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There are songs to sing; there are feelings to feel; there are thoughts to think. That makes three things: You can't do three things at the same time.

Singing is easy: shiver off the tongue.

Thinking comes with the tune.

That leaves feeling. And you're not going to catch him feeling.

Tony Stark had a great voice. He had a magical voice, even. But he didn't have the presence for it. Didn't have the pizzazz to make it in the '20s roar.

Tony Stark and Justin Hammer were against the ropes, the worst double-act perhaps of all time, and this was their last chance before Tony gave up on this idiotic dream. A voice was nothing without a soul behind it, and Tony would maintain to his death that Justin Hammer had sucked whatever soul he'd had left out within the first five minutes.

Groaning in the back of his throat, Tony closed his eyes, leaned over his vanity table, the lights casting shadows over his face.

This was his last chance.

A pair of warm, chapped lips pressed against the bare curve of Tony's shoulder blade, followed by a rough, soft whisper, "You can do this, I believe in you." The sound of which sent gooseflesh erupting from that warmed patch of skin those lips had touched. Tony was stunned for a precious moment: just perfectly enough time to let the owner of those lips escape up from his dressing area, disappearing and taking their warmth and...and feeling with them.

That night, Tony poured something into his voice that had even the hardest of hearts melting to him: the passion and charisma shining through him, like an angel's glow.

The thin, ragged-looking boy that had started work as their personal stage-hand before they'd even become an act beamed as Tony walked off the stage, and Tony flashed the boy a grin, genuine and happy. Tony had turned into his dressing area before he could catch the flash of pride and love over the boy's features.

~

He assumed it was Justin, that was the only thing for it.

They had showgirls now, and a real crew. The only person Tony could account for with those phantom lips against his skin and that rough, strained whisper was Justin. It had to be.

Tony still hated the bastard, and he still seemed to despise Tony, but that was just the way they were.

They were playing the big clubs now, the hot spots. People loved them. Adored them, even. Women fell over themselves to be seen on Tony Stark's arm, and men took guilty pleasure in dancing with their girls to their songs when they hated them for stealing the hearts of those very girls.

They were getting ready for their biggest show yet when Tony noticed that their ever-faithful Mr. Rogers was missing.

Tony set down what he had in his arms, instinct carrying his feet down towards the mouth of another alley.

Steve Rogers was a twig: half the size of a small man, and a bag of bones at seventeen. He'd been with them since he was fifteen, and in all that time, Tony had never seen Steve back down from a fight. He had his back to the wall, his lip split and bleeding; his shallow cheeks darkening, loose and sloppy now, as if they hadn't stopped hitting him for an hour.

"Hey!" Tony shouted, and the three guys, that all were three times Rogers' size at the very least, turned.

"Oh, look, it's his faggot boss."

Tony almost missed the blow that Steve lashed out at the one that spoke, it was so fast. But another one of the thugs stepped into the momentum Steve had, driving his own, meaty fist into the soft part of Steve's stomach. Tony stepped forwards, and felt movement follow behind him.

There was a fist rising in front of him, and an unknown person behind--

And then there was a thin hand catching the punch, stepping into it, whipping out with an elbow, rising up in a series of movements that Tony didn't even want to track as his saviour's legs wrapped around the thug's neck and squeezed, carrying him to the ground.

A low but determinedly female voice slipped from the lips of the evident man wearing the suit, "I'd thank you not to kill the talent." The thug reached up, knocking off "his" hat, and blood-red curls tumbled out, the femininity of the features even more evident now. "Mr. Stark, if you would take your boy and leave, I should have fun teaching the remainder what happens to a person with their obvious, blatant disrespect for a fellow man."

Steve was slumped down against the wall, blood dripping slowly from his mouth, "Ma'am--"

"Thank you, boy, but go with him. I can handle myself. My wife will have a cab for you both." One of the thugs made a grab at her, and she was suddenly strangling him with his own arm.

Tony half-lifted Steve, lending support as they stumbled from the alley. Tony helped him into the cab, not even thinking about letting the cabbie do it, and he boarded as well, a woman with blond-red hair smiling gently at them and walking around to investigate the state of her wife. Tony wished them all the best and more as he put his arm gingerly around Steve, a steadying force against the jostle of the cab.

Steve turned his pale, sunken face to Tony, regret written in all of his features, "They w-were…"

"They were slandering because they believe me to be homosexual, and you wouldn't back down from telling them I wasn't." Tony filled in easily, looking sharply at Steve, "Next time, think before you defend my honour."

Steve's eyes widened fractionally, a question on his features.

"I am, in fact, victim of a predilection for the male anatomy. I prefer the way men kiss; I enjoy the strength behind them...though that woman in the alley would probably satisfy that, but she'd also probably strangle me with her thighs."

"I-I would've...anyway. It's not...It's not wrong..."

Tony's eyes softened, his hand tentatively applying pressure to Steve's fragile bones, checking to ensure they were intact. "Thank you. But, again, it's not your fight. It's mine. ...Are you in pain or are you disgusted by me touching you?" Tony asked sharply, concerned more about the pain than he ever would be if Steve found him repulsive.

"P-Pain...I think...that rib…" Steve squeaked, and Tony nodded once.

"You are not coming to work. Not until you're healed. I'll still pay you, just don't tell Hammer." Tony smirked at the grateful look shot him.

"A-Are you and...and Mr. Hammer…?"

Tony shuddered in disgust, "No." Steve's eyes flashed amusement and happiness, and Tony smiled at him, warm and kind. Tony half-carried Steve into the boarding house he and Hammer had taken out, the cabbie waving them off from paying. "A bowl of soup, if you would, and the medic kit." Tony asked the older man, Mr. Jarvis, quickly, getting Steve up the stairs as hastily as he could.

"Yes, sir! Do I need to fetch the doctor?"

Steve shook his head desperately, and Tony frowned, "No, thank you, Jarvis, I will handle it." Tony helped Steve to sit on his bed, layering pillows at his back for support. "Why no doctor, Rogers?"

Steve looked paler than he had any right to, his hands trembling, "C-Can't afford it."

Tony's eyebrows shot up, "We pay you enough--"

"My mother...she's sick…"

"Then we don't pay you enough." Tony paused, looking at him, "You don't even put some money aside to take care of yourself, do you?" Tony's voice was dripping with horror, his eyes dark and unsettlingly sad. Tony shook his head, crossing to the door as Jarvis politely knocked. Tony smiled briefly in thanks, taking Jarvis's burden from him, and shaking his head at the older man's offer to help. Tony brought the food to Steve first, setting it on the low table beside the bed, grabbing out his handkerchief to dab lightly at Steve's split lip. "How can I help you, Steve? I get the feeling that were I to give you extra money, you would use it to help your mother rather than to help yourself." Steve looked down sheepishly as Tony handed him the platter of soup and bread, "So...what I'm going to do...is take care of you myself."

Steve's look was words enough to tell Tony that Steve knew exactly how much he didn't take care of himself.

Tony shrugged, "Maybe taking care of you will help me take care of me." Tony twitched a lock of Steve's too-long hair out of his eye, smiling softly.

"I...I think I'm like you." Steve murmured a little huskily, his eyes dropping again. "I...I like a man...I--"

"Well, that would be a defining characteristic of liking men, Steve." Tony told him sardonically, making light. Steve smiled reluctantly, but with a fondness that made Tony's heart twist. "You're a good man...Does he…?"

Steve nodded slowly, "He...He barely notices me, though…"

Tony snorted, "If he notices you even a little, he knows you're a good man." Tony told him in complete sincerity, taking Steve's untouched food from him in order to help Steve sit up a little better. Balancing the platter on his knees, Tony blew softly on the broth, scooping up and holding his hand under to catch drips. Steve's cheeks flushed blotchily, embarrassed at the treatment, but Tony fed the spoon past his lips, a light hum slipping from Steve as the warm, comforting broth slid down his throat.

"'S not enough sometimes…"

Tony frowned, "It should be. You're, what? Seventeen? You're starving yourself, Steve, and you're still just a growing boy. Anyone who would ignore that kind of goodness in a man in love with them, male or female, is a monster."

Steve shook his head, "What if...what if they don't see it? What if they don't know that I l-love them?"

Tony smiled at him, not unkindly, "Then they'd better be blind if they aren't enamoured of you." Tony grinned devilishly, and the words 'but you aren't blind' bubbled to Steve's lips, but didn't dare break through the barrier into the open air.

And Steve couldn't be blamed. He was just a stage hand. He was under Tony's employ, and Tony was the most popular performer in New York. He could probably drop Justin Hammer and still be able to sell out every night in every club he went to. As far as men went, Steve knew he was so far out of his league that it was almost hilarious.

Tony let him feed himself, but kept a hawk-like eye on him to make sure he was eating.

The soup filled Steve with a steadier dusting of rose, his skin no longer deathly pale, and Tony relaxed a little in relief.

"I'll get another bowl for you in a minute, I don't want you to make yourself sick, it really wouldn't help my cause here." Tony took the platter, encouraging Steve to sit up. "Do you mind taking your shirt off? It'll be easier to bandage your ribs." Steve paled, and then flushed hard. "If you're uncomfortable--"

"It's just...um...I'm-I'm not…" Steve gestured to Tony as if Tony would take that to mean 'as gorgeous as you'. What it got him was a skeptical eyebrow and Tony's mouth twisted down into a frown. Steve shrugged a little shakily, his long, emaciated hands going to his buttons. Tony sucked in a breath through his teeth as the pale, almost bruised-looking skin was revealed to him. Tony didn't know if it was the shadows cast over Steve's sickly-looking form, or if it was actual bruising; either way, it made Tony's stomach dip and clench uncomfortably. Tony averted his eyes, trying to get a handle on himself, and Steve shrunk into himself just a little.

"Is your mother in a hospital?" Tony asked quietly, a gravity on the question.

"Y-Yes."

"Then you're staying here. I'll get you fed and make sure you're taken care of, you can make sure she's being taken care of, too."

Hope bloomed in Steve's eyes, Tony's hands as gentle as could be as he wrapped up Steve's aching ribs. "Thank you, Mr. Stark…"

Tony snorted, "Tony, Steve. Mr. Stark was my ass of a father." Tony grinned a little impishly, and the furrow between Steve's eyebrows reappeared.

Steve convinced him to let him come to listen to the show, trailing bemusedly in the wake of Tony's front and bravado, watching him work the crowd with an ease that was almost painful to see, because it was all fake, and Steve could see that now.

Tony sang like he was going to die if he didn't sing perfectly, and when all was said and done, he didn't even notice that his phantom good luck charm hadn't been there to whisper he believed in him.

Mostly because those lips were quirked up into a secret smile, blue-grey eyes shining with something close to both love and pride as Steve watched Tony perform.

~

Months later, Tony was pretty sure he was having a panic attack.

"Where's my rabbit's foot?!" One of the girls shrilled. It was just a sign of how royally jinxed they were that even that had gone missing.

Every good luck charm; every token; every insane little ritual for Justin and Tony to have a good show had gone undone, and Tony was about thirty seconds from being called to curtain, with no kiss and nothing to distract him from that lack.

Tony had caught a glimpse of Steve that morning when he'd left their rooms, but neither of them had really had time to brow beat each other into taking care of themselves, rushed off their feet with the show tonight. It made a sour feeling in Tony's chest, worse than the fact that Justin was neglecting the pre-show ritual.

Tony gave up, storming into the back, into Justin's dressing area, and demanding to know why the hell today was different and what he was playing at by jinxing them to failure. Tony needed the blessing.

"Like I would touch something as filthy as you, you damn queer!" Justin yelled, laughing at him.

Behind Tony, the girls were watching them, many scowling as they closed in protectively, unhappy faces twisted in more of a frown than they'd ever worn. Tony wasn't the most outwardly loved person of the people in close proximity to him, but when the chips were down, there was only one soul that would ever let him down, prove their true colours. And that was Justin Hammer.

Quietly, a pair of chapped lips pressed against Tony's shoulder blade, and Tony gasped, stilling, his eyes wide on Hammer. Tony whirled, his mind already spinning, and caught Steve's wrist before he could retreat. "You don't need him." Steve whispered softly, looking up at Tony through the thick fan of his lashes.

Tony flicked his wrist, pulling Steve forward with just that little motion, and kissing him hard and hot, not caring who saw. The girls seemed to melt, giggling, but Justin was enraged behind Tony's back, and Tony was too distracted by Steve's mouth against his to do anything.

Thankfully, he didn't need to.

"Mr. Hammer, we do not tolerate this kind of behaviour in my nightclub." The smooth, no-nonsense voice of Phil Coulson interrupted Hammer's flying fist better than a sucker punch. Hammer startled, and, as Tony pulled away from Steve's mouth, body instinctively curving around Steve's to protect the smaller man from whatever was coming, they looked up in time to see two of the largest men Tony had ever laid eyes on flanking Hammer with equally unimpressed glares. "Clint, Thor; take him outside, please." Coulson ordered as if they were going on a walk in the park. Tony had the sneaking suspicion that Hammer wouldn't be the same after this. "Mr. Stark, I trust that you can perform solo. I've never seen the need for Hammer."

Tony couldn't stop his smile, "Absolutely, Mr. Coulson, I will not let you down." He assured, just a little breathlessly. Tony leaned down and stole a kiss from Steve's cheek, grinning broad and bright. Steve was flushed, his face giving away joy and embarrassment no matter how straight he kept it. "Ladies, we have a show to do! Jane, take Carol and sing something for me, I need a minute! Jan, I want you on the piano--none of this "I can't do it", missy, I taught you myself, you can so do it because I am an excellent teacher!--Sue, rally the boys!" The girls dissolved into a wild flurry of activity, and Tony squeezed Steve against him subtly, smiling. Steve had started to fill out, the long, lithe muscles from years of being a stage-hand beginning to fill out his twig-like frame the more he ate. Tony laughed every time they managed a meal together, never ceasing to be amazed by the amount of food Steve could pack away on his seventeen-year-old body. "You really believe in me?"

Steve's eyebrows shot up, his mouth tucking in the corners, "You've brought me up two sizes and you taught Jan how to play the piano. At this point, I wouldn't say it was impossible for you to walk on water."

"Jan was not that difficult!" Tony insisted, a little defensive on her behalf.

"She has the patience and attention span of a gnat. The only reason she's a good dancer is because of her obsession with Hank." Steve rolled his eyes, shaking his head.

Tony grinned, laughing, and stealing another kiss. "The show shall go on."

~

 

That night, as Tony and Steve raucously celebrated their way home, Tony took a moment, reaching out to grab Steve's wrist, to draw him in close, and smile a secretive little smile they'd shared before, but not quite like this. Steve nudged his shoulder into Tony's, a silent acknowledgement of 'yes, I'm yours', offering a small smile.

When Tony looked unsteadily over at Bruce, he was met with a fond smile and a shake of his head, "You two should go home. Tony, you're gonna drop soon."

"That was a good show, though." Tony muttered, voice a little rough around the edges, a little strained from over-working it. Steve's fingers slipped between his under the table and squeezed softly.

"Yes, that was a damn good show." Phil Coulson confirmed, his lips twitching into as much of a smile as he'd ever get to. "I'd like to offer you a place in The Shield's regular roster of performers." Steve squeezed Tony's hand under the table, and Tony smiled silkily.

"I will consider it, but I won't agree tonight. I think I might be a bit too stupid at the moment for my usual business acumen."

"Tomorrow, one o'clock, at the Café Fantastique?" Sue, somewhere in the cacophony, perked up at the mention of her boyfriend's café. Tony ignored it, nodding once. One of the two bouncers--Clint, Tony thought--shot him a small grin and a wink, the other joining in with his performers: lifting Jane and Darcy on their bench over his head by one hand. Tony repressed everything else and just leaned down against Steve's side, tired to the bone and so damn pleased. Clint and Phil slipped away, and Tony smiled at the love he could see between them. It was easy to see now. Now that Steve was holding his hand and singing softly into his hair, voice light and beautiful and making Tony's chest ache.

"Home?" Tony pleaded quietly, smiling to himself as Steve nodded twice, decisive, and kissed his hair. They climbed into a cab together, Steve half-supporting Tony. Steve was tense, nervous about who would see, but Tony shrugged it off, rolling his eyes as he pulled Steve over, into his side, "Before you...before you let me start taking care of you, I was a drunk and a mess, Steve. Bruce has brought me home more times than I can possibly tell you. That's why I got him a job as our violinist. I knew he was good, yeah, but also because he's a good man."

Steve was frowning, but he nodded once. "What about Jan? She's an heiress, isn't she?"

"Yep. She and I grew up together. We were betrothed, once upon a time. I would've run away with my trust fund if she hadn't called off the wedding herself. When my parents died, I told the Van Dynes outright that I didn't want to marry their daughter. They didn't take it very well, but Jan told them outright that she didn't want to marry me, either. She came to about half the shows Justin and I gave after you jump-started us. That's when she saw Hank. She brow-beat me into letting her become one of the dancers and our costume designer. Thank you for hiring Hank, by the way: I know it wasn't Justin, and it wasn't me, so that leaves you or Sue, and Sue would've hired her brother Johnny--"

"Dancer-Johnny?"

"Yup. I like him dancing. He's a good dancer. I think he'd be shit at being a stage-hand, though."

Steve shrugged, "He's strong. Stronger than me, certainly." Tony shot him a skeptical look. "What was it you told me in Chicago? Good gust of wind and you'd have to find Glinda to take you to Oz to find me again?"

Tony grinned, laughing. "I said that so you'd let me stand a little closer to you." Tony told him easily, completely at ease with revealing all the cards in his hand.

Steve blushed hard, wrapping his hand back around Tony's, "I would've let you stand on top of me with no reason at all."

Tony kissed him softly, fleetingly, "I love you, too." Tony whispered, beaming at Steve as Steve beamed back.

Safe in the dark of their apartment--Justin Hammer's things laying in the yard and a note from Jarvis as to his eviction and Jarvis's congratulations on their coupledom hanging on Tony's door--Steve pulled Tony's mouth to his, the door clicking closed as his back pressed against it, his hands pulling Tony into blocking him against it. Tony's hand groped for a moment before finding the lock and flipping it shut, hand meeting Steve's where they bunched and tangled in Tony's shirt, pulling Steve along without breaking their mouths apart, into the darkness of the room, stumbling and nearly wiping out as Tony's leg caught on a coffee table and Steve nearly overbalanced, Tony only catching them to dump Steve's bony frame against the couch, one knee braced against the back of the couch, and his arms spread on either side of Steve's tiny frame, balancing his weight off of Steve.

Tony's beard and moustache tickled against Steve's neck as Tony's lips nipped and kissed and teased him, "Bed." Tony breathed, and Steve made a small noise of protest that Tony chuckled at huskily, his hand reaching under Steve's back to slot Steve's body against his as he picked them up off the couch. "Your first time deserves a bed, Rogers." Tony whispered, kissing his pulse point as he carried him to the bed. Steve's legs had hooked around Tony's hips, rubbing his excitement into Tony's stomach as they moved through the dark to the bedroom. Tony laid Steve softly down against the pillows, smiling at him in the meagre light, chuckling as Steve smiled back.

Slowly, with great care and exceptional gentleness, Tony started undoing buttons, slipping Steve's bowtie from his collar and attaching himself to Steve's neck the moment he could, one hand still working at getting Steve removed from his shirt at the very least.

Steve shifted under his mouth, shrugging away his suspenders and his jacket, pulling at Tony's clothes the moment his hands were free to do so. Steve was shaking slightly, nervous and embarrassed but so ready to do this that it was singing out his soul. He could feel the flex and curve of Tony's fuller body, muscles still relatively understated compared to some men, but more than Steve had even though he was beginning to fill out under Tony's careful care. Tony knew this, though; he'd seen Steve before, worse off, even, than he was now. And, yeah, Tony hadn't exactly been filled with carnal lust, but, then again, maybe, Steve couldn't think of it like that: he'd been beaten and bruised, and Tony wouldn't have wanted him while he was injured, for fear of making any hurt worse.

Tony's hand dragged at the seam of his shirt, fingers slipping just lightly through the fabric, open and undone. Tony's lips captured his as Tony's hand tugged, just softly, at the fabric, untucking it from his slacks. Tony's hands were warm and just a little work-rough: calloused from hours of guitar and violin, composing and, if Justin wasn't around to try to call him out of it, helping to work and carry and create alongside Steve.

There were times when Steve was painfully aware of how much smaller he was. There were times when Steve almost resented it. When he hated that he was the person he was.

With Tony's body pressed close to his; with Tony's fingers slipping lightly over his ribs, brushing his shirt slowly away from his skin, mouth taking and plundering and ruining just as much as it was giving and gifting and rebuilding in return. Steve felt like he was burning, slowly and deliciously; a deep, painful anticipation in his heart, making his skin tight and his pulse race. Tony sucked just under Steve's ear, and Steve moaned brokenly, the sound meant to be demeaning. It wasn't, though. Tony repeated the action, his thigh rubbing slightly between Steve's, trying to illicit more sounds.

Steve pulled feebly at Tony's shirt, fevered and lost in his own, gasping breaths. Tony was sucking gently at a place over his collar bone, his shirt thrown wide over the bed now, revealing his pale skin to the blue-tinged light of the moon slotted through their curtains. Tony's hand curved around Steve's side, the roughened pad of his thumb rubbing and tweaking at Steve's nipple. Steve let out a desperate little sound again, his head falling back to allow Tony all the access he wanted, his eyes closed and his hand gripping the sheets. Tony hummed as he mouthed over his skin, those careful hands stirring even more of a fire inside of Steve, his body trying its hardest to get up against Tony's, needing contact. But he was making contact with fabric, and he wanted skin.

Pulling more insistently at Tony's shirt, Steve swallowed Tony's groan, protesting as Tony's mouth pulled away from his skin for a moment, Tony sitting back on his knees to shed his clothing in smooth, easy movements. Steve breathed out an awed sigh, his eyes widening as Tony dropped his shirt from his shoulders, moving to work off his pants, shedding clothes as if they'd done him harm. Steve's long, bony fingers moved to his fly, unbuttoning it quickly and kicking off all the clothes he had left between him and that glorious expanse of skin. Tony pressed down against his skin, moaning desperately and giving in without a token resistance when Steve went to yank him down against his body.

Steve gasped, clinging onto Tony's body helplessly, all thoughts of how vulnerable he was against the larger, older man gone. Tony made him feel safe, secure, and strong. Like he could take on anything; like he would, the moment it was a threat to Tony.

Steve arched, breathing heavily as the slick head of Tony's cock brushed along the seam of his ass. Steve pressed down a little as it caught against his hole, and Tony's hand closed like a vice around Steve's hip, restraining but carefully painless, "N-No. Wait." Tony managed, voice deep and rough and a touch in itself, breaking a moan from deep in Steve's chest. Tony's skin left his for a horrible minute, the sound of Tony rifling through his things barely making it through the din in Steve's head of needmoreyeswantalwaysTonynakedwantneedNOW! until a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly landed in the blankets next to him, Tony climbing back over him, smothering his confusion in a kiss that left Steve dazed and shaking and so acutely attuned to Tony that there was nothing else in the whole damn world. "Do you trust me?" Tony asked, voice dark and shivering over all of Steve's skin.

"Yes...Yes!" Steve struggled to keep any semblance of thought in his head, "Please, Tony, I trust--I trust you. I love you." Tony pressed his lips solemnly to the hill of Steve's Adam's apple. Steve was dimly aware that Tony was removing the lid from the tub, dipping his fingers into the slick jelly carefully. Steve felt the trail of slick over the crack of his ass, one finger putting gentle pressure against his hole. Steve looked up into worried, wanting brown eyes, and he couldn't stop himself from yanking Tony down into a kiss, messy and painful and completely everything he needed in this moment, his mind shutting down as Tony's mouth met his, Tony's finger breaching through carefully, his gasp put off for the feeling of Tony's mouth against his own.

Steve got lost, shaking in pleasure, his skin beading with sweat slowly. Tony whispered to him in the dark, voice deep and almost like a dream as Tony's fingers speared through him, opening him up and taking him apart in a way he never could've imagined.

Slowly, Tony's fingers left him, trembling and needy, to be replaced with the slick thickness of Tony's cock. Steve felt all the air leave him, as if he'd been hit, his body trying to lock down at the intrusion, no matter how much he wanted it. Tony's fingers stroked back his hair, his lips soft and his kisses chaste and slow. Steve shook, forcing himself to relax as he brought Tony down closer in his arms, tucking his face into the side of Tony's throat, whimpering just a little as he pushed himself down. Tony's hand stilled him, his breath stopping and admonishment bubbling behind his lips, "Tony, no. I can do this. Just...please, I want to do this."

Tony looked down into his eyes carefully, and Steve took the opportunity to slide just a little further down, feeling his skin go tight around his bones and the fire in him smooth out to a slow, never-ending blaze just this side of agony. Biting his lip, Steve relaxed his body, going slack in Tony's arms, eyes pleading as he looked up at Tony's almost pained expression. "I just don't want to hurt you."

Steve kissed him softly, "You won't. I want this. Please, Tony." Tony frowned, kissing him long and deep, pushing slowly and pausing for Steve's body to adjust, his cock all the way in. Steve hummed, curling his legs up around Tony's waist, forcing a high whine out of his own throat as Tony slipped a little deeper, hitting something in him that made the fire feel so much better and so much more dangerous. Steve moaned in pleasure, and Tony kissed a line around the outstanding bones of his collar, frowning at how sharp they were. "Move...please, move…" Steve grit out, voice tight and needing. Tony's body quaked slightly as he did as he was told, drawing back only a little and pushing slowly forward with a languid roll of his hips.

Setting a lingering, deliberate pace, Tony pushed Steve higher and higher, burning from the inside out, and throwing himself willingly on the flames. He needed it all; needed it more than air. This was Tony, the only person Steve had ever felt like this for. Giving himself up to Tony was like falling and flight wrapped into one; he could do it without meaning to, but he knew he could trust that the ground, no matter how close it got, wouldn't be the thing to catch him.

"You're so beautiful, Steve…" Tony breathed, watching Steve give himself over, feeling it, and revelling that it was happening because of him. None of this was physical: Tony hoped to hell that Steve knew that. Tony loved Steve because of who he was; a great man, the only living soul that would love Tony for everything and would keep loving him no matter what. When Tony told him that he was beautiful, he didn't mean the shine of his hair, highlighted by the moon, or the blue of his eyes laid open and bare and trusting, or the long, rail-thin limbs clutching against him with strength Steve used like he was constantly afraid of leaving bruises. He loved him because beyond all of that, Steve was beautiful, and good, and his.

Tony's fingers knit with Steve's, pressing the back of his hand against the sheets as he worked to bring Steve over the edge at last. Their mouths tangled and it should have been horrible and bruising and painfully bad, but it wasn't. It was a glide of lips that left Steve breathless, his body arching up and the flame eating him whole while he felt his body screaming and singing with release, messy and sticky over their stomachs and painting their chests. Steve squeezed hard around Tony, and Tony's hand rifled into the bed beneath them, but stayed careful not to hurt Steve's own.

Steve felt their entire bodies slowing, in a way. Sated and weak-limbed and still caught in pleasure the likes of which Steve was utterly ruined by. Tony kissed along his arm, over his shoulder, to his lips, and Steve couldn't help smiling into the kiss, reaching up to tangle his hand in Tony's hair to keep their mouths together.

"Let's get cleaned up." Tony murmured against his skin, pulling gently at him until he gave in, hissing as he moved and pain flared in his ass. Tony's hands rested low on his hips from behind, his breath catching with apologies and wishes he could make it better. Steve reached down and brought one of his hands up, sliding it around his body until Tony had to step forward, wrapping both arms around Steve and holding him tight, standing there naked with his lover. "We should bathe…"

"Alright, just--"

Tony smiled, Steve could feel it even before Tony ducked down to press his lips to Steve's bony, pale shoulder, "I'm keeping you in my arms and in my bed for the next week."

Steve chuckled, "Then work will absolutely be a nightmare. Besides, you have an appointment tomorrow." Tony groaned, slumping around Steve to graze his forehead off his shoulder, "You're a one-man show now, Stark."

Tony sucked a mark into Steve's shoulder, soothing it with his tongue, snorting as he pulled his mouth away to speak, "Maybe on the stage."

~

By the time the stock market crashed in '29, Tony and Steve had been all-but married.

Steve had had a growth spurt that had alarmed Tony more than he could possibly say, shooting up to just over six feet, his chest and shoulders broad, shrinking him back down to a painfully thin size for a time before Tony and the others in the show could help him even back out. Now broad and solid and muscular, Steve still touched like he was scared to bruise anything, and still shook apart in Tony's arms like he was about to die.

Justin Hammer, who had slipped into complete destitution before the first year without Tony was out, was found dead in a prostitute's bed. He'd murdered the girl, too.

Financially stable, Tony and Steve helped as many people as they could, arguing like half-drowned cats only to make love to each other like they'd been missing for months. They were the worst and best kept secret of New York: Everyone knew, and no one said a word. Police began breaking up the fights Steve got into--on Steve's side, even as his opponents told them he was a queer. Not one of them batted an eyelash.

It helped that Steve had become a darling in his own right: Tony had made Steve's secret paintings a hot-ticket item before the crash, and they remained that, much to Steve's dismay.

Through everything: pretty girls throwing themselves at both Tony and Steve; hard times and arguments that lasted for days (they never went to bed angry, the simply stayed up and fought); and grief. For Steve's mother, for their friends. For the flash and bang and joy of the too-bright, too-short years that would forever be theirs.

Through everything and then more, they loved each other.