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American Patrol

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SSR Allied Headquarters was an underground bunker in the heart of London, but there was a building above it, a squat four-story box with no real design and no decoration. Steve hated the outside of it, thought it was ugly and pointless, but he didn't mind the roof -- high enough to see a few streets, with a wall that was wide and low, good for sitting on and thinking when the bustle underground got to be too much.

It had gotten to be too much pretty quickly, Steve reflected ruefully.

It wasn't so much that he didn't like it, but for the first time he was supposed to be a part of it now. They had him drawing maps of the area around the Hydra base where he'd found Bucky and the others; they had him writing reports, endless reports about the five-day trudge back to camp afterwards. How everyone stayed fed, how they got the wounded through, how he'd kept four hundred men from being noticed by the enemy as they crossed the front. It was all logistics, really, and Bucky and Dugan had done most of the heavy work as the only surviving sergeants. It didn't feel right to take all the credit, to keep saying I did this and I did that.

So he'd turned in what he hoped was the last draft he'd have to do of the damn thing, and he'd come up here to escape for a little while. To think about this new life he was finally finding -- being a real soldier, getting Bucky back, and the way Colonel Phillips didn't sneer quite so much now when he mentioned Captain America. The way the men he'd brought back looked to him as a leader.

And about Bucky. And Peggy.

"You playin' lookout?" a voice asked. Steve turned, glancing over his shoulder. Bucky was in the stairwell doorway. "Mind if I join you?"

"Pull up a brick," Steve said, and Bucky settled in next to him on the wall, legs dangling over the edge. Steve put one hand on his jacket and tugged him back slightly.

"Aw hell, you just did that because you could," Bucky complained.

"Should've known you'd come find me," Steve answered, not quite looking at him, smiling nonetheless.

"Yeah, well, I been put on Steve watch," Bucky replied. "Something on your mind?"

Steve shrugged. Bucky huddled in close, seeking warmth; Steve didn't dare put an arm around his waist, but he leaned in too, sharing the body-heat. He always ran hot now anyway.

"Steve, come on," Bucky said. "Is this about that dame? Carter? I saw you say hi to her before you did your disappearing act."

Steve nodded.

"And 'bout me?" Bucky pressed, sounding like he already knew the answer.

Well, there wasn't any good time to say it.

"I dunno what I want anymore, Buck," he said quietly. Bucky studied him, then turned to stare out at the city, still dark in the wake of a bombing drill. "I'm just so damn glad to have you back, and -- I don't know what to do, I don't know..." he groped for words, then shrugged. "Sorry. Hard to think clearly."

"Lemme ask you something," Bucky said. Steve braced himself. "You and me. Back when, in New York. When we..." he glanced around -- even on a rooftop, you just never knew. "Well, you know."

Steve did know. Sharing a bed for more than warmth, the slide of bodies together, the way he felt sheltered with Bucky. The way no matter how many dames Bucky threw at him or took out himself, at the end it was Steve and Bucky together against the world.

"Yeah," he said. "Back when."

"Were you settling?"


"For me."

Steve snorted. "No. Always thought you were settling for me."

Bucky ignored that. "Why'd you come get us?"

"You know why, Bucky."

"Sure, I know why. I want to know if you do. Disobeying orders, risking your life. Wasn't for the hundred and seventh. You came to get me."

"Mostly," Steve allowed.

"Agent Carter. You like her?"

"She's swell. Of course I do."

"And she likes you."

"Guess she does. I don't know."

"She does. Take it from me," Bucky assured him. "Look, you and me, that's solid. That's for good, no matter what. Doesn't matter about, you know...other stuff. You got a dame, I got my eye on a few -- "

"A few," Steve said, amused.

"Well, gather ye rosebuds," Bucky said philosophically. "Won't change us. We'll always be there."

"Bucky -- "

"We're friends. You're my Captain. That won't change, but this is the smartest way. You know it is. So I'm saying it's done, that part of us. It was good, but it's done now. Go after your girl. You know it's what you want."

Steve glanced at him. "I don't want you hurting."

"I'm not. Still got you." Bucky's eyes swept down from his face, over the uniform, and Steve flushed. "I wouldn't mind trying the new model out though. Just once. For curiosity's sake."



Steve gave the city a thoughtful look. "You know I have a room in the bunker. It's all underground, walls are...oh, a foot thick. Can't hear anything once you're inside."

Bucky grinned at him.


Half an hour found them ducking into the bunker, the hot smell of crammed-together soldiers closing in around them. Colonel Phillips barely spared a glance for them as they passed through.

"Strategy meeting?" one of the clerks asked, as Steve led Bucky towards the handful of rooms that served as living quarters for the officers.

"Going over some plans. We're not to be disturbed," Steve said, in his best Captain voice. "Top secret stuff," he added, and the clerk nodded. He heard Bucky stifle a laugh.

As soon as the door to his room was shut, Bucky pushed him up against it.

"Jesus, you're like a wall," Bucky murmured, and the world seemed strange for a moment when Steve had to tip his head down to kiss him.

"You like?" Steve asked.

"I'll let you know," Bucky replied, nipping at the thick muscle of his neck, hands busy with the buttons on his jacket. Steve reached for Bucky's belt, tossing it aside just before Bucky shoved the jacket off his shoulders and went to work on his shirt. "Fuck, they dress you up in a lot of clothes."

"Regulations," Steve replied, nuzzling his ear, tugging Bucky's shirt off his shoulders. He gave a gentle push, and Bucky staggered back, dropping onto the narrow bed. Steve pulled his tie off and yanked the half-buttoned shirt over his head, while Bucky squirmed out of his pants, clothing landing in a heap on the floor. By the time Steve knelt on the bed, one hand propping himself up, they were both naked, and Bucky was grinning smugly.

"You used to be smaller," he said, and Steve choked out a laugh.

"Not that much smaller," he said. Bucky's hand dipped between his legs and he grunted. "Okay, somewhat smaller."

"Don't blush on my account," Bucky said, stroking him slowly. "You remember the first time?" he asked, and let go of Steve's dick to trail fingers up his chest. Steve caught his breath. "In the orphanage? You didn't even want to take your shirt off. Like I was gonna care about your bony ribs."

"It was more that the Mother Superior could've caught us," Steve murmured, cupping his cheek.

"Steve, I got news for you, shirts on or off, if she'd caught us doing what we were doing -- "

"Shut up," Steve said fondly, and kissed him. Bucky tugged on the back of his neck and he pressed their bodies together carefully. Underneath him, Bucky bent his legs up, thighs curling around Steve's hips, and for once Steve didn't feel fragile like this. Like Bucky was only under him because he'd be crushed if Bucky was on top.

"Okay?" he asked softly, considering that. Bucky pushed up against him and nodded. "Tell me what you'd like."

"Aw, Steve -- "

"Come on, Buck, you know I like to hear it," Steve said, hips working slowly, a lazy thrust, just enough to tease.

"Don't know why I indulge you," Bucky muttered.

"Because I'm adorable."

"I said that once, and I was drunk."

"I wasn't," Steve answered, as Bucky hooked his fingers over his shoulders, head tipping back. "I'm no good at that dirty stuff -- "

"Uhh, fuck you," Bucky mumbled, tightening his thighs, trying to get more, faster. Steve licked his neck. "Love your tongue," he added, and Steve smiled into his skin.

"Where you want it?" he asked.

"Anywhere. Pink little tongue, all slick and wet -- love your mouth on my prick, used to stare at your mouth in class -- "

"You'd like that?" Steve asked. Maybe it was having Bucky back, maybe it was the Serum, but he managed, "Captain America sucking you off?"

"Jesus Christ!" Bucky blurted, arching hard.

"You see how big I am, Buck? You want me between your legs -- "

"Yes, your mouth, your dick, all of it," Bucky groaned. "Shit, have you got any -- "

"Kitbag," Steve replied, kissing his chest. He leaned back so Bucky could twist over the edge of the bed and rummage in the bag; he came up with a bottle of gun oil, eyes wide.

Steve rolled his eyes. "Vaseline in the pocket, idiot."

"I don't think I have to take that from you," Bucky said, shoving the gun oil back and letting out a satisfied hah when he found the Vaseline. Steve took it from him and then pinned him down, hands on his shoulders. "On second thought..."

Steve kissed him quick and hard, then let go of his shoulders and slid down between his thighs, flicking his tongue over Bucky's dick, quick little laps. Bucky clenched his hands on the rough army blanket and lay still, panting.

"Fuck, yes," he managed, when Steve finally took him in his mouth, sucking gently. "Oh, fuck, some things never change, you're fucking amazing at that. Lemme -- just a little -- "

Steve relaxed his throat, nodding as much as he could, and Bucky pushed up gently. Steve figured they were both surprised when he didn't choke.

Oh God, and he could hold his breath now, minutes on end --

"Sweet mother of Christ -- " Bucky moaned, pushing harder, and Steve felt himself take it. Bucky wasn't exactly small himself, but it didn't even seem that difficult now. "Are you -- holy -- oh God, that feels good, you're so good, you always were..."

Steve swallowed around his dick, just to see what would happen, then pulled off slowly when Bucky pushed at his face. "Well. I learn new things about the Serum every day," he remarked.

Bucky cracked up laughing, breathing hard. "Gimme a minute."

"You all right with...?" Steve held up the little pot of Vaseline. Bucky nodded and tossed him a pillow.

"I have to sleep on this, you know," Steve replied, shoving it under Bucky's ass. Bucky ground down against it. "Jerk."

"Flip it over, it'll be fine."

"I don't know why I ever listen to you. All your ideas are terrible," Steve said, but he slicked up his fingers and set to work --

"Ow! Motherfucking -- easy!" Bucky said, and Steve blinked up at him. "Your fingers, you asshole."

"Oh..." Steve looked down at his hand. They'd been slimmer, delicate (like a woman's, look at him, he's got girl hands) before the Serum. They hadn't lost dexterity, he knew that, but he couldn't deny they were thicker. Two was probably...not a good start. "Sorry," he muttered.

"Just go easy to start," Bucky said fondly, sitting up to ruffle Steve's hair.

Steve kissed Bucky's thigh in apology, slowing down, reminding himself that whatever his Serum-enhanced body was telling him, he wouldn't explode if he spent a few extra minutes making sure Bucky was ready.

Bucky, on the other hand, was writhing and moaning, muttering filthy stuff, the kind he knew Steve liked but had trouble saying and still blushed a little at hearing. Finally there was an exasperated sigh.

"I'm a soldier, not a daisy, come on," Bucky said, and Steve laughed and brushed his lips over Bucky's stomach, crawling back up to fit their bodies together. Bucky hooked his knees around his ribcage. Steve kissed his chin, his jaw, his throat as he pushed inside.

"Yeah," Bucky said on an exhale. "Definitely bigger."

"All right?" Steve asked. Bucky turned his head, pressing his face to Steve's cheek.

"Slow," he warned, and Steve nodded.

Back in the orphanage, the first time, they'd only done to each other what they did to themselves, foreheads pressed together as their hands worked. It hadn't taken a long time to figure out what else they could do. The first time they'd tried this, after Bucky heard about it (Steve didn't ask where) and suggested it might be hilarious, they'd both been surprised at their reactions. Not only that Buck, bigger and stronger, might like to take it, but that little Steve, asthmatic and hardly an athlete, would be able to give it. And that it felt so good.

Just went to show, Steve always thought. Size wasn't everything.

He sped up when Bucky urged him on, the smell of sex and the dull thud of their bodies familiar and reassuring, and it was Bucky, and neither of them were really any different, even if they were soldiers now.

As if he'd read his mind, Bucky grinned up at him. "Captain," he said lasciviously. "You know how to show -- uh, Steve! -- you know how to show a Sergeant a good time."

Steve laughed and bent to shut him up with his mouth, reaching down with one hand to grasp Bucky's cock. They came together, breath mingling, still with the thought in the backs of their minds that they couldn't be too loud.

Bucky was breathing hard, eyes closed, a blissed-out smile on his face; Steve pulled away briefly with a grunt, and tumbled down on the narrow bed next to him. After a second, Bucky shifted onto one side, making room, and nosed against his shoulder.

"So?" Steve asked softly. "I pass inspection?"

"Sure," Bucky said softly, kissing his skin. "That was a laugh. Though I have to say..."


Bucky's fingers rubbed through his hair. "I liked it just as well when you were a little fella."

Steve leaned into the caress happily. "You know I'd still be yours if you asked, Buck."

"Mm. No. One last hurrah for us was fine. Least I know I'm delivering you up into good hands," Bucky added.

"And stickin' around, right?" Steve asked.

Bucky rested a hand on his chest. "Always, ya jerk."


They had five Hydra bases to take out, once the Commandos received official authorization, but that wasn't all they did. Steve was sometimes called away for publicity, even now, and occasionally the Commandos would be attached to a specific battalion to help with a big push. They'd come off weeks of fighting or stealth work and the brass would give them some downtime, but soon enough the lot of them would get antsy and nervous and they'd head back out, with fresh C-rations and more explosives than Steve thought they could ever use, let alone would need.

Against all odds, Steve liked the fighting; he sometimes lost men and that was hard, and it wasn't pleasant work, but he felt good when they were out in the middle of an operation or a battle. He felt like he was being of use, fulfilling the promise of Erskine's work.

Still, there was something to be said for London, for a weekend pass off base and some coin in his pocket, and a music hall with Bucky.

And Peggy was in London.

"Going out for the evening?" she asked, when she caught Steve shaving in the washbasin in his room.

"Thought I might," he stammered, wondering if it was appropriate to be speaking to her in his undershirt. "Just to hear some music, you know. Buck -- Sergeant Barnes is dragging us somewhere."

"Mm," she said, not entirely approvingly. "He's a little flashy, isn't he?"

"He's my best friend," Steve said.

"Nothing against the good Sergeant. He just strikes me as -- well, he's like Mr. Stark, isn't he? Following whatever catches his eye."

"He's focused when it counts," Steve replied stiffly.

"I'm sure he is," she said, apparently sensing she'd hit a nerve. She watched him in the mirror as he wiped the last of the shaving cream off his face. "Well, remember, someday we have a date for a dance."

He gave her a smile, lowered his eyes, and then reached for his uniform shirt and pulled it on, turning to her. He felt...frustrated, twitchy already though they'd only been back a day.

"Why did you say after?" he blurted, and she frowned at him. "Why did you -- why are we..." he gestured, frustrated.

"Captain -- "

"Why should we wait for the war to be done?" he managed without stammering. "Come out tonight. Show me how to dance. Tonight."

Her frown was fixed in place. "Captain..."

"Please," he said, coming to the doorway where she stood, giving her the best smile he had, the selling-bonds smile he'd perfected before coming overseas. "Please. Agent Carter."

She narrowed her eyes, but her lips turned up at the edges.

"I'll see you at eight," she said finally. "The USO?"

"Y -- uh. You will?" he asked, startled.

"Unless you don't really want to -- "

"No! Eight!" he said. Her smile widened a fraction. "Eight. At the USO. And, and we'll dance."

That won him a full-on grin. "Yes, Captain. I have to..." she held up a folder of reports.

"Right, of course. Sure," he said.

He might have leaned out the doorway to watch her go.


"Okay, I let you drag me out of the best jazz club in London to come to the damn USO," Bucky said, at five minutes to eight that night. "And now you're just standing around with your hands in your pockets like you're still five foot nothin'. You got a plan or something here, Steve?"

"What?" Steve asked, startled. "No, no plan. You could have stayed at the jazz club!"

"Told you. I'm Cap Minder," Bucky replied, as a couple of women strolled past, looking at them over their shoulders. Bucky whistled low.

"Hey, soldier," another woman called, coming up to them as a swing number started up. She made a beeline for Steve and offered her hands. "Wanna dance?"

"Uh -- uh -- " Steve looked imploringly at Bucky.

"He's shy," Bucky said, intercepting her hands. "But I'm free, gorgeous."

She laughed and tugged him out on the dance floor. Bucky glanced over his shoulder at Steve.

Thank you, Steve mouthed. Bucky nodded and turned back to the dancing.

"Shy, hm?" a voice asked, and Steve turned around. Peggy was standing there, in the same gorgeous bright red dress, with her hair all shining in victory rolls and her mouth done up red as well.

"I was waiting for you," he managed, and felt pretty proud of himself.

"So I hear," she answered, turning to the crowd. "You really want to learn to dance in that mob?"

"Well. Maybe we wait for somethin' a little...slower," he said thoughtfully. "I don't wanna step on your feet."

"And here I thought with all that muscle you picked up some grace," she said.

"Never tried it out."

"Good," she said cryptically, and took his elbow. He should have offered it to her, he thought frantically. "You know, this might go better if you didn't look quite so terrified of me."

"If I said it was a generalized terror, would that help?" he asked, voice thin and nervous.

"Not particularly," she answered, tugging gently. He went, half-escorting, half-following, as they pushed through to the dance floor. Bucky, who was throwing some girl around like he'd been born for it, glanced over and gave Steve a knowing grin.

Meanwhile, Peggy stood him square on the floor and in front of God and everyone did her level best to teach him to dance.

It wasn't so bad once he started concentrating on the dancing itself. He wasn't clumsy, anyway, even big as he was, and once he got the patterns down the rest came pretty naturally. At any rate, it distracted him from the fact that her slim, pale hands were all over his shoulders and his back and she was putting his hands on her hips all the time, and --

And then they were dancing.

Steve found himself beaming widely, watching Peggy, managing not to humiliate himself for a good five minutes.

Of course, because the universe hated him, then the band struck up a slow dance, and everyone seemed to pull closer together. There was Peggy, all but pressed up against him, adjusting one of his wrists so that his hand was --

"Sorry!" he blurted, drawing it back from her behind. She gave him a level look, took his wrist, and placed his hand carefully again.

Steve blinked at her.

"You know, it's a good thing you're pretty, because you're not very bright," she said in his ear, laughing. He smiled, waiting for her to pull back, but she just tipped her head down and rested it on his shoulder. Like they were real sweethearts.

Over the top of her head, Bucky gave him a thumbs-up behind his dance partner's back. Steve closed his eyes and inhaled, enjoying the moment.


It got to be -- not a routine, it couldn't be routine because his heart pounded every time, but perhaps...a ritual. They'd come back to London, or to a temporary base where the SSR was headquartered, and he'd stutter his way through asking Peggy out. They'd go somewhere, usually somewhere dark and smoky and sometimes a little disreputable, and they'd dance.

He'd walk her back to the base, and if he was lucky he'd get a kiss goodnight. He was lucky most of the time; all of the time really, except for that one night they were interrupted by a bombing raid. Sometimes there'd be more -- not much more, but she'd fold into his arms and the quick press of her body against his probably betrayed him more often than he'd like.

And then in another few days he'd be back in combat, running with Bucky and the Commandos and dreaming about when the war was over. Or just even when he could get back to base, back to Peggy, back to the dancing.

The final time he came back -- before it all went to hell, before Bucky died and left him behind, and then Steve died and left the rest of them behind, so he thought -- Peggy seemed different. They went out and went dancing, but when he offered to walk her back to base, she said she wouldn't mind getting a drink, instead.

"Sure," he said, and laid down some cash for a couple of drinks -- one for her and one for him, mostly to be companionable.

They found a quiet table in a corner and talked a little -- he was getting better at talking, at least to her -- and when they'd finished their drinks she said, "You know, my family has a town-house in London."

"Yeah?" he asked. "Must be nice for you, being close to home."

"Well, they're all in the country until the war's over," she replied. "The house is closed up, mostly. I look in every week or two, make sure nobody's looted the place or squatted there. I thought I might look in tonight, if you wanted to come along. I have a night pass from the base."

Her expression was keen, and a little sly. Steve might not know much about women but he was getting pretty good at picking up hints.

He leaned in a little, lowering his voice. "Peggy, are you sure?"

"Aren't you?" she asked, tipping her head so their faces were very close.

"I don't -- you're a lady, Peggy, and I respect that," he said. "You -- we don't have to."

"The secret to being a lady," she said, equally quiet, "is to do what you like and act as if it's exactly what you should."

She stood up, and he followed. He'd have followed her anywhere.

The streets were pretty quiet, everyone indoors at home or in the bars and nightclubs at this time of the evening. She led him down alleys and side-streets, clearly a route she knew well, past a bombed-out wreck on a corner and up to the door of a grand-looking townhouse.

"Come inside," she invited, and they walked through rooms full of furniture covered in sheets, blackout curtains on the windows, dust on the railing when they climbed the stairs. At the top she opened a narrow door and fumbled inside for a lamp, lighting it as he looked around curiously.

"They had the electric and gas switched off," she said, lighting a second lamp. It was a snug little room, rugs on the floor, bookshelves lining the walls, a fireplace already stocked with kindling. There was a makeup table by the window, and a second table with a record-player on it.

And a bed against one wall.

"Light the fire?" she asked, handing him a lamp. He crouched and touched a bit of paper to the little lamp-flame, then pushed it under the paper beneath the grate in the hearth. The fire caught and crackled, and over that he heard music, slow and easy, from the record-player. When he turned around she was there, offering a hand.

"Did I ever thank you for teaching me how to dance?" he asked, drawing her close, not quite so shy now about resting a hand in the small of her back. She leaned into him, swaying with the music.

"I should have charged some sort of fee," she agreed, and he smiled, pressing his face into her hair.

"Well, I got a lot saved in bonds," he said. She laughed. "And you know, the gratitude of Captain America, that's nothing to sneeze at."

"As nice as Captain America is," she answered, "I find I prefer Steve Rogers."

"What, that guy? I hear he hasn't got any idea how to talk to women."

"Talking's overrated, if you ask me," she said. She lifted her face and kissed him, slick and sweet, and he stopped swaying to the music.

"You know I think you're great," he said, brushing a thumb over her cheek. "Most beautiful woman I know."

"Better be," she replied. She kissed him again, one hand tugging at his tie.

He inhaled sharply, feeling dizzy, and for all he'd done this with Bucky a hundred times it was different with Peggy. More familiar and less at the same time. Buck had been right -- this was what he wanted, and if he got to keep his best friend and have the woman he loved, he wasn't going to argue.

He touched her shoulder delicately, tugging the collar of her dress wide, and pressed a kiss there. She kept working at his shirt as he found the buttons on the back of her dress and opened the first few, leaning back to look down at her face, to make sure this was what she wanted. The want in her eyes took his breath away.

"I want to own you," she said softly. "I want to know that you're mine."

"What do you want me to do?" he asked, stilling under her touch.

"Well, for a start..." She turned around. "You ought to finish what you began."

He kissed her neck as he undid the rest of the buttons, fingers brushing over the skin of her back, sliding over the lacy edge of her underwear. She'd planned this, he thought, probably knew he'd never dare this much in a million years --

And then it went out of his head, because she wriggled and the dress fell away, and Steve realized that like most other women since rationing started, her nylons were drawn on. Just the smooth stretch of thigh under his hand, and her behind pressed up against his groin, his other arm around her waist. She was sliding the straps of her brassiere down her arms and he leaned away to undo the hooks in the back, laughing as he struggled with the final one.

"Punched Hitler two hundred times -- got a little problem with a lady's lacies," he said, then flushed at how forward that sounded. "Haven't really ever done that before," he added, by way of explanation and apology.

She didn't answer, just leaned back against his chest again and took one of his hands, drawing it up her stomach and over her ribs, fitting it to one of her breasts. He explored a little, enjoying the soft noise she made when he rubbed a thumb over her nipple. His other hand came to rest low on her belly, tracing small circles there.

Eventually she sighed and pulled away and he let her go, blushing when she turned around -- here he was in most of his uniform still, and she was wearing a pair of panties and her heels and that was pretty much it.

"Might want to lose the dress khaki," she said, lifting a leg to tug one shoe off slowly. He stared at her, hardly listening, entranced by the way the light from the lamps and the fire flickered across her skin. "Steve. Darling," she added, kissing his cheek. "I never knew a man so reluctant to take his trousers off."

"Oh -- uh," he said, tugging at his shirt, stripping with the kind of speed normally reserved for a mad dash to the showers after a mission. He got his boots and socks off, his shirt and trousers and undershirt, but when he looked up and saw her watching, naked now and smiling, he felt suddenly shy. As if that last step would be presumptuous. Or too much.

She kissed him, tongue against his, mouth warm and wet, and hooked her fingers in the waist of his boxers, using it to tug him to the bed. He thought she might lie down, but instead she turned them and pulled his underwear down, then gave him a little shove. He found himself amid the blankets, Peggy kissing him breathless, her thighs straddling his hips.

"Handsome," she murmured, her hands sliding down his chest. "Thought you were even before, though."

"Sure. Ribcage Rogers with the stick arms," he answered, settling his hands on her waist.

"You were very brave, and reasonably polite," she said, laughter in her voice. "Kindness is rare in men sometimes, and you were kind. And yes," she added, nuzzling his collarbone, "I thought you were attractive."

"First ever, th -- ah!" he cut himself off as she bit down. "I take it back."

"What's that?"

"You're not a lady at all," he said, laughing. She wiggled a little, ass snug against his dick, and he groaned.

"Don't try my patience," she advised, taking one of his hands. She kissed the palm, his fingers curling affectionately against her jaw, and then guided it down between her legs. She was warm and wet, hair rough against the heel of his hand, and she moved his fingers carefully until they brushed up against a hard little ridge. He stroked there, watching her face, enjoying the flush that crept up from her throat and down to her breasts as she groaned.

"Steve," she breathed softly. "Oh -- Christ, I'm going to enjoy you."

He pushed up on one elbow for better leverage, and to watch as she clenched around his hand, fascinated by the tilt of her hips, the way her breasts bounced slightly when he pressed up and her body jerked. Such a different kind of body from the one he was used to, but so responsive, so beautiful.

"My lovely soldier," she added, leaning forward, tugging at his wrist. He pulled his hand away, shiny-wet, and lifted it to his mouth, licking his fingers. Peggy caught her breath and he pushed himself up a little further to kiss her.

"Should we..." he asked, not wanting to spoil the moment but concerned nonetheless. "Have you got a skin?" he asked, blushing. She just smiled and reached under the pillow on the bed, producing a little tin with a triumphant gleam in her eye. He recognized the brand -- he'd seen it in camp often enough. They were good for keeping matches dry, once you'd...used up their original contents.

The rubber was thick and a little cumbersome, but after he fumbled it and she took it out of his hand, rolling it down him, he had to admit it tamped down the urge a little, gave him back some of the control he'd lost when he'd had his fingers inside her. Her eyes were huge and dark in the half-light from the fire, watching his.

He expected her to drop down into the blankets, but instead she just knelt up again, lowering herself onto him and moaning. He could feel the heat of her, the tight pull of her body around his, and his eyes slid shut for a minute, nerves singing.

They popped open, startled, when she scratched her fingernails down his chest. He thrust up without even meaning to, hips flexing, hands coming up to hold her again. She rolled her body, shoulders to thighs, and Steve cut off a sharp gasp.

"I never -- " he thrust again and she rolled again, tipping her head back, and he put a hand up to grasp her breast. "Not before, with a woman, I -- I didn't know -- "

"I know," she moaned, and leaned in to kiss him, letting out a long, luxurious cry when that changed the angle of their bodies together. "All mine, my soldier boy."

Their bodies rocked together like that, slow, almost languid at first, picking up speed as the hot urge grew, as the world closed in to her skin under his hands and her body around him, her dark eyes and lush red mouth. He forgot to be quiet, forgot to be a gentleman, and when he was close he slid a hand between their bodies again, searching for what had made her buck and moan -- fingers pressing and rubbing, perhaps a little rough, but it made Peggy say his name the way he'd so often wanted her to, with longing. She fluttered suddenly under his hand, tightening around him, and he put his fingers around the back of her neck, pulled her down and kissed her and came, muffling his groans into her mouth.

"Don't -- quite -- stop," she begged, even though she had to feel he was done. He moved his fingers again, kept moving, watching in surprise as she opened her mouth and twitched against him and --

"Wow," he said softly, when her second orgasm was done. Peggy laughed breathlessly, arching slowly off him, reaching between them to tug the rubber away and toss it somewhere, it hardly mattered where. She rested her face against his chest, body slowly stretching out against his, and he stroked her hair, feeling floaty and satisfied and full of love.

"You were right," she said after a while, her own hand tracing shapes on his shoulder, fingers light and almost ticklish.

"About what?"

"Waiting -- waiting until after the war would have been wrong," she said. "I thought, I do think, that the work I have to do is important. Most men don't think so. I've had marriage proposals, you know, but...well, they all wanted me to stop work and settle down, be kept until the war was over. And after. And anyway..." she sighed happily. "They weren't you."

"You don't want to settle down?" he asked.

"Eventually, of course. I'd like to have children. Maybe keep a home. But not yet. And when I do it'll be my choice. Like this was."

He kissed her forehead, relaxing. "Well. I s'pose that's fine."

"You suppose, do you?"

"You look awful nice in a uniform."

Peggy laughed. "You certainly have a way with a compliment."

"I practice 'em." He shifted a little, rubbing one of her arms, aware her skin was growing cold under his hand. "You're staying here tonight?"

She nodded.

"Want me to stay?"

"Very much," she said.

"Good," he answered, and gently tumbled her off him. "Get under the blankets. It's a cold night. I'll bank up the fire."

"No, stay," she murmured, catching his arm as he sat up. He smiled.

"You won't be saying that when we wake up freezing in the morning. Be right back," he said, and lifted her hand off his arm, kissing her wrist. She settled back with a sigh, and he heard her crawling under the covers as he loaded another piece of wood onto the fire and banked it, the same as he would if it was a campfire out in the field. When he turned back, she was watching him sleepily. He tugged his boxers on and she pulled back the blankets, her breasts and a sliver of belly pale in the low light.

Steve blew out the lamps, feeling awfully domestic, and slid into the bed next to her, arms going around her when she curled up against his chest.

"I'm so glad of you, Peggy," he said, hoping she was too close to sleep to hear or remember.

She murmured unintelligibly, buried her nose in his neck, and slept.


The next morning when he woke he stoked up the fire, and Peggy offered him a can of beans and a small bag of slightly stale crumpets.

"I see how it is," he said. "You bring in a paycheck, I cook the food."

"You've more experience with it than I do," she replied airily.

He cooked quietly, contentedly, while she washed and shook out her dress, clicking her tongue at the wrinkles before pulling it on. They ate sitting on the hearth, and then she kissed him and stroked his hair.

"I have a few things to see to around here," she said. "You should be back at base. And we really shouldn't go back together after being out all night."

"I guess not," he answered. "I -- I won't brag or anything, if you're worried. Not that I don't want to."

She watched as he stood up, a faint smile on her face. "I'll see you at the briefing this afternoon. I suspect by tomorrow morning you'll be off again."

"If I'm not -- "

"We'll go dancing," she promised, rubbing his leg through his trousers.

He went back to the base with a grin a mile wide on his mug, and only tempered it when he saw the Commandos loitering in the strategy room.

"Look who got himself into trouble," Bucky said with a grin. He leaned in close. "Better duck when Peggy finds out you were out tomcatting all night," he said, in a voice too low for the others to hear.

"Aw, stuff it," Steve said good-naturedly. Bucky narrowed his eyes at him, then widened them.

"Well, good for you, Captain," he said.

"Bucky -- "

"Don't worry. The lady's honor won't be smirched by me," Bucky said, punching him in the shoulder. "Well done, Rogers. Good for you. And her."

"You mean that?"

Bucky's smile was real, and fond. "Sure I do. Now come on, Phillips is in a snit and he's got maps he wants you to look at."


The ninety-third floor of Stark Tower is a lot further off the ground than the old SSR cover building's roof was. The view is pretty great, but even Steve feels the cold so high up, especially sitting out on the platform, legs dangling off the edge, arms propped on the lower bar of the safety rail.

He rests his chin on his folded arms, watching the lights of the cars below streak past.

There was a parade today -- he overheard Clint mention it early in the morning. A pride parade, and Steve thought that was nice, that New Yorkers were proud they were rebuilding their city. So he thought he'd go down and see it.

It was not exactly what he was expecting.

"Don't jump," says a voice behind him, and Steve snorts. "It's a hell of a ride but the end's a little harsh."

"You oughta know," Steve replies, as Tony settles down next to him, crossing his legs rather than letting them swing. He's wearing thick boots and a heavy sweater, and he has a thermos of coffee in his hands.

"Guess I would," Tony answers. It's been six months since they fought the Chitauri, four since Steve moved into Stark Tower with the others. He and Tony still bicker most of the time, but it's good-natured now. At least, he thinks it is. He likes this man, Howard's son, older than him but very young in spirit. Tony would mock him if he said that out loud.

They've fought aliens (again) and some robots, and helped with a few natural disasters. They're a team, now. It feels like the war again, in...mostly a good way.

But there's no Bucky to go out fighting with him, and no Peggy to come home to. And he aches sometimes with the loss.

Tony sips the coffee, then offers it to him. "It's spiked. Warm you up."

"You know it won't matter," Steve replies, taking a healthy slug.

"Crying shame," Tony observes, accepting the coffee back. "I keep meaning to do something about that. Constant sobriety has to be a curse."

"Sometimes," Steve allows, turning back to the city lights. They're silent for a while, until Tony clears his throat.

"This is about today, isn't it?" he asks. Steve is quiet, thoughtful. "JARVIS said you went down to see Pride. I know you're still getting used to everything, but this is one of those things you're going to have to adapt to or get left in the dust, Old School."

"Guess it's about today," Steve says quietly. "Not in the way you think, though."

"Do tell," Tony says, and Steve glances at him. Wondering if he can trust him. Wondering if he wouldn't rather hold the secret close, keep it like a flicker of light in his memory. Wondering if Tony would find some way to taint it. He can be good at that, when he's really trying.

But he trusts the man to save his life in battle, and Tony, unexpectedly, seems to feel the same. So he inhales, and turns his head sideways on his folded wrists.

"Back in the war, I had a girl," he says.

"The infamous Peggy," Tony replies.

"You read my file."

"Well, yeah, but I knew her. A little. Friend of dad's. Met her a couple of times as a kid, anyway."

"You like her?"

"Sure, but I was six and she brought me candy. What's not to like?"

Steve smiles a little. "Before I had my girl, I had my boy."

Tony tilts his head. It's his working-things-out pose. "A boy."

"Yep. Bucky. James Barnes." He inhales and looks away. "He was my first ever. Only ever, except for Peggy. And -- I keep thinking."

Tony waits silently. Steve is grateful for the silence; he knows it doesn't come naturally to any Stark.

"The last time we...he said he was lettin' me go. Lettin' me go so I could go to Peggy. He meant it too, but -- I think we were both thinking it wasn't an easy life, back then. If you had a girl and you loved her, well, that made things a lot simpler, and if you could be pals...that was enough. For us, anyhow."


"But I think if things had been then the way they are now...I'm not saying it's perfect, I know it's not, but I think it's better. And if it'd been better back then, I maybe wouldn't have ever had my girl. I'd have had Buck. And we'd've been happy." He breathes against the tight clench in his chest. "Till he died, anyhow. And -- I loved Peggy too. So I don't know which I'd rather." He rubs his forehead, trying to brush away the thoughts that keep circling there. "I guess it doesn't matter now."

The first time Tony touched him, a too-familiar hand on his shoulder, a pose for the audience he was trying to annoy, Steve brushed it off angrily. Since then, except on occasion in a fight, they don't touch. Nobody touches Steve, not often anyway, and he didn't know how much he'd want for it until he didn't have someone to huddle up with around a fire, or someone to dance with.

Now, very cautiously, Tony bumps their shoulders together, then leans in, resting his weight against Steve's side.

"I got ghosts," Steve says, ashamed of the way his voice sounds. "I got so many ghosts."

Tony offers him the coffee again.

"Come on inside," he says, as Steve sips. "It's fucking freezing out here and Bruce and I are watching dumb alien documentaries. Promise we'll skip the one about Hitler building a UFO."

Steve catches his wrist as he goes to stand. "Don't tell," he says, perilously close to begging. "I'm not ashamed, but it's mine. Don't tell."

Tony gives him a jerky nod, and Steve lets go.

Inside, the room is warm and well-lit, and loud -- the television is running, Bruce and Clint are arguing some point of logic, Thor is making Natasha explain everything. Tony simply announces "Found him!" and plops down next to Bruce, kicking his boots off. Steve hesitantly sits on Tony's other side, slumping down in the wide, soft couch cushions, and lets the noise wash over him.

Maybe sometimes the bustle is better than the silence.


Three days after the parade -- after an evening where people seemed to close around him comfortingly, even if they didn't realize they were doing it -- there's another battle.

It's not the kind of fight Steve's used to. In the middle of breakfast, with Tony hunched over his coffee and Steve cooking eggs for himself and Bruce, suddenly every touch-surface and window and television screen flickers, dies, and relights bright red.

"Holy shit," Tony yelps, leaping to his feet, coffee overturning. Steve looks around in alarm and then immediately dives for his bedroom, where his shield is.

"What is it?" he calls as he runs.

"Incursion," Tony yells back, slamming his hand down on the touchscreen. "All hands, this is not a drill. We have a code incursion. JARVIS, you with me?"

"For now, sir," JARVIS answers as Steve fetches up his shield.

"Where are they attacking?" he calls, as Clint and Natasha burst out of their rooms, Clint half-dressed and carrying a bow, Natasha with knives. "Where's Thor?"

"He's at Foster's," Clint says, adjusting the strap on his quiver. "Should I call him?"

"No!" Bruce says.

"Where's the battle?" Natasha demands.

"It's in the code! Jesus, Bruce, explain it to them," Tony yells, hands moving over the touch-surface so fast they're almost a blur. Steve starts forward, and Bruce stops him with a hand on his chest. Tony is shouting instructions, which reverberate over the loudspeakers. Code teams to your terminals. Everyone else lock down and evacuate. This is not a drill.

The lights go out. The fridge dies with a whine.

"Fuck, fuck! JARVIS!" Tony calls, and there's no answer. Steve didn't think anything could be so chilling as Tony calling for a JARVIS who doesn't reply.

"The system's being hacked," Bruce says urgently, and Steve gives him a blank look. "It's not a physical attack. It's in the computer code that runs the building."

"Like...the internet?" Steve asks, confused, as the lights come back up.

"Holding for now," JARVIS announces.

"Okay, let's keep it that way. Bruce, I need your hands," Tony demands, and Bruce hurries away from Steve to join Tony at the table.

"What can I do?" Steve asks, glancing at the others. "What can we do?"

"Sit tight," Tony says. "Don't bother me. Don't go anywhere."

"Don't distract JARVIS," Bruce adds. "Don't ask him anything. Stay off the internet."

"I have to get to the secure terminal in the server room," Tony says, sounding frightened. "Bruce -- "

"I got it, your coders are coming online. We'll hold it off. Go," Bruce orders, and Tony bolts, Steve hot on his heels out of instinct.

"Someone's trying to hack into the Stark servers," Tony says as they run, diving into a stairwell and dropping down the stairs three at a time, vaulting railings to move faster. "They're trying to get at JARVIS directly."

"Someone's trying to kill JARVIS?" Steve asks, horrified.

"Or kidnap him. We've drilled for this," Tony adds, bolting down a hallway. "We'll get the fuckers. Steve -- " he stops and turns, while a thick door cycles through its security protocols. "This is not a fight you can join in. Stay out of my way and keep everyone calm. If you need something to do, make sure everyone's out of the building."

"What happens if they get JARVIS?" Steve asks, as Tony runs through the opening door.

"The whole building shuts down. If they get him, there's not a network in the world they can't get to," Tony yells over his shoulder. "Go!"

Steve runs for the stairs, nearly colliding with Natasha and Clint.

"Everyone take a stairwell," he says. "Sweep floors as you go."

But in the end there's not much he can do. They get the tower cleared and send police and fire away; a man in a suit, some manager at Stark Industries, takes control of the civilians, the residents and workers in the tower, and sends everyone home or to the safety of a hotel for the night. There are fifteen people left in the building, not counting the Avengers, and like Bruce and Tony they're glued to computer screens, scrolling through what looks to Steve like gibberish.

"Bruce!" he calls, as they return to the penthouse, grateful the elevators didn't stop on the way up.

"Little busy here, Cap," Bruce calls back, but he taps the table twice and looks up. "Everyone clear?"

"Except the coders. They wouldn't go."

"They're what's keeping JARVIS safe right now."

"Can you backtrack the hackers?" Natasha asks.

"Not yet," Bruce replies, turning back to the table. "They're hitting hard. This was an organized attack. Someone got into the servers and put a backdoor in. Tony's going to execute someone when all this is over."

"Show us where to shoot," Clint says.

"You'll know when we do. Settle in, kids, this is going to be a long day," Tony's voice emerges from Bruce's phone, sitting on the desk. "Don't use anything electronic if you can avoid it, JARVIS needs the processing power right now."

At first Steve paces the distance between Bruce and Tony, up and down the stairs, back and forth, but after a few hours he joins Natasha and Clint, who are curled up together on the couch. Natasha has a book; Clint is reading over her shoulder.

"Can't we do anything?" Steve asks quietly.

"This is their fight," Natasha says. "We're backup support on this one. Food, coffee, anything they need."

"And that's all?"

"That's all," she says, and gives him a sympathetic look.

It's thirty hours before the fight is over. Thirty hours of trading off shifts, bringing food to Tony and Bruce and the coders, checking in with the police and SHIELD, trying to sleep while Natasha takes second shift, giving up just as Clint takes third. Thirty hours of watching them struggle and being unable to help.

He feels useless, more useless than he has since before the Serum, and he hates it.

And at the end of it, when the lights come back to full power, when the red clears off the screens, JARVIS says, quite calmly, "Servers and code secure. Thank you for your assistance. Please retrieve Mr. Stark from the server room."

When Steve goes down to the server room, he sees what JARVIS meant. Upstairs, Natasha and Clint are forcing a beer and some food on a weary Bruce, but down here in the hot, cramped room full of strange technology, Tony is all but passed out. He has his head down on the one flat workspace, body bent so that his shoulders and face rest on it, and he's laughing in the awful kind of way Steve recognizes from battle fatigue during the war.

"Tony," he says gently, and Tony goes still and quiet. Steve touches his shoulder, tentatively.

"Done," Tony says, and straightens. He's gone longer without sleep before, Steve knows, but he's been working this whole time. His hands are twitching, eyes jerking this way and that. "Everything's secure. Coders," he adds, and his voice booms over the speakers. "Go home. Take a couple of days. Bruce?"

"Here, Tony," Bruce replies, face popping up on a small screen. Bruce managed to get a few hours of sleep here and there, but he still looks nearly as wrecked as Tony.

"Take a pill, get some rest," Tony commands. "JARVIS."

"Here, sir."

"How you feeling?"

"Angry, sir."

"Amen," Tony murmurs, hand caressing the terminal. "You find them?"

"Backtrace has located a team of four, approximately two miles away," JARVIS replies. "Appropriate measures have been taken. All bank accounts have been locked and identities flagged. They do not appear to be in transit."

"They don't know we have them yet?"

"No, sir. They are still attempting to hack the quarantined faux-mainframe you created."

Tony looks ready to cry. "Okay, let's get 'em. Get the suit ready."

"Tony, I don't think -- " Steve begins, and Tony rounds on him, rage whipping over his face, tensing his body.

"They attacked JARVIS," he shouts. "My creation. They tried to steal -- they were going to -- "

He makes a fist and presses it tightly against the edge of the terminal.

"Tony," Steve says, still quiet and even. "Natasha and I are fresh. You're about to fall over. Let us take this one."

"But it's my -- "

"Tony. Let us take this one for you."

Tony lifts his huge dark eyes, exhaustion written all over his face.

"Come on," Steve says, tugging gently on his sleeve. "Come upstairs, get some food, get some rest."

"Agent Romanoff is already preparing for departure," JARVIS adds.

"Tell her I'll meet her on the copter pad," Steve replies, pulling Tony along coaxingly. In the elevator, Tony nods off standing up, and only Steve's quick arm around his waist prevents a fall.

He's itching to act, so perhaps he's not as solicitous as he could be. He dumps Tony on the couch in the living room, still asleep, and checks on Bruce -- "I'll watch him, make sure he doesn't try anything," Bruce promises -- and then grabs his gear and runs for the landing pad.


After they've corralled the four whimpering, terrified hackers who went after JARVIS, gotten them into SHIELD custody and made sure that while they haven't fallen down any stairs they have been made as uncomfortable as possible within prisoner-custody guidelines, they return in silence to the Tower. Steve barely takes his shoes off before collapsing onto his bed. His spine makes unsettling crackling noises as his body relaxes, and his shoulders ache from tension more than anything.

He's not sure how long he's been asleep when noise wakes him; the door opening, and footsteps on the carpet. He'd sit up, possibly even take a swing, but when he slits an eye open he sees a pair of red flannel pajama pants with gold trim, and only one person he knows wears those.

He grunts in surprise when the covers are flung back, but he's still too tired and sore to move when Tony crawls into the bed with him, faceplanting against his chest, curling the blankets back around them.

"Uh," Steve says.

"Shutthefuckup," Tony mumbles. "Youget'em?"

"SHIELD has them in custody," Steve says warily. "You don't have to, uh. You could have knocked?"

"Shhhh," Tony answers, burrowing closer. Steve isn't sure how awake he is. Probably not very. "JARVIS?"

"I am here, sir. Functioning at one hundred percent, with background diagnostics running."

"Okay," Tony grunts. "Debrief over."

Steve cups a hand around Tony's head carefully. So fragile, to hold so much. Out of the armor Tony is the most vulnerable of any of them, even Bruce. Unless, of course, the battle is all in the computer.

Steve supposes he's earned his rest.


When he wakes again it's deep night, but there's a glow on the sheets nonetheless, the light of Tony's arc reactor shifting as he breathes. He's lying on his side, facing Steve, a few inches between them, and when Steve looks up from the light of the reactor, Tony's watching him.

"JARVIS still safe?" Steve asks. Tony nods. "You feel okay?"

Tony's eyes slip down to the fabric. Steve can tell what's going on; it's what he thought about three -- four days ago now, when he was trying to decide what his secrets were worth to his pride.

"Dummy was the first AI I ever built. Artificial Intelligence," he adds, and Steve just nods, not rolling his eyes that Tony still thinks he needs that acronym defined. "The problem was, at the time, I had to pack everything necessary for the program to run into his chassis. So he's not very bright, because it had to be simple. Well. Simple as these things go, which actually means pretty complicated."

Steve watches him, an inkling of where this is going.

"I thought, what I really needed was enough power to run a complex thinking, learning program that could communicate with a mobile unit. Then it wouldn't have to carry its brain on its back."

"JARVIS," Steve says quietly.

"We were still years out from wireless communication, but I could see it coming, so I got started. I cloned Dummy's program into a more powerful machine. That was -- before I took control of the company. I worked on making it smarter, off and on. Took me five years to get it online, and it wasn't even very bright then, didn't have a personality. JARVIS has been running continuously in some form for fifteen years. He's not technically sentient, but he is a person."

"Can he hear us?"

"No, I engaged privacy mode."

"He's your child," Steve says.

"You have ghosts," Tony replies. "I have responsibilities. Every single one of them's a gap in the armor. And some would hurt a lot more than others to lose."

Steve, uncertain how this will come off, slides a careful arm around his waist and pulls him closer, resting their foreheads together.

"But you still do it," he says.

"Worth it."

"Your life motto."

Tony laughs a little. When it dies down he moves closer, lips almost touching Steve's. "What are we doing?"

Steve kisses him, pushing him over onto his back slowly. "If you don't know, we're both in trouble," he says, settling between Tony's legs, propped up on his elbows, looking down at Tony's face.

He's a handsome man, no doubt of that, but that's not really a concern for Steve. Tony is wild and brave and with all his masks down he's damaged, and he carries the same weight Steve does. He's a fellow soldier, even if he doesn't think he is, and Steve...well, he's tended to fall for those.

Seeing Tony stripped down makes him want to touch, makes him want to reassure him, show him that someone cares for him. And like this, Tony might actually admit he cares about other people, too.

Steve has wanted this. Right now, he might actually get it.

"Oh, this is happening now, okay," Tony mutters, apparently mostly to himself. Steve just watches him -- watches this process through Tony's strange mind, waits for it to spit out a final calculation. Tony looks up at him and tilts his head against the pillow. "Why, Captain," he says, low and mocking. "I do declare."

Steve smiles and bends to kiss him again, feeling Tony's hands at his waist, trying to get their clothes off. He grasps Tony's waistband and rolls his own body, stripping Tony's pants off in a single smooth tug.

"If this is victory sex," Tony says, spreading his hands over Steve's ass, "remind me to have more victories."

"Try again," Steve says into his throat, pinning him down and rolling again. Tony's hips snap up.

This isn't like falling for Peggy, courting and kissing and careful planning. And it's not the rough familiarity of Bucky, where after a while it seemed more like an extension of their friendship. It's spontaneous and new and incautious, which is what he's allowed now -- perhaps what he needs.

"I'd be prepared to concede to friends with bene -- fuck," Tony moans, as Steve slides a hand between them.

"No," Steve says, and Tony kisses him, nodding into it. "This is me," he says, eyes locked on Tony's, their bodies moving together. "And my ghosts. Looking for somewhere to get a little shelter."

"Well," Tony answers, and then nips lightly at Steve's thumb, spread over his cheek. "What's one more gap in the armor?"

Steve laughs. "I have a shield."

Tony looks like he's going to reply, but then his body arches up and he hisses.

"Jesus, you're amazing," he manages, breath coming a little short. "When we do this again and we will do it again if I have to tie you to the bed -- hah -- I'm going to get you inside me -- "

Steve's body jerks. He's always been a sucker for that stuff; he blames being raised Catholic.

Tony looks suddenly too knowing.

"You like that idea?" he asks, pulling Steve's head down to whisper in his ear. "The things I want to do to you. Suck you off, jerk you off..."

It's filthy, what he's saying, and he has a remarkable talent for it. Steve buries his face in Tony's neck and listens, listens as Tony's voice hitches and then rises into a whine, and then he stops talking completely, hips bucking up as he comes. Steve bites down on Tony's shoulder and follows, slumping forward against him.

He's just pushing himself off, thinking they should clean up a little, when Tony inhales and says, "So that's what does it? The dirty talk?"

Steve blushes. "Didn't take you long to figure that out."

"I'm good at what I do," Tony answers with a shit-eating grin. Steve shakes his head.

"And you?" he asks. "You enjoy it?"

"Hm. Talking...about sex. No, I can't see how I'd like that," Tony replies, still grinning.

"Aw, Tony -- "

"But being pinned down by a gorgeous blond does it for me, so we're pretty fortunate in that respect."

Steve smiles at him and slides out of the bed, heading for the bathroom.

"You should go back to sleep," he says, cleaning himself up and wetting a washcloth for Tony. "It's only midnight."

"You kicking me out?" Tony asks, and he looks amused, but there's a little too much hesitation there.

"No," Steve answers, handing him the washcloth. "You know I'm not that sort of fella."

"Steve," Tony says, sitting up and tossing the washcloth over the edge of the bed. Steve suppresses a mild sigh. Tony gestures between them. "Six days ago I didn't know you were this sort of fella."

"Yeah, and why do you think I told you, ya mug?" Steve asks.

"Did you just call me a mug?"

"Tony," Steve says, pushing him back into the blankets, holding him there with a palm on his shoulder. Tony looks up at him, and Steve wonders if he practices looking innocent, or if he doesn't know he does it sometimes. "Stay."


In the morning Tony's gone anyway, but Steve expected that. He's slept later than usual; it's almost eight in the morning, and when he sits up, JARVIS greets him.

"Good morning, Captain."

"Good to hear your voice, JARVIS," Steve says.

"Thank you, sir."

"Where'd Tony get to? Workshop?"

There's a slight pause. "No, Captain. Sir is currently on the Helicarrier."

"What?" Steve asks, rolling out of bed and hunting for his clothes.

"Captain, you may wish to see this," JARVIS continues, and the dusty, infrequently-used screen on the wall of Steve's bedroom lights up.

"What is it?" Steve asks, suspecting he already knows.

The footage is live camera feed from the carrier, some kind of isolation room. There's a long metal table bolted to the floor, and on one side of it, the four hacker conspirators are sitting, each individually cuffed to brackets on the top of the table.

"Sir has asked to speak with the..." JARVIS pauses and settles on, "...assailants."


"As you say, Captain," JARVIS replies. As he speaks, Tony enters the room, seating himself opposite the others. He has a small metal cube in one hand, a paper file folder in the other.

"Mr. Stark," one of the hackers says, but Tony interrupts.

"No. No talking. My turn now," he declares, opening the folder. He takes a photograph out of it and lays it down in front of one of them. "This is your son," he says to the woman, who visibly pales.

A second photograph, in front of the second hacker. "This is your little sister."

A third. "This is your daughter."

A fourth. "You haven't got anyone, which is just sad, but you do have an adorable cocker spaniel. I hear his name is Atari."

All four of them look like they're going to throw up.

"This is JARVIS," Tony continues, setting the cube forward a little. "Say hello, JARVIS."

"Hello," JARVIS replies, tinny over the feed. "I would say it's a pleasure to meet you, but under the circumstances I believe that would be a lie."

"Now, this looks like I'm threatening your loved ones," Tony says. "The defenseless ones."

The woman who has a son starts to talk again. "Please, please don't -- "

"Shut up, I'm talking," Tony retorts, cold steel in his voice. Steve watches, frightened and fascinated. "I'm not threatening your children and sibling and dog. Because I get it. Despite the fact that you tried to take my -- creation away from me, in fact because I know what that feels like, I'm not going to hurt your loved ones. But I could. And you should remember that."

It's a bluff.

Please God, Steve hopes it's a bluff.

"Now, if I had my way, as I'm sure you'll agree, people who try to hurt other peoples' kids deserve to be put in a dark, cold place and never shown the light of day again. But who's going to look after your responsibilities? Besides, the four of you are smart enough to go after JARVIS and almost succeed, even if you're dumb fucks who didn't stop to think that when you tried it the entire might of the Avengers, Stark Industries, and SHIELD would come down on your heads. Christ, you four are dumb fucks."

Steve notices one of the hackers has his hand on the photograph of his sister. It's shaking.

"I hate to waste good intelligence, though, even if it's untempered by common sense or human decency. So here's your choice," Tony says. "SHIELD has a place for smart sociopaths. You will be monitored around the clock, you will be restricted to a very, very small geographical area, and you will behave and do the work we tell you and your families will be safe. Or, you can take door number two: a dark, cold place where I guarantee you will never again come near anything more technologically advanced than a plastic spoon."

Tony gathers up the photos, ruthlessly taking the one back from the hacker trying to hold onto it, and picks up the cube.

"You hurt my people, you suffer. Simple equation; shame you didn't understand it before. Agent Sitwell will be in to take your decisions," he says, and leaves.


Steve is waiting for him on the landing pad when Iron Man touches down. He stands and watches, still and quiet, as Tony walks through the removal rig. At the end of it Tony is standing in front of him, every inch of his wiry body taut and defensive.

"You saw," he says.

"Yes, I did," Steve replies.

"Well, get it out of the way then," Tony tries, looking defiant. It's clear he expects to be yelled at, expects that he's somehow let Steve down. That this is already over before it properly started, because Tony is cruel and brutal and doesn't think anyone ever notices he's also kind and clever.

But Steve's first love was a wild boy who died for his country and his second love was a smart woman who hated convention; they were his guard and compass and it's his turn, now. Both of them, though this was not the aim, not even something to ever be thought of -- both of them prepared him admirably for this.

He really should have seen it coming.

"You wouldn't have hurt their families," he says.

"No. I would have adopted the fucking dog." Tony tilts his chin up a fraction of an inch, not backing down. Steve steps forward and pulls him in, Tony's face cradled against his neck.

"Proud of you," Steve says quietly, and Tony shakes in his embrace.

He steps back after a moment, aware that the wind on the pad is always sharp and cutting, and they should get inside. But first he cups Tony's head in his hands, palms along the jut of his jaw.

"You and me, kid, we're goin' places," he says with a grin, and Tony manages a grin in return.

"Can the places we're going be breakfast? I'm starving," he says, and pulls away, heading for the door to the penthouse. "I feel like migas. Have you had migas yet? Migas and horchata, you'll love it."

"I'm sure I will," Steve murmurs, and follows him inside.