manages to straighten, and Tony’s grip tightens where he’s holding Steve even as Steve turns his head to look in the mirror. At first all he sees are the thin trails of blood streaking down his back, still mostly wet and red and bright, though a few are drying to a darker color.

There aren’t as many as Steve would have guessed, by the way it feels. He stares, and his eyes pick out the lines of cuts across his skin, all of them looking strangely clean and shallow. There are maybe a dozen of them, most of them solitary, but four criss-cross in the middle of Steve’s back, and that’s also where he can see the wet trails of Tony’s come. Steve shudders, cock clenching at the root so that it bobs between his thighs, balls tightening. And then there are the welts, which are everywhere, ladder like in some places, raised and white and red, and overlapping in others, some of these darker, purple with bruising, a few snaking out solitary along his ribs and down his thighs. His ass is bruised the most heavily, and even as Steve sees the bruises the muscles there tighten and he feels them, deep and heavy and warm, and he gasps a little at the feel. The backs of his thighs are striped with angry white welts as well, though not as thoroughly as his back and ass, but they stand out more because of it.

His eyes tell him that he should hurt, and that’s right, because he does hurt, but it’s a fantastic feeling, something that tightens his whole body and shivers over his skin and makes his mind feel bright and clear and good.

“The front isn’t quite as spectacular, but it’s still pretty,” Tony tells him in a murmur that’s almost a whisper, and Steve shifts, Tony’s hands still firm and supportive, and the welts across his chest and belly are not so angry or fierce, but still do something white and clenching in the middle of Steve’s brain and deep within the pit of his belly, the bright red of his nipples and the curve of the welts along his pectorals, and they seem almost more intimate than the marks on his back, which, Steve understands after staring at them mutely for a long stretch of seconds, seems most likely to be because Steve can see his own face and the welts at the same time, which makes them realer, almost, definitively connected to Steve, that he had stood and held the bar and let Tony do this to him.

“Tony,” Steve says hoarsely, and turns toward him, deliberately pressing his cock against the front of Tony’s body, pressing it against Tony’s flat stomach and rolling his hips a little.

“You look so fucking good,” Tony says roughly, his eyes on Steve’s reflection, sharp and covetous, his cock, hard again like Steve’s, brushing against the front of Steve’s thigh. “I can’t believe how beautifully your skin marks, all that pale gold covered in welts for me, and you aren’t even a little worried about it, not even the blood, you’re still completely enthralled by the pain and the need for it.” Tony meets Steve’s eyes in the mirror. “Pain slut,” he says, almost solemnly.

Steve shudders against Tony, but doesn’t try to look away from his gaze. “Yes,” he admits, helpless to deny it and feeling, in this moment, so good, so right, that it hardly even bothers him. “Yes, for you.” And then because he can’t explain all the things that he’s feeling, doesn’t know how to articulate the freedom and the lightness and the easiness of his mind, he says, “Thank you.”

“You are so welcome, Captain,” Tony says, face still serious, eyes still locked with Steve’s. “So welcome, and I can’t tell you how much I love it that you give this to me, give yourself to me, so completely. Every time I see you like this I feel like I’m being rewarded by the universe for something good that I must have done.”

Steve’s cheeks heat, not embarrassment, but pleasure. “I feel like I’m the lucky one,” he says.

Tony’s eyes gentle. “Then it’s working the way it’s supposed to. We fit like we’re supposed to.”

He finally looks away from Steve in the mirror, turning his body slightly to turn off the tap with one hand, the other still holding Steve steady.

“I want to come again,” Steve says, and rolls his hips a little again, feeling his precome slick up Tony’s skin a little.

Tony looks back at him, a hint of smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “I gathered that,” he says drily. “Let me clean your back. I know you’re feeling good right now, but it will be less good once the blood starts to get dry and flaky. As for coming again, I think you’ve more than earned as many orgasms as you can manage tonight. Think about how you want it, or whether you want a hand in deciding how it happens at all, while you’re in the tub.”

“Okay, Tony,” Steve says easily, though he presses hard against Tony’s belly one more time, cock throbbing, before he lets Tony’s hands guide him toward the bathtub, holding him tight and careful as Steve slowly and cautiously steps over the lip and into the water, which is barely warm against his skin. Steve sinks to his knees, Tony’s hands never letting go, and bites back a little gasp as the water, even at such a moderate temperature, stings at the welts on his thighs. It does nothing to reign in his want, is just a different pain, new and somehow tantalizing. He does gasp aloud when his ass sinks into the water, a sizzle of heat across his tender skin, and Tony murmurs something low and soothing that is more noise than actual words.

“Don’t try to sit all the way down,” Tony says. “The bruising across your ass is deep enough that it might not be good, even for you.”

Steve wonders, is almost tempted to try and see, but in the end stays on his knees in the water, sore ass barely resting on his heels, as Tony opens a cupboard and pulls out a couple of buff colored cloths that look more like something you might use to wax your car than washcloths, smooth and without the nubby texture of a normal washcloth.

“Let me know if this harshes your headspace,” Tony says, and goes to his knees beside the tub, dipping one of the cloths in the water, and then bringing it up to the tops of Steve’s shoulder, first just letting water sluice down his back, wetting it, and then drawing the smooth, sleek fabric down the line of Steve back with an amazing amount of gentleness. The water alone doesn’t hurt, though the cloth pulls a little at Steve’s back as Tony wipes at it, but it’s not bad. Steve relaxes a little when he realizes that it’s actually almost as good as taking the marks had been to begin with. It hurts, yes, but Tony hurting him is good, and this is Tony taking care of him, too, being soft after being hard, and that does something to the inside of Steve’s head, something gentle and soothing. Tony seems to sense this, and murmurs, “Good, Captain, just let it happen,” and smooths the cloth across Steve’s back in long, sure strokes, wiping away blood and sweat and, with a little pang, Steve realizes, Tony’s come. Tony doesn’t use soap, which Steve guesses would sting (though he isn’t sure he would mind), just clean water, which is fine since Steve can’t get an infection from the wounds anyway.

“They’ve already stopped bleeding,” Tony says thoughtfully. “Do you think they’ll heal up overnight as cleanly as what we did the last time did?”

Steve considers, and decides that he suspects yes -- none of the places where Tony had broken the skin had really looked deep -- but that he doesn’t know for sure. “I can’t know for sure, but I think it’s likely,” he says. “If not, probably pretty close.”

Tony folds the wet cloth and hangs it over the faucet and then uses the second cloth to pat Steve’s back gently dry. Then he reaches around Steve and catches his cock in a tight grip, squeezing hard enough to make Steve gasp out a little breath and arch, and his whole body sings with bright pain at the motion.

“Thought about how you want to take care of this?” Tony asks, voice gone a little rough again.

“I…” Steve gasps. “Ah…”

“Rendering you inarticulate is a singular pleasure, Captain,” Tony purrs, and strokes Steve’s cock once, making Steve shudder. “If you don’t have any kind of pressing ideas, I’ve got something.”

Steve is actually relieved. Tony had told him to think about it, but he hadn’t been at all. He’d been revelling in the aftercare and still floating on pain endorphins, and not having to come up with anything is good. “What you want,” Steve says, panting a little at the feel of Tony’s hand still wrapped around his cock, though Tony isn’t stroking now, is just holding.

“You are allowed to have opinions, you know,” Tony tells him.

Without much in the way of thought, Steve says, “I don’t want an opinion right now. I want…” he stops, flushing abruptly at what he’d been about to say. He tips his face down, zinging a little with humiliation.

“You want?” Tony urges after a long moment.

Steve’s face heats more, but he looks at Tony. “I want to come, but I want you to… I just. If you want to come, too, I want you to… to use me however you want to to do that. If you don’t, I can wait.”

Tony’s eyes glitter. “What makes that so hot, Captain, is that I can tell you really mean that. That if I’m not ready or not interested, you’re content to wait on my pleasure.”

Steve’s face remains hot, but he says, “Yes,” and can hear it in his own voice, not just agreement, but a kind of breathless anticipation at being that for Tony, being that outlet, being, as Tony had once said, a submissive that Tony could take to bed and work over until he felt better.

Tony wraps a hand around the back of Steve’s neck and tugs him into a messy, easy kiss. “You have no idea how compelling you are. That’s part of what makes you so compelling. You never learned to be coy and you’ve never tried to dissemble. You’re just you, and that’s so close to perfect I can hardly believe it.”

Steve leans into Tony, resting his brow against Tony’s shoulder, though he has to lean against the edge of the bathtub to do it and it pulls at his back in jagged jolts of pain. He doesn’t know how to respond to Tony’s praise, though he feels a little giddy pride at hearing it.

Tony’s hand kneads at the back of his neck, and for a few long moment, they’re both silent. Then Tony asks, “How do you feel?”

“Good,” Steve says at once. “Like everything is settled in my head where it’s supposed to be.”

“And your back?” Tony asks.

“Hurts,” Steve says. “And… feels great. Both at once.”

Tony pulls back a little and reaches for the drain. He’s smiling slightly. “Good. That’s how it’s supposed to be. If it starts to hurt more than it feels good, let me know.” Water begins to burble down the drain. “Can you stand up?”

Steve flexes a little, testing the muscles in his legs mostly, and nods. “I think so.” He shifts to rise, and Tony stands as well, hands on Steve’s hip and biceps, as though just in case. But Steve’s body has lost that helplessly loose-limbed feeling, and he stands without any trouble, though he is still so relaxed that he can feel that easiness in his muscles, like the end of an especially satisfying workout. He steps over the edge of the tub, and Tony uses a regular towel to dry his lower body, rough on the backs of Steve’s thighs, avoiding Steve’s back entirely. Steve’s cock is still a long, hard length of flesh, a little tender, but still hungry enough for contact that Tony’s briskly efficient towelling leaves him gasping a little.

Tony is hard, too. Steve wonders about the pill Tony had taken, briefly considering whether or not it’s safe, then dismisses it from his mind. He doesn’t doubt that Tony had engineered whatever chemical formula the pills are made of that lets him nearly keep up with Steve, and he has utter faith in Tony’s genius.

“Still interested in coming again?” Tony asks, lips barely curved upward into a tiny smile, then, shocking Steve into a choked out little moan, he delivers an open-handed slap to Steve’s cock, jolting him abruptly. His cock aches, but he also tenses and shudders all over, the mass of welts across his back pulling with bright spasms of pain.

Tony’s lips have curved into a knowing smirk. “If you do that again, I probably won’t be able to help it,” Steve says hoarsely, tensing a little, not sure if Tony will do it again, not sure if he wants Tony to do it again. His cock feels heavy, a dense press of want in his groin.

“I have something else in mind,” Tony says, but even as he says it he takes Steve’s cock in his hand and tugs on it hard enough that Steve takes a halting, inelegant step forward. Tony smiles a little, probably at the stunned look on Steve’s face, and lets go of his cock, causing Steve a little schism of reaction that is somewhere between relief and disappointment. “Come along, Captain,” he says, and turns away, leading them out of the bathroom and into the room with the prop bed. “We’ll do this here. You’ll get better traction on a harder bed.”

Steve puzzles over what that means almost absently, most of his mind still too deeply hazed over with a combination of needy satisfaction and simple gratitude that he can put it all into Tony’s hands and not think, exist in this space where his mind and body are both almost weightless, like the things of the everyday world that Steve lives in can’t press down on him.

Tony climbs onto the big bed and positions himself in the center, on his back, his cock lying hard and ready across his belly. He reaches under his head and pulls a tube of lube out from under the pillow, and then makes a little easy to decipher ‘come here’ curl of his fingers at Steve.

Steve climbs up onto the bed and feels nerves and anticipation tighten in his belly, but both dimly, as if from a distance. He thinks he knows what Tony is going to tell him to do, and he’s not sure how well he’ll do at it, but he can’t be truly worried about it. Tony will tell him. And it will be good to do what he thinks Tony wants, it will be different and new, and Steve is interested in finding out how it feels. He knee walks across the surface of the bed -- getting a feel for what Tony must mean about the harder surface of this bed being better traction for sex -- and Tony makes a lazy, rolling motion with one hand, which Steve takes to mean he should swing a leg over Tony’s thighs.

The look on Tony’s face, that low, dark smoldering of desire banked in his eyes, makes Steve fairly sure he’d got the meaning of the gesture right. “Move up,” Tony directs, one hand dropping to Steve’s hip to tug him forward until Steve is straddling Tony’s waist. “Yeah, that should work.” He flicks the top of the lube open with one hand and coats the first two fingers of his right hand. “Going to teach you to ride me, Captain,” he murmurs. “It’s going to play hell with your back and ass.” His grin is darkly amused. “I’m fairly certain you’re going to fucking adore it.”

Steve shivers a little as Tony leans up on one elbow and reaches around Steve, tracing the slick fingers of his right hand along the cleft of Steve’s ass. When they reach his hole, Tony presses in at once, with both at the same time, and Steve lets out a low, hoarse sound of surprised pleasure; he’s still loose and even still a little slick from the plug and Tony fucking him on the cross, and they slide into him easily and painlessly, hot and deep, and Tony nails Steve’s prostate on the first slide in. Steve wrenches out another hoarse sound, this one louder, nearly a moan, and his body tightens, which…

Steve’s breath hangs up in his throat at the sensation, at the way all his muscles go tight and pull at his abraded, bruised, and lacerated skin, spreading jangling ripples of heat-pain-pleasure across first his back and ass, then down his thighs, across his chest as his nipples tighten into sore peaks, and each wash of sensation makes him tense a little more, which pulls a little more, which engages another rush of that mingled just-barely-not-too-much through him, a feedback loop that might be close to infinite, and which is so engrossing that Steve barely notices when Tony slides another finger into him, just the faint burn of it, and even that blends with the rest, stimulation on every level, and Steve, eyes half-closed with the feel of it, sees his cock drool precome onto Tony’s belly.

“Yeah,” Tony murmurs, low and light, almost a croon. “That’s good, that does it for you, doesn’t it, Captain? You’re going to feel so damned good around my cock, riding me while you walk the wire of your own masochism.” Tony leans up further, chin tipped up, one hand braced behind him, and Steve ducks down under some instinct he hadn’t known he had to accept Tony’s lips, first pressed against his with barely any force, and then harder, hard enough to force Steve’s lips apart. Tony’s thrusts his tongue into Steve’s mouth, hot velvet, and then bites Steve’s lower lip hard enough that Steve whines a little into the roughness of the kiss. “Perfect,” Tony says, mouth an eighth of an inch away from Steve’s, breath hot against his face. “You’re going to feel perfect, hot and tight the way you always are, and I’m going to lie back and let you work yourself on my cock the way want to, have wanted to try for a while now, though you’ve been good so far, Captain, haven’t pushed me even when I can tell you’ve wanted to. Going to let you have it any way you want it, let you do all the work, watch you fuck yourself on my cock however gets you off.”

Steve’s sucks in a harsh breath, abruptly aware that he’d been holding his breath as he seems to do sometimes, without ever meaning to, and trembles, sparks of pain arcing across his back, his cock feeling huge and aching and neglected between his spread thighs. Tony smirks up at him, all sharp angles and challenge and dark, dark eyes.

“You ready?” Tony asks, voice silky and somehow deadly sounding in a way that just makes Steve’s want twist in his guts and his nuts.

“Yes, Tony,” Steve breathes out shakily, and he is ready, so ready his thighs are shaking a little with the effort of not loosening to press his ass against Tony’s cock.

Tony’s fingers pull slowly free of Steve’s body with a slick, filthy sound that seems loud in the still air of the room, and Steve looks down, but can’t see anything but his own cock and Tony’s chest and belly. He feels it, though, when Tony’s cock is pulled up to press against his ass, hot and smooth against the sore skin of his ass for just second, and then aligned so that the head is nestled between the cheeks of Steve’s ass, not quite reaching his hole.

“Simple geometry, Captain,” Tony says, low and warm, his voice sharp but also somehow soothing, like that sharpness speaks to something buried deep in Steve’s mind that knows how to respond to it, not soften or blunt it, but how to bend to it in the way that Tony wants.

Steve slides his knees a little wider and lowers his body enough so that the head of Tony’s cock is pressed against his hole.

“Good, now,” Tony says, a command, and Steve shudders at it, his mind momentarily as bright with sensation as his skin, humiliation and lust and the desperate, almost debilitating desire to be the right thing, to be shaped around Tony’s need, to be good for Tony.

He flexes his thighs and twists his hips downward, shifting his knees just a little further back to angle himself right, his body seeming to know even though he’s never done it before, and the head of Tony’s cock stretches him wide for a few seconds, wider and harder than three fingers, and then slips in past muscle that nooses tight around it. Steve groans and Tony sucks in a breath. His hand appears out from around Steve and he wipes it carelessly on the bed, then uses both hands to grip Steve’s hips, his fingers tight enough to sting a little on the welts there. He doesn’t move Steve, doesn’t guide him up or down, just holds him tight, as though to keep Steve from pulling off, as if there were any circumstances Steve can think of that would make him do that. It’s the opposite of what he wants, and he lets the muscles of his thighs relax incrementally, his body intuiting what he doesn’t have the experience to really know, and he slides further down onto Tony’s cock, the shaft thick and heated as it presses in, slick and faster than Steve really means to, but it’s hot and so good, so good, that once he starts he can’t stop himself, even with the stretch burning through him.

“That’s it, all the way,” Tony says, and his breath is short and harsh, his fingertips drilling into Steve’s hips, but Tony is still beneath Steve, still and letting him take it how he wants it, just like he’d said. Steve doesn’t even consider stopping until his welted ass presses hotly against Tony’s hips and thighs, and Tony feels huge this way, longer and just bigger, everything deeper, and Steve reaches for his own cock almost without thought, pulling his hand back only when Tony growls, “Don’t touch. You can touch me any way you want to, Captain, but you don’t get to touch yourself at all.”

Steve hesitates, hands lifting and hovering for a moment, his sore ass tight against Tony’s skin, which feels feverish, his bruises aching under the pressure of his own weight. The ache washes up his ass and across his back in shuddering waves and Steve gasps out a breath and lets his hands fall to Tony’s chest, one to either side of the arc reactor, and just rests them there, leaning forward slightly to take some of his weight off his ass and let some of the sensation recede.

“Ride me,” Tony murmurs. “Ride me, Captain, and ride your pain.”

Even though he doesn’t really grasp what Tony means, Steve can feel himself responding, not just the ache in his groin or the splash of humiliation at the back of his brain, but his back tensing, starbursts of pain and heat, and his thighs bunching. He isn’t even fully aware of what he’s doing as he pulls himself up, Tony’s cock sliding out of him, and, at the angle he’s at, sliding the whole length of it along his prostate, but he sort of is, he almost knows what he’s doing, and Tony says, “Yes, Captain, you feel so good around my cock,” and then Steve is seized with something like need and want and greed and abandon, and he thinks of the way that Tony fucks him, long, hard strokes, almost punishing and always just right, as though Steve needs that kind of punishment, and he lets his thighs go loose and slams back down, Tony’s cock spearing sharply up into him, hurting almost, but good, needful, necessary. His back strains, streaking his vision with tears of pain and need, and he lifts himself again, almost all the way, and lets himself fall onto Tony. He cries out, and Tony shouts out a wordless sound of groaning encouragement.

He stutters into a rhythm, nothing elegant or even all that consistent, not in control the way Tony is in control when he fucks Steve, or even as in control as Steve had been the time he had fucked Tony, but something messier and more frantic, lifting himself up only to slam himself back down, his skin sizzling with hot pain, his muscles dense and aching at the abuse, but it all feels, there is so much, everything feels everything, from heavy sway of his cock and balls to the stretch of pain from his shoulders to the backs of his knees, from the twinges of pain from his nipples to the hard stretch of his raw asshole, clenching and gripping at Tony’s cock, even when doing it hurts, especially when it hurts, doing it because it hurts, because the hurt is something, gives him something, he needs something, the hard stretch, the rough burn, it’s what Tony told him once before, it’s being overwhelmed, he wants to be sexually overwhelmed, and Steve had thought he’d understood but this is something different, something more, hurting himself for himself, for Tony, too, to give Tony pleasure, but also because Tony had told him he could do it how he wanted it, take it however works for him, Tony had given him permission, and Steve fucks himself on Tony’s cock as hard as he can do it, straining for more of everything, Tony had said he could take it and Steve does, he takes it and throws himself at it, into it, and let’s all its edges and corners batter at him, batters himself against them, and the sound coming from out of his throat is low and rough and full of effort.

“Fuck,” Tony is saying, “Yes, oh fuck, drive yourself onto my cock, Captain, take it as hard as you can make it, you’re fucking gorgeous, take yourself apart for me, let me see you unravel, you need it and you want it and you’re so perfect, Captain, you were fucking made to take it all, anything I can give you, everything I can think of, I want to see you broken, you need to be broken, I want to be the one, I want to always be the one that takes you and breaks you and holds the pieces of you in my hands when you’re shattered…” and there may have been more, but Steve feels or maybe just senses Tony’s orgasm, maybe hears it in the rough and half-shouted monologue, but it’s enough to make him want to weep with frustrated need as he drives himself onto Tony’s cock, because he needs Tony. Needs him hard, needs him not to be done with Steve, needs more, and then Tony shifts up and grasps Steve’s shoulders, arms twined behind Steve’s back, and drags his fingertips hard down on either side of Steve’s spine, across bruises and welts and cuts, the pain so sharp and sudden and killingly brutal that Steve screams out Tony’s name as he jerks into the pain, his nuts twisting, the base of his spine full of splinters of raw red lust, and he arches his back, shoving his cock against Tony’s belly, and the impact, the quiet, almost unimportant slap of sound, is enough to send Steve into paroxysms, his body convulsing into what has to be the most frenzied orgasm of his life, the pleasure stabbed through with bright swathes of pain and heat and the perfect, simple satisfaction of completion, of being done to, of being taken and known and held.

Steve is sobbing when he shudders through the last of it, sobbing and still trying to press his abused back into Tony’s hands.

Tony doesn’t let him, won’t, shifts instead to slide his arms around Steve’s waist, and Steve drops his forehead to Tony’s shoulder, shuddering with the force of his tears, feeling hot and hollow and empty at the same time that he feels held still and safe and as comfortable as he can get under the circumstances.

Tony turns his head and nuzzles the side of Steve’s neck. “That was priceless,” he whispers. “I’d give everything I own to have you like this, Captain. You were perfect. You are perfect.”

“Tony,” Steve breathes thickly, and presses his wet face against Tony’s cheek. “Tony.”

“Just relax,” Tony murmurs. “Just let it take you.” He shifts carefully to one side, half-lifting Steve so that he slides off of Tony’s cock, and then shifts further so that Steve lands half-curled on his side on the bed, aching and breathless and feeling heavy and warm and perfect, Tony thinks he is perfect.

Tony turns toward him, his brow touching Steve’s, his arms up around Steve’s shoulders. He tangles their legs together and moves them around until they’re as close as they can get, and Steve tries to remember how to breathe and how to think.

He manages the first, but the second is much slower in coming. He is too content, here and now, to think about what any of it means, he is too spent and too… fulfilled. He feels like he has everything he could possibly want within arms reach of him, and why would he need to worry about anything else. He drifts, Tony’s hands warm, stroking him occasionally, but mostly just still and breathing in the scent of Tony and of his own sweat and of their sex and thinking he’ll never want to breathe in anything else again.

“Captain,” Tony says after a while. Then says, “Steve.”

Steve’s eyes flutter open. Tony’s face is right in front of him, tipped a little toward him. Tony’s eyes are warm and kind. “Yes, Tony?” Steve asks, his voice a husky skurl of sound.

“Just checking to make sure you didn’t pass out,” Tony says. “How do you feel?”

“Perfect,” Steve says. “You said I was perfect.” He knows he isn’t thinking clearly, but that part is clear enough in his memory.

Tony’s face softens further, eyes crinkling a little at the corners as he smiles. “You are perfect,” he says. “The most perfect thing I’ve ever had.” He touches Steve’s cheek lightly with just one fingertip. “I just need to be sure you are still okay.”

“I’m so much better than okay,” Steve says. “I’m better than anything.”

“You’re amazing,” Tony whispers. “If you decide tomorrow that your experimentation with kinky gay sex is over, I’m going to kidnap you and do everything in my power to change your mind.”

Steve grins. “I have only just begun to experiment,” he says gravely, and Tony’s answering smile is wide and so open it makes Steve feel a little breathless. “Not going anywhere,” Steve tells him. “I’m where I want to be.”

Tony kisses his brow softly.

“Me, too,” he says, sounding faintly surprised, but also pleased and completely sincere.

Steve smiles and closes his eyes again, letting the bliss wash through him and take him.