Tony’s hard to compliment. Steve’s good at compliments; he had all of the Howling Commandos mostly figured out. Find the right way to praise someone and they’ll give you their best. You can fine tune it when you get to know them. Steve had loved watching his men improve and thrive given a little encouragement.
Even the Avengers respond well to the same kind of leadership. Although the “Captain” title is a little less stratified in this context, he still takes it upon himself to figure out his teammates’ strengths and make sure they know he appreciates them.
Hawkeye is easy. Give him a perch, let him let fly with the arrows, and give him a sincere thanks at the end of a mission. A slapping handshake and a thumping hug don’t go amiss either.
Thor likes the chance to recount the missions storytelling-style later, and all Steve has to do is be the rapt audience, nodding and smiling widely. Not celebrating with Thor is out of the question.
Widow’s a bit harder. Steve just has to trust her to carry out her individual missions, and ask her for recon. The more he asks of her, the better they are together. Thanking her is a mistake, though. He did that once, and the twitch of her eyebrow told him how condescending she thought that was.
Bruce is even more difficult. He isn’t usually proud of his contributions as the Hulk, so Steve has figured out it works best if he praises Bruce’s scientific contributions and just lets him know how much they need the Other Guy sometimes.
But Tony. Every attempt Steve makes to try to make sure Tony knows he’s appreciated is met with a sharp retort or dismissive witticism. Once or twice Steve had managed to find a compliment that lands well. It’s tricky: it has to be something Tony thinks is valuable about himself, plus something that Tony thinks took some effort, plus something he can believe genuinely impresses Steve. Truthfully, most of what Tony does impresses Steve, but the other two conditions are difficult. Most of what Tony does he seems to find child’s play.
That was Before.
After the incident with the Kraken that nearly kills them all, and the subsequent Oh God We Almost Died Post-Mission sex they have in the nearest barrack showers in rural Russia, things get weird for awhile. Tony gets, if anything, harder to encourage on the battlefield. And his self-sacrificing gets more kamikaze.
That lasts a few exhausting months —punctuated by too-sporadic, always-frantic post-mission sex sessions — before Steve finally cracks the Tony nut.
Steve’s cock appears and disappears in a slick slide through Tony’s lips. Tony looks up periodically, which Steve always appreciates for the incredible visual it makes, but this is the first time it occurs to him that Tony’s checking to see that Steve’s still watching. Which he always is because Tony sucking dick is a picture that has simultaneously made and ruined Steve’s life, if only because he can’t live without it but also can’t stop thinking about it at inopportune moments.
But now it hits him how many times he’s seen Tony glancing at him with that same expectant look. And maybe Steve will never figure out how to respond in public, but here in private, Tony’s always been more receptive to all kinds of things.
So Steve strokes Tony’s forehead, coming to rest on his temple, and says, “That was quick thinking today. With the uhhhh ,” he stutters as Tony slurps off and tongues at his frenulum for a moment before latching back on. Steve grasps Tony’s hair to centre himself. “With the air ducts thing.” He can’t formulate beyond that, but it had been brilliant.
As if in response, Tony lets Steve’s dick slip down the back of his throat.
“Shhhhhit , Tony, that’s good.”
Tony slides back but keeps the shaft in his mouth and raises his eyebrows and half nods in a “yeah, you’re not wrong” kind of gesture. Steve counts it as a win. He also isn’t so far gone he can’t strategize this whole opportunity, incredible deep-throat or no.
So he thinks back on their other encounters, trying to remember the times Tony went glassy-eyed and pliant rather than mouthy and pushy (although Steve appreciates both of those, and everything in between. It may just be that Steve has a Capital P Problem around Tony. He’ll probably have to look at that. Later, when he’s not basically a walking hardon.) Apparently Steve’s brain has already categorized the incidents without conscious thought, because he knows suddenly how to play this.
He grips Tony by the hair and pulls him off. Not hard, but he leaves no room for argument. Tony just goes with it, and that’s a good sign that Steve’s on the right track.
“On your stomach, over there.” He flicks his eyes towards his bedroom and thanks his lucky stars they found themselves near his Brooklyn apartment this time.
Tony licks his shiny lips, doing nothing to get rid of the sloppy mess he’s made of his chin, and Steve gives into the urge to bend down and kiss him. With what he has in mind, he’s already changed the nature of his kisses, and this one is deep and demanding, plundering into Tony like he belongs there and intends to take what he wants. Tony lets go a tiny vocalisation that sounds completely unintentional, and Steve feels a primal growl deep in his chest that he doesn’t utter if only because he’s still testing.
He pulls Tony up by the t-shirt and pushes him backwards to the bedroom. Tony’s a little wild-eyed, hair mussed, and on the verge of a smirk. Seeing that, Steve crowds in closer and pushes harder, and the smirk disappears, Tony’s face suddenly serious and chin lifting slightly.
Steve turns him, not quite roughly, and pushes him facedown on the bed. Tony tries to get his knees up under himself, but Steve grabs his calves and pulls while pushing him down by the small of the back.
Tony grunts when Steve lowers his full weight onto Tony’s ass, letting the length of his cock nestle along Tony’s crease. The grunt gives him pause, so he leans in close, resisting the urge to grind down for the moment. “All right?” he asks.
Tony huffs, but it’s lacks his usual mirth. “Yeah. Very.”
Which really tells Steve he’s got it right because that had none of Tony’s usual cheek. So he does grind in then, which has Tony closing his eyes. Steve leans forward and kisses him again because Tony’s beautiful and Steve gets to.
But he remembers what he was doing, lifts off and moves downwards, pulling an unhappy little moan out of Tony, which turns into a drawn-out groan when Steve parts his ass and licks in with no preamble. This is honestly the first time Steve has done this, but he lets his instinct and desire guide him because he loves how vulnerable Tony is right now. And frankly the warmth, tang, and musk of the man are something he didn’t know he wanted.
He’s topped Tony before, but Tony had prepped himself perfunctorily in the interest of efficiency, and Steve only just now realizes what an oversight that was. He flicks and licks and presses in, wanting inside and feeling Tony’s muscle becoming softer, more yielding. Steve adds a finger to the ministrations, petting in between licks and gradually dipping deeper and deeper until his finger has disappeared right up inside. Tony is lifting his ass a bit to expose himself, and Steve reaches under to give Tony’s neglected dick a bit of a stroke despite the limited space, and finds it as hot and as hard as Steve’s ever known it.
“Good. That’s good,” Steve says without thinking, and Tony presses his face into the bed and pulses his hips into Steve’s grip in response. Steve smiles.
Steve buries his face again, tonguing in and letting Tony grind himself into the bed for a moment before Steve stops him with a light smack and squeezes two handed, nosing into the space that makes. He uses one hand to hold Tony open and the other to ease two fingers in to the hilt. He licks around the rim a bit, then moves his fingers in and out, twisting and turning, watching the entry with fascination. After a minute, he decides he needs to feel all that yielding warmth on his cock, and although Tony’s all slick with spit and the glide is easy, Steve still pulls out and moves off to grab some lube from his bedside drawer.
Tony peeks out from where his face rests in his hands and Steve can’t help smiling. He can’t see much of Tony’s face, but he sees Tony’s eyes crinkle just before he buries his face again, and Steve’s chest does a funny pinchy thing that brings a wash of two simultaneous and contradicting desires: to take gentle care of Tony, pet him and kiss him, but also to hold him down and fuck him senseless. Steve is momentarily paralyzed.
He’s jolted to motion again by Tony’s impatient second glance and Steve shakes his head to jimmy some sense into himself. He moves back into position, slicks up his erection and rubs over Tony’s hole for a moment, savouring the anticipation.
“Do it,” says Tony, muffled as he is speaking into the bed.
“I’m just enjoying you for a second, hold your horses.”
“No horses. Don’t like horses. Just… Steve…”
Steve’s surprised at how far from Tony’s usual rejoinder that is. The familiar irritation is there in his voice but it’s fading to the background, overridden by a level of desperation that sounds like it could tip over into begging, which… Steve pulls in a ragged breath. On the exhale he presses his cock inside, and in one long slide he sinks in as far as it’ll go.
“Yesss,” says Tony, relieved.
Steve lets his weight sink further over Tony’s whole body, and Tony actually whimpers. Steve lifts off, and Tony says, “No, do it again,” so Steve does, resting his weight on Tony’s back and rolling his hips in a grind.
It feels too good pressing Tony down like this, keeping him still. Even when apparently static, Tony always gives the impression of perpetual motion: mouth or brain going faster than everyone’s. But Tony seems to enjoy being pinned here, which is enlightening, and not a little heady. Steve even gets the impression that that speedy brain of Tony’s is quieted for the moment. It makes him a bit protective, actually, for which having his body covering Tony’s also feels right.
Steve tries an experimental shove of his hips, which, yes, that works. He does it again, and again, and then pulls out slowly before shoving in once more. Tony’s breath is coming faster and he’s burying his face quite thoroughly now, so Steve decides now is the time for his next move before he’s too far gone himself.
“You’re so brilliant,” he breathes quietly into Tony’s ear as he grips Tony’s hair. “I can’t believe you let me do this. I can’t believe I’m the one who gets to have you after… after all we do.” He almost stumbled there, best be more careful. He doesn’t have Tony, not always.
Tony hums, and it’s not denial or affirmation or anything, and Steve figures Tony will tell him to shut up if he wants because he’s done that often enough, so he carries on.
“It’s not even just the suit, although that’s brilliant too because you made it. It’s you.”
Tony’s hum this time is almost a whimper. Steve draws his cock almost all the way out and slides it back up balls deep.
“You don’t let me tell you, but maybe you’ll let me fuck you stupid enough to take it, huh?”
Silence, but Tony presses his ass up so Steve takes that as assent.
“I’ll do that then. Every time. And if you’re being extra stubborn, I’ll tie you up and gag you.” Steve frowns at himself because he’d said that before thinking about it and it was more than he meant to think , much less say .
But Tony says, “yes” so quickly and quietly Steve almost misses it. And suddenly Steve’s out of strategy; he’s filled with animal need and he begins to fuck in earnest, mouthing at Tony’s ear, the back of his neck, his shoulder. He slips a hand under Tony’s chest, feeling the rabbit-like heartbeat there and the edges of the arc reactor. With the feel of Tony’s body beneath him, at his mercy, and as compliant as Steve’s ever known him to be, Steve loses his mind. He just rubs himself off hard and fast inside Tony’s ass, determined to reach his crest while buried as deep inside Tony as he can get.
To the sound of Tony’s desperate grunts and gasps, Steve erupts, actually whiting out for a moment before riding out the rest of his orgasm in a shivery, jerky, spurting spasm.
When he twitches out the last of it, he stills and rests his forehead on Tony’s spine. After a moment he realizes Tony needs his, so he pulls out as gently as he can and maneuvers him onto his back. Tony helps, and to Steve’s surprise, there’s a very obvious and smeary wet spot across the bedcover and Tony’s stomach. Tony looks down and offers up a very weary version of his crooked “mea culpa” smile. It’s such a watered down version of the normal one that Steve realizes the need for something more here. Something more than they normally do, which is generally tuck themselves away and go back to volleying quips back and forth. This is different. Tony looks like Steve feels, which is stupefied and not a little wrung out.
But to do anything other than their usual is to change their parameters, and now that they’re not stupid with arousal, Steve isn’t sure what’s kosher here. He decides he’s not up for strategizing, he has too few brain cells left for that. What he has are instincts, and he’s always trusted those.
He puts a hand on Tony’s neck, moves in slowly, and presses a soft kiss to Tony’s lips. When he pulls back, Tony has a little frown of confusion but he doesn’t say anything. Steve doesn’t think he can articulate what just happened, but maybe Tony expects some explanation.
“All of that…” Steve begins.
“Don’t,” says Tony, voice quieter than Steve’s used to, but then they don’t usually talk in such close proximity. “I mean. It’s all right. We don’t have to talk about it.”
“Oh thank heavens,” Steve breathes, and Tony huffs a laugh. “That said, though. I’m kinda beat.”
“Right, I’ll go.”
“No, I meant. I’m not suggesting we cuddle all night or anything, but that was kind of intense. Maybe we should just stay here for a little bit.” Steve chews on his bottom lip because this is the sort of taking care he’s never done before and Tony is so much more experienced and Steve’s probably getting it all wrong.
But Tony never makes him feel naive or stupid, despite all the sniping. Instead he stays blessedly serious and says, “Yeah it was. I’m kinda… depleted. Could use a breather.”
Relieved, Steve shifts around until he’s lying on his side, head propped up on one hand. With the other, he drifts fingers over the mess on Tony’s stomach, reaches behind him and fishes for his t-shirt, and wipes it up. Then he returns to feeling Tony’s stomach, tracing lines around his belly button and dragging a finger up and down Tony’s happy trail.
Tony just lays back and sighs, accepting this too. Steve looks at his profile, at the serene placidity he’s never seen in Tony’s expression before, and wonders how much he can shift their parameters with this much ease.