“He’s a teacher,” Tony stated flatly, placing a pick between his teeth as he leaned forward to scribble some notes along the margin of his music sheet.
“So?” Pepper countered as she picked her way around the small towers of boxes littering Tony’s apartment floor. “Oh, Tony. You haven’t even started signing the cases.” She muttered that mostly to herself, because bemoaning the fact wouldn’t actually get her anywhere with Tony.
“So, he’s probably some stick in the mud. Blah blah stereotypes, blah blah. What can I say that’ll offend you the most, so I don’t have to do this?” Tony shoved the pen into his hair, took the pick from his mouth, and strummed his guitar a little. The notes were twangy, thin, since his guitar was unplugged, but that didn’t stop Tony from playing the song out. His foot tapped in time with the music in his head, mouth moving silently to words he hadn’t written down.
Pepper stopped on the other side of the coffee table, hands on her hips as she regarded Tony. He could just make out her expression out of top of his peripheral vision, but since it was an unhappy expression, he chose to ignore.
“Tony, you haven’t dated since Tiberius,” she said, tone cautious around the ex-boyfriend’s name. “You haven’t even pretended to bring home a groupie! It’s been four months, the press has noticed. I know you don’t care, but I’m tired of the rumors and the gossip that you’re still heartsick over him.”
Tony dropped his head as the pick stilled against the strings. His fingers spasmed along the neck of the guitar. “I don’t care what the press says. I don’t care what they think. I don’t-”
“He’s dragging you through the mud, Tony! If he keeps getting you negative press, your f-”
“Stop! I don’t care!” Tony snapped, gaze flashing angrily up to Pepper. “None of it matters, don’t you get it? He broke my goddamn heart, so what?! I’m more fucking pissed that he stole my goddamn song. I don’t give a good fuck about my heart.”
Pepper watched Tony try to calm down, the heaving set of his shoulders breaking her own heart. She stepped around the table and sank onto the couch beside Tony. She pressed her fingers through his hair, catching some longer strands and tucking it behind his ear.
“I know,” she said softly, stroking her fingers down along the black, curving lines of the music notes tattooed on Tony’s neck. “I know you’re upset, and I just think… I think you should go. He sounds like a really nice guy. The least of it, you get a dinner with someone who might bore you a little bit. It’s Amara’s, if you want, so you know it’ll be a good dinner.”
Tony continued to clutch at his guitar like a security blanket, contemplating on using it as a defense if he had to, but Pepper’s touch was soothing, and he felt himself relaxing next to her.
“I do like Amara’s,” he muttered and was rewarded with a gentle squeeze to the nape of his neck. He rolled his eyes and muttered; “Yeah, fine. Whatever. Just...tell me when.”
“Tomorrow night,” Pepper replied immediately, smiling. “His name is Steve an-”
“And he’s a History teacher,” Tony said, finishing Pepper’s sentence with a mock of her voice. “I hate History.”
“You aced History,” Pepper said with a raised brow.
“Uh yeah? I aced it so I didn’t have to keep doing it.” Tony snorted like it was obvious, and Pepper just rolled her eyes.
“Fine.” She stood and smoothed her skirt down before stepping back around the table. “I’ll be back tomorrow to help you get ready.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony muttered, ducking his head back to his notes in front of him.
“And get some of those cases signed, Tony. I mean it!”
The next night, Tony slipped into Amara’s with a hat and sunglasses on. He felt like a complete douchebag, but to be fair, he always did when he had to wear sunglasses at night, because that old song always, always, got stuck in his head. He kept his back to the restaurant doors and waited for the maitre d’ to return to elegant podium.
“I wear my…” Tony murmured under his breath, fingers tapping absently against his slack-covered thigh. “So I can, so I can…”
“Hm, oh. Sorry.” He flashed the man a bright smile. “I’m here for-”
“Yes, right this way. Your guest arrived just a few minutes ago, so he hasn’t been waiting long. Ms. Potts requested your usual table. I hope that will be to your liking?” The maitre d’ made a notation on the podium and then gestured for Tony to follow.
It was a familiar path through the low-lit tables, and several of the guests glanced after them out of curiosity. Tony paid them no attention. They turned a corner, and the maitre d’ stepped to the side to allow Tony to pass.
“Enjoy your meal, Mr. Stark.” He bowed and retreated. Tony thought the word retreated like the man leaving was a betrayal because the man standing up from the table at Tony’s arrival had to be a god come to slay Tony down for any bad thing he’d done up until that point.
Tony’s brain was rambling.
It was also flooded with a thousand different middles to songs he’d instantly want to sing under a window like a lovesick moron.
The man, Steve, was beginning to look nervous. Right. Date. Motion. Tony stepped forward, finally taking off his hat and the glasses. His smile was wide, wider than it should’ve been. It probably looked fake.
According to the way Steve’s gaze dipped down to Tony’s smile, and the way his own expression flattened, there was no ‘probably’ about it. Steve held out a hand.
“Mr. Stark?” Steve queried, and Tony tucked his things under his arm to return the handshake.
“The one and only,” Tony said, trying to force his mouth back to something normal. Honestly, it was like he’d never seen tall and muscled before. Tony licked his lips and hoped to God he wasn’t actually drooling. “I’m sorry. I don’t normally do, um, blind dates. It’s not really a thing for-”
“People like you?” Steve asked. He waited for Tony to take a seat before returning to his. “Peggy said it was difficult for you because you’re a musician.”
“Peggy?” Tony blinked. “Peggy Carter?”
“Yes.” Steve smiled, folding his napkin across his lap. “We work together. She’s a mentor...of sorts.”
“That explains it.” Tony dropped his hat and glasses under the table by his foot and futzed with his napkin in turn. “I’m sure she told you she’s my godmother. She won’t be satisfied until I’m happily settled down.”
Steve’s smile was fond. “Yes, so she said. It’s hard to tell her no. I hope you’re not too terribly put out. I know a musician’s schedule is never clear.”
Tony fidgeted a little, letting his gaze sweep over Steve’s gray suit, the clean and crisp lines of the pressed fabric. “No, it’s not, but we all have to eat. I’m finding it not such a hardship.” The smile this time felt normal, felt genuine.
That earned a brighter smile from Steve, and Tony felt his breath catch a little. Before he could stop himself, he asked; “You’re a History teacher, right? I bet that’s fun.”
Steve flushed a little, but at Tony’s insistence, he began to talk about the grades he taught and the points in history he particularly liked. Tony couldn’t help but hang on every word.
By the time their dinner plates were scraped clean and removed from the table, Tony was gesturing expansively to describe the importance of the tone on his next album. Steve’s chin was on his fist, watching Tony with rapt attention. Dessert went by in a blur of soft laughter and the impending sense of the evening coming to an end.
When the check was presented, Tony automatically reached for his wallet, but Steve beat him to it with a smile and an insistent press of the bill back to the server.
“Wow,” Tony breathed, slumping a little back in his seat.
“I’m assuming you don’t get treated a lot,” Steve replied, folding his arms on the table. “Just because you’re Tony Stark, doesn’t mean you can’t be treated.”
Tony blinked at him, flushing a little, before he ducked his head to hide his smile. Ty had always expect Tony to cover everything, and Tony did. He’d just been used to it.
“Thank you,” Tony said, lifting his head to show his sincerity. “This...this has been the best date I’ve had.”
“Can I walk you home?” Steve asked then flushed himself. He cleared his throat. “I...Sorry, I guess you have a driver, right? That was stupid of me.”
“No!” Tony nearly shouted. “No, it’s okay. You can walk me.” Then he pressed his face to his hands and laughed. “It’s too far to walk. Okay, I’m apparently really bad at this.”
Steve was biting his lip, hands in lap. “I’m not good at this either,” he admitted. “But I think we’re doing okay. We could just, uh, walk for a little bit? Don’t really need to...need to have a destination.”
Tony smiled, fingers tapping against his jaw. “Yeah, let’s do that.”
They chose to go left outside of the Amara’s, walking with only a little space between them. Steve was a solid wall of heat on Tony’s right side, and he found it very distracting. His fingers twitched, and he wanted to reach out and hold Steve’s hand, but just shoved them in his pockets to avoid the temptation. A few moments later, Steve followed suit.
“I think your album is going to be great, Tony,” Steve was saying. “It sounds swell. I don’t normally listen to soft rock, but I’m definitely going to put some of your songs into rotation. I’ve need new jogging music.”
Tony laughed. “You don’t have to change your music tastes just yet. It’s only the first date.”
Steve stopped, and Tony turned to face him. Steve was watching him with thoughtful expression. “Will there be a second one?” he asked.
Tony tipped his chin up and had to remind himself that Steve was completely different than Ty. Ty was lean and dark where Steve was broad and light. Ty was obnoxious and edgy and Steve...Steve was clearly neither of those things.
Steve with his perfectly pressed suit and combed hair and gentleman’s respect. Steve was fresh air compared to Ty’s toxic presence.
“If you want,” Tony said, heart pounding. “Because I do, and I might sound a little desperate, and I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t have said that, but you’re really hot and nice and your smile is-I should stop...talking…”
Steve stepped in closer, hands coming out of his pockets as he searched Tony’s face. “May I kiss you goodnight, Tony?”
“Yeah, uh, um.” Tony flushed and swallowed. “Please.”
Steve carefully cupped Tony’s chin up to brush a chaste kiss, and his laugh was warm against Tony’s mouth as they met.
Tony felt the flare of heat that could be fanned to something more, and the question was mirrored - he was sure - in Steve’s gaze as they pulled apart. For some reason, though, he knew that he wasn’t going to let it go further.
“I really want to invite you home,” Tony said, startling them both. “And I’m sure anything people read about me would expect just that, but I’m not going to. I want to, but I think…”
Steve gently touched Tony’s chin before dropping his hand. “It’s best to wait. I don’t want to rush things either, and I think you might just be worth waiting for.”
Steve stayed with Tony until his driver showed up and, this time, he held Tony’s hand.
A few months later, Steve stirred sleepily on his stomach. Something tickled at his skin, and he murmured wordlessly without opening his eyes.
“Sorry,” Tony whispered, moving his hand across Steve’s bared back. “I’m almost done. Go back to sleep.”
Steve hummed in reply and turned his face away. The scent of marker was strong in the air. Which, even to Steve’s sleep-fogged mind, he knew meant inspiration had struck his lover in the middle of the night. Judging by the position of Tony’s hand, Steve wouldn’t be able to see exactly what that inspiration was, but he just sighed and let sleep take him under again.
Tony scribbled note after note along Steve’s spine, words and bars taking up the broad expanse of his muscles. He worked on it for another hour until the words finally stopped scrolling behind his eyes. He capped and tossed the marker and sank back against Steve’s side, sighing in satisfaction. He kissed Steve’s shoulder, lips going slack as he fell asleep.
The next day in class, one of Steve’s students had a question.
It’s just...Did you get a tattoo?” the girl asked, blushing furiously. Several other students murmured their agreed curiosity.
Steve stilled for a moment in confusion then huffed in amusement. Right. Shouldn’t have worn the white shirt. He’d forgotten about the black marker.
“It’s a love song,” he answered. “Now, who can tell me about the Manhattan Project from their review last night?”
Chapter 2: Will You Still Love Me
Tony still hates Ty, Steve's radio is at risk, and Tony goes on tour.
There is implied non-con in this chapter.
“...need eyes to see, I felt you touchin’ me, high like amphetamine, maybe you’re just a dream...”
Tony watched Ty’s face absently as the demo played, rocking in his seat until the two front legs came off the ground. His expression was blank as he stared at the ceiling, but Tony was used to Ty’s listening face.
He dropped his gaze to the nameplate on Ty’s desk: Tiberius Stone, President and CEO, Viastone Records. Behind Ty and his desk was a large poster of the cover of Tony’s first album, dated for when it went platinum. Tucked in the corner of the poster’s frame was a strip of those cheesy pictures people took in booths.
Tony smiled slightly as the memory of that day filled him with warmth. He was distracted by it enough that he didn’t realize the demo had finally finished, and Ty was fixing his seat to fully face Tony again.
“I think it’s great,” Ty said, spreading his hands. “Clean it up a little and fix the sour notes in the chorus, and I think you’ll have another number one, Tones.”
“Yeah?” Tony asked, setting his chair down and slowly rising to come around the desk. Ty obediently pushed away from his desk so Tony could slide into his lap. He cupped Tony’s hips, fingers gripping securely. “Then I think a little pre-celebration is in order, don’t you?”
“How do you ever get any work done, Stark?” Ty smirked as Tony kissed him in answer. His hands slid inside Tony’s tight jeans, sliding them over slim hips as Tony knelt up. They both laughed as the chair rocked off balance, but then Ty’s hands were on bare skin and Tony was on fire.
Burning hot. In love.
“...wasn’t love, it wasn’t love, it was a perfect illusion, mistaken for lov-”
Tony hefted the radio above his head to throw it at the wall, but a pair of strong hands slid over his shoulders and up to cup his own hands.
There was a soft huff of warm amusement against his ear and then: “I understand how angry it makes you, but I really wish you’d stop breaking the radio. I’ve replaced it twice now.”
Tony scowled and let Steve take the offensive object away from him, that goddamn song still playing like a smug, smothering pillow.
“Why do you even own a radio?” Tony growled, dropping into the old recliner Steve kept swearing he was going to replace one day. “Who does that these days?”
Steve only smiled as he set the radio back down and clicked it off. Silence poured into the modest living room. Tony angrily swayed his foot back and forth where it was slung over the arm of the recliner.
“I mean! I guess! Ugh!” Tony kept cutting himself off, and Steve shrugged out of his sports coat. “Look, I’ll admit it: she’s got an amazing voice and…and the way they composed it is…”
When Tony didn’t finish, Steve sighed as he hung up his coat and shut the closet door. “You can like it, sweetheart, and still be pissed as hell. I’m upset for you, and it’s been almost a year. But you’ve knocked it out of the park with your new album. Four, four, of your songs debuted in the top fifty. That’s amazing!”
“Stop trying to make me feel better,” Tony groaned, dropping his head back over the other side of the recliner. A pen dislodged from his hair and landed on the drab carpet.
Steve couldn’t quite contain his smile. He stepped over to Tony and knelt down so he could stroke his fingers through Tony’s messy hair. Tony blinked impossibly-blue eyes at him, frustration crinkling the edges of his expression.
“You’re amazing, and one stolen song isn’t going to change that,” Steve said sincerely, leaning down to kiss Tony upside down.
Tony lifted his hands up to curl around Steve’s neck, mouth opening eagerly under Steve’s. He moaned, the sound catching awkwardly in the angle of his throat, but eventually, Steve pulled back a little to plant of chaste kiss to the end of Tony’s nose.
“Mr. Fury is going to be here tonight with Ms. Potts in about an hour,” Steve reminded him quietly, thumbs sweeping over Tony’s temples. “I have to start dinner.”
“You’re a giant tease.” Tony pouted, crossing his arms, and didn’t care how ridiculous he might look. “And I’m going to tell ‘em you’re still not using their first names. You’re going to make Pepper make that face, and then we’ll all feel bad.”
“I’m still not letting you get me naked, Tony,” Steve said over his shoulder as he disappeared into the kitchen. “You should be pulling together all of your notes anyway. You left them all over the floor upstairs.”
Tony sighed heavily like it was the hardest thing in the world and then pulled himself up to trudge upstairs.
Later that night, after dinner, the house was quiet and Steve and Tony were alone. Tony wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck again, hindering Steve from removing his shirt completely.
“I wish you’d reconsider,” Tony murmured, rubbing his nose against Steve’s neck and behind his ear. He felt Steve sigh and squeezed his arms just a little tighter. One of Steve’s hands came up to cover Tony’s arm, warm and comforting.
Steve rubbed a thumb over Tony’s skin. “I can’t take off for your whole tour. I can’t just leave my job like that.”
“People leave their jobs all the time!” Tony exclaimed, letting go to fall back on the bed. Steve twisted to look at him, sliding the tie free from his button-down and watching as he slid it through his fingers. Tony was staring angrily at the ceiling, bare chest heaving just a little with a frustrated breath. “Women take sabbaticals for babies.”
“You mean maternity leave?” Steve asked dryly. “It’s not the same thing, Tony.”
“It’s not fair,” Tony muttered, flinging an arm across his face to cover his eyes.
Steve was quiet for a moment, gaze tracking the black lines curve over Tony’s skin up towards the music notes he knew where Tony’s neck, had memorized their shapes and placements with fingertips and tongue.
He shrugged out of his shirt and dropped his clothes on the floor before turning to crawl up Tony’s body. His boyfriend’s blue briefs were lopsided on his lean frame, and Steve placed a tender kiss on the revealed treble clef inked across one of his hipbones.
“The next few months with fly by,” Steve murmured, nuzzling at Tony’s stomach. “You won’t even miss me.”
Tony’s muscles twitched, his stomach hitching with a caught breath. “Liar. I’ll miss you as soon as the bus doors close.”
“Then, I’ll just have to give you something to remember me by,” Steve said, and he peeled Tony’s briefs off, scraping his teeth down Tony’s pelvis until he got to his cock.
Despite Tony’s melancholy, Steve was insistent. Mouthing at the base, he slid his lips up Tony’s shaft to the tip to taste, and Tony moaned softly, body twitching into hardening awareness.
“Steve,” Tony sighed, bringing both hands into Steve’s hair.
Steve looked up through his lashes and bobbed his head down, swallowing around the full length of Tony’s cock until Tony’s thighs were tense and trembling. He dragged his hand up Tony’s thigh, pushed it out, and swept his fingers inward. He traced the tight skin of Tony’s balls, rubbed a thumb over and back and teased it further until he was pressing warm and teasing at Tony’s hole.
Tony couldn’t stop arching his back. He kept pushing against Steve’s hand, pushing into Steve’s mouth. The heat of him, the wet stroke of his tongue, the tightness of his throat. It was maddening, driving Tony higher and higher, until he was left with tremors under his skin that radiated out from every point of contact with Steve.
“Steve,” he said again, voice thick and needy. “Steve, please. I want-”
Steve surged up Tony’s body to kiss the words away from him. He cupped Tony’s jaw, thumb digging into the bolt of it to keep his mouth open wider. It was messy, but Tony didn’t care, chasing Steve’s tongue with his own on a desperate moan.
The kiss was dizzying, consuming in its heat and possessive. It stole Tony’s worries and left him thinking of nothing but Steve. Steve. Steve. Steve who had managed to open him on three slick fingers, who had him squirming against the sheets, who was breathing words into Tony’s skin.
Words Tony recognized as his own. Love songs and promises and heated whispers that left bruises and marks in the soft flesh of his soul and left him craving more and more.
Tony was a songwriter; he was used to sappy declarations and sexy guarantees. And he chanted Steve’s name as they wrapped around each other, as Steve eased himself in Tony with a slow, torturous stroke.
Steve wouldn’t let Tony speed up. He pinned Tony’s hips to the bed and made him take his cock in a steady pace. In and out, he watched himself disappear inside Tony’s body, stretching him open.
“Such a-such a pervert,” Tony teased breathlessly, smacking at Steve’s shoulder before dropping his hand to tiptoe his fingers down his own stomach.
Steve dragged his gaze up to where Tony’s hand was wrapping around his cock. His eyes darkened as Tony’s fingers swirled around the head, teased at his slit, then spread his precome down his shaft to start stroking himself a bit faster than Steve’s hips were moving.
Steve growled and dropped down to his forearms, trapping Tony’s legs over his elbows, trapping Tony’s hand and cock between their stomachs.
“St-” Tony choked as he pulled his hand free and let the friction of Steve’s muscles drag against his cock. He tangled his hand into Steve’s hair and slanted their mouths together. Steve’s pace picked up, almost harsh in the smack of skin on skin. The kiss broke the tender skin of Steve’s lip, but Tony’s tongue was quickly chasing away the pain.
“Fuck, Tony,” Steve panted against Tony’s mouth. Tony’s nerve-endings sparked and fired, sending him into a dizzying orgasm that left him gasping and clenching around the last few strokes Steve made.
Steve’s hands fisted in the sheets beside Tony’s shoulders, back bowing with his orgasm as he stuttered out a thrust or two more. He slumped into Tony, pressing sweat into sweat, heat and sticky semen spreading between them.
Tony turned his head, let his mouth catch and slide lazily against Steve’s as they both settled to find their breath.
“Say you’ll love me for the rest of your life,” Steve murmured, nuzzling at Tony’s nose. Tony hummed. “I gotta lot of love and I don’t wanna let go. Will you still love me-”
“Are you quoting Chicago at me? That’s so cheesy, Rogers.” Tony replied teasingly. He rubbed his nose back at Steve’s and finished; “For the rest of my life,” he murmured, brushing a hand through Steve’s damp hair to clear his brow. Steve’s smile was small, his gaze soft, and Tony had never loved him more.
Six Months Later -Touring-
“Tony, you look fine,” Pepper sighed, patting down Tony’s suit with as a last-minute touch. “Very…”
“Why do I have to wear the tie?” Tony complained. “I’m one of the guests of honor! I should wear what I want!”
“Steve would like the tie,” Pepper pointed out, one brow lifting to show she wasn’t impressed with Tony’s tantrum.
“Steve’s a fuddy-duddy who wears tweed coats with patches and it’s not even ironic! He actually likes them. Also, he’s not fucking here, so it doesn’t matter what Steve likes.” With that declaration, Tony turned his back and strode across the green room. He dejectedly picked through a few of the weird assortment of items some intern had thrown into the room according to Tony’s rider. Honestly, he didn’t even remember putting half of this shit on there.
Only green M&Ms? Who does that? Fucking weird. He rubbed his hands over his face.
“You can change before you perform,” Pepper said after a moment.
Pepper sighed and said through her teeth: “Fine. You can loosen the tie. That’s it. At least keep it on until the set. Then you can throw it at some woman’s face.”
“Deal,” Tony replied, beaming over his shoulder at her as he immediately loosened the knot.
Pepper clicked her heels together as she closed her eyes. Maybe she’d wake up at home in bed. “You’re lucky I love you, Tony Stark.” She tapped out a message on her phone and hit send.
“Yeah, I am,” Tony said easily. There was a knock on the door, and the intern let them know the car was ready to take them to the after party.
“Try to behave,” Pepper said as they drove to the party. “And I might have something nice for you.”
“That new guitar we saw in Seattle?” Tony asked, eyes bright in the dim interior of the limo.
Pepper smiled. “Sure, or something like it.”
“I guess I can do my best,” Tony said, fingers tapping out a random beat against his slacks.
The party itself was the same as usual. Par for the course in Tony’s experience. Certainly, there weren’t many differences in the parties his parents had attended while he was growing up. Everyone was just as snotty, just as entitled. Maybe more drugs these days, but nothing Tony couldn’t handle.
He ignored it all mostly. He, instead, focused on catching up with a few other artists he’d come to know over the years, and meeting a few he hadn’t.
His quick cameo set was the highlight. He went on the little makeshift stage and smiled at the guests with a genuine expression. He settled his guitar on his thigh and entertained them with a few songs from the new album. Again, par for the course.
It was much later that evening that it happened.
The champagne was flowing freely, among other things, and Tony was just about to finish his last glass and find Pepper. He’d sworn that’s where he was going, following the sound of her soft laughter. But suddenly, he was in a completely different room, a warm mouth on his and hands sliding up under his shirt.
The room was dark, the hands were smooth, the mouth familiar. The music from the party was loud, thumping against the door and the walls, through Tony’s body, pulsing with his heartbeat. It was frantic. His mind was not.
“I missed you, Tones,” was pressed into his neck, slurred against his jaw. And Tony felt sick, felt the shudder-sweep of nausea roll through his stomach. He couldn’t lift his hands. They stayed against the door, limp and useless. “Tell me you missed me too. I want to hear you say it.”
Tony’s throat worked, the words piling up behind a sluggish tongue. He’d felt this before, this numb, pervasive lull, like a sweet, cloying web that bound and enticed. He loathed it. He hadn’t even noticed the hint of it in his cider. He should’ve stuck with the champagne.
“I’ve been watching you all night, and you never even came to say hi. You can’t still be mad about the song,” Ty said, dragging his nose up Tony’s neck to whisper the mournful-toned words against Tony’s mouth. “It was just business. You didn’t have to take it out on us. I thought you loved me.”
Tony had. Tony had loved Tiberius like fire. A bright, hot flame that lit the path to Tony’s dreams and future. Ty had put him on the road to success and stolen his heart, then stolen his work.
Now, all Tony wanted to do, was curse and push Ty away. His arms twitched. He wanted to find a shower and scrub his skin off everywhere Ty dared to touch him. He couldn’t force his legs to move.
“You’ve been doing so well,” Ty continued, fingers mapping Tony’s skin under his shirt. “I’ve been so proud of you. And then you started fucking the teacher, blasting it all over the papers. He’s not really your type, is he? Were you trying to get over me? Did you go Ken-doll to get back at me?”
He had to stop Ty. Ty had no right to talk about Steve. Ty’s hand slipped over Tony’s hands, fingers tightening. The bones ground together, and Tony’s heart stuttered.
“I’m not a fan of people touching what’s mine,” Ty said on a low growl. “And once upon a time, that meant you.”
There was a whirlwind of motion as Ty turned and hauled Tony over to the bed a few feet behind them. Tony’s brain shorted out, unable to believe what was happening.
“Ty,” Tony managed to push out. It was stringy and faint, and Ty’s grin was shark-like in the low lighting. “S-stop...”
“Oh, Tony. Tony. Tony. Tony,” Ty sighed and pushed Tony facedown across the bed. “It’s amusing to me how you think you still have a choice, even after all this time. Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it. You always did before.”
A heavy hand landed between Tony’s shoulders, pressing him down, down into the mattress. Tony’s gaze was swallowed by the thick blankets beneath him, and the last thing he heard as he blacked out was the sound of Ty’s zipper.
“-an you hear me?” The music was too loud. The singer was right against his eardrum, pounding against his brain like a bass beat. His eyes were open, but only enough to see that the lights were changing too fast.
Black, as he was dragged back into silence.
“Shit, he’s waking up! I need another do-”
Tony couldn’t even open his eyes then, but the beat was softer. It didn’t hurt as much. Ty must have finally turned it down. He should thank him.
“Ty…” He thought he spoke, but he couldn’t be sure, and his mind tried to remember why that was a problem. Something about Ty. A warm hand on his shoulder. But the beating was coming back louder, faster. Something in his throat was blocking his shout.
He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t bre-
Warmth spread through him, washed away the panic, plunged him into silence.
Tony was lost to a dream. He could tell it was a dream; the edges of his vision were fuzzy, and he was pretty sure that was himself on the bed. He recognized his shoes. And he recognized the slope of Ty’s back. The music was loud even then, some club song that was blasting through the party.
He shrunk back. He didn’t want to see this. His heart was in his throat as he met his own eyes across the room. They were dull, dilated. Wet. He’d cried. He hadn’t known that. He hadn’t known any of it. He’d hidden from what was happening, drugged and uncomprehending.
He watched his own face in the dream, slack for all of Ty’s manhandling. He watched as his other self never even registered the door opening, Pepper’s shouting, and Ty’s rough movements as he dragged Tony off the bed with him.
Tony’s legs had given out, and he watched with a weird double-vision as the floor swam before his eyes. He’d braced himself, tried to push up, but had been left blinking at Ty’s shoe. The black, pristine loafer had come down on the back of Tony’s hand, dug into the bone with a breaking forcefulness.
Tony turned around, dropped into a crouch to cover his ears as his dream self screamed. He wondered if he kept screaming or if it was just the music. Or had it been Ty screaming as a few security guys rushed into the room.
The honey-soft scent of Pepper’s perfume filled his mind and her whispered words were damp with fear and anger.
“It’s okay, Tony,” she was promising. “The paramedics are on the way. I’m going to call Steve.”
Ty’s body was concrete on his legs. Tony screamed.
The first thing Tony realized was that he could breathe clearly. There didn’t seem to be anything in his throat.
“-nd she refused to do the exam! I had to fail her, and she had the nerve to blame me for it. I tell you, kids these days do not respect teachers. It’s not like I’m getting paid a lot to do this. I genuinely want to help them learn.”
Tony turned his head slightly, eyes blinking slowly to catch bleary sight of Steve where he sat beside Tony’s hospital bed. Other than Steve’s voice, the room was quiet. The television wasn’t on, the machines weren’t beeping. It was peaceful. It was relief.
“I just want them to…” Steve swallowed, Tony thought he looked terrible. Drawn and exhausted. It was cleared he hadn’t shaved in some time, and his clothes were a wrinkled mess. He was staring at his hands, clasped shakily between his knees. “I just want…”
“You...to want...me?” Tony guessed. He coughed, the words hoarse and scratching his sore throat.
Steve’s head shot up, eyes wide. The chair he was sitting in clattered backwards as he rushed to his feet. “Tony! You’re awake!”
Tony winced at the volume of Steve’s voice, and Steve immediately shrank back, hunched in on himself. Tony reached for him, or intended to, until realized his left hand was heavy.
It was the cast that caused his wounded noise, but Steve was swift to carefully cover it with his hand.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Steve said, much more softly then. “It’s okay. The doctor said it’s going to heal without problems. And maybe only minor therapy. You’ll still be able to play.”
“Steve,” Tony said, voice breaking, as he looked back up at him.
Steve’s gaze darkened and filled with tears, and he tugged his chair close in, so he could stroke a hand through Tony’s hair. “You’re okay. I promise you. We’ll get through this. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
The thing was, he hadn’t known Ty could hurt him in the first place. He’d never imagined.
“And he didn’t…” Steve trailed off as fury rolled across his features. His hand stilled in Tony’s hair. “He didn’t have time to...to…Pepper found you first.”
Something like relief broke through Tony, and he flung his right hand towards Steve, grasping and tugging until their foreheads were pressed together.
“I’m so sorry, Tony,” Steve whispered. “I should’ve been there.”
“You’re here...now. You’re here…” Tony tugged at Steve’s shirt. “You couldn’t have known. No one… He… I didn’t want...I love you. I love-”
“I know,” Steve said, like he understood what Tony was trying to say. “I know, sweetheart. I never thought differently.” He kissed Tony’ s brow. “You’re coming home with me, and I’m going to take care of you until you’re sick of me.” Until Steve could see Tiberius Stone on the news and not want to destroy everything in his path.
“You still...love me.” Tony sniffled.
“For the rest of my life,” Steve promised.
The next time Tony stepped on stage after a full recovery, Steve was in the wings. He stood next to Pepper, hands shoved in his pockets and dopey grin on his face, as they listened to the deafening roar of Tony’s fans.
Tony’s left hand was flat against the strings and pick-guard as he spoke to his audience. His hand was healed, perfect, and glinting with the engagement band Steve had surprised him with ten minutes earlier.