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Five Times Tony Successfully Hid His Tattoo (And One Time He Didn't)

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One

 

“What about –“ he starts, and is very promptly stopped.

 

“No,” Pepper says.

 

“But –“ he protests, his tone bordering on a whine.

 

“No, Tony.” Pepper isn’t even looking up, isn’t paying attention.  Tony pouts.

 

“It’s not like anybody would see it,” he grumbles.

 

Pepper just sighs, still tapping away on her tablet, a headset in her ear as she runs Stark Industries with brutal efficiency, even from the Tower. Coulson could take lessons from her, she’s that good.

 

“Tony, you do not need a tattoo of the molecular structure for vibranium on your ankle,” Pepper says. Tony grins; so she has been paying attention, after all!

 

“What? I think it’s subtle, right? I mean, who’s going to look at it and know what it is?” he asked.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Pepper said. “You do not need a tattoo.”  She pauses, her lashes dipping down over her eyes.  “All right, you can get a tattoo,” she changes tactics.  “On one condition.” Tony is appropriately suspicious of her wicked smile.  “You have to tell Steve about the one you already have.”

 

Tony’s teeth clack together as he shuts his mouth, and he supposes he’s lucky he didn’t just bite his tongue. “That’s playing dirty, Potts,” he hisses.  Pepper is unmoved.  “There is no way in hell that Captain America is ever going to find out about that.”

 

“Find out about what?” Steve asks as he walks into the conference room, his timing as sucky as ever.

 

Pepper smiles sweetly, and Tony glares daggers at her. “Nothing important, Steve,” she reassures the other man.  Steve still looks skeptical, and Tony puts a little extra sway into his hips as he saunters over to the other man.  It works, and Steve is completely distracted.  Tony doesn’t even try to hide his smirk; he loves the effect that he has on Steve Rogers, of all people.  Captain America is his boyfriend; everybody else can go suck it.

 

He stretches up, and Steve curls down, smiling into the gentle kiss. “Hi,” Tony murmurs when they break apart, his face warm.

 

“Hi,” Steve murmurs back, his arm wrapping loosely around Tony’s waist. “You’re trying to distract me,” he accuses, but he’s smiling, amused.

 

Tony nods agreeably. “Yes, yes, I am,” he laughs.  “Because I am clever and wily and it’s not important.  This,” he adds, one warm hand slipping under the edge of Steve’s too-tight t-shirt, “is far more interesting anyhow.”

 

Pepper coughs discretely behind them, and Steve’s face flushes bright red, his earlier question completely forgotten as he stammers out apologies, just before the rest of the team files in for the debriefing. Thank god for Pepper.  Even if she won’t let him get another tattoo.

 

Two

 

Tony is furious, covered in slime and dirt and soot and he doesn’t even want to think about what else those stupid bugs had been secreting.  The fire-breathing dragon that had followed on their heels hadn’t helped matters any, either.  Hence the soot.  All he wants to do right now is to take a shower and chase it with an unhealthy amount of alcohol.

 

He’s stripping before he even hits the bathroom door. “Jarvis, water now.  Hot,” he orders.  Within seconds, the room is filling up with steam, and Tony steps under the spray, his body tensing for a moment under the nearly scalding water.  Jarvis monitors the temperature carefully, ensuring that it’s never too hot, but when he’s in a mood, Tony doesn’t take anything less than just this side of boiling.

 

He lets the water sluice down over him, beating a steady rhythm against his skin. Reaching for the shampoo, he lathers his hair quickly before grabbing the soap and a loofa.  He’ll never admit that he uses them, but this is his bathroom and he can do what he wants.

 

He’s not sure how long he’s in there when there’s a knock on the door. He’s on his third scrub, and is debating the merits of a fourth against pinked, sensitive skin when there’s a knock on the door.  “Tony?”

 

The genius winces. Apparently, he’s been in here long enough for Steve to start to worry.  “Just a minute, Cap!” he calls out, stepping out of the shower and grabbing the closest towel.  He dries himself quickly and wraps another towel around his waist, making sure it’s snug before opening the door, goosebumps rising immediately in the cooler air from the bedroom.  Steve’s waiting right in front of the door, dressed in jeans and a button-up plaid shirt, and Tony looks up at him.  “Hey,” he greets, noting that Steve’s skin is pink and still giving off heat.  It seems like he wasn’t the only one who wanted a shower more than anything else.  “Debriefing?” he asks, resigned.  He hates debriefings, but Steve usually makes him go anyhow.

 

“Coulson is coming to the Tower for the debrief,” Steve informs him, following Tony to his closet.

 

Tony pauses. “Why?” he asks at last.  “Why would Coulson come here, to my inner sanctuary, to make us do something that nobody wants to do?”  His eyes narrow speculatively.  “Jarvis, don’t let him in,” he orders.

 

“I’m afraid he is already in the building, sir,” the AI apologizes, not sounding sorry at all.

 

Tony can hear Steve’s amusement as he rummages around his walk-in closet. Selecting one of his many band t-shirts, he slips the well-loved material over his head.  “Tony, you’re the only one who actually thinks he can get out of this,” Steve tells him.

 

Tony thinks about that as he selects a pair of jeans and pads back into the bedroom proper. If he’s going to be forced to sit through a never-ending debriefing, he’s going to at least be comfortable, dammit.  “Bruce,” he replies with finality.  “Bruce doesn’t have to go.”

 

“That’s because Bruce is currently asleep,” Steve points out. “In that we needed the Hulk on this one.  When we don’t need the Hulk, Bruce comes to the meetings.”

 

Tony stares at him. “Why?” he asks plaintively.

 

Steve shrugs, grinning widely now, showing no signs that he intends to leave any time soon. “Because he likes to know what’s happening?” he asks.

 

“Lies,” is all Tony can think to say. He narrows his eyes at his lover, then points at the bedroom door.  “Out, now,” he insists.

 

Steve tilts his head curiously. “Why?” he asks.  “If I leave, you might try to fly out the window or something.”

 

Tony grits his teeth. “One time,” he snarls.  “One time, and nobody lets you forget it.”

 

Steve wasn’t even bothering to suppress his laughter. “Tony, you called the suit to you and flew out the window to get out of a debriefing with Director Fury.  You can’t be trusted.”

 

Tony feels his mouth twitching against his will. “Yes, because Fury is a scary son of a bitch,” he agrees, rolling his eyes when Steve promptly scolds him for using foul language.  “And because I rather suspected that he was going to shoot me, regardless of what you had to say about it.”  It had been a clusterfuck of an op, and Fury’s hand had been stroking his gun, a glint in his eye every time he glanced in Tony’s direction.  He hadn’t been about to stick around, so he had taken the closest exit available, which just happened to have been a window on the seventieth floor of the Tower.

 

“If I promise not to run, will you please leave?” Tony asks, batting his eyes at Steve.

 

“Why?” Steve asks again, curious now. Tony curses inwardly.

 

“Because if you watch me get dressed, I’m going to decide that it’s far preferable to get us both undressed,” he points out. “And then we’ll both miss the briefing, and Coulson will come find us – you know he will, he’s got a way of doing that, I think he likes walking in on people – and you’ll make sad eyes at me, and Thor will make sad eyes at us, and Clint will be a pain in the ass.  So, out you go,” he points again, his finger stabbing emphatically at the open doorway.

 

Steve just grins, but capitulates, heading for the door. He pauses with his hand on the door handle. “Oh, and Tony?” he says sweetly.  Blue eyes meet his, and Steve smiles.  “Don’t put on anything that you really, really want to keep in one piece later,” he suggests.

 

Tony is rock hard in an instant, and he swears, long and loud, as Steve leaves the room, closing the door behind him. Grumbling, Tony lets the towel slip to the floor and finishes dressing.  Steve had better not withdraw his promise, if Tony is going to have to suffer through a debriefing on how badly they’d all fucked up today.

 

Dressed, Tony runs careless fingers through his hair and stalks to the door, opening it to find Steve waiting for him. “Let’s go,” he sighs.  Steve leans down to give him a firm kiss, his hand slipping into Tony’s back pocket, and the genius settles.

 

Maybe this debriefing won’t be so bad, after all.

 

Three

 

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Rhodey tells him over a couple of microbrews. He’s on official military business, serving as the military liaison for Stark Industries, but Tony has still managed to rope him into a night of drinking.  Mostly because Steve’s out of town on a SHIELD mission, and the Tower seems so empty without the other man.  Clint’s out in bumfuck nowhere, and Natasha is with Steve; Bruce is at a conference in Chicago, of all places, and Thor is visiting Jane Foster. 

 

Tony has discovered that he really, really hates the quiet. And so he had needled Rhodey until the other man had agreed to stay in the Tower for his stay, rather than a hotel.

 

Now, they’re sitting in Tony’s living room, drinking and talking about Steve. Tony would much prefer to be in the workshop, but Rhodey pointed out that alcohol and engineering should not be combined, no matter what Tony normally does when nobody’s there to watch over him except Jarvis and the bots.

 

“No,” Tony insists, jabbing his bottle towards Rhodey. Fortunately, he’s drunk enough of it that it doesn’t spill.  “I am not telling Captain America, forget it, it’s humiliating.”  Just the thought of telling him about it makes Tony want to curl up in a ball and never come out.

 

“Then get it covered up,” Rhodey suggests with a shrug.

 

Tony glares at him. “Not helpful,” he grumbles.  “Pepper won’t let me.”  Well, Pepper keeps telling him he can’t get a new tattoo; he doesn’t know if that actually includes covering up the one that he has.  But as embarrassing as it is, he finds that he doesn’t want to get rid of it.  He’s had the tattoo since he was nineteen.  He’d gotten it on the anniversary of his parents’ death, as a sort of ‘fuck you’ to his father.  Two decades later, Steve Rogers had been found and unfrozen, and now Tony’s tattoo is just tacky.  But he finds that he’s reluctant to have it removed or covered up.

 

Rhodey rolls his eyes, grabbing another beer. “Then show him,” Rhodey says, exasperated.  “You’re sleeping with the guy, for Chrissakes, he’s going to find out eventually.”  He pauses.  “Wait, how has he not found out yet?” he wonders.

Tony grimaces. “Dark rooms and keeping him very, very otherwise occupied,” he replies truthfully. As much as Steve likes his ass, Tony tends to either straddle or him, or lay on his back if Steve’s fucking him.  If it’s the other way around, then Tony is very much on top.  Besides, Steve likes his arc reactor even more.  Even in sleep, Steve’s hand will cover the device in Tony’s chest protectively, as if daring anybody to try to take it from him.  It’s a nice feeling.

 

Rhodey is staring at him in disbelief. “What?” Tony demands, his hackles rising.  “It’s not like I’m forcing him to do anything he doesn’t want to!”  He’s offended by the very idea of it.

 

Dark eyebrows rise, and Rhodey blinks. “He could throw you across the room if you tried, Tony,” he points out.  “I’m not terribly worried.  But still, how long do you think you can keep it a secret from him?  I mean, if you weren’t sleeping with the guy, sure, I could see that, but now?  He’s not stupid.  Or blind,” he adds, his tone reasonable.  Tony hates it.

 

Before he finds a suitable retort for his best friend’s observation, Jarvis interrupts. “Sir, Captain Rogers is on the line, if you’d care to speak with him?”

 

Tony perks up; if Steve is able to call him, then either the mission is already over, or he’s got downtime in a safe house somewhere. “Yeah, J, put him through,” he agrees.  Pointing at Rhodey, he adds, “Not a word.”

 

Rhodey just grins, leaning back in his chair and taking a long swig of beer. “Mum’s the word,” he agrees.  “But just so you know, I’m not letting this go.”

 

Tony scowls at him, even as Steve’s welcome voice comes over the line. “Tony?”

 

Flipping off his amused friend, Tony turns his attention to the phone call. “Steve, honey, darling, light of my life! How’s Armenia?”

 

As the conversation devolves into an exasperated argument – SHIELD tries to keep Tony out of their systems, but Tony has Jarvis, so it’s a useless endeavor - Rhodey’s words keep echoing in his head. “How long do you think you can keep it a secret from him?”

 

The truth is, Tony doesn’t know. But he’ll be damned if he doesn’t keep trying. 

 

Because, there is no way in hell that Steve Rogers will ever find out that Tony Stark has Captain America’s shield tattooed on his ass.

 

Four

 

Tony is boneless, sated, his body folded limply over Steve’s as they lay tangled in the bed, neither one willing to be the first to move, to start the process of showering and changing the sheets. Steve’s hands are making long, languid sweeps up and down Tony’s back, and the genius’ eyes are closed, Steve’s heartbeat calming under the curve of his cheek.

 

“Umph,” Tony murmurs when Steve shifts underneath him. “Don’t wanna.”

 

“Tony,” Steve sighs, but he’s amused. He’s always amused when he’s around Tony, unless they’re in the field.  Then he’s usually exasperated, because Tony doesn’t follow directions very well. Or at all, really.  It’s a constant source of contention, and the fact that they are now sleeping together hasn’t changed that.  “We need to shower.  You have work.”  Tony doesn’t budge, and Steve’s hands continue their slow sweep, so he’s not terribly concerned.  “I know you do, because Pepper sent me your itinerary.”

 

“Pepper’s a traitor,” Tony mumbles. “She likes you better than me, which is just unfair. I’m her boss.”

 

Steve’s laughter makes his entire body vibrate, each breath lifting Tony as easily as if he were a child. “She likes you,” he reassures Tony.  “But you are incapable of being anywhere on time if somebody isn’t around to nudge you in the right direction.”

 

Tony feels that he should be insulted at the insinuation, but it’s pretty accurate, so instead he just wraps his hands around Steve’s neck, clinging to the other man like a limpet. Rather than pry him off, Steve just sighs.   Then he stands up, his hands gripping Tony’s thighs.  Tony grumbles, “Not fair,” and Steve’s chuckle is muffled against the top of his head.  “Stupid super strength.”

 

“Yes, well, we need a shower, and you weren’t moving.” Apparently Steve feels the need to point out the obvious today, and Tony doesn’t know where he gets these kinds of thoughts. 

 

“I was fine,” Tony grouses, tightening his grip around Steve’s neck as he presses his face against the his lover’s broad chest. “Comfy, even.  Why would you drag me out of bed?”

 

“Well, I don’t know,” Steve says thoughtfully. “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Pepper will be here in an hour with a bunch of paperwork for you to sign?”

 

Tony scowls, deliberately rubbing his chin against Steve’s chest, causing the other man to shudder with a muffled noise caught somewhere between pleasure and surprise. It will serve Steve right if he gets beard-burn.

 

It’s not until the light in the bathroom flicks on that Tony remembers why it’s not a good idea to let Steve carry him into the bathroom. Where there’s a mirror.

 

“Shit!” he swears, twisting – thrashing might be more accurate – in Steve’s arms. The soldier, caught by surprise, drops him, and Tony bites back another curse as his ass makes contact with the cold bathroom floor.

 

Steve’s staring down at him with wide eyes. “Tony? What – are you okay?” he asks, bending down and reaching out to help Tony up.  Tony swats at his hands, scowling.

 

“I’m fine, my dignity has taken a hit, now go away,” he snarls, one hand reaching back to rub at his backside.

 

Steve frowns. “Tony, what’s gotten into you lately?” he asks, and his tone is exasperated; it’s a tone that Tony is very familiar with.  Pepper has it a lot.  So does Rhodey.  So does, if he’s honest with himself, pretty much everybody who has to put up with him on a regular basis.  “Every time I try to help, you just push me away!”  He’s angry now, and Tony winces.

 

“Not every time,” he protests, grimacing. “Well, okay, maybe every time,” he sighs.  Carefully, he stands up, his hand coming to rest on the countertop.  He looks up at Steve mournfully.  “I don’t suppose saying I’m sorry would help?” he asks.

 

Steve looks down at him, but doesn’t fight it when Tony reaches up and hugs him. “That depends,” he mutters, his voice muffled against Tony’s shoulder.  “Will you stop?”

 

Tony thinks about that for a minute. “Probably not,” he admits.  “Mostly because I’m a stubborn ass.”  Steve’s watery chuckle is pressed against Tony’s neck, and Tony’s eyes open wide.  “Oh, no. No, no, no!” he denies.  “You’re not crying, are you? Because I will b hated forever, I will. I will be known as the man who made Captain America cry.  Coulson will kill me.”

 

Steve’s laughter this time is brighter, warmer, and Tony smiles. Making a spontaneous decision, he leads Steve back towards the tub.  “JARVIS, bubble bath,” he orders.  “I made Captain America cry, I need to remedy this, now.”

 

Steve is staring at him like he’s crazy, and JARVIS sounds amused when he asks dryly, “The American Dream, sir?”

 

Steve’s eyes widen, and Tony scowls. “You’re out of the will, Jay,” he states.  Nonetheless, he steps into the tub, which is now filling with a fragrant, earthy scent, bubbles foaming along the top. 

 

“I expect nothing less,” JARVIS assures him as the two men settle into the tub in a tangle of limbs, Steve’s laughter turning in a muffled groan as Tony kisses him.  He has an apology to make, after all.

 

Five

 

Tony drops the drawing on Pepper’s desk with a smug smile. “No,” Pepper says, not looking up from her papers.

 

Tony frowns. “Why not?  I mean, it pertains.  It definitely pertains to me, and isn’t that the point?” he asks pragmatically, ignoring the hint of a whine that creeps into his voice.

 

“Anthony Edward Stark, you do not need another tattoo,” Pepper states firmly.

 

Tony rolls his eyes. “You haven’t even looked at it yet,” he points out.

 

Pepper signs another three papers, ignoring him, and Tony slouches down in his chair, his fingers linked over his stomach, determined to wait her out.

 

His CEO sighs after a long moment, her eyes flicking over the paper, and she raises her eyebrows in incredulity. “You can’t be serious, Tony,” she blurts out, and Tony shrugs, pleased with himself.  On the paper is a brilliantly colored image of Iron Man, his hand repulsors facing down as he takes off from the ground into the air, his helmeted gaze turned towards the sky.  It’s rather large, and would probably take up the entirety of Tony’s back.

 

“Why not?” he grins, tipping the chair back on two feet, humming idly under his breath.

 

Pepper’s eyes narrow perceptively. “You’re hoping this will distract Steve from the other tattoo, aren’t you?” she surmises.

 

Tony raises a single eyebrow at her. “Nope,” he drawls, “mostly because it will, of course, be on my back.  As in, the same side as the other one.” 

 

He can see Pepper’s mind working, and he sees the moment she catches on. “So you’re what?” she asks.  “Planning to have a tattoo for each Avenger so he won’t think there’s anything special about the one on your – “ she gestures, trying to be delicate.  Tony’s grin widens.  “No, Tony,” Pepper says again.  “Now, either make yourself useful and sign those,” she points to a stack of papers on the corner of the desk, “or go away. I have work to do, and I want to be done before seven.”

 

Tony stands with a pout. “Fine, fine,” he mutters, heading for the door – leaving is far preferable to doing paperwork in the office.  Besides, Pepper will just have it delivered later.  “Enjoy your date!” he calls out cheerfully as he walks out of the office, ignoring Pepper’s angry retort.  He’ll just have to come up with another plan.

 

The phone rings, and Tony glances at the caller ID before picking it up with a grin. “Cap! I was just thinking about you!” he greets.

 

Steve’s clipped voice has him moving quickly. “Yeah, I’m on it.  JARVIS, send a suit!”  The AI replies in the affirmative, and Tony is already stripping off his suit jacket and tie as he darts for the elevators that will take him up to the Penthouse, where the landing platform for the armor is located.  The elevator moves swiftly upwards, and Tony’s plans for an array of new tattoos are forgotten as the armor wraps around him, and then he’s airborne, the Quinjet lifting off even as he flies ahead, a flashy guide. 

 

Time to give some bad guys a beat down.

 

And One

 

Tony stares down at the still form on the bed, his face pale and haggard. Steve’s eyes are bruised, the right one swollen shut, his face nearly as battered as the rest of his body.  Four broken ribs, a fractured clavicle, a dislocated shoulder, a shattered knee and a severed femoral artery, just to name a few.  Tony stopped listening after the first few seconds, his mind unable to focus on anything except the man lying in the bed, still and cold.  Steve’s chest lifts a tiny bit, the ribs posing a danger even now.  They’ll heal, like they’ve done before, but right now, there’s still a risk of them shifting, of them piercing something internally, of making things worse for the soldier.

 

“Tony.” It’s Bruce behind him, but Tony doesn’t turn away from his vigil.  Bruce moves further into the room, scooping Steve’s chart up and skimming over it, the pages rustling as he reads through the medical jargon, the most equipped of them all to translate it into layman’s terms.  “It’s not your fault,” Bruce says at last, setting a pair of nurse scrubs carefully on the end of Steve’s bed.  “If you’re not going to go home, at least get changed,” he orders softly.

 

Tony ignores him, his eyes riveted on the still form of his lover. The same thought keeps running through his head.  If he had just been in position, if he had followed orders, Steve wouldn’t be lying here.  If Tony had held his damn place, he would have been there when the building had collapsed, would have been able to pull Steve out of there.  He hadn’t been there, and Steve had gotten hurt.  So no matter what the others tell him, no matter how many times they tell him that it’s not his fault, he ignores them.   Because he knows better; he could have saved Steve, and he hadn’t.

 

Bruce sighs, clapping a hand firmly on Tony’s shoulder. “At least wash your face and get changed,” he orders softly.  “If Steve wakes up and sees you like this, you know he’ll panic, and that might aggravate his injuries.”  He pauses for a moment.  “Besides, I’m pretty sure you’d be more comfortable sitting,” he adds, his eyes skimming over Tony’s face – the only part of Tony he can see, given that the genius is still wearing his armor.  “And I want to look you over for injuries.”

 

“I’m fine,” Tony says, the first words he’s spoken since he’d freaked out at the doctors and nurses taking care of Steve, screaming at them to fix him.

 

Bruce clucks sympathetically. “You’re not fine,” he murmurs softly.  “Please, Tony.”  He swallows hard.  “I need to…to make sure you’re okay.  I need to see that you’re not hurt and hiding it.”  There’s a tinge of desperation in his voice that he’s trying to hide, and it’s that more than his words that stirs Tony to action.

 

He nods. “Okay,” he agrees softly.  “You’ll watch him?”  The bathroom is connected to the hospital room – it’s a private room, because the Avengers deserve at least that much – so he won’t be going far, but he’s afraid that if he takes his eyes off of Steve for a second, the other man might disappear.

 

“Yeah, I’ll watch him,” Bruce promises, pulling a visitor’s chair up against the side of the hospital bed and settling in it, his hand reaching out to grip Steve’s wrists so he can monitor his pulse. Tony stays for another couple of long seconds, reluctant to leave his lover’s side, but eventually he manages to make himself move, grabbing up the garments and walking into the bathroom, each step heavy, dragging against his urge to return to Steve’s side, to not let the man out of his sight until he wakes up.

 

He disengages the armor, staring at his pale, bruised face in the mirror. He’d taken a couple of direct hits himself, but JARVIS’ scans had determined that nothing was broken.  Superficial wounds only.  Tony snorts at his reflection, then turns on the tap water, allowing it to run over his hands before splashing it on his face, scrubbing them irritably through his hair, shivering at the cold.

 

Tony strips and changes into the scrubs. Tapping his phone, he calls up JARVIS.  “Get me some actual clothes,” he orders.

 

“Of course, sir,” the AI agrees. “I shall have them delivered within the hour.” Tony mumbles an agreement, then scoops up the phone and walks back out into the hospital room.  True to his word, Bruce is still sitting there, his fingers resting lightly against Steve’s upturned wrist.  He glances up when Tony walks back in.

 

“You look like hell,” he observes, standing up and ushering Tony into the seat that he’d just vacated. Bruce’s hands are warm and steady as he looks him over, and Tony keeps his eyes locked on the unconscious man in the bed, moving only when prompted to let Bruce confirm for himself that he’s all right.

 

Finally, Bruce is finished with his cursory exam, and he steps back, glancing between them. “Clint should be stopping by shortly with food,” he says.  “I expect you to eat it.”  Tony mumbles something that might be considered agreement, and Bruce sighs.  “Call me if you need me,” he says.  Tony nods, and Bruce hesitates for just another moment before turning and leaving, stepping to the side to allow a nurse into the room to check up on Steve.

 

The nurse does what she needs to, and Tony stays where he is, afraid to touch, but just as afraid to back away. The nurse, possibly remembering the last time anybody had tried to make Tony leave, simply moves around him, checking Steve’s IV and looking over his injuries, making new notations on his charts based on whatever the machines are reading at the moment.  Tony doesn’t care, as long as she doesn’t try to make him leave.

 

He’s left alone with Steve ten minutes later, and forces himself to loosen his grip on the other man’s hand, wincing at the idea that he may be inadvertently causing the other man pain. Steve’s fingers clench briefly around his, and Tony’s eyes shoot up to stare wildly at the other man, hope and fear warring inside his chest.  Steve is watching him with tired eyes, the pain clearly visible.  As soon as Steve’s better, Tony will create an anesthetic that can override the serum, because this is unacceptable. 

 

“Hey,” Steve croaks out, grimacing.

 

Tony fumbles clumsily for the cup of water on the bedside table, bringing the straw to Steve’s lips. The soldier sips at the water gratefully, and Tony doesn’t pull it away until it’s empty.  His hands are trembling.

 

“Thanks,” Steve murmurs. “You look like hell.”

 

Tony chokes on a strained laugh. “You’re one to talk,” he retorts, his hands reaching out again to wrap around Steve’s, gripping tightly.  Steve doesn’t protest at the pressure.

 

“Are you hurt?” Steve asks, ever the team leader. “The others?  Did Bruce make it back okay?”

 

Tony’s smile hurts as he reassures the other man. “Everybody’s fine, Cap,” he promises.  “Clint jumped off the roof again, but Hulk caught him.  Natasha and Phil are still yelling at him, I think.”  Steve’s lips curl up in amusement.  “Bruce was just in here, checking up on you.”

 

Steve frowns. “He looked at you, too, right?” he asks.  “Or somebody did?”

 

Tony nods. “Yeah, Cap.  I’m good, just a few bumps and scrapes, nothing major.  You’re the only one that got hurt.  Idiot.”  The insult doesn’t quite cover the regret in Tony’s voice.

 

Steve rolls his eyes, grimacing when that undoubtedly makes his head hurt more. “You’re the idiot,” he retorts.  Tony glares at him half-heartedly, but Steve’s gaze is serious.  “It’s not your fault,” he states.

 

Tony rears back, pulling away, but Steve’s grip stops him. Tony could break the grip easily, but he finds that he’s reluctant to do so, and so he stops.  He stays turned away, though, his breath loud in his own ears.  “Don’t,” he says harshly.  “You don’t get to say that to me.  Not after – not when you’re the one laid up in the hospital.”  His face was hot, tears tracking down his cheeks without any input from his brain.

 

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Steve says, tugging gently. Tony doesn’t have the strength to resist and allows the other man to pull him down onto the bed.  He sits on the very edge, afraid to touch, but equally afraid to leave.  Steve considers him for a long moment, and Tony lets his head hang down, his eyes closed, waiting for judgment.

 

“Fine,” Steve huffs at last. “If you want to feel guilty because you were busy saving civilians, which is  kind of your job, go ahead.  It’s not like I can stop you.  But you can make it up to me,” he suggests slyly.  Tony looks at him suspiciously.

 

“Make it up how?” he demands.

 

Steve just smiles, wincing as it pulls at his split lip. He tugs on Tony’s arm until the other man is leaning over him, their mouths just a hair’s breadth apart.  Opening his lips, his tongue flicks out for a moment, and Tony is mesmerized.  So much so that it takes his brain a moment to catch up when Steve says, “Drop your pants.”

 

His eyes widen in worry, and his hands reach up to check for a fever. “What’s wrong?” he demands urgently.  “Are you running a fever? I can’t tell. Do super soldiers even get fevers? Are you in pain? Should I call a nurse? I mean, I know the painkillers don’t really work, but they’ve got to have something.  Elephant tranquilizers, maybe. Or that mead that Thor is always going on about. I bet it could probably get you drunk, then you wouldn’t care.”

 

“Tony, Tony! That’s enough, stop it!” Steve laughs, grabbing Tony’s flailing hand and pressing it to chapped lips. “I’m fine, I promise.  I just….you always hide it from me.”

 

Tony freezes, then pulls his hand back, moving off the bed to sink into the chair. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says lamely.  Steve just gives him a knowing look, and Tony sighs.  “How long have you known?” he asks miserably.

 

Steve rolls his eyes. “Tony, I’ve been sleeping with you for eight months now.  I’ve known about the tattoo for almost eleven.”  Tony stares at him wildly, his mouth opening and closing but no noise coming out.  “After the mechanical spider in Chicago.  You were hurt, and had a deep gash in your side and down your leg.”

 

Tony nods – he remembers. He had woken up in SHIELD medical, of all places, Steve watching over him, standing guard.  He’d been in a comatose state for two weeks, and that had been the first time that he’d ever seen the soldier cry.

 

With a sigh, realizing that his bluff’s been called, Tony taps his phone again. “J, give us privacy mode, would you?”  There’s a small hiss and pop as JARVIS hacks the hospital’s security and sets the cameras to loop, and Tony stands up.  He narrows his eyes at Steve as he takes his shirt off first.  The soldier grins, and Tony smiles back at him.  “Sorry, Cap.  It’s all or nothing,” he shrugs.

 

Steve’s grin widens. “Then I choose nothing,” he replies cheekily.  Tony laughs as he slips the shirt over his head and reaches for the drawstrings on the pants, undoing them quickly before dropping them – and his underwear – to the floor.  Appreciation darkens Steve’s eyes to a deep cobalt, and he makes a mournful noise.  He’s too injured to take advantage of a naked and willing Tony, and the engineer leans down to give him a quick kiss that isn’t really quick at all.  Steve’s uninjured hand is cradling his cheek, but it quickly slips down his arm and side to his ass, giving it a quick squeeze.

 

Tony yelps and pulls back, and Steve grins. “How long will privacy mode last?” he asks.

 

Tony shrugs. “JARVIS can hold it indefinitely, but the nurses will be in to check on you, and Bruce said something about Clint and food, I think.”

 

Steve raises his eyebrows, his face flushing at the idea that the might be caught with their pants down – literally, in Tony’s case. “Please?” he asks gently.

 

Tony turns around as requested, allowing Steve to see the small circular tattoo on his ass – the only tattoo he’s ever gotten, of Captain America’s shield. Steve makes a sound of satisfaction, and Tony turns his head to look at the other man over his shoulder.  “Like what you see?” he purrs, refusing to let embarrassment get the best of him.  He’s long since passed the point where embarrassment can affect him.  At least, that’s what he keeps telling himself.

 

Steve grins. “Yeah,” he agrees softly, his hand reaching out so he can stroke along the tattoo with one finger.  “My mark is on you.”

 

Tony shivers at the sheer possessiveness in Steve’s tone. “I should probably get dressed now,” he says at last.  Steve makes a vaguely disappointed sound of agreement, and Tony bends over to grab the pants off of the floor, not terribly surprised when Steve takes the opportunity to get in a solid grope of his assets.

 

He laughs as he pulls the pants on, hiding the tattoo from sight once more. “Kinky, Capsicle,” he teases. “J, end privacy mode.”

 

Steve shrugs. “It’s not like I have anything better to do,” he points out.  “So I’m afraid you’ll just have to entertain me.”

 

Tony’s laughing when Clint strolls in thirty seconds later with soup and sandwiches, his hand clasped tightly in Steve’s. Maybe now Pepper will let him get that tattoo.