Steve nods at the sentry at the medical wing's doors, and she barely inclines her head in acknowledgement. News travels fast in the Palace, and she doesn't look surprised to see him at all. He should have called in advance, if only to enquire if Bucky is in cryo sleep right now. He'd been up and about when Steve left for New York, even encouraged him to go, but maybe Bucky went back under once left alone. Wakanda is great, and the ex-Avengers and Bucky have always been treated like esteemed guests, but the Palace sometimes feels a little like a prison nonetheless. Steve's turning in the corridor leading to the lab where Bucky spends most of his days, awake or not, when he hears him laugh.
"You're full of shit, Wilson."
He's close enough to see Bucky looking at a laptop, and smiling too. Skype with Sam, or so it seems. They've built up a weird rivalry, a lot like siblings, outwardly pretending to hate each other for some reason.
"I've got to go," Sam is saying.
"Yeah, go pet that ridiculous flying robot of yours," Bucky replies.
"I'll tell Redwing you miss him, got it," Sam says and Bucky ends the call with a chuckle.
"So that was your friend again," the young scientist in the room with Bucky says. She's taking inventory of the supplies in the cupboards, tablet in hand. Steve had seen her around quite a bit before he left, and he knows Bucky likes her a lot because she doesn't tiptoe around him like most people. "Should I be jealous?"
"Of course not, Ida, you know you are the only one for me," Bucky replies easily with a smile, which make her laugh.
Seeing Bucky flirt like that, like before, makes Steve pause. It's great that he's getting better, of course it is, but a traitorous part of Steve is sad that Bucky visibly doesn't need him for it. It's completely selfish and he immediately feels guilty about it. Steve clears his throat and Bucky looks up and grins.
"Hey!" Bucky exclaims, but a fraction of second later he furrows his brow. "What are you doing here?"
"I told you I'd come back," Steve says. He barely spares a glance for Ida who leaves with a curt little nod.
"And what did I tell you?" Bucky asks. He'd told Steve that he didn't have to come back, which was ludicrous. At least he seems happy enough to see him and walks over for a welcome hug. "C'mere."
This is good, too, the touching that started again a few months back. Steve had missed it. He might cling a little bit too much but Bucky never says anything about it.
"How did it go?" Bucky asks.
"You probably saw it on TV."
The media frenzy around the battle that had seen the Avengers back together had been crazy.
"Smartass," Bucky says, rolling his eyes. "You know what I mean."
"A bit tense," Steve admits. A lot less awkward than he had thought it would be, though. "Rhodes is still not talking to me."
That seems to surprise Bucky. "Wilson said he was cool."
"With him, not with me," Steve says with a sigh.
That is what he had hated the most, how Rhodes obviously resented him for what happened. Now if it’s about his legs, the Accords or the fight with Tony, or all of those things altogether, it isn't clear.
Bucky makes a face. "Well, he's close to Stark."
"The thing is that Tony just… pretends nothing happened? I don't know." He never quite could understand Tony Stark, and him acting as they had never disagreed or fought had thrown Steve for a loop. "Tony even said he has ideas for you, to get you better."
"Yeah, he has this machine-"
"Maybe he just wants to get back at me," Bucky says, visibly dubious.
"No, no, he wouldn't do that," Steve says, shaking his head. Tony had an emotional reaction in Siberia where he did try to get to Bucky, but Steve is absolutely certain Tony wouldn't promise help just to get his hand on him. Not his style, and he has visibly cooled down. The suggestion to help even sounded like an apology.
"We'll see," Bucky says. "Not now. Doing good with the folks here, in fact."
"Yeah?" Steve asks, smiling. It shows, but it's always good to hear it from the man himself.
Steve had built up all kinds of scenarios in his head after Tony's suggestion, though. It would be great to take Bucky home, and the man got skills - and the serum too - so maybe, in the future… A full Avengers status might be a stretch, but Steve could dream. It would be great to have Bucky at his back again.
"How long are you staying?" Bucky asks.
Steve shrugs. "Until they need me."
"You can't lead a team from a distance," Bucky replies. (Tony had said the same thing.)
"Maybe I don't want to lead anymore."
He gets a laugh at that answer here too.
"Yeah, sure," Bucky says, rolling his eyes. "Who are you trying to kid?"
"I'm tired," Steve admits. He had to put up a strong front for years, now, because it was required. But he isn't sure that he is going to be able do it much longer.
"That I believe," Bucky says, looking concerned. "Then take time off."
"Maybe I came back to take time off here, with you."
Bucky doesn't sound impressed. "You hate it here."
"I don't!" Steve protests.
"Go back to New York. Mend fences, they can't have miraculously fixed themselves."
Steve bites on his lips not to say 'but I don't want to leave you alone!'; it must show on his face anyway.
"I'm going to be fine," Bucky says. "Look, Steve, I know you want your old friend back, but that's not who I am anymore."
He barely has his mouth open to protest that Bucky cuts him off.
"Shush. Parts of him, sure. But I'm different. I was already different when you found me in that lab in Kreischberg. And I am glad to have you in my life again, I am, but I need to find the new me. The whole of me. Not just that idealized Bucky from Brooklyn."
"That sounds a whole lot like doctor talk," Steve says.
"Maybe they ain't wrong."
It hurts, being pushed away like this. But it's possible that Bucky does need time by himself, without the pressure of Steve's expectations. Here in Wakanda he's safe and not on the run anymore, so he can really work on everything that needs to be addressed, in a protected environment, with doctors…
"If that's what you want," Steve begrudgingly agrees.
Bucky sighs. "It's not necessarily what I want, but I think it's what I need."
Steve cannot argue with that. Plus he swore to himself he'd leave Bucky make his own decisions as much as he could, so he nods.
"Don't look like a kicked puppy, for God's sake." Bucky lightly punches him on the arm. "It's a good thing, I swear."
"I know, I know." Steve thinks of the Avengers Compound, about how he basically ran away as soon as debrief was done. "I'm not sure they want me back there either." And wow, that sounded totally pathetic and Steve feels his cheeks heat in mortification.
"Aw, come on. Sam's there, right? And the others?" Bucky nudges.
"Yes. Rhodes. Vision. Pepper." Steve shivers remembering the look Pepper had leveled him with when they first saw each other before the press conference held after the battle. She'd looked at him up and down, as if it was the first time she ever met him, and her mouth had turned down like the assessment was a huge disappointment.
It wasn't quite the level of disgust shown by Rhodes, but even Tony had noticed and he'd whispered something in Pepper's ear, which had made her furious and she'd stalked out. Of all things, Tony had made a 'what can you do?' face at him, as in an apology for her behavior. At that moment Steve had been sure they were back together, but Vision had denied it later, when Steve had found the courage to ask. Good friends only, the Android had replied, perfectly polite. He'd been exactly like that with Steve every time they interacted, in fact, polite to the extreme. Too polite. Or it was just Steve who was paranoid that every friend of Tony hated him now.
"Giving you a hard time?"
"Just protective," Steve says. "It's good that he has them."
He can still see Tony's face in Siberia, so betrayed, when he'd said Steve used to be his friend, too. He hates that he hurt him so much.
"They'll come around, especially if he forgave you." Bucky says.
It's not that sure. Did the cheerful Tony he just saw, acting as if everything is fine, forgive him or has he just repressed it all and it will blow up in their faces later? Frankly, Steve would have preferred a fight, to air out everything.
"Even more important to make sure of it, then. You like the guy, right?"
Steve looks at Bucky in surprise, because how could have he have guessed that? Yes, he has somehow developed a hopeless one-sided crush on Tony over the years, but he was sure no one knew about that. Especially not Bucky, who has never seen them together apart from the fights.
"Oh," Bucky says, eyebrows rising. "You like him."
His first impulse is to deny, but it seems that Bucky can once more see right through him. Steve's not sure if he should be thrilled about that, because progress, or be totally mortified. He's beet red, for sure.
"Not relevant," Steve says, curt.
"So that whole mess wasn't a big lovers’ spat, then," Bucky says, edging in some teasing because he's an asshole.
"No!" Steve protests. "He's with Pepper."
That has been Steve's mantra for years. Don't look, don't hope, he's taken, he doesn't like you like that, you are friends, that's great, that's it.
"Ah." Bucky nods. "He's straight, with a serious girlfriend, so you've been pining from afar. Got it."
Not really accurate, though it holds a lot of truth.
"Sort of. But they're broken up now. And he's bisexual."
The Internet had made the bisexual thing very clear (with video). Which Steve only watched once, when he was weak, and he will always regret succumbing because the images are seared into his mind forever to taunt him. Stupid eidetic memory.
"Is he now?" Bucky hummed.
"Ah, shut up," Steve says, getting up. It's not because Tony is single that he'd be interested, especially not after everything. "I think almost killing him with my shield kind of removed me from potential suitors."
"Well, he was trying to kill you too."
No, he wasn't. Steve had realized that, later. Might have wanted to hurt Bucky and get Steve out of the way to do so, but he could have sliced them with his laser anytime. And when Tony had raised his hands to protect his face, in the end, the hand repulsors were blue and charged; he could have blasted Steve right in the face but he hadn't, not even to save his life. It made Steve's stomach want to roll every time, thinking about it. He never wanted to hurt Tony, just disable the suit, but he'd seen his eyes and Tony had been convinced Steve was going for his face. How could he have failed so hard that his friend, the man he is pretty sure he's in love with, had been sure to die by his hand?
"Let's go spar," Steve says, wanting to forget all about it.
"Want a good beating before you go?" Bucky replies, obliging the change in subject.
"Ah, you wish. I'll wipe the mats with your ass, new shiny arm or no new shiny arm."
T'Challa himself had overviewed the fitting of a new metal arm for Bucky, a month back or so. After initial wariness, Bucky had embraced it and sparring with him was one of the best challenges Steve could find. It should be enough to distract him for a little bit, though he already knows he will have to go back to America and hopefully fix things with everyone.
"Captain Rogers, I need your help."
Steve almost gets hit in the face, surprised by FRIDAY addressing him directly. He knocks out the goon in front of him, one of the many trying to stop them to get to the launch pad of a missile Tony said he had located in a subbasement. In fact he can hear Tony on comms telling Natasha that he has remotely opened the door leading to the third basement closest to her. It makes the AI speaking to Steve even stranger.
"What is it FRIDAY?" Steve asks, running down the stairs until he finds another door blocking him. They are trying a multiple point of entry plan, each taking a different staircase to raise the probabilities of someone getting to the missile in time.
"Boss is currently experimenting an angina attack and refuses to seek immediate medical treatment."
This time Steve almost stumbles. "What?"
"Boss has been suffering from stable angina for the last sixteen months, with crisis linked to rough exercising or emotional stress. The sensors detect a particularly acute crisis right now."
Before the serum, Steve had suffered from occasional bouts of angina and he remembers the tightness and pressure in his chest all too well. Sometimes the squeezing feeling was so strong he'd almost suffocate and his arm would go numb. Angina is a warning sign, that you are overexerting yourself or that a heart attack is looming. That Tony is living through this, right now, almost stops Steve's own heart.
"Dammit!" Steve swears. He hits his comm unit, switches it to Tony. He keeps running but changes directions, going up and towards where he'd last seen him, typing on a computer in a rudimentary control room.
"Give me a minute, I can't crack the damn algorithm," Tony replies. Now that he listens closely, Steve can hear how tight Tony's voice is.
"Fuck the algorithm, go to medical right now," Steve barks, worried out of his mind.
"Et tu Brute," Tony mumbles, probably towards FRIDAY. "I'm fine Cap, let's finish this first."
"You go to medical right now, that's an order," Steve says. Why are there so many stairs?
"This missile launches, it hits Mexico City. Casualties in the tens of thousands, at a minimum. I can handle a little cramp." He then notices Steve's path on his sensors because he follows his sentence by, "and fuck, don't come here, go down!"
"I'm almost there," Natasha pipes up on the common channel, oblivious to the argument. There are grunts as she fights her way through.
"She's got this, Tony," Steve says. "You get out."
"No fucking way," Tony replies. "Not until it's over."
And he's stubborn like that: even if Steve gets to him, he won't be able to drag Tony out until the missile is inert. Frankly the threat should be Steve's main preoccupation right now too, the fallout could be terrible, but Steve wasn't close to get to the missile himself. The rest of the team has better chances.
"I suggest you use your emergency override code, Captain," FRIDAY says. Only to him, visibly, because Tony doesn't yell about it.
"What do you mean my code?" Steve says. He can see the room where Tony is, at the end of the corridor.
"Boss gave you the mean to take control of the armor with an override after the battle of New York, in case of emergency or if his judgment was visibly impaired. I cannot go against his orders, but if you are the ones to give them, I can fly the suit to the hospital."
He remembers the code, of course, he'd been humbled by the show of trust at the time. But it can't be right.
"Surely he changed the code," Steve says, now walking towards the room. He can see the armor, hunched over the console and Tony's nimble fingers typing away rapidly, only the gauntlets removed. Like this, in his suit, Tony looks perfectly fine, just as always. Trying his best to save the day, even if he's in agonizing pain.
"He never did," FRIDAY replies.
"When the Accords-" Tony is a genius, he knew that there was a possibility he was going to fight Steve on that airfield, and he wouldn't have left that big of a backdoor opened. Unless he forgot.
"I suggested to change it at the time, he refused," FRIDAY states. "You always had the means to disable the armor."
Meaning that Tony had trusted him at least until then, and thought it wouldn't get to fighting at all. Was sure that they could talk it out. Meaning also that Steve could have stopped Tony in Siberia without violence, before it escalated, and just froze the armor for the time it took to take Bucky out. He feels sick, his head swimming.
"Cap, let me do this, goddammit," Tony says through the armor's voice modulator. He's visibly in bad shape because even that comes out different.
He will hate Steve for this, but better that than have Tony die before his eyes if the angina turns into a real heart attack.
"I'm sorry," Steve says. "But I've got to do this."
It makes Tony freeze, and then the helmet turns to him. Steve has always found pretty amazing the level of emotion that can be read by the way Tony moves in the armor. Right now he's confused.
Convinced it's the right thing to do, Steve starts dictating. "FRIDAY. One, eight, four-"
"No no no!" Tony says, back on the private channel, tone panicked. "Don't do that Cap, please, no!" he sounds totally anguished now as the armor moves to stand at parade rest. "Five minutes, give me just five more minutes!"
It breaks Steve's heart, but he continues, implacable. "- Charlie, Alpha, Oscar."
"Just five minutes, I've almost got it, come on!"
"FRIDAY?" Steve asks, now standing in front of the armor. He could ask for the faceplate to lift, but frankly it's better this way.
"Pain hasn't abated, pulse and pressure are elevated."
Tony's tone turns harsh. "You fucking traitor! I made you, you piece of shit!"
"I am highly concerned-" FRIDAY says, somehow meek.
"You did the right thing," Steve reassures the AI, for all the good it may do. "Tony, what's important is that you get medical attention, right now."
"This fucking missile goes off and it's on you, Steve," Tony says, enraged. "All on you. I'm almost there, goddammit!"
"It's going to be on me." He's way too calm about this, Steve knows it. He should care too. "All on me."
"Tens of thousands!" Tony shouts.
"Or you? Then it's you."
"What? You can't be serious!"
Steve can't argue anymore, he's got to act. "FRIDAY, cut comms unless it gets worse." Immediately the cursing is muted. "Fly the suit to the nearest hospital. Make sure he gets properly examined and treated if needed. Report every development directly to me."
"Yes, Sir," FRIDAY sounds back to normal, voice modulations strong and stable as the repulsors fire up. Tony could be trashing in there, making everything worse. "Thank you, Captain."
"No, thank you."
A little red cable linked to the computer disconnect from the armor as it takes flight, and FRIDAY adds, "hook your phone to the console using the USB cable Boss has set and I'll continue to help with the algorithm."
Truly Tony's creation, through and through. He'll have to make sure that Tony doesn't pass his anger on the AI after this. That said, he plugs in the phone and looks at the numbers that start to scroll on it too rapidly to read, and hopes.
"Widow?" Steve asks, having to get his head back in the game. There's a counter at the top of the console, at 3 minutes 21 and ticking down. No wonder why Tony was so frantic. Five minutes my ass.
"We're there," Clint says, and it's a huge relief to know he's on site and able to back up Natasha.
"You've got two minutes to deactivate it," Steve says.
"Tony, what do I do?" Natasha asks, not knowing that he's not there anymore.
"Tony can't help right now. Focus. Concentrate on the propulsion system and disarm it. Clock is ticking."
And, fortunately, they do have it. Steve doesn't know exactly what does it, but the numbers stop scrolling on his phone. When Nat makes a pleased little sound and Clint crows "take this, bitch!", sounding gleeful, the pressure snaps like a rubber band.
"Good job," he breathes out. "FRIDAY?"
"Boss is being examined. He received nitroglycerin and the angina attack seems to be subsiding."
That's another ton off Steve's shoulders.
"Can he hear me?"
"Yes, Boss still has his earpiece."
"Put me through," Steve says. As soon as it ticks, he speaks up. "Tony, the missile has been neutralized. It's okay."
"Thank fuck. But this was way too fucking close! I was fine, you had no right-"
Steve hears a man, probably a nurse, "Sir, you need to calm down."
"Comm out, Tony. I'll come by the hospital in a few, won't be long." Not wanting to hear more profanity, he immediately closes the private channel.
On the other frequency, Natasha is trying to get his attention too. "Cap, where's Tony?"
"Hey Wilson. Nice of you to join us," Clint says at the same time, amused.
"I came as fast as I could!" Sam says, and he seems out of breath. "This type of environment doesn't play to my strengths, man, and I think I had like a gazillion goons on my path!"
"Everyone, control room please," Steve says, before cutting chatter.
He sinks in the control chair, and contemplates the fact that he had absolutely no problem sending Tony to the hospital when he could have had made him continue to type for less than four minutes. Four little minutes when parts of a metropolis and countless lives were under threat. And he doesn't even feel guilty about it.
He might be way over his head.
"Look, I'm fine now, there's no need to-"
Steve overhears Tony as he approaches the hospital room. He visited for the last two days, where Tony studiously ignored him. Right now, even not seeing the man, it's obvious by Tony's tone that he's trying to calm someone down, his voice slow and measured. Frankly Steve would probably get in his face for it if Tony talked to him at all. He's fine now, yeah, sure.
"You are not fine, Tony!" It seems that Pepper doesn't like the bullshit either. "You were sick to the point of maybe dying, again, and you didn't tell anyone, again!"
"Ah, come on, it wasn't that bad!" Tony protests.
Steve stops almost to the door. He probably shouldn't go in and come back later.
"Yes, it was!" Rhodes is there, too, then. Steve definitely should turn around. "You have to take signs like that seriously!"
"And what, be sidelined? It started in Berlin, and frankly I didn't have the time-"
"You have to make the time!" Rhodes says, voice rising.
"FRIDAY did scans, my artery is just a little tight. I thought I'd get to it-"
"But you worked on my braces, on the company, the Accords, on a two member Avenger team, on getting the goddamn pardons for ungrateful jerks, but never on you!"
"There was no time!" Tony shouts back. "It all needed doing."
"Shh, shhh, enough," Pepper says. "You've been overstressed and overworked for too long, Tony."
"That's my whole life, Pepper," Tony says.
"Look, Tones, clearly your body is telling you to take a break," Rhodes says, pleading.
"I can handle the company," Pepper says. "King T'Challa will oversee the Accords changes."
"And the others are back, and with that new upgrade you made to my armor I can even assist if needed," Rhodes says.
Steve didn't know he could fly War Machine again, but of course Tony found a way to make it happen.
"We still need to test-" Tony protests.
"You wouldn't have told me about it if you weren't certain it would work. I tried it this morning, it handles like a charm."
"Yeah?" That sure makes Tony perk up.
"Definitely. Thanks, man, it means a lot. It was fantastic, ask FRIDAY to show you."
"Do not mention that backstabbing wench to me," Tony grumbles.
"FRIDAY did what she was made to do, protect you at all cost," Pepper says. "Even from yourself."
"You need a break, man," Rhodes said. "We have you covered."
"Maybe I could spend a couple of days in Malibu."
"A couple of weeks, at least. And shorter hours when you come back," Pepper says.
"And no work, time off," Rhodes is trying to convince.
"Of course," Tony says, but he's giving in too easily. He probably has plans to work on one thing or another as soon as he's alone.
"It really sucks that I have to report back to the Pentagon, because I'd go with you."
"Honeybear, the vacations I spent with you were not necessarily what I'd call restful, if you get my drift," Tony says, laughter in his voice. "But I'm in, anytime."
"I was young and stupid. No, real rest this time. How about Happy? He could go with you!" Rhodes says.
"Unfortunately he can't, Happy has something next week he can't get out of," Pepper says, considering. "Who else? Vision?"
"He'll be needed with the Avengers," Rhodes says. "What about we look through-"
"Are you trying to find me a babysitter?" Tony asks.
Steve has finally moved to the door, and he sees that Tony looks annoyed while Rhodes and Pepper are looking at her tablet as she scrolls down.
He gets three astonished looks.
"I'll go with you. Make sure you rest," Steve says again, eyes on Tony. Hospital beds always seem to make a person look smaller, and Tony looks tired, kind of frail.
Tony crosses his arms over his chest and scowls. "I think you've done enough."
"Why would we trust you with him?" Rhodes asks.
"Because I care." In short, it covers it all.
"Well that's new!" Rhodes snarks. If looks could kill, Steve would be dead right now.
"Jim, now's not the time-" Pepper starts, putting a hand on Rhodes forearm and he shakes her off.
"It's never the time! It wouldn't be good to call the awesome Captain America on his bullshit, because what if he leaves again? Oh no! What would we do!"
"Rhodey, stop it," Tony says.
"Fuck you, man. He thinks he's always right, about everything. He betrayed you. He hurt you. He left you to freeze with a disabled suit in fucking Siberia. He sent you the most condescending piece of pseudo apology ever, but I have to stop it?"
For the whole tirade, Rhodes glares daggers at him with all of the force of a pissed off officer, and Steve is torn between the urge to cower and the desire to push back, defend himself. Neither is the right path, not right now.
"I've made mistakes, I know, and I'm sorry." He looks at Rhodes in the eyes, tries to be as convincing as he can. "It doesn't change what happened, and I can only try to do better. I care about all of the Avengers, about you Colonel, about Miss Potts, and yes, I care about Tony a whole lot. I cared enough to remove him from a mission when lots of people were on the line, because he's that important for the Avengers. So I am offering to go with him, to make sure he rests."
Rhodes huffs and Pepper is clearly trying to gauge his honesty, or if there's a trick, but it's Tony who speaks up.
"You can't leave the Avengers, you just got back," he says. "And I don't need a fucking babysitter in the first place."
Steve turns to him. "Nat can lead the team."
"She would do a great job, but won't want to, and you know it," Tony says.
"Then you do it," Steve says, turning to Rhodes.
"Oh hell no," he replies, raising his hands. "I can spot with the armor, but that's it. I take the lead, and the Air Force thinks that they direct the Avengers. You don't want that."
"Wilson," Tony says. "Maybe."
For sure, Sam would do a good job. "Great. I'll brief him."
"What?" Tony's eyes are huge. "You're serious? You're going to shadow me on my vacations like the judgiest nanny ever?"
"Why?" Pepper suddenly asks. This is not asking why he should be trusted with Tony, like before, but why he wants to do it. The answer is nonetheless exactly the same.
"Because I care." No one in this room seems to believe it, but it's the truth. "And frankly, I need a vacation myself."
Pepper looks pensive but nods. "Okay. Two weeks, minimum. No letting him work, no Avenging."
"Hey, hey!" Tony protests. "Don't I have a say in this?"
"No!" Pepper, Rhodes and himself say in unison.
Tony looks totally affronted. "Ah, come on!"
"Okay," Pepper says. "Maybe it's for the best. Tony should be cleared to get out of the hospital later today. I'll send you all of the important info before then."
"Hello! I'm right here!" Tony exclaims. "You guys are the worst."
Steve gives him a half smile. "If you'd just been more reasonable, we wouldn't have to force this on you. So you deal with it."
"Fine!" Tony replies, rolling his eyes.
"I'll come back to get you this afternoon," Steve says.
He was half dreading the whole thing and half excited about it. Surely they'll be able to clear the air between them in two weeks. At least he'd have the occasion to try.
Steve had packed his suitcase and then almost backed out of the whole thing, suddenly worried that two weeks alone with Tony would make everything worse. He calls Bucky for a video chat, and he figures he's lucky it's answered when Bucky appears, disheveled and blinking, visibly just waking up.
"Oh, sorry!" Steve says with a wince. Bucky has so much trouble sleeping in the first place. "I thought it was dinner time."
"It is, in fact," Bucky says with a yawn. "My alarm was about to go off. Naps are good, you should try them."
"They make me grumpy," Steve admits and Bucky laughs.
"Okay, sure. How are you doing?"
"Good, thanks. I think I made a tactical mistake, though," Steve admits. "I'm this close to running back to you."
"What happened?" Bucky asks, serious and leaning towards his screen.
"The AI that aids with Tony's suit contacted me to say he was having an angina attack," Steve says.
"I told him to go to medical and he refused. So I took control of the suit and made him go."
"You can take control of the suit?" Visibly, Bucky is just as surprised at that than he'd been.
"Yes. I always could, he gave me the code. I never tried in Siberia because I thought he had changed them, but he'd left them the same. Deliberately."
Bucky whistles. "Okay. And then what? Is he okay?"
"Yes, he's fine." That had been a relief. "They did some tests, he now has medicine and he could need an intervention for an artery eventually, but he's okay. He needs to take some time off, though."
"Maybe it will make it easier for you to get back into the groove without him around?" Bucky suggests.
"Well no. I volunteered to go with him as he took time off. And now I'm not sure I can do it!"
"You take the weirdest decisions, sometimes," Bucky says, shaking his head. "Yes, you can do it. The time off will be good for you too, we talked about this."
"He hates me, especially right now. Didn't take it well when I forced him to the hospital mid crisis."
"You were out on the field?" Bucky asks.
"Yeah. Missile threatening Mexico, countdown clock, everything to make it stressful for him. I didn't let him finish hacking the missile program and sent him out against his will."
"Since I didn't hear about an attack on Mexico, I suppose you stopped that missile?"
"Yes. Close call, but we did. If not… well it wouldn't have been pretty."
Bucky sits back, tilts his head. "Take those vacations. Ditch Stark if he's too much of a pain in the ass."
"He needs to rest, I have-"
"There's only so much you can do for someone who doesn't want your help, Steve."
It's so frustrating.
"Like you?" Steve asks, though he regrets it immediately.
Fortunately, Bucky laughs. "Yeah, just like me! Send me some postcards."
He'll try his best.
Steve cannot bring himself to leave the shield behind. After sixteen months without, it felt heavier when he got it back in the return battle, as he has started to call it. The rogues Avengers had joined a tight fight, Steve worried when he'd seen Widow, Vision, Spider-Man but no Tony on site. Before he could ask, he'd heard "head's up, Cap!" and it's habit and muscle memory alone that had allowed Steve to catch the shield thrown at him by Iron Man.
"Thanks," he'd said. Frankly? He hadn't been sure Tony would want to give it back.
"Don't thank me, do your thing."
The fighting had resumed, after that. It had been all, and Tony had never asked for the shield back, never mentioned his father, or Steve's unworthiness.
They are leaving for two weeks of vacations, but Steve knows his luck. The probability of something happening along the way is there, and the shield is the only weapon he needs. Pepper has told Steve to meet Tony down in the garage, and he's already there, leaning on flashy two-seater sports car while looking at his phone.
"There you are. I wondered if you'd changed your mind," Tony says. "Still time, by the way. I'm sure you have better to do."
The cheerful Tony from the return battle until the missile crisis? He's been replaced by an avoiding Tony who barely looks at him. Ironic that it's exactly what Steve had been expecting at first, but he finds himself at loss at how to make it better.
Steve did almost change his mind dozens of times. "A vacations sounds great."
Tony huffs. "A vacation, yes. This vacation? Maybe not. But hey, time to go, the plane will be ready soon."
He can see it already, Tony ignoring him on the plane, then in that big house of his in Malibu. Steve's seen the blueprints from the reconstruction; it's huge enough that Tony will be able to avoid him for the whole time there.
"We should drive there," Steve suggest, though it's as much a surprise to him than to Tony.
"Drive to California?" Tony asks, raising his eyebrow.
"Why not," Steve says. "Road trip, taking our time."
It makes Tony's mouth twitch up, the most amusement Steve has seen on his face since the day he recited the deactivating code.
"A cross country adventure. You are really serious about this."
Steve sighs, rubbing his neck. "I am. I'm tired."
Tony is cocking his head, considering. "So it's not just because you don't trust me to rest."
"Not just because of that," Steve says with a little smile, hoping Tony won't get offended.
The joke is thankfully well received. "Okay, smartass, let's say I believe you." Tony straightens up and gestures at the row of cars. "Pick one."
They are all beautiful, of course. Some are flashy, because they are Tony's after all, but several are a bit more discrete. If they are going to spend days traveling, Steve figures he better pick one where he'll have enough space to be comfortable, not a tiny car made for speed. He's wondering if a SUV or the luxury all electric sedan would be best when his eye is drawn to the last car in the row, by the workbench and set a bit apart, hood opened.
It's an older model, pretty huge, with a white top and blue body, profiled and with traps on the doors. Steve is curious and walks over, peers in the opened hood.
"She's not done yet," Tony says.
"Looks like all is there," Steve says. In fact, the motor is spotless and pretty impressive.
"Well yeah." Tony, who followed him, slides a hand on the side of the car. "I’m pretty much done. I fit the optional 426 Hemi in there, she's gonna purr. Haven't had time to do a road test, though, and there's all of the body work."
The car isn't even rusted, it just has a faded paintjob, probably because it's seen too much sun.
"But it runs."
Tony scoffs. "Of course."
"What is it?" Steve asks.
"A '69 Dodge Charger. I didn't know you were a fan of classic muscle cars."
"I like this one." It looks still a little unpolished, but like it can get things done. And, looking inside, it has big bucket seats so plenty of place.
"Really? Of all the cars here?"
"Yes." He looks up at Tony. "Unless it's going to break down on us."
"Nonsense," Tony says. "Well. Not impossible, it's an old car even with a reconditioned engine, but it shouldn't."
"Oil and brakes?" Steve asks.
"All set, grandpa," Tony says with a smirk.
"Then pack your stuff, we're taking it."
"Not the most environmentally conscious choice, Cap," Tony says, walking to get his suitcase. It's a messenger bag, in fact, definitely not enough to go on a road trip. But if he thought he was going to take the plane for his house in Malibu, it makes sense.
"I figure you have the means to pay for the gas," Steve quips. "Do you need to go get more clothes?"
Tony scrunches his nose. "If I go back up, Rhodey will think I'm trying to get out of this and crucify me. I'll buy whatever I need along the way. Do you need to go?"
Steve puts his small suitcase in the trunk and the bag with his shield between the benches, for better access.
"You're bringing the shield." Tony looks more curious than annoyed at this.
"I don't expect needing it, or anything," Steve says. He hopes so, since it's supposed to be a vacation. "But if we're called back, I'll have it close."
Tony turns around, walks to the armor that are standing to attention in clear glass-like cylinders near the wall. Some of them break in pieces to reassemble around Tony, so Steve wonders if he'll try to stuff one in the trunk. It's not what he's after, though, because he flicks his wrist and a holographic panel appears in the air. A code later, a part of the wall slides away and Tony grabs a briefcase.
"Good idea," Steve says. It's best if Tony has a way to protect himself, if a situation arises.
"Just in case," Tony says, coming back to put it in the trunk. "You know Pep and Rhodey would not approve, right? So let's keep that information to ourselves."
Tony then unhooks the ventilation system attached to the exhaust pipes of the car and climbs in the driver seat. For someone who employs a driver, it's very rare that Steve has seen Tony in a passenger seat. The keys are in the ignition, and the car rumbles to life obediently when Tony asks for it, a deep and powerful purr that Steve immediately loves.
"Last chance to hop off," Tony says, looking at him.
"No, I'm in. Let's go."
Tony's fingers are drumming on the steering wheel while they have to wait for another red light. They've been silent since they left the tower and Steve thinks it's another thing he didn't quite think through.
"Where to?" Tony finally asks.
"Hum." He thought that was a given. "California?"
Even hidden by sunglasses, Steve can clearly feel Tony doing an epic eye roll. "Yes, that I got. But how did you want to do this? It's a big country, as you know. Do we go straight across? What's the best itinerary?"
Since Steve suggested it on a whim, he has absolutely no idea how to answer.
"I don't know. Why don't you ask FRIDAY what is best?"
Tony snorts derisively. "FRIDAY? She's offline."
It makes Steve uneasy. He knows FRIDAY is mostly a computer program, but she feels real, like JARVIS did. And now JARVIS is a little bit in Vision, and it blurs the lines even more. If Tony destroyed her for the initiative she took when he was having the angina attack, it's a little bit on him, too.
"I didn't scrap her," Tony says, probably inferring correctly Steve's silence. "But I'm still angry."
"What is running Avengers Tower, then?"
"CARY." Tony sighs. "And guess what? He started sassing me half a day in."
Steve smiles. "Not surprising if they model their interactions with others on how you act."
"It's a flaw. CARY's doing fine, but FRIDAY will be back by the end of the day in the tower, and she never left the compound since the others are used to her. She's more experienced, and I'll be away, anyway."
"She only contacted me because she worried. That's pretty awesome, you know, how she got creative to protect you."
"That's one way to put it," Tony says, visibly mulish. "Nonetheless, it's one more example that I shouldn't trust anyone."
And ouch, that's a barely veiled punch.
"You'll be in contact with her, right?" Steve asks. "In case we're called?"
Tony's AIs are invaluable in case of emergency, for research or planning. Steve hasn't met CARY, he supposes it's as competent as one AI made by Tony can be, but he'd prefer one he knows.
"One activation code away on my cell," Tony says. "And since you two are thick as thieves, she's still accessible on yours, as we speak. I'd prefer not interacting with her for a bit, so you're in charge."
"But I can contact her."
Steve takes his cell out, brings up the various icons and taps on "FRI", bringing it to his ear.
"Captain Rogers, nice to hear from you," she says, in a way that makes her sound relieved. "May I be of assistance?"
"Yes, hi. I'm with Tony-"
He's immediately interrupted. "I have been cut from every system in Avenger Tower, also banned from systems that would have allowed me to access information on Mister Stark's condition in the last 3 days. Can I ask how he is doing? Should he be driving?"
"How do you know-" Steve asks, puzzled.
"The street cameras near your phone allow me a partial visual. I must insist, how is the Boss doing?"
"Good, I think. Better," Steve says, looking at Tony sideways. "We're taking a vacation. At least two weeks, we're going to California."
"That is excellent news, every available study suggest that he needs the rest. But by automobile? I am concerned about his stress level from being in your company for a prolonged period of time."
Steve can't help the amused snort.
"What about my stress level?"
He has no doubt they will argue at least once. Maybe once a day. Plus he's extremely nervous about all that has not been said between them, and how they will have to talk at one point.
"Not prioritized, unless it has impact on the Boss," she says. "So I suggest uttermost care to make said vacation as restful as possible."
The last bit is said without a single bit of warmth in the tone, mechanical in a way FRIDAY never sounds. The "or else" is definitely implied.
"Is that a threat?" Steve asks.
"Does it need to be?"
Which wow. If somehow the word got out that he's being actively menaced by a computer system this powerful, there would be outcries to shut her down, for sure.
"What do you mean 'is that a threat?'" Tony asks. He was faking being totally disinterested pretty well up until then.
"FRIDAY says I must make sure this is restful for you, or else…"
"I did not say those words," she protests.
Tony laughs, though. "Wow."
"Told you, she's very protective of you," Steve says.
"Yeah yeah," Tony dismisses.
"All I have done is to ensure Boss' safety," Friday adds. "Always."
"I told him that, FRIDAY. I'm sure he'll understand it soon. But I called for a reason. What's the best itinerary to reach Malibu?"
"The most direct route to Malibu takes approximately 42 hours. It goes north, skirting the great lakes by going through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and so forth until Utah, Nevada and California."
"That's the straight line."
"Or just about. If you want something more scenic, you could choose to go down the coast towards Florida, then drive through the southern states."
"I've never been to Florida," Steve muses.
"It will take an additional 15 hours. Take the Brooklyn Bridge, then the 278 West until you reach 440 South then the Garden State Parkway."
"Okay, thank you FRIDAY."
"Will you make sure Boss is okay?"
"As much as I can."
"Thank you Captain."
Steve hangs up. "We have a couple of options."
"You've never been to Florida, really?"
"No, it wasn't on the USO tour, and apart from that I haven't traveled much in the United States."
"And after the Battle of New York?"
"Chicago, thereabouts. Didn't go south."
"Then we go."
It's nice, that he's suggesting just because Steve has never been. He repeats FRIDAY's instructions and they fall silent, after that. It stretches for long minutes, which is unusual in Tony's company, who used to fill the silence before. What if it's two weeks of this? He just traded the possible avoidance in the plane and house in Malibu to an even worse faith, Steve realizes. Or he uses this time productively. Better do it now, while he can still easily take a cab back to the tower, he guesses.
The traffic hasn't abated, and they are crawling across the Brooklyn Bridge at a snail pace. It takes several deep breaths, but eventually Steve manages to start what will probably be one of the most awkward conversations of his life.
"I am sorry," he blurts out.
"What?" Tony says, distractedly. He's been scowling at his side mirror, the car behind them so close, Steve's been worried he'd climb in the trunk.
"I never wanted what happened. With the Accords."
Tony whips his head around, looking at him with round eyes.
"You're doing this here. Now."
He has a point, this is very little and pretty late. "Should have told you before, sorry."
"And me who thought we were doing splendidly not talking about it!" Tony exclaims.
"A perfect job of avoiding it," Steve reasons.
"Yes! And it worked!"
"Ignoring it doesn't mean it's okay."
"Oh God, you are really doing this. Now. On the Brooklyn Bridge."
"Why not?" Steve says with a shrugs. "We've pushed it away long enough."
"My fucking suit is in the trunk, Steve. You can't do this to me now!"
It makes Steve smile. "Yeah, you're stuck, deal with it."
"This whole vacation idea was part of a plan. This road trip was an ambush! You are one sneaky son of a bitch."
"It has been said before," Steve admits. "But no, the goal wasn't to force this conversation on you. I should have said before, how sorry I am about everything. Splitting the team. The stupid fights. Hurting you."
Tony scoffs. "It was stupid alright. Did you see the footage? Calling it a Civil War is so damn ridiculous. Twelve people in costume fighting on an airfield, ha."
"Rhodes got hurt," Steve says softly and he sees how Tony's hand tightens on the steering wheel. "He won't even let me apologize."
"I'm not sure he's pissed about that specifically," Tony says. "It was friendly fire after all. Ha. Friendly."
Even now, about Rhodes who is the closest person he has in his life with Pepper, Tony doesn't try to rub Steve's nose in the rest of it, the other reasons Rhodes is mad at him, even if he got pretty specific at the hospital. Classic avoidance, to keep the peace. It seems to be Tony's whole strategy.
"We needed that Quinjet," Steve starts to say and for the first time Tony really looks angry, hitting the steering wheel.
"If you'd just told us!"
They could argue until they are blue in the face about if the Accords are justified, but Steve has to agree with that one.
"I know. I tried at the airport but not enough. I made a bad call. I should have reached out."
"I think that's what-" Tony starts, click his mouth shut, and then continues, slower. Already putting the anger aside. "Lots would have been different if we'd just talked."
Steve wonders how many months it took for Tony to perfect this particular strategy. He's usually a lot more mercurial, easy to ignite.
"I hope you believe me when I say that I was sure, at the time, that not telling you about your parents was the best way to avoid you more pain."
Tony's shaking his head, breath coming faster as he fixes his eyes on the road, controlling his reactions. "It wasn't."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Would you stop already?" Tony is annoyed.
He looks extremely uncomfortable, and obviously really doesn't want this conversation. Steve pushes anyway because they have to lance the abscess.
"I don't know. Do you believe me?"
Tony huffs. "I know you feel bad about it. Maybe even guilty."
Which is true, of course, but Steve also regrets what happened. He's not sure that Tony believes that, though. He's conceding that Steve feels empathic to the hurt he caused, but nothing more, which is so far from the truth.
"I do. The last thing I wanted was to hurt you, or anyone else."
"Well good fucking job," Tony mumbles.
He brings a hand up and rub over his breastbone, but then rapidly puts it back to the steering wheel when he realizes Steve has caught the movement. Steve is too much a coward to ask if he made damage more than to the suit when he brought down the shield, it's a chilling prospect.
"Enough!" Tony yells. He's sneering, now. "Fucking stop it, right now, for God's sake."
It's disheartening to see how hurt and angry Tony still is. He's bristling like a porcupine, and it's obvious that continuing like this is doing more harm than good.
"Okay, okay," Steve soothes. He has to bite in his cheek not to apologize again.
"Jesus," Tony says, relaxing fractionally. "I can't deal with this. I fucked up too. I made so many mistakes, stupid mistakes. Big ones too, I wanted to hurt you back, destroy Barnes, so don't fucking start apologizing to me like we weren't two or twelve to tango."
"Do over," Steve blurts.
Tony snaps his head to the side, looks at him with a frown. "What?"
"Clean slate, and we build from there," Steve says. He sounds a lot more confident than he is.
"Pretty much what I was doing already since you came back, if you hadn't noticed!" Tony says, arms flying expressively in the air.
"Yeah, pretending nothing ever happened. But it did, and we have to live with that. I don't want us to fight anymore. I want to win your trust back."
"Oh God, could you be more earnest? This is terrible. You know how fucking unfair it is, to say shit like that?" Tony says. "Who can refuse?"
Steve huffs in amusement. "Good."
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry too," Tony says. "Maybe if I had explained more, -"
"Let's cut the what if's, okay?" Steve asks, before Tony makes a list as long as his forearm of his perceived wrongdoings.
"Fine," Tony says. "And look at this, we finally crossed that bridge, it's like a sign from the Gods!"
"Still want to go to Florida?"
"Sure," Steve says. He's happy Tony doesn't want to cut this whole trip short, with the conversation they had.
"I believe it's essential to see Florida at least once. Walt Disney World, beaches, bikinis, nightlife, what's not to like?"
Steve snorts. "Walt Disney World is for children."
"You didn't just say that," Tony says, shaking his head.
"And you'll eat your words, just wait."
"You want to go to Disney World?" Steve asks.
"No other choice now!"
Tony navigates the exits and they fall silent for a little bit. Maybe it's Steve's conscience that is more at ease, but the silence feels lighter. Obviously it wasn't the case for Tony, because five minutes later he starts asking questions of his own.
"Since we're doing the awkward conversations thing." There's a long pause. "What the hell were you thinking in Arizona!"
"I had to force you to go to medical."
"Three minutes, I wouldn't have died for three minutes!"
"I didn't know there were only three minutes left," Steve says. "And still, even if I had known, it was more important to get you to the hospital."
Tony is fidgeting in his seat. "It's lucky the missile was stopped, because it would have been terrible."
"I know." But not as terrible as losing Tony. He's not sure how he'd react to that being said; probably dismiss it, so Steve keeps quiet.
"I would have hated you, if the worst had happened."
"I know," Steve repeats. He can't even imagine how it would have destroyed Tony, and figures the hate would have been more at himself than at Steve. "But it didn't."
"Taking control of the armor like that-" Tony shakes his head and goes quiet.
"Must have been terrible for you, I know. I'm sorry about that, too."
"I can't believe FRIDAY reminded you that you could do it." He's still angry with that, for sure.
"I can't believe I still could do it, after everything."
Tony huffs. "Yeah."
Steve probably can't anymore.
It might be hypocritical of him, but he'd prefer putting this conversation to rest.
"Do over?" he asks, hopeful.
"With the rest, huh? Alright," Tony agrees. "Do over."
"Great. I'm hungry, can we stop soon?"
"You're going to want to stop all the time to eat, will you?"
Steve shrugs, "Can't help it."
"We're going to have to buy you snacks," Tony muses.
"You'll let me eat in the car?" Steve teases. "Oh, that's so grand of you."
This time, the silence is companionable.
After burgers, they drive a couple more hours and stop in Atlantic City.
They leave the car take a stroll on the boardwalk, which seems the thing to do. Tony has taken off his coat and tie, unbuttoned his shirt at the collar and also rolled his sleeves to the elbow, and it's a very, very good look on him. Steve has to force his eyes to the front not to stare, and it makes him realize that he's not alone having the urge to look his fill. A lot of people recognize Tony, and then, for some, him by association.
Steve is sure that if he were on his own, walking in the crowd, no one would take notice of him. But with Tony? No way to avoid it. In New York people usually stay away, and are either jaded to see them or are pretending very well. Even though Atlantic City folks try to play it cool too, they're a lot more curious. There is staring, and whispering, and Steve feels as if he should buy a baseball cap.
"Worse thing is to react," Tony says. "Let them look. Better yet, if we're busy talking they will think twice before interrupting."
"It doesn't bother you?" He never enjoyed being recognized, but without the costume it's pretty rare.
"I'm used to it," Tony says with a shrug. "I've been in the media all of my life, and people staring is a byproduct."
"It's true you never shied away from it," Steve said.
"Are you calling me an attention whore?" Tony asks, smirking.
"I think you might were, once," Steve says.
Clint had once taped old rag magazines front pages all over the inside of the Quinjet, before Ultron when playing pranks on each other was something they did. Well that Tony and Clint did, and especially to each other. Steve had been worried about that particular one, with who knew how many covers having a Tony before Afghanistan either intoxicated or with a women or three. He thought it was crossing the line into mean, but when Tony had seen them he's laughed until he had to sit down, tears in his eyes.
"Oh, God, my greatest hits!" he'd said, on a hiccup. "I've always loved this one," he'd added, pointing to a picture taken near a limo, where he's pushing a woman with a micro skirt inside.
Tony's very young in the picture, turned to the camera and his pupils are pinpricks, his smirk insolent. In big bold white letters, the text says "Sex, drugs, alcohol: is the Stark Legacy compromised?"
"Ah fuck," Rhodes had said, squinting at it. "I think you gave me five copies of this one! I hated that suit so much."
Said suit was made of a metallized fabric, it seems, with a mesh shirt underneath. It should have looked totally ridiculous, but somehow it didn't, not completely.
"Well I had to do something with the magazines I had rescued from the big bonfire organized by Howard." By that time Tony was still giggling, whipping his eyes. "He was so mad."
"You'd probably be, too, seeing your barely 17 years old son coked out on the cover of a tabloid," Rhodes had said. "Heck, I was too."
"Well you worried I'd overdose," Tony had said, smiling softly at his friend. "He only cared about SI Stocks. In his defense, they did plunge by ten percent that day."
"And went right back up five time what they'd lost when SI demonstrated that handgun with the new grip you designed, and the whole army decided it was going to become standard issue."
"Ah, yes. That one was pretty sweet. Not that I long for my gun making days."
"That gun was genius and no one wants to let them go 25 years later, believe me."
Steve comes back to the present when Tony enquires further about his comment about being an attention whore.
"Once were? I was under the impression you still thought that of me."
"I think that you know exactly how to manage your image," Steve says. "And these days if you call attention on yourself, it's to hide something else."
"Ohh, so not only a media whore, but a liar on top!"
"That's not what I'm saying, and you know it," Steve says. "I never got the hang of this, the spotlight. You, on the other hand, are an expert."
Tony huffs, amused it seems. "Practice makes perfect. Did you want to see something else here? I have a feeling that one of them will get bold enough to accost us, and that can only finish in a swarm and autographs."
"I think some people are filming," Steve says, not quite ready to check it out. They are walking, only walking. There is nothing to film!
"I am sure of that. So, back to the car?"
"Yeah," Steve agrees. He's pretty sure that at least three people follow them to the parking. It's going to be annoying if it happens everywhere on their trip.
The sun is down and Steve wonders if they'll go on like this until they hit Florida. It's quiet, save from the car's rumble. He would have expected Tony to put on music, but he didn't even touch the dial. As if on cue with his thoughts, Tony yawns.
"Want me to drive?" Steve offers.
"Nah. But I guess we should stop soon, find a place to sleep, order dinner."
"I was thinking a shower would be welcome, but I have nothing to change into," Tony says.
An image of Tony in Steve's sleep clothes, a pair of soft pajama pants, is sudden and yeah, that would work for him. Hard to suggest, though.
"I thought you'd buy what you need along the way?"
"Is anything even open right now? Usually I have people who will send me anything at whatever hour, but here in Nowhere Virginia? I'm a bit stumped."
Steve takes out his phone, waves it a little and Tony sighs.
"Yeah. Okay, go ahead."
It takes a fraction of a second for the AI to answer.
"How can I help you, Captain?" FRIDAY asks.
"Hi FRIDAY. Where could we stop for clothes around here?" Steve asks.
"At this moment?"
"Is it for you, Captain?" she asks.
"Does it make a difference?" Steve wonders.
"There are very little options. For anyone. But even less for the Boss."
"No fancy place, huh?" Steve says with a chuckle.
"I don't need fancy," Tony speaks up. "Underwear, sox, a couple of t-shirts and pants."
"Heard that?" Steve asks FRIDAY. She's answering in the affirmative when Tony speaks up.
"Ah, dammit. Speaker, FRIDAY," Tony says. "Do you have something for me?"
"Yes Boss, of course." There is an excitement in her tone, surely because Tony is speaking to her again. "In fact, if you give me a couple of minutes, I should track a boutique's owner and-"
"Nothing that's already opened?" Tony interrupts.
FRIDAY sounds a lot more hesitant at that. "There is, if you take the next exit. A store opened until midnight."
"See, no need to bring anyone back to work and disrupt their evening."
He's taking said exit.
"But I don't think-" she starts.
"You do quite a bit of that, do you?" Tony asks snidely.
"It's not the kind of store I would normally suggest," Friday says, subdued. Steve feels bad for a computer, it's a thing. "But it does hold the necessities you listed. And much more."
"Was that so hard? Tony asks.
"The store will be on your right in 200 meters."
Steve spots the sign at the same time as Tony, who starts laughing.
"You were worried I wouldn't want to shop at Walmart? Come on. Sure, not the first place I'd go, but it's clothes."
"As you say, Boss. Glad to be of service."
Tony gestures and Steve hangs up the phone after thanking FRIDAY. It might be later in the evening, but there are still quite a few cars in the parking lot. Once at the door, though, just inside the store, Tony's steps falter. It had thrown Steve a little, too, the first time he'd entered one. They are huge, and like the one in Washington the first thing you see is food. Steve stretches to have a look and yes, the layout is similar.
"Why don't you go over there," he points towards the men clothing section, "and look for clothes. I'll meet you there after I get some snacks."
Tony nods and grabs a cart from a slightly bemused associate.
"Okay, sure, I can do that. Beach towels?"
At one point, after Virginia Beach, Tony had started to talk about how it had been years he hadn't went to the beach, not really. Steve had been happy to second the idea.
"I'll get some."
"Great." Tony has that particular focused look he often gets before a mission. "See you at the rendezvous point."
Steve laughs and lets Tony navigate his cart towards the clothes. He had planned to get chocolate bars, but the car's been pretty hot, since it has no air conditioning, and it's a possibility that he might end up with lumps of melted chocolates. Steve takes a bit of time looking at options and settles for granola bars. And a couple of chocolate bars too, because he's got a mean sweet tooth. He pauses near dried fruits, and grabs a bag of dry blueberries for Tony. He should have taken a basket, because it makes him think he should take fresh fruits, too, and goes to fill a bag with apples.
After a detour to get beach towels – he doesn't care for the design and color of some kind of logo, but they are big and that's what is important – Steve goes to the men clothes section and finds Tony intently checking out… t-shirts with Avengers designs. In the cart, it's clear he's been busy finding what he needed: there are colorful sox with car and rockets design, several packets of black boxer brief underwear – Steve didn't need that nice image, now he won't be able to think of anything else -, a plain red tee, flowery swim trunks that would probably look ridiculous on anyone else, and a pair of red pajama pants covered with little Mjolnirs that make Steve smile.
"Cute pajamas," Steve says, dumping his haul in the cart. He can't resist touching the fabric and it's very soft.
"Thought so too. Now is this going to fit, you think?" Tony is holding a Hulk t-shirt to his chest, frowning down at it.
"Looks about right," Steve says. "Is it a medium?"
Tony snorts. "Yeah. But I don't know why I'm asking you, since you're always wearing shirts at least two sizes too small."
"I don't," Steve says, rolling his eyes. He's been teased about that a thousand times, but he prefers close fits when he's training or under the suit. His regular clothes are always perfectly normal and not tight at all.
"Not that anyone is complaining, of course," Tony says. He throws the Hulk shirt in the cart, then a War Machine one. "There."
He hasn't made a move for the t-shirt with shields, and Steve eyes the one with the big Avengers symbol. "Maybe I should get one too."
"I think I saw a Falcon one," Tony says, starting to sort though the shirts. "Don't know if they have it in large or whatever you need."
He loves Sam like a brother, but if the goal is to get a shirt with his favorite Avenger, the choice isn't hard. There are a couple of different designs, but Steve reaches for one where the old model red and gold armor is in a three-point landing pose. He's always been endeared by the showmanship of it. Okay, he wasn't at the start. But he loves it now.
Tony side-eyes him and shakes his head. "Nah. Would be cool to wear at home, but it's a little too narcissist, even for me."
"Not for you, for me," Steve says, trying to measure if the shoulders will fit. When Tony blinks at him, looking confused, Steve shrugs. "Why the face? I can play favorite too."
Tony raises an eyebrow and seems to be wavering between incredulous and amused.
"Yeah, sure. It is the coolest looking one, I can't argue that."
He leaves the shirt section to go to the wall of folded jean pairs on shelves, sorted by style and size. Hands on his hips, Tony eyes them critically before reaching for regular straight cuts. The pair he grabs is way too long, though, and obviously several sizes too big at the waist.
"Admit it," Steve asks, leaning on the cart and totally amused. "You have no idea what size of pants you wear."
"I don't. No fucking idea," Tony says with a shrug. "Terrible, isn't it? I hear Pepper laughing in the distance."
Steve takes his phone out and calls FRIDAY.
"Yes Captain?" It's endearing how eager she is.
"Tony's pant size, can you help?"
"Of course," she replies. "Boss is a size 30 at the waist, and 30 and a quarter inch in length."
"Thanks," Steve says, hanging up and grabbing a pair with the right measurement, thank you convenient stickers, before pushing it against Tony's chest. "Try those on."
When he starts working on his belt right there, in the thankfully pretty deserted section of the store, Steve almost swallows his tongue.
"A changing cabin, Tony," he says, guiding him by the shoulder towards them, only a row over. Fortunately Tony doesn't resist. "Right here."
"Sure. But there was no one," Tony says with a shrug.
There was me, Steve thinks. While Tony changes, Steve grabs a pair of basketball shorts that should fit him too. He might like something lighter when it's hot. He's putting them on the top of the changing room's door for Tony to see when the door opens almost in his face. The jeans, when Tony gets out, fit almost as well as his designer ones.
"This fits," Tony says, but he checks his ass in the mirror nonetheless. "Right?"
"Looks great," Steve says. In fact, it looks amazing. He extends his arm with the basketball shorts, wiggling. "Shorts, maybe?"
"Good thinking," Tony says, taking them but making a face.
Steve had chosen basic black shorts, but as Tony goes to the rack he picks a pair that is emerald green instead. Then, going back to the cabin, Tony plucks a black tank top off another display. Steve has to refrain a reaction, he wouldn't want to give away that Tony in a tank top is his ultimate weakness as far as clothing goes. He has some suffering in his future, clearly. Not now, as Tony does try the clothes, but doesn't model them for Steve. He comes out with the outfit he started in, and even Steve, who has been told again and again that he has no real fashion sense, can see it's miles ahead in quality.
"Have we got everything?" Tony says, peering in the cart. He releases an approving hum at the blueberries that makes Steve particularly happy.
"I think-" Steve starts, but his eye then catch on Tony's fancy leather shoes. "Shoes?"
"Shit, you're right. Onwards, then!" Tony says, pushing his cart towards the back of the store.
Steve follows, and he can't help but smile because he likes this, the companionship. Doing something together, no fighting or awkwardness. Who knew shopping at Walmart would make him feels so good?
It's almost noon and Steve doesn't quite know what to do. They should have checked out already, but he hasn't seen Tony yet. When he booked the room the night before, Tony had gone straight for his door, messenger bag over a shoulder and his new duffle bag from Walmart stuffed with his purchases on the other. With a huge yawn, he'd waved at him.
"Let's just sleep in tomorrow, yeah? 'Night."
"Good night Tony," Steve had replied.
It's just when he'd been in bed, going through the different channels on the TV, that Steve had realized he had forgotten to ask what sleeping in entailed. Not getting up at dawn, sure, and probably not before nine in the morning… But was 10 okay? Or 11? Check out was supposed to be at 11, so he'd thought they'd be on their way by then.
Steve had slept really well, one of the few nights he got without weird dreams. He occasionally had nightmares, but Steve's usual was completely surreal situations that he barely remembered as he woke up. There had been no being half-man half-crow saying riddles last night, or even entertaining dreams like strolling on a yellow brick road with red Iron Man boots, or reliving part of a movie he'd recently seen. A good night of sleep didn't mean Steve suddenly had the ability to stay in bed once awake, though, so he'd tossed and turned until eight and gotten up. He'd found a place to eat, since Tony had taken everything even the snacks, and now he was hovering in the corridor, wondering if he should knock. Tony needs the rest, so maybe he should just let him be, and wait until he comes out on his own.
Ready to turn around and go back to his own room, Steve picks up water being turned on coming from Tony's. Confident he won't wake him up, Steve knocks.
"Coffee?" a still sleep-soft Tony answers, looking hopeful. His hair is all over the place and he has a pillow crease on his cheek. He looks totally adorable.
Steve should have thought about that. "I can get you one, if you want."
The smile is genuine, and it makes Steve's heart sing. He hopes they are friendly like this all the time soon.
"That would be great," Tony says. He turns around, stretches and comes back with a keycard. "Let yourself in on the way back. I'll get ready and pack."
"Thanks," Tony says, shutting the door closed again.
The errand takes less than ten minutes, even when Steve decides to go to a nearby coffee shop instead of taking advantage of the hotel's breakfast bar. He saw people making faces at their coffees in the morning, and he figures that this close to noon it might be even worse.
When he comes back to the room and lets himself in, it's to find Tony's bag ready – not that he has much to pack – save from an outfit set out. It will be the hulk t-shirt and the green basketball shorts for today, which makes Steve smile. Tony himself is still in the bathroom, and Steve sets his coffee on the work desk, and then sits on the bed, flipping the TV on. There's surely a weather channel on there, though he guesses he could check with the phone or ask FRIDAY.
"I'm back with your fix!" Steve calls out.
"Thanks heaven," Tony replies. "I'm almost done. For better or worse."
The last bit confuses Steve, and he can't make sense of it. Tony comes out of the bathroom while toweling his face, and Steve can't help his eyes from wandering down his belly an admiring how the Mjolnir sleeping pants are hanging dangerously low on his hips. Well below the hips, and it takes all of Steve's will to tear away his gaze and look back up to Tony's face. And then he stares, brain halting, because what?
"Geez, don't make that face," Tony says, passing a hand on his now hairless jaw. "I know it's weird."
Steve has never seen Tony without his trademark goatee, unless it's older pictures of him as a teen. From the moment he'd taken up Stark Industries, Tony's been consistent in looks, at least for facial hair (fashion has been another disaster). He looks very different, but still incredibly handsome.
"Sorry," Steve says, snapping his jaw shut. "Took me by surprise."
Tony scoffs and throws his towel on the bed. "It seemed like a good idea to stop drawing attention as much."
"Good call," Steve says.
He almost chokes on his tongue when, not even looking in his direction, Tony drops the pajama pants – at least he has underwear – and starts dressing up. It's true they shared locker rooms at Shield, and memorably a decontamination chamber, and that's probably why Tony's not bothered by his presence. Either he has no idea that Steve is attracted to him, or he doesn't care. Steve hopes it's the former, he's been working hard to hide it.
"It's been a while," Tony says, stuffing his pajama pants in his bag. "I think I haven't shaved since Obie-" he falters, then squares his shoulders. "Anyway."
By reflex Steve feels the scruff on his own jaw. It catches Tony's attention, who rises his eyebrows.
"That's new too. Opposite day?"
"Forgot to pack my razor," Steve confesses.
Shaving has been a ritual for him every day since he got the serum – didn't really grow hair before, or not enough to be a bother – but when Steve realized he'd forgotten his shaving kit, he'd just thought 'fuck it'. He's on vacations; he doesn't need to do it. It's a bit more than a shadow right now, but should grow pretty fast.
Tony scrunches his nose. "I'd offer mine, but sorry, no. It's a me thing."
Steve chuckles. "No, it's fine."
"Surely the front desk has some? Or a store?"
"Thought I'd try a new look too," Steve says, standing up.
He's surprised that Tony didn't immediately go for the coffee, so he gives it to him. The round eyes and delighted expression is worth it. "Oh, yeah. Thank you."
It's probably still scalding, but that has never stopped Tony, who takes a big gulp and makes a pleased face. Steve has made the team coffee often enough over the years to know how he likes it.
"Good?" he asks, pretty sure of himself.
"Perfect. So, where to?" Tony asks.
"I thought we were going to Florida, but whatever."
"Lunch first," Tony says, slinging on his bags and leaving a large bill on the nightstand with a note on the stationary. "We'll go from there."
They don't reach Florida that day, because Tony decides that he wants to go to a beach right away. The chosen one is Myrtle Beach, along the South Carolina shore, which is pretty big and crowded. School isn't back on yet, so there are a lot of families enjoying the end of the holidays. It's a beautiful day, but the sun is harsh and Steve ends up sitting under an umbrella Tony buys at a corner shop that asks a ridiculous amount of money for it. They also now have small beach chairs, blue and white, and Steve thinks that at that rhythm, they'll have the car's trunk filled within a week.
Even though he slept almost until noon, Tony basically plops down in his chair, right in the sun, and takes a nap at the end of the afternoon. All of his protest that he didn't need a vacation is pretty much blown out of the water, seeing him catch up on rest like that. It's a good thing, though, and Steve mostly people watch. He also spends a good long while texting with Bucky, who seems in good spirit. Steve misses him.
Tony wakes up a little groggy, maybe from too much sun. Luckily he isn't red, which is a miracle. Before the serum, Steve would have burned in a fraction of the time he just spent doing a great lizard impression.
"What time is it?" Tony asks, putting his shirt back on. Steve had tried not to stare like a creeper at his scars while he slept. If you know what to look for, the spot where the arc reactor used to be is still visible.
"Really? You should have woken me up."
"It was fine."
Once up, Tony stretches and yawns, visibly surprising himself.
"More tired than you realized, huh?" Steve asks.
"Maybe," Tony says with a shrug. "But long naps throw everything out of whack for me."
Steve is closing the beach umbrella when Tony points to the big Ferris wheel. "Feel like taking a ride?"
"Not unless you do," Steve says honestly. "Never really cared for them."
It seems to surprise Tony. "Really?
"Well, I haven't tried since," Steve says, making a sweeping gesture at his body.
Tony looks at the Ferris wheel, bites his lip, and then shrugs. "Fine. But we're still going to Disney World."
"If you say so," Steve replies, agreeable.
Not far from the beach, a motel has a lit vacancy sign and Tony turns in the parking.
"We can find something-" fancier, Steve doesn't say, but Tony's already out of the car.
There's loud music and lots of people in the motel's pool. Obviously there's a party ongoing and Tony doesn't break stride, goes to the front office with Steve on his heels.
"Do you have a couple of rooms?" Tony asks to the man behind the desk and busy checking out a tablet on his lap.
The clerk looks up and shrugs.
"I do, but as you might have seen there's an ongoing barbeque and it's going to go on late. City asks for the music to cut at 11, but I can't promise there won't be talking after that. If you are okay with the noise, the rooms are yours."
"Problem for you?" Tony asks Steve.
"No," Steve says. When he's tired, he can sleep no matter what is going on. Living in trenches does that to a man.
"Great," Tony says, as he takes out his card.
The clerk starts to punch in their stay and freezes when he looks at the card, eyes jumping to Tony, and then widening.
"Let's keep that between us, shall we?" Tony asks, winking.
"Oh, yes, sure Mister Stark. I'm a big fan," he babbles, then squints at Steve and looks as if he's going to faint upon recognizing him too. "Oh God."
"Just call him Steve," Tony quips. "Wouldn't want him to get a big head."
"You're hilarious," Steve says, rolling his eyes.
"It's not much," the clerk says, giving them keys that come with a little flip-flop keychain. "But if you need anything, anything at all, just call the front desk. Zero on the phone. I'm Bill."
"Thanks Bill, nice to meet you," Tony says, offering his hand to shake with a smile. Bill flushes with pleasure. "I'm sure it's going to be fine."
"Is there something going on?" Bill asks, and then lowers his voice. "Avengers business?"
"Nah," Tony says. "Just vacations."
"Have a good night!" Steve says as they leave the front office.
There are three guys looking at the car when they get out, trying to see the interior.
"A beauty, isn't she?" Tony calls out, and the men agree, smiling. Two of them have beers in their hands and look three sheets to the wind.
"For sure. My Dad had one of those," a tall guy with long blond hair says. "Shame he got rid of it before I got my drivers permit."
"What does she pack?" another asks.
Tony pops up the hood, and the guys 'ohh' and 'aww' at the engine while Tony lists out the specs. Meanwhile Steve takes out his bags, slings Tony's on his shoulder too, and brings everything to their rooms. They are small but clean, and a lot less tacky Steve had expected. The two rooms are side-by-side, image mirrors of each other, and Steve dumps Tony's stuff in one and takes the other. When he goes back to the parking lot, Tony has a beer in hand and even more audience, a couple of girls in bikinis having joined the onlookers.
"When I have a minute, I'll re-do the paint job," Tony is saying. "And the chrome."
"It's already pretty sweet," Blond guy says. "You are going to keep it blue, yeah?"
"Probably," Tony says, caressing the top of the car. "It's what caught my eye. Made me think of someone."
Steve's heart thuds and then feels foolish that he thought it might be in relation to him. Blue could be a lot of people. Pepper has blue eyes, or blue-gray at the very least.
"Here," Steve says, giving Tony the keys to his room. "204 for you, I put in your bags. I'm in 203."
"Thanks," Tony says, pocketing them.
"You guys want something to eat?" Blond guy says. "There's way more than enough!"
"You clearly never saw him eat," Tony says, pointing at Steve.
Blond guy laughs, clapping Tony on the shoulder. "No, seriously, come over!"
And that's how they end up mingling with the other people staying in the motel, eating hamburgers and macaroni salad, with a new beer always appearing magically when one is finished. There are silly games in the pool, mostly battles with foam noodles, and several people are having fun dancing on a corner of the patio. The crowd is young, people in their late twenties, and at one point they learn it's a ten year class reunion.
"Well my class reunion didn't look like this!" Tony is saying, sprawled in a law chair.
He drank a couple of beer, but doesn't seem interested in getting plastered. Steve has commanded the chair next to him, because he frankly doesn't quite know how to mingle here. Tony makes it seem pretty effortless, even if they are with strangers 15 years younger than him.
"Did you even go to your class reunion?"
Tony snorts. "No. Once I got out of that fucking boarding school, I swore to never return."
"Not even a MIT reunion?" Steve asks.
"Nah," Tony says, stripping his beer bottle label. "What's the point? I kept in touch with the only friend I made there, anyway."
It does seem like the people here are pretty close, or at least that they enjoy each other's company. A little stage has been set up to their right, and two guys are arguing over a laptop and another machine.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Tony says, looking amused. "Or a very very good one, we'll see about that."
Before Steve can ask what he means, a beautiful brunette sits in the chair to Steve's right, turned to face him, her chin on her hand.
"Hello Handsome," she says, smile flirty. "I'm Judy."
"Steve," he replies, and smiles to be polite.
"Hey Steve." There is something predatory in her green eyes, and it makes Steve a little nervous. She cants her head, looks at Tony. "Hello."
"Hey," he says. "Anthony."
"Nice to meet you," she says, but her gaze is back on Steve. "How do you like our little party?"
"It's nice. Fun," Steve says, and notices his beer is almost gone. "It was nice of you guys to invite us."
"This way it's hard for you to complain about the noise," she says with a wink.
"Very clever," Tony says, fake toasting her with his bottle. "Do you want someth-"
He's clearly about to get up and Steve can immediately sees how he's going to be cornered by Judy if Tony leaves. Not that she doesn't seem perfectly nice, and she's definitely gorgeous, wearing a very flattering sundress that hugs her in all of the right places, but it's very clear what she's after, and that's him. He's had no strings attached dalliances before and after the ice, but he's not really feeling it tonight, especially not when the real object of his interest sitting next to him. Desperate to not let Tony escape, Steve moves fast and grabs his wrist. Instinctively Tony immediately gets out of the hold by forcing against his thumb, recoiling, and Steve's stomach drops.
"Sorry," Steve says. He really hopes Tony's reaction was just instinct and muscle memory. He doesn't look too unsettled, just surprised. "I don't need anything."
As discretely as he can, he makes eyes at Tony, trying to telegraph that he needs his help with Judy. It works because Tony's eyes crinkle at the corner, amused.
"Okay. Hey, Judy, any idea what Chuck is setting up over there?" Tony says, pointing to the guys at the computer. Chuck must be the blond from the parking lot.
Judy grins. "Karaoke. Want my predictions? Dave is going to hog the mike, even though he's only passable. Give Laura a couple more shots and she'll sing some Britney. For the rest, it's been too long since I've seen them."
"So, as I was telling Steve earlier, it's going to be either very bad or very very good."
"My bet is on so bad, it's in fact good. But who knows," she says with laugh. She looks at Steve. "Do you sing?"
"Oh God no," he replies, almost shuddering.
He can sing along, but he'd never go up on a stage and perform. Not for singing. They'd tried, on the USO tour, and he'd fuck up every time.
"I'm sure you'd look great up there," Judy says, wiggling her eyebrows.
"Hum thanks?" he turns to Tony for help again and finds only a shit-eating grin; he's visibly enjoying Steve being heavily flirted with and shows no haste to rescue him.
On the stage, Chuck and the other guy now have set up the projector that blows up the songs lyrics on a white wall. In fact, a girl had to go up to fix their mess, but it's now working and the crowd immediately starts to whoop and holler when Chuck takes the mike.
"Class of 2007, are you ready to sing your hearts out?"
A resounding cheer is the answer.
"Then let me abuse my MC powers and go first! Tina, start it up!"
A rock song starts, and the noise level cranks even louder as Chuck sings about someone pouring sugar on him. Visibly the partiers love it, singing along, but the singing itself? Is atrocious. It does end up being very funny, though, people laughing everywhere. Steve suspects that Chuck is making this worse on purpose, to break the ice. A couple of girls decided that no one would stay seated, and are taking away the chairs so people can stand up and dance while the singing goes on. Judy is bright and joyful and stays close, casually touching him every so often, making eye contact. It's not that she's not tempting, but Steve is hyper aware of Tony on his other side, hollering and cheering the singers along. He's having a lot of fun and so beautiful, Steve can't even bear to look at him too much.
At one point Tony slides close and speaks into Steve's ear, which sends shivers down his spine.
"Come on, Cap, don't leave the poor girl hanging! She wants you bad."
"I noticed," Steve hisses back.
"Who refuses an offer like that? She's stunning. I wouldn't say no."
Yes she is beautiful, but that Tony is interested rubs him the wrong way.
"Why don't you go for it, then?" Steve says. It's mean and a more than a little petty, but he can't help ribbing back with a smirk. "Oh, right, she didn't look at you twice."
Tony laughs, putting a hand over his heart. "Oh, burn. You're going to eat your words, Babycake."
It's been an eternity that Steve has been given a nickname that isn't Cap, and he can't help his grin. "Oh yeah?"
"Just watch me," Tony promise, supremely confident. "Watch and learn, young Rogers, watch and learn."
Frankly, Steve is curious to see Tony's charm at work here. For these people, he's Anthony, with a cool car and a Hulk t-shirt, but that's it. No billions, no fame, just his admittedly bigger than nature personality. Surely he'll have to work a little harder to get the girl. Speaking of, Judy touches his arm again and Steve feels a bit cheap that he basically just made a bet with Tony that he can seduce her. On the other hand, it's not like he was going to do anything, and Tony won't twist her arm. If Judy's not interested, Steve is absolutely certain that she won't be shy about turning Tony down.
"You don't sing, Judy?" Tony asks.
She laughs. "Nah, I'm with Steve on this one. Can't carry a tune to save my life."
"That's too bad," Tony says, taking a sip of his beer. "You would definitely look great up there," he echoes from earlier.
Jody laughs. "Not if I'm off key."
"Meh," Tony says, shrugging. "Singing is just a fraction of a good Karaoke performance."
He's got her engaged in the conversation, for sure.
"Look at Chuck, earlier. It was a hit," Tony says.
"I am pretty sure people were laughing at him more than anything."
"No, not really. With him, he was hamming it up," Tony says, and then winces at if pained. "This one, on the other hand…"
The guy now on stage is taking his turn very seriously, with mixed results. People are singing along, but there's a lot less cheering.
"Well, that's Dave for you," Judy says, scrunching her nose. "But he's our weirdo, so. You think you'd do better, Anthony?" she challenges, eyebrow up.
Tony grins. "I thought you'd never ask."
To Steve and Judy's surprise, he puts his beer down on a table. Tony then looks at Judy up and down, slow and appreciative. "No singing, but what about dancing?"
She furrows her brows, as confused as Steve. "What?"
Without answering, just a cheeky grin and a wink, Tony leaves them to stroll towards the stage as if he does that all the time.
"He sings?" Judy asks.
"I don't know," Steve says. "But I never saw him back down on a dare, though."
"Well this should be interesting," she declares.
Knowingly or not, Judy already stopped standing in Steve's bubble, though she's not far. They watch Tony go talk to the girl that is in charge of the computer, where he leans in, arms crossed on the table and commandeering her attention. The girl smiles as he makes his demand, and does a thumb up. When Dave finally ends his song about not stopping believing, Tony hops on the stage and takes the microphone from him.
"Everyone, give a hand to Dave for a good job!" he says, making the crowd clap. Even with his clean shaven face and casual clothes, all that Steve can see right now is Tony Stark, who can work a crowd exactly how he wants. When the noise dies down, he speaks up again. "Okay, great. I haven't done this in forever, so I'm going to need your help. I'm sure you know this one, so please sing along, alright?" He gets a good cheer and grins. "Tina dear, let's pay homage to the Boss!"
The intro of the song starts and immediately there's loud whistling, so Steve figures it must be pretty popular. At his side, Judy throws back her head and laughs, for no reason that Steve can understand. It's probably about the song choice, and he wonders of Tony picked a parody.
It turns out that Tony has a great singing voice, but more than that he just… performs, right there on stage, as if it's something he does every day. He dances, too, swaying his hips a little as he starts the song, about going through his day and being nothing but tired. The partygoers start to sing along, which obviously pleases Tony. He doesn't look at the words projected on the wall or the computer screen, completely at ease just singing and, well, flirting with half of the audience, declaring himself for hire, even if just for dancing in the dark.
By Steve's side, Judy is grinning, mouthing the words and dancing along. Tony's parting remark about dancing makes more sense now, and is probably why she laughed when he started singing.
"Oh man," she says with admiration after the first verse.
"He's good," Steve admits, mesmerized as Tony acts out the song as he sings, something about changing his clothes, his hair, his face.
He's oozing charisma, and it strikes Steve how that man could be whatever he wants, even a rock star. He chose to change the world for the better, instead, and puts his life in danger on the regular. Tony has commandeered the little stage and has every eye on him, and girls dancing in front trying to get his attention back.
So much for not even giving Tony a second look, as Judy doesn't seem able to stop staring now. Not that Steve can blame her. When Tony next sings about how he's a gun for hire, he looks straight towards them, and point at Judy palm down and asks her to come over wiggling his index. She laughs and immediately starts making her way to the stage. For a second Tony looks at Steve and winks, smug, and Steve can't help but chuckle. Yeah, that will show him to dare Tony Stark into seducing a girl. The man could do it with his hands tied behind his back.
Not pausing in the song the slightest, Tony takes Jody's hand to help her climb on the stage, which makes the crowd cheer and whistles. He continues singing, raising his hand to make her spin while saying he's "dying for some action", then, not letting her hand go he pulls her close in time with "a little love reaction" and the hooting reaches new levels. If before Tony was singing for the whole crowd, eyes going from one person to the other, right now he's singing as if just for Judy as they sway with each other on the beat, one of his arm loosely around her waist, her hands on his shoulders.
They are, frankly, beautiful together, and Steve feels his heart squeeze. He can only imagine how it feels to get Tony's attention like this, charm upped to twenty on a one to ten scale. The song is winding down, lyrics repeating about just dancing in the dark, saxophone and the partygoers cheer and cheer as the music fades out. Tony gins at Judy, kisses her cheek and turns to the audience, bowing a little bit and making her do so too.
"Oh, man, that was awesome!" Chuck says, taking the mike back. "Who dares going next? No one? I'll do it, then!"
Steve couldn't care less who is going to sing next, he's fixating on Tony coming back towards him, Judy in tow. They are holding hands, he notes helplessly, and Tony gets several enthusiastic pats on the shoulder along the way. Visibly a couple of other girls look envious of Judy, which Steve can relate with.
"I'm suitably impressed," Steve says when Tony is back at his side, and it makes him grin.
"I have many talents," Tony replies, wiggling his eyebrows.
Judy slides in close, fitting herself right to Tony's side, who automatically puts an arm around her.
"Dance with me some more?" she asks, all but batting her eyelashes.
"My pleasure darling," he replies, not even sparing a look at Steve and leading her maybe ten steps away where other people are dancing on the patio.
The new song has a good beat, though Chuck seems to be murdering the lyrics apart from proclaiming "this is how we do it" on time, judging by how everyone shouts it with him. Tony and Judy fall in a rhythm instantly, smiling at each other. A moment later she has her arms around Tony's neck, who pulls her close without breaking stride. The few times Steve has seen him dance before was in more formal settings, or gently swaying with Pepper. This is definitely more sensual, and Steve realizes he's staring when he meets Judy's eyes from over Tony's shoulder and she raises a questioning eyebrow at him. Is she calling him out on being a creep? He takes a gulp of beer to cover up his embarrassment, and turns his head to the stage where thankfully someone took the microphone from Chuck and can actually sing this song. New guy does a good job, though not at the level Tony showed earlier (he might be very biased though).
As if mounted on magnets, Steve's eyes are drawn to the dancers again only to see that Tony and Judy are now heavily making out, grinding on one another. His gut reaction is part jealousy, a lot of envy and a definite spark of arousal. God, they are gorgeous. It's unsurprising that even before the song is over, they are whispering to each other and Tony starts to lead Judy towards the stairs leading to the rooms. He does remember to look back at Steve, though, and upon seeing him watching he winks with a smirk. "See? Told you," it says. Steve can only admit Tony's complete victory over that dare by a small informal salute, touching his eyebrow, which makes Tony grin.
"Your loss," he mouths, before turning his attention back on Judy and navigating her towards his room.
With Tony gone, though, Steve isn't interested in the party anymore. People are getting drunker, louder, and if Judy was the first and most forward girl to approach him, he can see a couple more eying him with interest. He really doesn't feel like going through the motions, not even just to dance or have a conversation.
Steve drains the last of his beer and decides to go take a walk instead. He won't go up to his room, in case he hears what is going on through the wall and that's too masochistic for him. The beach isn't far, so he aims towards it, taking his time.
The evening is thankfully cooler than it's been all day, but the main street is quite busy, their hotel not the only one with music and laughter spilling out in the night. It's calmer by the sea, though there are several stragglers like him, either friends stumbling along together, people with dogs, or couples walking hand in hand. The waves breaking on the shore, inexorable, calm Steve's brain a little. He finds a rock to sit down and just breathes for several minutes, pushing out his complicated feelings and focusing on how he and Tony genuinely had a good time today.
It must be a good hour before Steve gets up, going back to the hotel. The music has stopped, so it must be later than 11, but most of the people from the party are still out, sitting in little groups and chatting. There are even people in the pool, still, floating on air mattresses while another tries to make them fall in the water. Steve quickly goes up to his room, and for a blessed moment he hears nothing and figures Tony and Judy are done having sex. He lets go of the breath he hadn't realized he was holding, only to hear in the next moment faint laughter through the wall and then a drawn-out moan.
Steve sighs and resents the super serum a little. In all probability, someone with normal hearing wouldn't even notice the sounds. He does, though, not clearly enough to make out words, but definitely murmurs or moans. Surely Tony and Judy are almost done? They've been in Tony's room for well over an hour now. An easy temporary solution for Steve is to buy some time – hopefully enough so they finish- by drowning the noise in the shower. Satisfied with that plan, he enforces it immediately, especially because there's more laughter and it's like being punched in the gut.
He wants that. Steve needs for him and Tony to fix at least their friendship, to be at ease with one another. It had been a good day, too, like starting on that path, at last. But now Steve longs for intimacy and sex that is good and where they are relaxed with each other enough to laugh like this, but that's a pipe dream. Just a fantasy, too dangerous to entertain.
He puts the water on hot verging on scalding, trying to forcibly relax the knots in his shoulders and back, and does his best not to fall into the temptation of jerking off. It would wind him down, but he's made a point of pride not to cross that line while thinking of Tony. It's in part because he needs to prove to himself that he's got some self-restraint left, but also because he's convinced that it will make things weird between them. Not that Tony would know about it, but Steve might have trouble looking at him in the eyes for a bit, in fear of getting bright red for no apparent reason.
The routine of washing up and shampooing his hair after standing in the hot spray for a long time is calming. It's an uncomfortable situation, but they'll be gone in the morning and Steve will do everything he can to forget how envious he's felt since Judy caught Tony's attention. Steve towels himself dry, brushes his teeth and since he's not especially tired or in a hurry to be in a silent room just in case, he turns on the television as soon as he exits the bathroom.
He sits on the bed against the headboard, the most comfortable place to watch the television, and does his best to focus on the screen, and not – possibly – what is happening inches behind him. Hell. At least the explosions drown out the noises; Steve has never been so glad for a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger before.
When there is a thump in the wall at his back, faint but there, Steve freezes. Then another. His focus slips and yeah, Judy is getting louder with the regular thumping and it doesn't take a genius to know exactly what is going on now. His stupid brain is unhelpful, showing him several possible positions in vivid details. Furthermore he's presented with the unwanted realization that the thumping is regular but slow, once every two seconds or so. Groaning, Steve puts both hands on his face, despairing at himself. Is he seriously evaluating Tony's technique right now?
Even if he doesn't want them, the images don't stop. The sounds do not either. And Steve is hard as a rock, and at this point he just… he gives in. He's unable to resist the need to push his boxers down and take his cock in his hand anymore. It feels good, real good, even with the underlying feeling of shame of being so weak and getting his rocks off on the sounds of other people having sex. Of the guy he likes having sex, with someone else.
He pictures how Tony's hand would contrast with Judy's pale skin first, then how they must both be flushed after this long having sex. The images shift behind his eyes but solidify for a moment with Judy on her elbows and knees, Tony kneeling behind her, in full control. Steve's straining to hear anything he can at this point, the lower rumble of Tony's voice, Judy's choked cries when it thumps, and his arousal rockets up by the second. He's dripping precome, hand gliding nice and slick, and he makes a point to slow down his strokes to match. It's too slow, way too slow for what he craves, but maybe Tony's not just thrusting hard every two seconds, maybe he goes shallow in between.
That's what he'd do, Steve thinks, and suddenly the picture changes and he's the one kneeling behind Tony, one hand keeping him steady by the hip and the other planted between his shoulder blades, keeping Tony pinned to the mattress as Steve alternates between teases and pounding in. It takes everything Steve has not to moan too loud. He's breathing fast, panting even, but he can't take the risk to be overheard because the wall is in just that thin. He needs to come so bad, and the tension is coaling tighter and tighter. Tony would make it so good, and in bright Technicolor the scenario changes once more, and it's Tony's on top. Not fucking him, not yet, but his hard cock is pressed against Steve's ass and Tony's draped over his back, clever hand around Steve's dick just right. He'd talk, would praise him for sure, and Steve gets a full body shiver right before he comes, harder than he has in a long time.
When the world re-syncs a few moment later, after the high, he's left tingling. Steve looks down to see he's made a mess of his belly and chest, but thankfully there are tissue papers on the bedside table. The thumping has stopped, it seems, but not the moaning and frankly Steve's is reluctantly impressed. Maybe it's the orgasm mellowing him a little, but he's not so worried about having given in anymore. Yeah it's a bit weird, but no one will know about it. Ever.
Steve gets up and goes to clean up properly in the bathroom, flushing the used tissues while he's at it. When he comes back to bed and turns off the television, he can feel the effect of remaining endorphins coursing his system, and he figures he should sleep well, for once. Especially since the sex noises have stopped (he's crossing his fingers). But then murmur of conversation start again, followed by laughter – Tony's even – and the wave of loneliness that hits Steve is so sharp that he loses his breath. He can't stay here and hear second hand the complicity he craves so badly, it's torture. Steve hurries to dress back up with sweatpants and a t-shirt, and escapes the room in less than ten seconds. He has skipped on sleeping many times in his life, he'll be fine.
The motel's courtyard is mostly deserted now, the last partyer gone to bed or having moved to a room somewhere. Steve hesitates between going for another walk or staying, and finally decides to go sit in the car. Since the back seat won't be long enough so he lies down, Steve climbs in the passenger seat and reclines it while trying to get comfortable. It wasn't intentional, but the new angle gives Steve a view of the second story landing where their rooms are situated. It means that he can't miss when Tony's door opens and Judy is getting out, walking backwards. Still talking to Tony, it seems, but then he's right there too and kissing her goodbye.
Steve closes his eyes, and counts to a hundred, willing her to go. When he opens them back up, his wish has been granted, unless fate is cruel and she's back in the room with Tony. Relatively sure it's safe to go back to a now silent room, Steve gets out of the car and he bounds up the stairs. In the walkway going to his door, though, he comes face to face with Judy, who is walking towards him. More exactly she was going back to Tony's door, where she is right now, and raps on it lightly while giving him a quick smile that is a mix of friendly and embarrassed. Steve, who was almost at the room, can't turn around and wonders how to deal with this without it being the most awkward encounter ever.
"Hey," Judy says, before trying the door handle. It's locked.
If he listens closely, Steve hears water running. Tony's in the shower, he won't hear her. Why did she leave if it was just to turn around a minute later and come back? Steve's first idea is that she went to get some clothes or other necessities – please don't be extra condoms – but her hands are empty. And frankly, Judy looks unsure.
"Hey. Is everything okay?" Steve asks, as he gets his key out.
"Well, sort of," she says, smiling sheepishly. "In an ironic twist, it seems my roommate sexiled me, she put our signal on the door," she adds while gesturing down the corridor.
"Oh," Steve says. Is everyone having sex in this place?
"And me who thought I was being smooth, leaving before I overstayed my welcome," Judy says with a huff. She knocks again, and sighs.
"Do you want my room?" Steve surprises himself with that one.
Judy's eyebrow raise in surprise.
"No, not… If you want, you can take my room, I'll go somewhere else," Steve says. "I pretty much gave up on sleep at this point, anyway."
After another look at Tony's door, Judy bites her lip and nods. "Okay, thank you, that's very generous of you."
"No problem," Steve says.
It might be petty, but as long as she's in his room, she won't be in Tony's bed. He's sure that whenever Tony finishes his shower – pretty much now Steve realizes as the water stops, shit – he would welcome Judy right back in his room.
He unlocks the door and steps aside to let her in when he sees that his bag with the shield is leaning on the dresser. It isn't to say he's convinced that Judy would snoop, but Steve prefers not leaving his shield with strangers.
"Can I just get this?" he asks, pointing to his bag.
"Oh, sure." Judy stops him with a hand grabbing his arm as Steve's about to walk back out. "You don't need to go, you know."
"Hum," he says, uncertain what is going on.
Judy laughs. "No, no, not that you're not lovely, in fact earlier tonight I was aiming for your bed not Anthony's, but I mean we can share the room. You won't try to take advantage of me, right?"
She's awfully trusting, but also right. "Of course not. Are you sure? I really don't mind leaving."
"I'm sure," she says with a small smile.
"Okay," Steve says, putting his bag with the shield down again.
"Can I ask another favor of you?" Judy is biting her lip, looking across the room at his suitcase.
"Could I borrow your shower too, and something clean to sleep in?" she asks.
She does smell strongly like sex, and yes, it would be a good thing for Steve's sanity if she didn't anymore.
"Absolutely. Be my guest," he says. "Pick whatever you want."
"Thank you, so much," Judy says, squeezing his forearm before having a look in the suitcase.
He doesn't quite know what to do. Should he lie down on one side of the bed? That feels preposterous. There's a red armchair in the corner of the room where Steve goes to sit instead. The chair isn't angled right to watch the TV, but it's deep and large enough. It's possible Steve could doze off in it, though he suspects he'll get a crick in his neck since the back of the armchair is low. Judy is comparing lengths between a t-shirt – ah, dammit, his ironman one! – and a short sleeve button down shirt, and ends up taking the shirt. She turns holding up a pair of boxers.
"Is that okay too?"
"Yes, sure," Steve agrees.
Once Judy disappears in the bathroom, Steve slumps in the chair and thumps his head on the back of it three times. What the hell is this night? He takes out his phone, figures it's very early in Wakanda but he needs the moral support. Bucky will have to deal with getting woken up, if he can hear his phone chime.
"You up?" he texts
"WTF" flashes on the screen fifteen seconds later.
Steve grins. Bucky has embraced the future and its considerable amount of lingo, that's for sure.
"Aww, don't be like that" Steve texts. "Don't you miss me?"
"We texted nine hours ago, Steven. And no, I don't miss you when I'm sleeping," Bucky replies. "Speaking of, why aren't YOU in bed?"
"There was a party at the motel," Steve explains.
"At first, yeah. Fun people. Food. Tony sang karaoke, even."
"He was amazing," Steve admits. He's happy that texting doesn't convey his longing sigh.
"Me, rolling my eyes -> @_@. You think everything Stark does is amazing."
It's hard to argue when it's true. "I wasn't the only one to think so. He managed to pick up the girl that had been hitting on me real easily after that."
"What?! That's not cool. Who does he think he is? Well Tony Fucking Stark. Not hard to get the girl when you're a billionaire."
That's unfair, under the circumstances.
"Oh, no, not like that. He shaved, she had no idea it was him." After a pause, he writes another text. "And, well, I did dare him to try and get her," Steve admits.
"Only you, Steve Rogers, only you."
Steve snorts, and he hears the shower stop in the bathroom. He considers stopping the texting, but no, this is kind of fun after everything. Makes it seem less dramatic than it felt at the time.
"I swear, in ten minutes flat he had her in his bed."
"Yeah. And, well, my room is next to his? They went at it for a looooooooong time. Like almost two hours long."
"You're the worse gossip. People never believe me, when I tell them how nosy you are."
"Shut up. It was torture Bucky. God." That came out a little too honest, maybe.
"You are a fucking masochist. Why didn't you leave?"
"I did! I came back when she was gone, but then SHE came back to Tony's while I was at my door."
"What the hell?!?!?!"
"Couldn't go back to her room, HER roommate was busy."
"Where are you staying, a brothel? I hope you are not texting me from the next room as they go at it again."
Steve pauses his texting when Judy opens the door, letting in the room a cloud of steam. She's got her long now black-looking hair wet and brushed down, and the dress shirt, opened three button down from her neck, fits her almost like a nightgown. The fabric reaches her mid-tight, though the sides reveals glimpses of smooth skin high on her leg. It's not the intent, but it's awfully sexy.
"Now he looks," Judy says, amused.
He feels his face growing hot as he meets her eyes. "Sorry, sorry. You are beautiful, that's all. I didn't want to make you uncomfortable."
"You didn't. But thank you, Steve. Easier to see how nice other people are when he's not there, huh?"
And wow, shit, she figured him out. He's starting to wonder if he's just that easy to read. The shock of being caught must show in his face because her tone gets softer, less teasing.
"Sorry about being all over you at first. You're very handsome, and I didn't realize I had no chance until I saw how you looked at Anthony on the stage."
Steve sighs, slumping in his chair again. The phone has gone dark, and pings when Bucky messages again.
True, he stopped texting pretty abruptly. He'd prefer doing that than the current conversation, but that would be pretty rude.
Judy slips under the covers, pointedly on the left side of the bed.
"Yeah, well," he tells Judy. "Looking is all I'm gonna get, so."
"I wouldn't be so sure," she says, plumping her pillow.
Steve furrows his brows, confused.
She lies on her side, looking at him. "See, Anthony is very good at a lot of things," she says with a little smirk. "Astoundingly good. One of them is dirty talk."
It makes Steve snort-laugh. "I'm not surprised."
Tony probably doesn’t shut up.
"You came up quite a bit," she adds. He's intrigued, but doesn't know how to ask for her to clarify. Thankfully Judy does it without being prompted. "He'd ask what I'd do, if you were there. How I thought you'd be. Described how you're built all over. Would touch me while saying maybe that's how you'd do it too."
Steve is speechless, thoughts running in circle. Why would Tony do that? Shit, he has to fight arousal just thinking about it.
"Sure, part of it is because Antony knew I was hitting on you before going with him, and he played on that. But to that extent? He's thought about you before, I'd bet on that."
The phone in his nerveless hand pings again and Steve jumps in surprise. He looks down and sees another message from Bucky.
"WTH, Steve, you can't wake me up with your soap opera shit and then leave me hanging!"
"Anyway," Judy says, burrowing in the covers and yawning hard. "Food for thought: your Army buddy might be amenable to more than looking."
"Army buddy?" He parrots, brain still rebooting. "He's not Army. Why would you-"
The thought of Tony in the army is so foreign, it must show on his face. He remembers Tony's outburst on the helicarrier, after Coulson's death. "We are not soldiers!"
"Oh," she says, frowning. "He has a lot of scars." She gestures at her chest area. "Told me it was an old story, Afghanistan. And he called you a Captain a couple of times, and I assumed…"
"He's not. I was, though. Am?" He's not too sure about that. Probably not anymore, with everything that happened.
"Okay," Judy says slowly, not impressed that he doesn't know if he is or isn't in the Army. He must look like a lunatic.
"It's complicated," Steve says with a shrug.
"Looks like it. Anyway, come on the bed. The chair looks atrociously bad for your back. There's plenty of space. I promise I won't molest you in your sleep."
"I- I just-" he waves the phone.
"Yeah yeah, whatever, do what you want. G'night," she says. "Thanks again for this."
"No problem. Good night."
"Sorry, I was talking with Judy." Steve texts Bucky.
"Didn't you say she was going back to Stark?"
"Yeah but he was in the shower, didn't answer. She's going to sleep here." Steve adds.
"In YOUR bed? I am so confused. You hooking up with her too?"
"No! Just sleeping. She needed somewhere to go."
"I'm sure Stark would have taken her back."
"He would have. Better here."
"JFC Steve. You are hopeless."
"I know. I know." He sighs, and sees that Judy is now fast asleep. It's true that the chair is uncomfortable, and he is tired, after all. "I'm going to try to sleep. Have a nice day, Buck."
"You too. Don't be too much of an idiot."
Steve cuts the sound on the phone so it won't chime if there's another text and, as careful as he can, he goes to lie down on the free side of the bed, over the covers. He turns his back to Judy and closes his eyes, wondering if he has any chance to fall asleep at all.
Steve jolts awake, and is confused as to where he is, and especially why there's a person-shaped lump the bed beside him. Follows pounding on the door, which is probably what woke him up in the first place.
"Hey, you there Cap?"
Tony. That wakes up Steve good, as the last evening comes back and Judy grumbles beside him. He hurries to get up to answer the door, wincing when he's hit right in the face by sunshine.
"There you are!" Tony says cheerfully. Steve wanted to keep him out of the room but Tony slides in under his arm, carrying a bag and a coffee cup holder. "Time to rise, sunshine!"
"It's not what you think," Steve blurts out when Tony takes a few steps in the room and freezes, seeing someone in his bed.
"Ooops, my bad," Tony says, backing away. "Should have said, Cap," he adds, smiling as if he's proud that Steve has a girl in his bed.
"Anthony?" Judy says sleepily, emerging from the covers.
Tony's eyebrows rise high on his forehead in surprise, first looking at Steve then at Judy. Frankly, Steve is mortified; Tony probably thinks Steve slept with her too.
"She just needed a place to sleep," Steve hurries to say.
Judy looks very pleased to see Tony. She extends her hand in welcome and smiles.
"Hey Miss Judy," Tony says, putting what has to be breakfast and coffee on the desk, and then walking to the bed and taking Judy's offered hand. She pulls him in, and he sits on the bed and bends down to kiss her softly. They look as good together in the morning as they did the night before and Steve's heart tightens. "Got lost on the way to your room?" Tony teases.
"Found out I was sexiled, and you weren't answering. Steve offered I sleep here instead."
"Of course he did," Tony says. "Always the gentleman."
"Yeah," she says. "Nice to know chivalry's not dead."
Tony laughs, and Steve can't stop staring when he sees him put a hand on the cover over Judy's knee, and then deliberately caressing up her thigh, halting just before it gets totally indecent. "Slept well, lovely?"
"Mmm mmm." Judy looks about to start purring, and stretches her arms up to hook them around Tony's neck, who bends down and starts mouthing at her neck.
"I'm gonna," Steve stammers, pointing towards the door. He has to get out of here before they start having sex without realizing he's still there.
"Or you could stay," Judy says, very casual about it. "If you want."
It freezes Steve in his track. He can feel his heart hammering when Tony turns his head to look at him, raking his eyes up and down in a long once over. He then shrugs. "I'm game if you are."
All of the moisture has left Steve's mouth and his throat clicks as he swallows. Even though he knows it's a stupid, idiotic idea, and that he's going to get his heart crushed for a few moments of pleasure, he pushes the door closed. He's pretty sure he sees Tony smile before he goes back to kiss Judy's neck and that's good, at least. Has he been asked only to look, or to participate? His dick is happy about it, no matter what, rapidly hardening as Tony gets on the bed proper and Judy clings to him. In doubt, Steve goes to sit in the armchair.
"So this is a step up from last night, isn't it?" Tony asks Judy.
"Why don't you ever shut up Anthony?" she asks, following with biting his shoulder.
He laughs. "Admit it, you love it."
"Yeah," she says, then moans long and hard. "Yes I do."
Tony's got a hand between her legs, Steve realizes, and he grips the armrests of the chair hard enough to make his knuckles turn white. Good god, this is the sexiest thing he's ever seen and there are still clothes and sheets between them.
"You okay over there, Steve?" Tony asks.
Is that an invitation?
"Yes," he manages to answer.
"You're a master tactician," Tony says, though he's not looking at him, only at Judy. "What now?"
Steve's laugh sounds a little bit strangled to him. "Are you offering to listen to me now?"
"That's exactly what I'm doing," Tony says, looking sideways with a grin. "I do more often than not, don't I?"
"True," Steve admits. Iron Man does stick to the plan, until it goes sideways and there's someone Tony can sacrifice himself for, may it be the team or civilians.
"Call it, Cap. If that's okay with Miss Judy here, of course," Tony says.
"Hell yes," Judy says.
"Take your clothes off, Tony," Steve says with more confidence than he feels. He's slipping, calling him Tony instead of Anthony, but he couldn't care less.
Tony laughs again but obeys, getting on his knees. The first things he takes off are his glasses and watch, which he puts on the nightstand, but then he peels off his black tank top in a fluid motion. That, just that, is breathtaking. The way he's placed, Steve has a three quarter view, mostly Tony's back and shoulders, way stronger than anyone seeing him in a suit would suspect. Tony works out hard, and if he uses his brain most of all, he's not afraid to get physical too. He gets off the bed and takes down his short and underwear and Steve's breath catch. His ass is spectacular, and Steve gets a glimpse of erect cock as he gets back on the bed to Judy, who is making 'come to me' hands.
"I'd like to take you as a witness, Judy, that I promptly listen when asked to do something that is in the best interest of everyone," Tony says.
She shakes her head with a smirk. "Looks to me as if it's in your best interest, too."
"She got you there," Steve says, amused.
"Eh," Tony says. "So, let's be clear here, so we make sure it's true for all of us. You asked for Steve to stay; is it just so he can watch or more?"
Steve is relieved the question is out, because he didn't dare ask himself.
"I'm more than fine with both," she says, looking at Steve with interest, but clearly she doesn’t want to push. "I guess it depends on you guys."
"Same for me," Tony says, looking at Steve too. "We'll make this good for you either way you choose."
The safest spot is right here in this chair. Steve is convinced that just looking would be spectacular, judging on how hard he came listening earlier. But if it's his one chance to get close to Tony this way? He's unable to resist, even if he's already anxious about how they'll deal with the fallout. Steve takes a big breath, rubs his hands on his thighs and stands up. Both Judy and Tony look honestly pleased by his show of intent, which is good for his nerves.
"Do you have condoms?" Tony asks. "There are some in my room."
Oh, yes, of course. At least someone is thinking clearly.
"Yeah," Steve says, going to his bag.
He realizes his hands are shaking a little when he digs under his clothes to get the condom box and lube. A quick look up to the mirror on the wall shows him with a flush high on his cheek and blown up pupils. He's a mess and they haven't even started. Here is hoping he doesn't make too much of a fool of himself. Steve takes another fortifying breath and turns around to face the bed again. Judy is now in the middle of it, Tony flush by her side. She stretches a hand out, exactly as she did for Tony earlier.
"Come here, Steve," she asks gently.
It's easier, Steve realizes, if he focuses on her. Two steps forward and he catches her fingers and she smiles. Judy is gorgeous, and it's certainly not a hardship to climb on the bed and bend down to kiss her. The first touch is gentle, but she puts a hand on his neck and immediately brings him in for a second kiss, firmer, more heated. It's impossible to forget that Tony is right there, watching most likely, and the very idea of it makes Steve bolder. He puts the condoms and lube on the bedside table and lets go of Judy's hand to gently slide his fingers from her jaw, to her neck, then down until he reaches his shirt now nightgown and start working on opening the buttons.
Judy makes a pleased sound, and Tony croons his own encouragement. "That's the idea."
Steve leaves Judy's mouth to follow the path he used with his fingers with soft kisses, which makes her moan. Tony is sliding the sheets off her body too, and then takes care of her boxers, throwing them off the bed. When he reaches Judy's breasts, Steve cups them in his hands, and makes an appreciative sound of his own. She has spectacular boobs, that's for sure.
"Beautiful, isn't she?" Tony asks.
"Very beautiful," Steve says, flicking his tongue on a nipple, that immediately stiffens.
"Oh," Judy says, trying to get closer, which makes him smile. He can do this. He's had great sex before, he knows how to satisfy a partner. A couple of times he's even done this with more than one person. Surely it can't be so different with Tony in the mix.
Tony takes care of the rest of the buttons, but then thugs on Steve's t-shirt. "C'mon, you're now officially overdressed for this party."
Right, right, that's true. Steve straightens up and grabs the neck of his t-shirt to drag it up and off. When the fabric is out of the way, he meets Judy's widening eyes.
"Damn," she exclaims as Steve tosses the t-shirt aside.
"Told ya," Tony says, and his open admiration is heady.
Steve would like to think that he would have noticed if Tony had shown interest before, but obviously he missed it. It's possibly a game changer, though he tamps down on the hope that tries bloom in his chest. Admiring his body is one thing, especially in the context they are now, but that doesn't mean he's interested in more than a fuck. For all that Steve knows, this might put to rest any interest Tony has in him, curiosity sated and box checked. Either he lets the depressing thought take over, or Steve pushes it down and takes the opportunity to enjoy this to the fullest, just in case. For his sanity, at least temporarily, he goes with door number two.
"Talked about me a lot, Anthony?" Steve asks to mask his nerves as he gets up.
"Quite a bit," Tony readily admits, with a shrug. "Worked for her. Worked for me."
That sends a thrill down Steve's spine, and gives him the impetuous to gets his sweatpants and boxers off. He's been hard since sitting in that chair, which was obvious with the tent in his pants. But this, being bare, is another level of exposure that makes him jittery.
"Can I repeat myself here?" Judy says, eyes going up and down in a slow appreciative leer. "In fact, no. I'll go with Goddamn."
Steve scoffs, amused. It's flattering, for sure, and he appreciates the humor as he kneels on the bed again.
"Good job Dad!" Tony says.
Steve's jaw drops open and Judy makes a face.
Tony starts laughing. "Oh, God, your faces. No worries, darling," Tony says, rubbing Judy's stomach. "We're not related. But dear old Dad -"
"Shut up or I'm getting out of here," Steve warns.
"No no no!" Judy says, grabbing one of Steve's arms with both hands. "You're not going anywhere."
"Not a word then," Tony says, miming zipping up his lips and throwing away the key.
He's still grinning, and Steve rolls his eyes. It makes it easier, though, the jokes and familiar banter. Given half a chance, Steve knows he'd spin everything in his head to be dramatic and stressful until he got dizzy. Tony probably knows that, and is trying to defuse the situation.
"Alright," Tony says, kissing Judy's shoulder and then touching her cheek so she turns to him, kisses her softly on the lips before he continues. "Tell us what you want, darling."
He eyes immediately come back to Steve, then slide down to his cock while she bites her lips and back up to his face.
"First thing I thought when I saw you downstairs is that I'd really like for you to fuck me," she tells him, totally assuming her words and her desire. It's a bit intimidating, but Steve likes it.
"And who would blame you," Tony says. He raises an eyebrow at Steve, clearly asking if he's okay with that, and he nods. Fucking Judy will no doubt feel incredible; he definitely wants her even though he craves Tony more.
For a second no one moves, Steve wondering if he's just supposed to act as if it's just Judy and him or else, and then Tony decides to take charge.
"Steve? Come over here, and sit by the headboard," he says, throwing Steve's pillow on the floor. Happy to leave the logistics to someone who might know what they are doing, he promptly obeys. Judy rolls on her side and smiles, caressing Steve's thigh, and he cards fingers in her hair, pushing them off her face. She really is gorgeous.
Tony gets up on his knees, stretches over Steve to grab the condom box and lube from the bedside table and it takes everything in Steve's power not to reach out and touch him. He's so close, and he can't stop looking at the play of his muscles, dares a look at his cock. It's with a lot of effort that he manages to look at Judy before Tony catches him. She did see, though, and it's as if she is having second thoughts.
"Are you sure you want this, Steve? Me?"
"Yes," he says immediately. Too fast, maybe too loud but he's desperate at this point and he can't fathom the idea of backing out now. "I do want you, a lot. I'm just a bit nervous."
Tony's shaken the condoms out of the box, four of them falling out. It should be enough, right?
"No worries, Cap, we've got you. Don't we, Judy?" Tony asks.
"Of course," she says, getting up and straddling Steve's thighs. Automatically he puts his hands on her hips. "If you're sure."
She'd stop it all, if he asked, and that's a comfort of sort. He slides a hand up her back until it reaches her neck and pulls her close for a kiss. He makes is as filthy as he knows how, and hopes it's convincing.
"Please," he murmurs against her lips, when the kiss breaks.
Judy searches his face and bends down to whisper back in his ear. "Okay. Okay. Unhealthy but I'm selfish enough to take it."
"You guys are gorgeous together," Tony says. He's scooted away a little, which is the last thing Steve wants. "I'd be perfectly happy to go in the chair and watch, if it makes it easier."
"Oh no," Judy says, leaning back and catching his wrist. "You are not going anywhere either."
It makes Tony smile and they kiss too, Steve unable to tear his eyes away.
"I have a good idea," Tony says. "I often have excellent ideas, don't I, Steve?"
"It happens," he says, finds out his voice is raspy with arousal.
"First part of my idea is to suit him up," Tony says, giving Judy a condom.
"I can do that," she says with a grin, tearing the foil packet open.
Steve is a bit confused when instead of reaching for his cock, Judy scoots down the bed until she's over his knees, Tony's moving with her.
"I know, you're very good at it," Tony says with a grin, then winks at Steve. "I'm sure you'll agree."
Putting on a condom is a necessity, something he generally takes care of himself. Judy and Tony's enthusiasm at it becomes a lot clearer when Judy pinches the reservoir, deposits it on the tip of Steve's dick – first touch, makes pleasure spike – and when she bends down over his lap and starts rolling it down with her mouth.
"Oh," Steve breathes out, forcing himself to be still. This is a blowjob with accessory condom application, and it feels absolutely amazing.
"Good, huh?" Tony asks, kneeling behind Judy and caressing up her back while he kisses her spine.
"Very good. Great. Oh fuck," Steve breathes out when Judy starts using her hand, both to finish putting the condom in place but also to jack him up.
Her long dark hair is falling around her face, and Steve gently tries to get out of the way. He wants to see her mouth stretch around him, her slim hand curl around his shaft.
"Want me to get you ready for that big cock, darling?" Tony asks her, and Judy moans, the vibration a heady sensation to add to the rest.
Maybe Tony is going to fuck her first, and the idea makes Steve hot all over. He'd have the perfect view, if he took her from behind right now. That's not the intention, though, at least not at first because if Tony does lube up his fingers, he doesn't roll down a condom on himself.
"There we go," Tony croons, and Judy groans deeply, pushing back towards him. "You're already so wet, so good."
Steve probably should be looking at his own dick being sucked, but his eyes are inexorably drawn to the movement of Tony's forearm as he fingers Judy, the contrast of Tony's other hand, tanned against her pale ass. He's in a daze of sorts, pleasure building up, his senses torn between what he's feeling and longing for something more.
"Come on, now, time for part two," Tony says, not long after, and he thugs at Judy's shoulder. "Up, come on."
The disgruntled little grunt Judy makes as she pulls off Steve's cock, and the protest he makes himself at the loss of that perfect heat make Tony chuckle.
"Shush shush, lovelies, trust me, it's going to be good," he promises. "Turn around, Judy, come on."
"It was plenty good, it was amazing," Steve says, a bit bereft, closing a hand on his cock to put a bit of pressure back.
"What do you have in mind?" Judy asks, doing as Tony asks and turning around on Steve's lap. Tony takes the opportunity to kiss her.
"Scoot back," Tony says getting close, sandwiching her between them. "Ride him like this."
"Oh," Judy says. "Yes, okay, that works."
Steve is plenty on board with that, and holds his cock up as Judy gets in position and starts to shimmy with little up and downs, taking more of his shaft every time.
"Oh, God," he breathes out as she goes down, down, down.
She's plenty slick, but it's a tight fit, warm and amazing. He's holding her hips, letting her go at her pace, and doing his best to stay put. Judy has her arms around Tony's shoulders, who in turn is mouthing at her neck, caressing her flanks in a soothing manner.
"There you go, beautiful," he says. "Nice and easy. How does he feel?"
"So good," Judy pants. "Fuck, yes, so, so good."
"I bet he does. That's great," Tony says.
"You're amazing," Steve adds. "Hot and perfect, God."
When Judy is completely seated, they pause for a bit, taking a moment. The need to thrust is building fast, but he can be patient. Tony kisses Judy again, and Steve shouldn't be jealous but he can't help it.
"Still good?" Tony asks her, scanning her face.
"Damn right," she says and squeezes around Steve's cock, making him moan.
Tony grins. "That's my girl."
He starts scooting away and as if unable to let go Judy starts following, bending at the waist. He's giving her space to get in position to suck him off at his turn, or at least that's what Steve is convinced of – and Judy too – before Tony stops her.
"Nuh huh," he chides, gently pushing her back up. "Right idea, wrong player."
"What?" Judy asks.
Steve almost jumps out of his skin when Tony's hands close on his, over Judy's hip. He makes him pull her up several inches, just above him.
"Can you lock your elbows and hold her like this, Steve?"
"Yeah," Steve says, voice rough. He only has to slump a little more on the bed and he's got his elbows now resting on the mattress.
"Why?" Judy protests. She is squirming a little in his hold, trying to get back down on his cock. "Come on, Anthony, let me go."
"Trust me, I'm sure you'll like this. And if you don't, just say so," Tony says.
"I want more, come on."
"Steve's real strong, Jude. He can hold you like that as long as he wants. Isn't that right, Steve?"
"Yes," Steve agrees, but he's getting frustrated by the second. He's got half a mind to bring Judy back down instead. "I'm with Judy, though, I need more."
"Then put those glorious abs, glutes and thighs to work, Cap. Buck up, and get it," Tony says.
Oh! Right, of course. Steve obeys and the first thrust feels so great he groans loudly, which is echoed by a moan from Judy. He can't resist a second snap of his hip, then a third, making her cry out loud.
"Of fuck, yes," she says.
"Can you keep up like this, Steve? Nice and steady?" Tony asks, leaning on the side to check on him, looking around Judy's body.
It's not the best position for Steve's back, but he doesn't give a shit if he can make Tony look at him like this, as if he's doing something just right.
"Yes," he agrees, continuing to thrust up, setting a rhythm that clearly gets Judy's approval. "I could move her up and down, too." Feels as if it would be less complicated, in fact.
Tony grins and shakes his head. "No, this is going to make my part a lot easier. Hold her right there for me." He squeezes Steve's hands once and lets go, which he misses immediately.
The ' Right idea, wrong player' remark is elucidated when Tony changes position to be able to go down on Judy, stretching out on the bed between their thighs.
"Holy fucking shit, yes please," Judy babbles, hands clamping on Tony's shoulders. From the little Steve can see, she seems to be pushing Tony down, eager for it.
"You're so great, taking him like this," Tony says. He must do something nice because Judy cries out. Steve would pay a lot of money to see exactly what.
"Oh God, Jesus, Mary and Joseph," Judy says soon after. Even tight in Steve's hold, she's trying to move back and forth.
Steve can't help but laugh, almost missing a thrust up. "He's good at that, huh?"
"He's fucking amazing. Oh, fuck, fuck, yes!"
From there she switches to impatient little throaty sounds, and less than a minute later she's tensing all over and comes, cunt clinging around Steve's cock deliciously. He fucks her through it, his own arousal going up a notch. But then one of Tony's hands grips Steve's hip and pushes him down on the bed and keeps him there. It takes a lot not to come on the spot, just because of that touch, but Steve manages, panting.
"Easy," Tony says. "You okay there, tiger?"
"I'm fine," Steve says. He can hold off a little bit more. "Not now?"
"In a minute," Tony promises. "How about you, Jude?"
"That was great." He voice is throaty, and her breath coming fast still. "But why did you make Steve stop?" she protests. "Come on, come on, it feels so good."
"And how's this?"
He must lick her again, and Judy sways in Steve's hold, as if she can't decide if she wants to get in Tony's face or away. She must be hypersensitive, just after coming like this.
"Oh shit, fuck, easy, easy." She breathes hard a couple of seconds and moans once more. "Oh, God, yes."
Being pushed in the bed, half out of Judy for a little while now, has made it possible for Steve to get most of his control back. He wonders how long he's supposed to stay like that and pushes lightly against Tony's hold in question.
"Ready for one more, Jude?" Tony asks. "We'll make it good."
She laughs. "No shit. Yeah, yeah, okay. I might not survive, but okay."
"Do as I say," Tony says and gets back in position to eat Judy out.
Steve wonders for a moment how he can do as Tony says if he won't be saying anything, but that's before Tony's warm hand grabs his thigh near his ass. The touch makes him buck up in surprise, but Tony doesn't let go. Maybe he's to guide him up and down? But instead of pressure, Tony slowly slides his thumb against the sensitive skin before sliding it back in the original position. Experimentally Steve pushes up in Judy and down back to the bed at the same pace. It makes her groan and Tony squeezes in approval and slides his thumb again, very slowly.
This time Steve follows as he does it, all the way in and out at a snail pace. It takes a bit of control to keep everything smooth, but it's easy enough. Trusting that Tony knows what's best to make it good for Judy, he relaxes half on the headboard, half on the bed now, still holding her up steady with his arms. She weighs a hundred and thirty pounds, max, and it's not a strain at all, even after this long.
"Oh Jesus," Judy says, sounding shaky. "So fucking good."
He's never been much of a talker during sex, and he's not tempted to do it now. He focuses on breathing and moving just right, in time with the caress to his thigh that feels so good. Of course Judy feels great too, but right now it's more of a distant pleasure. Steve's world pinpoints on Tony's touch, making him move faster and faster now. Judy's moaning has picked up, too, and she's alternating between cursing and praise, her things trembling on each side of Steve's. To indicate he wants Steve to go harder, Tony presses in with more force himself until Steve snaps his hips up on command. The rhythm isn't just doing it for Judy, though; it's also clearly getting to him too. From one moment to the next, Steve feels as if he's now right on the brink.
Judy is making little "ah, ah, ah" every time he connects and she's thankfully the first to break, shouting as she comes the hardest Steve's ever felt someone do on his cock. Tony lets go of Steve's thigh to help keep her in place, but parts with a double tap that is without a doubt the all clear for Steve to takes what he needs to come too.
The thing is that he was right there, holding to control only by force of will, but even though Steve trust and trusts and tries to find the edge to topple over, orgasm escapes him. There's something missing, and he's desperate for it. Steve almost sobs, because he knows what he needs is so small, just a touch, just Tony's hand on him again, anything.
"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod," Judy is chanting and in a corner of his sex stupid brain Steve knows he has to be careful not to go too hard, not to squeeze her hip too tightly.
"You can let go now, Steve," Tony says gently.
He wants to, wants to so much, but he can't. Eyes screwed shut, Steve chases the elusive last ladder, and he realizes he's making keening sounds in the back of his throat. Better that than begging, he supposes, though he'd do that in a jiffy if he still knew how to string words together.
Through the haze there's a new sensation, a quick swipe at the base of his dick and when two of his neurons manage to connect, he groans. It's Tony, touching him at last. The pleasure definitely takes a leap up and his thrusting starts to get uneven.
"Is that okay baby?" Tony asks, sliding his fingers past Steve's balls to rub at the spot right behind.
"Yes, yes, please," he begs, not sure what's doing it for him more at that moment, the touch or the endearment.
"I've got you," Tony says, and Judy almost ruins it in adding her own "C'mon."
Steve hope he's not hurting her, or making this too long, which throws him off a little but everything comes back in sharp focus when Tony's finger rubs against his asshole.
"Oh fuck!" Steve cries out and at the barest amount of pressure he finally topples over the edge, his orgasm hitting hard.
It feels as if it's twice as long as he's ever came, enough to practically turn him inside out. He thrusts a couple of more time to chase the almost as spectacular aftershocks and then just collapses on the bed, panting like a freight car. It takes a lot to wind him like this, and he feels as if he went through the wringer, but came out tingling pleasantly all over. That was insanely good.
"Wow," Judy says, and Steve finally unlocks his elbow. She sinks back down on his cock, that is starting to soften and he groans because it feels really, really great.
"Wow indeed," Tony says, straightening up. He wipes at his mouth and chin, shiny with Judy’s' slick, while he has the other hand on his cock, slowly stroking with no real intent to finish.
His lips are red and puffy, pupils blown wide and Steve realizes that he's given and given but not once did anything for his own pleasure until now.
"I triple the wow," Steve says, raising his hand a little before flopping it down on the bed. He can't help looking down at Tony's hand, his cock. "What about you?" he dares ask.
Judy has picked herself up and dismounted from Steve, and takes off the condom, making him grunt. He's extremely sensitive right now.
"I'd be more than happy to help you out," Judy tells Tony, tying up the condom and throwing it in the trash. "But I'm pretty sure I just suffered a seizure. A very nice one."
That said, she flops on the bed by Steve's side.
Tony laughs. "It's fine. The show itself was worth the price of admission."
He lets go of his cock and Steve can't believe this. Judy quite rudely elbows him in the ribs and that's when he catches on. She's stepping back on purpose, and expects him to take on the slack. At this point, Steve figures that if the sex was to put a strain in their friendship, relationship, team dynamic or whatever, the damage is already done. And through all of this, as hot as it was, Steve has done absolutely no touching of his own. He's managed having a threesome involving Tony without once touching more than Judy, and that is absolutely unacceptable. He won't risk everything without getting at least a little something personal out of it. Mind set, he sits up and some of his resolve must show because Tony is scanning his face.
"You okay, Cap?" he asks, puzzled.
"I'm just peachy," Steve says.
He gets off the bed, but bends over and hooks his hand behind Tony's knees in order to pull him towards the edge of the bed too. The forceful tug makes Tony fall on his back with a little startled sound.
"Not that manhandling isn't hot, but-" Tony shuts up momentarily when Steve steps forwards in the V of his legs and goes to his knees by the bed, on a pillow he just nudged there.
Steve slides his hands from Tony's knees right to his groin, feeling up those lean muscles, before he finally, finally takes a hold of his dick. Tony's eyes are huge, amazed even and it gives Steve a bit of confidence.
"This is okay with you, right?" Steve asks, bending down but still keeping eye contact with Tony, who is hurrying to get on his elbow to see better.
"Okay?" he replies, eyebrow climbing. "I'd say yes, Steve. I am pretty sure a blowjob is okay with me!"
Sarcasm is a definite Tony trait, but not one Steve wants right now. So he better shut him up, or try, and the best way to do that is to get to work. He hasn't put a condom, but both him and Tony know that there are no worries to have about diseases, with the serum. All for the better, even, because when Steve takes a good long lick and then sucks at the head, the taste of Tony is intoxicating.
"Oh sweet God," Tony breathes out.
Emboldened, Steve takes more of Tony's cock and starts bobbing his head, trying to make it as good as he knows how.
"You are just full of surprises," Tony murmurs, sounding awed.
Steve isn't sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn't for Tony to touch him so delicately, fingers ghosting on his cheek, the edge of his ear, then too light in his hair to be petting.
"So gorgeous," Tony adds. He's starting to rock towards Steve's mouth, and cries out when Steve manages to swallow around him. "Oh, God. You're so good, perfect."
The praise makes Steve warm all over and he groans, sucking even harder.
"Fuck, I'm right there, I can't hold on, I wish I could."
Tony is trying to move in his hold. If Steve isn't mistaken, it's a turn on for Tony that he can't do it much with the Steve's strength. He's also making delicious little sounds, and this time, Tony's touch is urgent on his shoulder, tapping. He's about to come, then, and Steve won't back out now. Seeing Tony come all over himself would surely be spectacular. But Steve's greedy, he wants this, Tony coming in his mouth. So he uses his mouth, tongue and hand with even more fervor until Tony finally tenses and shoots down his throat, with a drawn-out moan.
Steve relents the pressure but keeps on sucking, swallowing everything he can. Come tastes foul, and on the whole it's pretty messy, but it's Tony and he wants to make it as good as he can. It looks like the cat got Tony's tongue because he's let himself fall back on the bed, just panting now. Worried to overdo it, Steve pulls off Tony's softening cock and rests his forehead on one of his hips, taking a moment to build his walls back, at least a little bit. He rests his arms on the bed on each side of Tony, too. Not an embrace, but close.
"That was hot," Judy says with feeling, and Steve can feel Tony tense at her voice just like he does.
It bursts Steve's bubble, forcing him to remember that this happened in the name of sex with a beautiful stranger, and it could mean nothing as far as feelings go. As much as he wants this, in fact wants just them doing this, it might never happen again.
"Hot is a gross understatement, beautiful," Tony replies easily.
Reluctantly, Steve sits back on his feet and looks up. Judy has turned around, resting on her stomach and hugging a pillow in a position that means she was watching Steve blowing Tony from barely two feet away. He had totally tuned her out from the whole thing and might feel a tiny bit guilty about that. How did she say before? Unhealthy, he remembers. She might be right.
What now, though? Frankly Steve doesn't know what to do, or how to react. It's Judy who moves first, stretching to peck Tony on the mouth, and then she crawls to the edge of the bed to kiss Steve too. It's easy, friendly even. It makes the contrast of not knowing what to do with Tony even more obvious. Judy is getting out of the bed, it seems.
"As awesome as this was," She says, starting to put her clothes back on – hers, not Steve's. "And it was amazing, I need to go. There's a brunch with the gang and I need to get ready."
"Okay," Steve says. Should he thank her? He's always been unsure about casual sex etiquette, to be honest. It feels wrong to stay kneeled at the side of the bed so he gets up. Impulsively he brings her close with a hug. Not her fault he's pining like an idiot. "It was great," he adds.
"Really was," Tony says. "You're awesome Miss Judy."
"Aw, thanks," she says, sounding fond and pleased. She pulls back from the embrace and looks at Steve with round eyes. "Tell him!" she mouths. Since her back is to Tony there is no chance he'll see, but it makes Steve nervous anyway. He shrugs lightly, half shakes his head no. He's not sure he can do that. Judy sighs – probably pity, it burns – and lightly taps his chest.
"Okay. Take care, Steve. You too Anthony," she says as Steve lets her go and she turns to the bed.
Tony gets up too and takes her in a hug of his own, kissing her neck and squeezing in a way that makes her squeal and laugh.
"You take care too, beautiful."
With a last kiss she leaves them, and when Steve looks at Tony, he's turned around and is putting his underwear back on. And damn, this is not the time for his dick to get ideas again, just because it's a spectacular view of Tony's ass. Worried his body will betray him, Steve clears his throat and points at the bathroom.
"I need a shower, so." Not in a hurry to meet Tony's eyes and maybe have an awkward conversation, he immediately starts to retreat to the bathroom. Cowardly? Yes.
"Good idea," Tony says.
In the second that follows, Steve is tempted to do something reckless with a 'join me?', but he doesn't, even though he does leave the door open. Definitely a coward. Cursing himself, he immediately climbs in the bathtub and starts the spray. The hot water does feel good, and it helps him to hide from everything, if just for a little bit.
There is movement in his peripheral vision, through the curtain; Tony's silhouette is against the door jam.
"So I-" Tony starts, before he stops. There's a pause too long for the rest being what he originally wanted to say. "I'll get my stuff, meet you at the car in twenty?"
"Okay," Steve says, closing his eyes. Shit. Being stuck in a car for hours with Tony sounds like dooming himself for more awkwardness.
"Good. I'd brought you breakfast, but I'm taking the coffee back. It's too cold for your taste, anyway," Tony says.
"That's fine," Steve answers. It's true, he likes his coffee overly warm or else he doesn't care for it. In fact, he's not much of a fan in general. "Thanks for breakfast. I'll be down soon."
"No problem. Okay."
And with that he's gone and Steve is left wondering if that threesome, that is objectively into the top three of the greatest sex he's had in his life, was really worth it. Right now? He's not so sure.
Once it's clear that Tony is gone, Steve doesn't linger in the shower. He gets dressed, packs the little that came out of the suitcase – he rolls the shirt and boxers Judy slept in in a ball and shoves it in a corner – and he's ready in minutes. When his stomach growls, Steve eyes the breakfast Tony brought in and investigates, curious. The paper bag contains two almond croissants, and that makes him pause. It's his favorite, does Tony know that? The kitchen at the tower, and then the compound, was always fully stocked with great food, but Tony was rarely around at mealtime. Maybe Steve could ask FRIDAY, but he can't find a way to do that without sounding ridiculous.
He eats the croissants in record time, and fiddles with his phone afterwards because he's ten minutes in advance and not ready to face the music. When he unlocks the screen, the last bubble of his conversation with Bucky taunts him.
Don't be too much of an idiot
Yeah. Right. He sighs and makes the call.
"What now?" Bucky says as he answers.
It makes Steve scoff. Bucky does know him pretty well.
"I think I was an idiot," Steve answers.
"You slept with the girl?" Bucky asks.
"Yeah." If it was just that…
"Does Stark know?"
Steve can't help but chuckle. "He does, since he was there."
"What?" Bucky exclaims. "Whoa there, how did that happen?"
"He barged in earlier, and somehow it turned into her inviting me to stay. Tony said he was game, so…" Steve sighs once more. "So."
"The little brain took over."
"Yeah," Steve admits.
"How was it?" Bucky sounds genuinely curious. He can call Steve a gossip all he wants, he's even worse.
"I don't know if I'm disheartened, jealous or a little disgusted. Was it all about the girl or…"
"Pretty much all about her, until I blew Tony." It feels weird saying it. He really got to do that, and for a few minutes it had been everything.
"Those are details I didn't need," Bucky says. "And now what? Is it weird? I suppose you are on your own if you are calling."
"I'm alone. Judy left, I went for a shower and Tony said he'd meet me downstairs. I should go. But I am afraid it is, indeed, going to be weird."
"So you didn't confess your feelings," Bucky asks.
"No. Judy guessed, wanted me to do it. But I didn't."
"I don't know. Maybe it's better that way? You can play it cool, like you have threesomes all the time. Text me if it gets weird in the car, and you need something to do."
Steve appreciates the offer. "Okay, maybe I will. You know what's weird for real? I'd bet I've been on the phone, like, ten times more than Tony since we left." Steve was convinced that Tony would have trouble letting go of the business and all of the rest. So many people nowadays can't function unless they check their emails at least four times an hour.
"I wouldn't be so sure. He doesn't need a phone with those fancy glasses of his."
Steve feels like a fool not realizing that.
"That makes so much sense," he can't believe he didn't notice it. But then again… "How do you know about the glasses?"
"In Berlin, when I was triggered by Zemo, I fought him. I noticed the glasses when I shot him in the face."
"You what?" Steve shouts, heart speeding.
"Look, he tried to stun me with a part of his armor, a glove of something. Didn't work, and well… shooting people in the face is pretty effective to get rid of threats, and he was one at that moment."
"Jesus Christ," Steve says, feeling queasy.
"Relax, you know he came out fine. I did shoot him point blank, four inches from the forehead but he'd put that glove on the muzzle, so it caught the bullet. Look, I'm not proud, it scared him pretty good, but that fucker is feisty. He took apart my gun! Right there as we fought for control of it! And smacked me in the face with the slide!"
Steve is frankly horrified about how it came so close for the Winter Soldier to kill Tony, but he can't help a smile. "Of course he did."
"Don’t sound so fond about me getting hit in the face. It hurt, you know."
"You came out fine," Steve says. Thank God the Winter Soldier hadn't killed… well that's not true. He'd killed some guards, when Zemo freed him. What a clusterfuck.
"I did. What will you do now? About Stark?"
"I don't know," Steve admits.
"Look, Steve. To be honest? I don't know what to tell you. This is a fucked up situation, I agree. But he did have sex with you. He can't be indifferent!"
"It was sex, not feelings," Steve says.
"Oh, geez. It's not always just one or the other." Bucky sounds fed up and Steve gets why.
It is true that Steve might be purposely downplaying Tony's interest, but it's the only way he can find a little purchase, a defense mechanism to squash unwanted hope in fear of it being crushed even harder later. He's honest enough with himself to admit it.
He'd better go, it's time anyway.
"We'll see," Steve says. "Talk to you later, he's waiting for me."
"If I say 'don't be too much of an idiot' will you listen to me this time?" Bucky asks, teasing.
"Can't make that promise!" Steve says. "Bye Buck."
Putting his phone in his pocket, Steve takes a deep breath, grabs his bags, and exits the room. Tony's downstairs, and has changed into his War Machine t-shirt instead of his black tank top, which clearly is like putting on a different armor, consciously or not. He's leaning on the car, on the phone himself for once. Steve hears what Tony says next, super soldier hearing and all.
"- stop yelling at me? Please? It wasn't like that."
Steve has a feeling "it" was the sex, and he immediately figures Tony's talking to Rhodes. Oh geez, seeing Rhodes and his now permanently disapproving face is not going to be fun. Also, the "it wasn't like that" is ominous. Tony sees him and turns around, trying to shield his conversation. It's not effective.
"Got to go. Are you sure everything's okay? Yes, yes, of course you can. But if-" he pauses. "Yeah. Fine. Call if you need me okay? You know I can-" another pause. "Fine. Be safe. Love you."
It's so casual, and it's something Steve's been envious about for a long time, the way Tony tells the ones he's really close to – okay, so maybe just Rhodey and Pepper, sometimes Happy – how he loves them.
Pretending he hasn't heard Tony's side of the conversation, Steve puts his suitcase in the trunk, his shield in the back seat, and then slides in his seat. Tony has hung up, and starts the car, that responds like a dream.
"Yes," Steve says, even though he's anything but.
For the first time in the trip, Tony opens the radio, and Steve takes it like a clear signal he doesn't want to talk and is weary of the silence too. Even if it was a bit tense in the car at first, it wasn't like this: Tony's looking only forward while Steve stares outside, save from a covert glance from time to time. Now that he's attentive, he can see color flash on Tony's glasses. Of course he's doing more than driving, how could Steve be so naïve? With each mile, Steve's anxiety ramps up. He's less and less sure he can do this, being this close with everything unresolved. Steve pretended everything was okay for a long time, that nothing really got to him, but he can't do it anymore. They leave Ocean Boulevard, take an avenue that leads to the 501, but when Tony merges on Highway 17 South, Steve cracks. He didn't even hold out for 15 minutes.
"I can't do this," he blurts out.
"Can you take me to an airport? I need-" to go home. "Just pull over, okay? I'll make do."
"What the hell, Rogers?" Tony says, hands tight on the wheel, voice hissing between clenched teeth. "Are you serious?"
"I just can't," Steve says; knows he sounds crazy. "What happened is a big deal for me, and-"
"And it's not a big deal for me?" Tony scoffs, and Jesus, Steve needs out of this car. He might jump out. "Of course not, why would that be? Tony Stark sleeps around all the time, right? Jesus Fucking Christ."
It's uncharitable, but a part of Steve wants to say that Tony's a lot more used to this than he is, yes. Even without saying it out loud, Tony guesses right on the money as he continues.
"Playboy. Yeah. I know, I play that card. I was for years. Did you know Judy is the first one-night stand I've had since before Afghanistan? Oh, right, no. Tony Stark sleeps around all the time."
Steve's stomach drops. That's more than seven years. Of course there was Pepper for a long time, but he'd thought that since… well he'd thought wrong, it seems.
"And then, no big deal, let's add a teammate to the mix!"
"I didn't want-"
"To imply I was a slut?"
"Of course not!" Steve says, raising his voice. He never thought that. Never. "I don't know what to think! Tony, we've had sex and I don't even know if you trust me or consider me a friend anymore. If you really wanted me there, or if you were okay with it, but just because Judy asked. I don't know what to think," he repeats.
"Do you know what I think?" Tony says, looking intently forward. He has sped up, too. "Let me start by the last part, there. Your mouth was still around my cock that I was making plans for it to happen again, and wondering if I'd have to convince another girl to have the ride of her life to do so."
Steve didn't expect the conversation to go that way and the words hit low in his belly, making arousal spike up.
"I've had lots of sex, so yeah, maybe that makes me a bit of a slut," Tony continues. "But I've never seen anything sexier than that. Than you, and how you fucked. Since I left your room, every five seconds I tell myself I should have at least tried to climb in that shower with you."
It's like Steve's body is thrumming, the very clear offer for more right there. But what does it mean, except that Tony wants him physically? It's a great start, it's thrilling, but Steve wants more than that.
"But then again, you barely looked at me and ran into that shower. What was I supposed to think? It seemed like you immediately regretted what happened."
"No!" Steve says. But that's not totally honest, is it? "Not regret. Worry that it would change everything, or even worse mean nothing. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to ask you to come in the shower, but I chickened out."
At last, Tony turns his head to look at him. "Yeah?"
There's something a lot like hope on his face, and it makes Steve's heart speed up. It's not a leer, it's not just desire.
"Tony. I've wanted you for years," Steve says softly.
Tony looks poleaxed for a second, but it's quickly followed by him looking ahead, and then swerving the car to the right, breaking hard to stop on the side of the highway. Steve wasn't expecting it, and neither was the car following them, driver honking furiously at it passes by.
"What the hell!" Steve exclaims.
"Oh no no no," Tony is saying, turning the car off and unbuckling his seatbelt. "You can't say something like that and not expect me to act on it immediately."
As he talks, Tony slides his seat as far back as it goes, but it's to make it easier to get over the middle console and literally climb on Steve's lap.
"Oh," Steve says, insides doing double flips, his hands immediately finding their way to Tony's hips. He's amazed, probably looks like a stunned idiot.
One of Tony's hand moves from Steve's shoulder to cup his cheek, and he can't help but lean into it. Tony's smile is full of affection and wonder and he moves his thumb back and forth against Steve's stubble. There a flashing glow on his glasses, and Tony huffs, hurries to take them off and throws them on his seat, for which Steve his glad. His eyes, without the barrier, are even warmer than his smile.
"This is a very good look on you, beautiful," he says, scanning Steve's face but then falling to his lips and staying there.
The anticipation is killing Steve, to be honest.
"Would you just kiss me already?" Steve rasps out.
He doesn't have to ask twice; Tony grins and leans forward to kiss him. To Steve's surprise it's light and chaste, a barely there press of lips. Nothing demanding, just a light and careful contact. It's also incredibly tender and does wonder to reassure Steve that he's probably not the only one with a bad case of feelings here. He winds his arms around Tony's torso and brings him closer.
When Tony pulls back it's just far enough to look him in the eye, searching. Steve feels totally bare, he's sure that everything he feels is right there on display, but maybe it's not a bad thing, after all. His lips are tingling and when he carefully licks the bottom one, chasing the feeling, he's thrilled to see how Tony zones in, pupils expending.
"Again," Steve demands, though it sounds shaky, like a plea.
Tony is more than happy to comply, though. Without being a smartass, even, which proves the importance of the moment. The next kiss starts closed mouthed too, but it's already a little firmer, more insistent. Steve brings a hand up to slide it in Tony's hair and he parts his lips, catching Tony's lower one. He's answered with a touch of tongue and Steve readily opens up, groaning when the kiss deepens. It's definitely not a surprise that Tony is a fantastic kisser, and the rush is heady, body ready to sing in answer.
There's a tiny sound from the driver seat, annoying because it's intruding in his bubble. It makes Tony huff and pull back, making that sound Steve's least favorite thing in the world.
"You know what?" Tony says, glaring at the glasses before looking back at Steve. "Whatever it is, I don't care."
"You're on vacations," Steve agrees, and smiles when he manages to slide a hand up Tony's back, under the t-shirt, making him shudder.
"Damn right," Tony says, grinning back.
He's leaning in for another kiss when both his phone and Tony's start ringing at the same time. It's pretty obvious what is going on, then.
Neither of them would refuse that call, and since Tony takes out his phone first, Steve lets him answer and put it on speaker.
"Stark," he says.
"Rogers," Steve adds.
"Look, I didn't want to do this," it's Rhodes, and there are definitely explosions in the background. "But we're going to need a little help."
"You said you had it under control!" Tony exclaims.
"Less and less true," Rhodes says. "They have flyers, and there's only so much that Sam and I can do."
"Wanda?" Steve asks.
"She's needed for ground containment. There are a lot of them, and speaking about it doesn't help! How fast can you get here?" Rhodes asks, urgent.
Sadly, Tony has opened the door and is already gone from his lap, grabbing the keys to go open the trunk and get his suitcase armor. The mere idea of him going alone, in that flimsy thing, makes Steve anxious. He gets out and follows.
"Thirty minutes, maybe," Tony says.
He puts his phone on the edge of the trunk and kicks the armor suitcase mechanism in gear, then punches into the gloves as it starts to deploy. They've trained with it, Steve knows exactly how many seconds it takes – nineteen – but once again, like every time before, he's totally fascinated to see the pieces unfold before locking in place around Tony's body. This time Tony stops the process before the faceplate shuts down.
"Copy that," Rhodes says. "Call in at 5 of your ETA."
"Got it," Tony answers. "Be safe."
When he hangs up, Tony looks at Steve and frowns. "Where's your shield?"
He was so sure that Tony was going alone that Steve gapes.
"I'm not leaving you behind!" Tony says, exasperated. "C'mon, hop hop!"
Steve hurries back to the door, grabs his bag and takes out the shield. He can hear Tony lists a string of numbers and FRIDAY speaks up.
"How can I help, Boss?"
"Send over Mark 49 and 50, interception course. All other workable suits are to assist Wilson in remote. Or Rhodey, whomever calls the shot."
Shield in hand, Steve gets back to Tony, who extends a hand.
"Hop on, darling, I'll show you the world!"
Amused, Steve sticks the shield to the magnets especially made of it on the back of Tony's armor, and climbs on the boots and grabs the armor with a arm around the chest and the other over the shoulder. Tony smiles and shuts down the faceplate, but Steve knocks on it with a rasp of knuckles. Tony looks worried when he opens up.
"I don't have my comm unit." It's a big oversight on his part, he's not proud of it. "So I'd just need to know about the plan before we go? Can this armor fly okay with my weight added?"
"Not for long, and not very fast," Tony admits. "But the good armor is already en route. Once the switch is made, we zoom on."
"If you're sure."
"I am," Tony says with a smile, and the faceplate closes again.
They've done the hug and fly, as Clint once called it, a couple of times before. It's obvious that the suitcase armor is not made for this at all. It's slow to take altitude, and Steve can feel the strain of the mechanics pushed to the limit as they take a direct path towards New York City. The flying position isn't very conducive to examining the ground below, but Steve cranes his neck and tries anyway. With no comm unit, he doesn't even try to speak to Tony. Anyway he's busy flying, only able to use one hand to act as a stabilizer. For all that they are going head first into a fight, Steve cannot stop thinking about Tony, at how clearly there are sparks between them that will light up like an inferno as soon as they have time for it, but even more about the tenderness in their first kiss, the promise of more. He is pretty sure that he's grinning like an idiot.
Five minutes or so into the flight, Tony dips towards the ground, visibly trying to find a suitable place to land. He choses a field at the end of a small town's street, mostly a residential area, and straightens up to land lightly on his feet, barely a bump.
"Always knew the three point landings were unnecessary," Steve teases as he gets off the boots.
"But way more entertaining," Tony says with a wink, handing Steve his shield. He steps back as the armor starts peeling off his body. "Don't diss it until you try it. Speaking of-"
He points to the sky, in the direction they were heading just moments before and Steve can see the familiar spark of red and gold coming towards them. More surprising, though, is that the armor isn't alone. There is a second one, shape more streamlined and with paint job a lot darker by its side.
"Come to papa," Tony is saying,
Steve turns to see three kids, just outside the park, openly gaping at the sky. They must be just out of grade school, or about that age.
"Tony," Steve prompts, elbowing him.
"Right," he answers, before turning to the kids with a smile.
"Greetings, young men!" Tony says. "How are you this fine morning?"
The boys step a bit closer together.
"You have Captain America's shield," the smallest of the kids says. It sounds like an accusation.
"I do," Steve agrees. "The rest of the uniform is at home."
"Then are you Iron Man? You do not look like Iron Man," a second boy says.
"Ahh, well that's because I shaved my beard," Tony says, caressing his chin. "Are you ready to see something cool? Stay right there, okay?"
The armors have arrived, and they do a synchronized three point landing, earning 'oohs' and 'Ahhs' from the kids, which make Tony wink at Steve. There's also visible nervousness on his face, though most of Steve's attention is focused on the dark armor. It's Navy blue, in fact, with a white star on the middle of chest, with parallels bars going towards the shoulders. A mimicry of Steve's old stealth suit and he stares and stares and stares.
"Do you like it?" Tony asks. "I tried to make it less flashy, but frankly the armor in itself is just too good looking not to standout."
"You made me a suit?" Steve breathes out, approaching the armor slowly.
It's at parade rest now. Side by side with Tony's, and several things jump out as he examines it. It is indeed more streamlined, less bulky, but still wider at the shoulder. Made of me, Steve thinks. The paint job is matte instead of gleaming, and the eye slits are glowing with a white light, like the design on its chest. Steve has no doubt it has firepower, but it doesn't seem to have visible missile holders. It's gorgeous, and Steve doesn't even dare touch it.
That Tony built Steve his own suit of armor is barely comprehensible.
"Why?" Steve asks, turning to Tony.
"It would help my heart condition if I never saw you jump out of a plane without a parachute ever again," Tony says with a small smirk. It's clear that's not the real answer; Or not the whole answer.
"Tony," Steve insists. "Why?"
Tony sighs, makes a gesture with his wrist and the red and gold armor opens up, ready to take him in.
"I couldn't sleep," he admits. He's being honest, but it visibly costs him. So Steve lets him get into his armor, and find a bit of comfort in that. "I was thinking of you, out there, where I couldn't have your back and it messed with my head. So I thought that, maybe, if you came back I could make sure… And if, you know, you'd leave again, at least you could have the armor. Not to spy on you, or anything. Just support."
Oh, God. This is huge. Tony giving him his most precious creation just to make sure he's protected is a definite gesture of trust and friendship. On top, Tony most probably isn't expecting anything in return. Steve strides to Tony, puts his hands on the shoulder plates and looks at him in the eye.
"Tony. I'm not leaving. Not ever again, not like that," he promises.
Tony's is blinking fast. He's not convinced, which breaks Steve's heart, but he wants to believe, that much is obvious.
"Okay," Tony breathes out. "Okay."
"Can I try it?" Steve asks.
That makes Tony grin widely. "Why do you think it's here, dumbass? C'mon, Rhodey and the others are expecting us."
Behind Steve, the armor has opened up, like Tony's does. He hands the shield to Tony and backs up in it. As he though, armor assembly is just as amazing when it closes all around him. Outside, Tony's speaking with the kids, asking their help to keep the suitcase armor safe for him, and that someone will come and get it back. When the faceplate closes in front of Steve's eyes, an array of projections and lights illumine the interior, floating all around his face. There are numerous numbers and graphics, but most of all it's gorgeous.
"Hello Captain," FRIDAY says. "I hope you'll enjoy the Mark 50."
"Thanks FRIDAY. It's amazing."
"It would have been best to have time to test it, but I'm sure you'll get the hang of it in no time," Tony is saying. "For now, just relax and let FRIDAY run things. Here," he lobs the shield at him and Steve just reaches and catches it, then slings it on his back where he hears the double clang on magnets.
"Ready?" Tony asks.
The thrusters engage, vibrating with power, and it makes Steve's heartbeat rise with it. There's a monitor for that, he notes absently. Getting airborne isn't a problem, as the armor just lifts and follows Iron Man, everything perfectly fluid. He had wondered, at times, if being in the armor was claustrophobic – he's not been a fan of enclosed spaces since the Vita-Ray machine for Rebirth – but it's not at all. In fact it's incredibly freeing, and the HUD, with the displays, make it seem as if there is a lot more space than there really is.
"How's it going, Steve?" Tony asks.
"It's great!" he says, watching the word zooms under them. "4 550 km/h – 2 827 mph" says the display.
He's been twitching his fingers and he realizes it changes radio channels. There's a little avatar that shows up, probably to define who's on the line. FRIDAY chose a grey Alien as herself, though could be Tony's doing too.
"FRIDAY, can I have control for a little bit, just to feel it?"
"Of course Captain, but I'll pitch in with course correct, if needs be."
Steve laughs. "I sure hope so! The armor responds to body movement, right?"
"Yes Captain. Show the intention, and the rest follows. There are also built in fixed movements, like pointing your feet slightly to ask for acceleration."
"Let's start easy," Steve says.
"Good Lord, what have I done? In insight, an armor is maybe not the best idea for an adrenaline junkie."
Steve laughs and stops the barrel rolls. His blood is singing, and he feels as if he could take on the world.
"No wonder you couldn't let it go," Steve says, and then falls back a little he's flying side by side with Iron Man. "Tony, this is amazing."
"I know, right?" he sounds so very pleased.
"I'm having, maybe, a little too much fun with this," Steve confesses.
Tony starts laughing. "You're hard, aren't you?"
"As a rock. Jeez." The suit in itself isn't constricting, but it's still not ideal. "I gather it gets less intense?"
"Yeah," Tony says, still chuckling. "Sorry to say, but the biggest rush is the first flight, a bit like doing heroin. But no fear, Baby, I'll make sure you have fun often."
"Oh, I have no doubt," Steve says with a snort.
"Speaking of, we're almost there, we should have a visual in two. Rhodey says they are still lots of mechanized insects, but the armors I sent earlier helped."
No one knows who had send them, but robots in the shape of insects had started coming out of the Hudson next to the ferry at Battery Park in Manhattan mid-morning. They break everything they come into contact with, may it be boats, cars, property or whatever else they can get their pincher or metal mandibles on. Reports from Rhodes said they are easy enough to destroy, but the problem is the quantity of them, as they come out steadily of the water by dozens. One in four are wasp-like, and take flight as soon as they are out of the water, and therefore take more energy to contain.
"Got it. Let's see how this thing handles combat."
"Your lack of faith wounds me, Cap," Tony says. "I've made the Mark 50 so it's vey bendy. It should be able to follow you in your normal fighting style. Ready?"
As they pause to hover above the battlefield, Rhodes speaks up on the comm system.
"Really, Tony? Really?" he sounds totally unimpressed and more than a bit discouraged.
Visibly Rhodes thinks Steve doesn't deserve an armor. If the conversation continues after that, it's on a private channel.
The mechanical insects are crawling everywhere around Battery Park. Steve opens a channel at his turn.
"Sam, what's the rundown?"
"Holy shit, you have a suit?" is Sam's first comment.
"He has a suit," Tony pipes up. "And before some of you get ideas, just forget it. I am not making suits for everyone."
"Enough chatter," Steve says. "Sam?"
After that they fall into battle easy enough. Steve likes the option to lift up to survey the situation from time to time. With the armor, he can't move as fluidly as he's used to, but he can do a lot. The suit is crazy powerful, though not as tricked with weapons as Tony's. He likes it, though he figures he might prefer fighting without if. He's used to throwing the shield with his regular strength. With the suit, he has embedded it in one building, a lamppost and at one point it didn't ricochet right and he almost caught Natasha. Flying, though? That he wants to do again. And Tony and him work great like this, throwing the shield at each other and the option of using repulsors blast on it's surface now goes both ways.
"How's it going, beautiful?" Tony asks at one point. "Looking very hot, by the way."
"It's great," Steve says. "Stop admiring the suit and do your job, dear," he quips back.
"Did you guys finally make up?" Sam asks. "Thank Christ."
Steve wholly agrees with that statement, and there is a general acquiescing murmur on the line.
"All good," Tony says, stretching out the 'all' for three seconds, smile in his voice.
"Guys, let's finish this please?" Steve says. "I have better things to do than to fight metal creepy crawlies all day."
"You sure do," Tony answers, demonstrating that it's possible to convey a leer with words and tone alone.
"God help us all," Rhodes says. "Please, please stop."
One of the alarms that Steve set with FRIDAY – to immediately warn him when a threat comes a certain distance from a team member– flashes on the HUD.
"Watch it, Nat, on your eight."
Yeah, the data he can access with the suit is pretty great, too.
The fight lasts another half hour, but finally the insects are corralled and destroyed, the flyers are down and everything is under control. Steve lifts up to survey the scene one last time, and, satisfied with what he sees, he flies to the team, standing together near the Quinjet. Tony has retracted the helmet from his suit and is looking at Steve arrival with a bright smile.
"FRIDAY, let me out of the suit please," Steve asks once he has landed.
It's impulsive, but it nonetheless feels totally right when Steve strides out of the armor to reach Tony, gently grabs his head with both hands and plants a kiss right on his mouth, audience be damned. It Tony's bothered by it, it doesn't show. In fact, he responds with enthusiasm.
"Wait, what?" Sam exclaims.
Tony chuckles and Steve pulls away, grinning like an idiot at the pure joy in Tony's eyes. God he loves that man.
"So that's how you get a half a billion dollar suit!" Clint says.
The dig makes Tony rolls his eyes. "Fuck you Barton."
"Hey," Steve says, kissing Tony on the lips again, just a peck. He knows the suit wasn't a way to buy his friendship, or his body, and he's not interested in Tony because of his tech and money. "I love you," he declares, sincere as he can be. "I've been in love with you for a while."
Tony stares for a second, but then break out in a soft smile, achingly sweet. "Me too. I love you too."
"Is it really necessary to do this here? Now?" Rhodes asks. Steve does note that his tone has mellowed, borderline on teasing, and the relief is immense.
"Yes," Steve and Tony answer at the same time.
It makes them smile at each other.
"You know, Honeybear, if you'd just let us continue on our vacations, you wouldn't have had to witness this at all. You only have yourself to blame, here."
And isn't that the truth? With a last kiss for Tony, Steve strides back to the armor that opens up for him like a cocoon.
"Hey, where are you going?" Tony asks with a pout.
Steve lets the suit close around him, and when the helmet sets in place he puts the sound on speaker and through the comm channel alike.
"You said it, on vacations. Come on, Tony, let's go get the car. We're going to Disney World."
They do fly back to where they left the car, but have fun along the way. Flying is definitely Steve's favorite, nothing like a plane. This is complete liberty combined with speed, and it's highly addictive.
"C'mon," Tony says at one point, and shoots up. As going vertically up, towards the sun.
Steve follows, eyes on Tony's boots and wondering how far he's going. It's high, way higher than Steve would have dared. When he finally stops and just hovers, Steve stays by his side. The sun is gleaming on the frost that now clings to the suit's polished surface, almost making it glow against the darkened backdrop. Not space, not yet, but so very high.
"Look," Tony says. He means the ground, but Steve can't tear his eyes away just now.
"Beautiful," Steve says.
He does, eventually, look down and yes, the view is gorgeous. They are far enough in altitude that the curb of the Earth is more than obvious, and the blue of the ocean, green, brown and gold of the land with clouds draped on top looks like a jewel. Steve brings a hand closer to the mask to observe the ice that is creeping on it, with its geometric pattern.
"The ice isn't a danger anymore," Tony says.
He laughs. "Yeah. First suit lost all systems when it froze, on my first flight. Fell down like a rock."
"Jesus, Tony," Steve exclaims. It's too easy to imagine.
"Turned out fine," he dismisses. "Wanna play?"
Steve wishes he could see Tony's eyes, he's sure there's that manic gleam in them that mean trouble. "Play?"
"Uh huh. Catch me if you can!"
And with that he dives down, full speed, and Steve immediately throws himself in pursuit. It's not surprising that Tony is quick and cunning, having years of experience flying the armors. But Steve's close on his heels as they do acrobatics in the air, until going down so low that they end up razing the Atlantic's waves for a bit.
Steve laughs more than he has in a very long time, adrenaline coursing through his system and so in love with the man who made such a wonder a reality that he feels as if he's going to explode with happiness. He tries to catch Tony, but he never succeeds. After a good twenty minutes, has to admit he won't, at least not today.
"I concede defeat," Steve tells Tony when he tries to cut his trajectory but Iron Man slips by, not even close.
"Oh, wow," Tony says, laughter in his voice. "This is a momentous day!"
Steve snorts. "You have an unfair advantage. I am new to this."
"And frankly? You're doing a lot better than I thought you would. A natural," Tony says.
"The armor makes it easy," Steve says.
"Flatterer, but thanks."
They are flying side by side again, when Steve realizes that they are following the highway they took in the morning. He can see the overpass after which they left the car. But Tony doesn't slow down at all, and there is no vehicle on the side of the road.
"Where is it?" Steve asks, confused.
"FRIDAY warned me earlier that the police took it to the next town over. It's close."
"Oh." It makes sense that an abandoned car was investigated.
Tony leads him to the police station, where Steve does see the car in the chained back lot. Tony lands softly near the entrance and Steve does his best to do it too (Friday helps and gives him tips, even).
A couple of policemen immediately come out of the building, and Tony retracts his helmet.
"Can I do that too?" Steve asks FRIDAY.
"Of course, Captain." His own helmet retracts immediately.
"Hello officers," Tony says.
"Mister Stark," answers the lady cop, a petite woman with a quick smile and a nametag saying Sanchez. "Captain."
"We had to leave the car in a hurry, to go back to New York," Tony says. "Sorry for the illegal parking."
At the time the stopping on the side of the road hadn't been for that at all, but Steve thinks it's better not to mention it.
"We saw that on TV," the other cop says. He grins and adds, "great job by the way. I didn't know you fought in armor, Captain. That was impressive."
"Thanks," Steve says. "I got it today. I quite like it."
He can see several other people inside the station peeking out, curious.
"When we ran the plates and realized the vehicle was registered to you, Mister Stark, we thought best to bring it here. Especially since the keys were in trunk's lock," Officer Sanchez says. "We then called the general Stark Industries line, happy to know you received the message rapidly."
"Yes, thank you, it's appreciated," Tony says. "Can I ask you guys one more favor? If you don't mind, I'll send someone to pick it up for me, since we can't put those suits in the trunk, they're too heavy."
Steve should have thought about that.
"Yes, sure," Officer Sanchez agrees.
"Excellent," Tony says, grinning. "Again, thanks for taking care of the car! Bye now!"
Without waiting anymore, Tony closes his helmet and lifts off, hovering to wait for Steve.
"Thank you again," he says too. "Have a nice day!"
"C'mon Steve," Tony says, already on a flight path that Steve follows blindly. "Let's go!"
"I thought we were getting the car," Steve says. He loves the armor, but had thought Tony would send both back to New York, and that they would continue like before.
"Yes. Which we did. Happy will get the suitcase armor, and then he'll drive the car to Orlando. We'll take it back again over there."
"Why not here?"
"Frankly? Because I couldn't care less about the car right now. My priority is a shower, in the Steeplechase Suite at Disney's Boardwalk Inn, and I can get there in 10 minutes flying, and in 7 hours with the car. Efficiency first."
"And I don't have a say about this?" Steve teases.
"Let me rephrase that. My priority is a shower, with you, and then not leaving that room for at least three days. Interested?"
That sounds a lot like marathon sex. There's only one answer to that, considering Steve's been aroused all day from either thinking about what he'll do when given the chance to finally get his hand on Tony properly, the adrenaline of the fight or the incredible rush of flying the armor.
"Lead the way."
The armors clash with the décor, standing sentry in the corner of the lavish living room of the suite Tony booked in a hotel right next to the attraction park. They walked right in from the balcony, but now Steve's getting more and more impatient for the manager to to just leave already.
"As I said, we are honored to be hosting two Avengers, and if we can do anything at all to make your stay better, please do not hesitate to call the concierge or me personally. Here is my card," he's saying, bright eyes jumping from Tony, to Steve, to the armors before doing it all over again.
To his credit, Tony hasn't lost patience even though it must be the fifth time the manager has said pretty much the same thing. He takes the card, shakes the man's hand as he effortlessly leads him to the door.
"Thank you Jeff, it's appreciated. I'm keeping this preciously," he says, waving the card. He finally gets him to exit the room. "Don't send housekeeping for a few days unless I call, alright? I have weird sleep pattern."
"Do you want me to ask for the kitchens to prepare dinner?" He looks so eager to please.
"No, not right now. We'll call for that too, okay? This is perfect for now."
"Okay, sure, thank you Mister Stark, Mister Rogers," Jeff says, craning his neck to look at him.
"Thank you, Jeff," Steve says, hoping his exasperation doesn't show.
When the door finally closes, Tony takes a second to rest his forehead against it. "Finally."
Steve wants to close the distance between them, press Tony against that door and kiss the breath out of him, but he's frozen, paralyzed with anticipation. Until Tony turns around, that is, and he can see how much he wants it too. After that he doesn't remember moving but they meet halfway, Tony throwing his arms around Steve's neck as they kiss, this one deep and filthy from the start. Steve pulls him flush to his body, hand on his ass, already hard just with this.
"Come on," Tony says when they break up for air. "I was serious about that shower."
"Okay, okay," Steve says, crazy with desire. Shower means naked and he can't be against that.
It's not easy to let him go, but Steve lets Tony slip out of his arms. Tony keeps a hold of his hand, though, and tows him towards the bathroom, past a bedroom with a huge bed. Surely he'll despair later about how the bathroom is over the top in luxury, with separate basins, marble, mirrors and fancy lights everywhere, but he can't spare it more than a glance, not when Tony turns back to him again and tugs on his t-shirt.
"Off off off," he demands, as if the clothes are offending. Steve agrees, in fact, especially about Tony's.
They manage to get naked and in the shower next, big enough to fit them both easily. Tony has started the water and Steve couldn't care less about getting clean. It's just a convenient excuse to slides his hands all over Tony's body, in his now wet hair, and kiss him like there is no tomorrow. He can't help the need to pour everything he feels in every touch, he wants to make sure Tony gets it. His desperation must show because Tony grabs Steve's face and kisses his lips lightly.
"Hey, hey, shush, it's alright. We're good. I've got you," Tony says, brown eyes so kind. "I love you."
Inexplicably, Steve's eyes fill with tears and, not knowing how to deal with the strong emotion almost bowling him over, he hugs Tony closely. This is so much more than what he ever wished for.
"I love you too," he says in the crook of Tony's neck. "I love you so much. I am so sorry about everything-"
"No, hey, stop that," Tony interrupts, caressing up and down his back. "I'm sorry too, but we went through this Steve. Do over means we put all that crap behind us, okay? We're starting over. Better and stronger."
Steve nods. "Together."
"Exactly." He pauses, and then kisses the side of Steve's head. "Maybe we're going too fast. We don't need to-"
"No," Steve says, clinging harder. Tony might be right, but he can't bear the idea to deny them anything, not now that they finally found each other. "I want this. I want you."
"You've got me, sweetheart," Tony says and they kiss again, slow and heartfelt.
Gradually, they start to caress each other again, everywhere but their cocks as if in a mutual understanding to make this last a bit longer. Pleasure is rising fast for Steve anyway, and visibly Tony is just as affected.
"Tony," Steve whines at one point. He's desperate for something, anything.
"Tell me what you want," Tony demands.
"Anything. Whatever you want," Steve says, rubbing against Tony's hip and groaning at how good it feels.
"Do you want me to take charge?" Tony asks, nipping Steve's earlobe. It induces a full body shiver, even with the hot water cascading over his shoulders.
"I can do that," Tony says, kissing him again forcefully. "I'll make you feel so good."
"Please," Steve begs. It won't take much, he's about to vibrate out of his skin.
"If I make you come, how long before you can do it again?"
"Fast," Steve says, stomach somersaulting with the idea of more than one orgasm. When motivated, he's got practically no refractory period. "A few minutes."
"Excellent," Tony says, closing the water. "I want to blow you, then make you come on my cock. How does that sound?"
Steve almost comes just hearing about it.
"Please," he repeats, close to overwhelmed. He might not survive this, his heart is beating so hard it's like it's going to get out of his chest.
As he promised, Tony takes charge, guiding Steve out of the shower for a quick pat down with fluffy towels and then bringing him to the bed, where he strips off the comforter and covers and leaving just the bed sheet before urging Steve to lay down.
"That's it, so gorgeous," he praises. Steve wants to pull him on the bed after him, but Tony shakes his head and backs away. "Just a second. I'll be right back."
Steve hates being without contact even for a second, but he relents and grabs the sheet when he sees that Tony just went to fetch lube from the bathroom. So that's real, then, Tony is going to fuck him.
"Jesus, Steve, you should see your eyes," Tony says, climbing on the bed to straddle his hips and bending down to cup his face, rubbing a thumb on Steve's cheekbone. "They are practically all pupils."
"I want you."
"I see that." Tony says, kissing him firm but quick. "I want you too."
His hands are on Tony's hips, reflexively closing tight. "I never did this, not past fingers."
It seems to surprise Tony, though he clears it from his face pretty fast. "Are you sure, then?"
"God yes," Steve says, nodding to put emphasis. "Please, Tony."
"Alright. I've got you," Tony says, kissing his forehead. "Tell me if there's anything all you don't like."
Steve doesn't want to be coddled or treated like a porcelain doll.
"Will you just fuck me already?" he asks, arching up and cursing when he can't get any friction, the way Tony's positioned.
It makes Tony smiles, a wicked gleam in his eyes.
"Is that how it's going to be? Okay then. Brace yourself Captain."
It's an endearment, he knows it, but Steve shakes his head. "Steve. Please."
"Sure thing," Tony agrees immediately.
He has shimmied down Steve's body, and without any warning but a hot puff of breath, Tony sucks Steve in the wet heat of his mouth. The sensation is like a jolt to the nervous system and Steve cries out. The blowjob has barely started that Tony is taking him in so deep Steve probably reaches his throat. He barely can hold to his control seconds in, babbling about how good it is, a litany of 'God' and 'Tony' spilling out of his mouth. If he looks down, if he sees Tony's mouth stretched around his cock and meets his eyes – surely Tony is watching him, he can feel it – then he'll come immediately and he wants this to last at least a little bit longer.
It was only a fool's hope, though, because when he feels a touch of slick fingers behind his balls, reaching his hole, he moans loudly, right on the edge. He wouldn't put it past Tony to read his mind, or at least his body as he tenses up, because he pulls off.
"Don’t fight it sweetheart," he says, voice a little raspy. "The next one is going to be better. Then, the one after that too. Let go, and I swear I'm going to make it up to you."
"Okay, okay," Steve says. Of course Tony is going to make it good.
When Tony sucks him in again, Steve tries to relax against the gentle caress of Tony's finger against his hole. He lets the sensation wind up, and up, and as if he timed it – he probably did – Tony sucks hard as he pushes gently in and it triggers Steve's orgasm. He bows up as pleasure courses through his body, coming down Tony's throat who doesn't stop swallowing around him throughout. When he falls back to the bed, Tony pulls off gently.
"That is it," he praises, caressing Steve's hip with a thumb.
Now that it doesn't make a difference anymore, Steve looks at Tony and marvels at his red mouth, how focused he is on him, searching his face. He smiles and feels like stretching like a cat, tension completely drained from his body for the moment.
"That was amazing."
Tony smiles back. "Great. We can stop at this for now if you want."
He starts to pull his finger out and Steve gasps as it sends a new wave of aftershocks. He clenches down, tries to keep it in.
"No, no," he protests. "More. Please, Tony, I want it. I want you to fuck me."
"It will be my pleasure," Tony says with eyebrow waggle and Steve laughs, feeling so light he wonders if he's going to float off.
"Come here," he demands. "Kiss me."
"You asking for kisses will never get old," Tony says as he obliges.
"I sure hope not," Steve replies, holding Tony's neck to keep him in place.
The kisses don't stop Tony from stretching him up, light touches alternating with firmer ones, then adding a finger and scissoring. It feels amazing, especially when he grazes against something that makes Steve gasp. Tony grins against mouth.
"Right there?" he asks, rubbing the same spot. It makes bolt of pleasure radiate out and Steve nods.
"Yes, that's good, real good."
"I know." Tony kisses him again. "Look at you, you're hard again already."
Frankly, Steve hadn't noticed, too focused on the sensations in his ass. Now that Tony has brought it to his attention, it's obvious.
"Yes, oh. I'd normally take my time more than this, but I really want to fuck you."
"Then do it," Steve urges. "I'm good. I want you in me."
"Okay," Tony says, with one last filthy kiss before he straightens up.
He takes his fingers out of Steve's ass to slick his cock and Steve can't stop staring, breathing hard. He's never wanted something, someone, this much.
"It would be easier for your first time if you turned around," Tony says, a calming hand on Steve's thigh.
Maybe so, but it's out of the question. Steve shakes his head.
"No. Like this. I want to see you."
With a small nod, Tony hikes one of Steve's legs over his shoulder and lines up. He then closes his slick hand around Steve's cock and gently glides up and down, making him moan as Tony gently pushes in, little by little. All of his focus is on Steve's face, searching for any sign of discomfort or hesitation. Steve stares right back, unable to look away from the heat in Tony's eyes, the way he's biting his lower lip in concentration.
"I can take it," Steve says, trying to move into it. "Come on, Tony, give it to me."
"In a minute," Tony promises, as he pushes in slowly. "Trust me, okay?"
"It's good," Steve assures. There's the pressure, and he feels full, but he likes it. Can feel it, and it makes it real.
At last Tony bottoms up and he stops moving completely. Yes, it's an adjustment, but Steve soon grows impatient.
"Move." It comes out a lot more pleading than the commanding tone Steve was aiming for.
But all that moves is Tony's hand, starting to jack him in earnest. It's not that it isn't good, because it's amazing, but it isn't what Steve needs.
"Tony, please," he says, trying to move himself. "Please fuck me, please."
"You'll be the death of me," Tony says, voice strained. It's the first sign that Tony is really affected by this and Steve revels in it. "You feel so fucking amazing, baby. If I move now, I won't be able to make this real good for you."
"I don't care," Steve protests. "I want you to fuck me, to come in me. We have forever to make it last for hours if you want. Right now I just want you to feel good too."
"I feel amazing," Tony says, pushing at Steve's thigh, making him curl back. "Okay, okay. I'm too close, anyway. I'll worship your perfect ass like it deserves next time."
And with that promise given, he finally starts fucking Steve. Long slow slides in and out that light up Steve inside. He gasps as over and over Tony grazes that spot inside that makes him see stars. It goes from good to really fucking amazing, as if a switch was flipped.
"Yes. Harder," Steve demands.
Tony immediately complies, short jabs that make Steve groan every time he connects. He doesn't relent with his hand, either, a twist around the head with each upstroke that makes Steve crazy.
"You should see yourself, so gorgeous," Tony says. "You're made for this."
"For you," Steve blurts out and he wonders if he can blush at this point, because that sounded a little too needy. Luckily it works for Tony, who grunts and only goes harder.
"Just for me," he agrees. "I'm the luckiest sonofabitch on this goddamn earth."
At this point, Steve can barely string two thoughts together except that he's never felt so good, so desired, so loved and that he never wants it to stop. He closes his eyes and throws his head back, letting the feeling wash over his whole body, pleasure going to new heights at every thrust. The only thing that's keeping him tethered right now is the points of contact with Tony, in his ass, on his cock, a hand on his thigh, his voice in his ear.
"Steve, darling, come for me whenever you want."
His body reacts immediately the moment Steve lets go, letting the waves of pleasure wash over him. His body clenches around Tony's cock who cries out and fucks him harder for half a dozen strokes, ratcheting up Steve's pleasure in return. He has the presence of mind to open his eyes to see Tony's orgasm hit as he stills and his eyes go hazy before half rolling back in their socket before focusing on Steve again. He can't help the grin, giddy, and Tony chuckles, still moving his hips slightly, probably to ride the aftershocks.
"Good?" he asks, lowering himself on his elbows and using his clean hand to brush Steve's damp hair off his forehead. Tony's eyes are happy, his smile pleased.
"Amazing," Steve says honestly. "Give me five minutes and let's do it again."
It makes Tony laughs, and Steve's never seen someone more beautiful.
"Sorry, sweetheart, but I'm an old man. You should have thought about that before choosing me."
Steve smirks. "I'm not worried, you'll find a way."
"You're not wrong," Tony says with a wink. "Okay, challenge accepted. Prepare to be amazed."
"More than this?" Frankly, Steve wonders if it really can get better than this, endorphins coursing in his veins and the reassuring weight of Tony over him, his fingers gently carding in his hair.
"Oh, you sweet thing," Tony says, kissing the tip of his nose. "You've seen nothing yet."
That's promising. "I have a feeling I'm going to love Disney World," Steve muses.
"Where Dreams Come True, baby," Tony says with an eyebrow waggle. "Or is it the Most Happiest Place On Earth? I'm not sure.""
It's not important. With the sweet kiss that follows, Steve is ready to agree the place lives up to both taglines.