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I Don't Want Labels, But I Do Want You (Never Eye to Eye Remix)

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They were fighting again. They were always fighting, after what the media called the Civil War . It had never gotten as bad as physical violence like in Siberia, but sometimes Steve wished it had. It would make things so much easier.

Steve could understand punches. They were simple. Two men, working out their disagreement in hand to hand combat, only ending when one side was too bloody and beaten to throw another punch. They’d walk away, agreeing to disagree, and move the fuck on with their lives.

But this argument wasn’t as simple as a squabble between two boys in the dark, backroad streets of Brooklyn. Their argument was about the politics of the Accords and the far-reaching implications of international law.

Tony wouldn’t budge and Steve didn’t want to either. Tony had good points about the Accords, but so did Steve. Yet, slowly, over time, the number of allies backing his position slowly dwindled to nothing. Steve understood why. With time, it was easy to understand and sympathize with Tony’s position.

So, Steve swallowed his pride and did what any real man would do, he backed down and compromised. It took some time and a lot of patience, but eventually, they started working together to fix the Accords.

Tony suggested they email each other instead of working it out face to face. It wasn’t easy, but the emails back and forth made things bearable. At least they weren’t yelling their heads off trying to be heard. Steve was able to express and explain himself to Tony without being interrupted, and Tony, in turn replied to each email with a maturity Steve had forgotten Tony was capable of. Steve was able to delete all the emotional expletives and anger he hammered into each draft and Tony avoided any sexual advances, much to Steve’s relief.

It wasn’t an optimal relationship, but it worked.

It gave them distance, which is what Steve needed after Siberia. Emailing back and forth not only allowed Steve time to collect his thoughts, it also gave him time to miss Tony. Every once in awhile, a clever word or line would slip through Tony’s professional façade and Steve would find himself smiling at Tony’s latest email for no reason. He’d find himself feeling nostalgic and go back to reread old emails, savoring the tiniest bits of wit hidden between lines of stale text. And after weeks of isolation and breaking down line after line of impersonal text, Steve began to crave Tony’s presence like a drug.

Of course, he’d never admit it out loud.

It started small. Once or twice a week, Steve would tune into the news to catch up with what was going on in the world. Just the basics; local New York news, weather, politics, and if UN was discussing the Accords and Tony just happened to show up, well it was a happy coincidence. And if he was browsing YouTube and video suggested a clip of Tony mocking the establishment with a grace even Shakespeare would envy, well, Steve was just feeling a little nostalgic for the old days. He couldn’t be blamed for what a computer algorithm thought he would like.

Bucky and the others seemed to believe his lie, and for a bit, Steve did too. But soon enough, Steve realized what he was doing, and he promptly cut himself off cold turkey from Tony watching.

He wouldn’t succumb to such sinful thoughts. Steve was straight. He wasn’t gay. Steve thought women were attractive and men were just okay. He could appreciate the male figure just fine, but he liked women. He liked the way a woman felt under his fingers. Granted, he had only kissed three women in his life, but still.

Steve had loved Peggy. At least, he thought he had. Steve had cared enough to want to marry Peggy after the war. The other guys in the army found her attractive in the traditional sense, but Steve was drawn to the things that most men overlooked. Peggy was smart, feisty, and  best of all, they got on like a house on fire. They balanced each other out and encouraged the other’s best qualities. Steve could have easily seen them becoming an unbeatable husband and wife combo. But seventy years had come and gone, and the time they could have been together had passed.

Peggy had told him was that it was time to move on, and Steve had tried his best to do so.

SHIELD had set Steve up with Sharon. Not in the romantic sense, but things could change. Steve liked Sharon. Sure, they were just getting to know each other, but Steve could see a bright future with her. Like her aunt, Sharon was good with a gun, sharp as a whip, and light on her feet. She had a brilliant smile and, if the nudges and encouraging nods from Bucky and Sam were anything to go by, would make an amazing bed partner.

Which was fine. Being good bad or good at sex wasn’t a deal breaker. It just wasn’t on the top of Steve’s priority list when it came to potential partners. Yes, Sharon was, physically, an attractive individual, but she was also mentally captivating woman. She was open, honest, and a beautiful glimmer of light in Steve’s world.

Yet, why did he get distracted every time Tony was in his periphery? Why did Steve’s gaze gravitate toward Tony even when the man just came by for a visit? Why was he fascinated by smooth one liners, brilliant conclusions, and cocky confidence?

Steve should hate that Tony made his heart beat like a battering ram in his chest. He shouldn’t feel anything when Tony gave him a coy, sideways smile. Steve shouldn’t want to wet his lips like a man lost in the desert without water whenever Tony, deep in thought, chewed on the blunt end of a pen. Steve knew feeling this way was wrong, so why did it feel so right?

He wasn’t gay. Steve didn’t feel the way gay people felt. Sure, Steve occasionally heard a  little voice in the back of his head question his heterosexuality, but he always managed to drown it out before things got complicated.

It was simple. Steve didn’t want to have sex with men. Steve didn’t feel arousal when he looked at another man’s bare chest. Dicks, hard or soft, were of little interest to him outside of the art room. And he didn’t think that the curvature of a man’s ass was anything to write home about.

But knowing that didn’t stop the unusual heat pooling in his stomach every time he saw Tony walking around the lab clad only in a skin tight undershirt. It didn’t stop his breath from catching every time Tony’s eyes twinkled in the light. And it certainly didn’t stop the dull pain in Steve’s chest whenever he thought about the distance between them.

He tried ignoring it, but that didn’t make the pain go away. Not seeing Tony made Steve’s heart ache, and Steve hated that Tony could cause him so much misery from so far away..

Steve hated that his heart hurt because it meant that he saw Tony as more than just a friend or an enemy. Tony meant something more to him. Steve wasn’t sure what it was, but it was Tony specific and it confused him as to why he couldn’t he feel this way for someone like Natasha or Sharon? They were important to him too, so why didn’t they make his heart race the same way Tony did? The frustration was making his blood run hot and he didn’t know why. It took a lot to irritate Steve, so how was Tony able to do it so easily?

 

Soon enough, it was time for Steve to sign. Everyone else had agreed to the revised document and Tony had pulled all kinds of strings to compromise and fix the flaws Steve saw in the execution.

But the moment Steve walked into Tony’s office to discuss signing the Accords; things fell back into their familiar toxic pattern.

Tony was sitting on the edge of his desk, a glass of something alcoholic in his hand. He took one look at Steve and then turned his attention back to the amber liquid. “You’re not signing, are you?”

Steve opened his mouth to say, “Yes,” but nothing came out. Instead he stuffed his hands in his jean pockets and shrugged.

Tony’s eyebrow rose with concern. “You don’t know?”

Steve shook his head. “I don’t know,” he parroted.

Tony was, as Steve had expected, pissed. “So all this work, everything we’ve been working on, after weeks of emails back and forth, all of it was for nothing!?”

“It’s not for nothing,” insisted Steve. “How can you say that?”

“How can I-”

“You got all the others,” interrupted Steve, weeks of pent up rage spilling out. “Wanda, Sam, Clint, Scott, Natasha, hell even Bucky was on board with signing when he came out of cryo for more than thirty seconds. I did everything you wanted me to do. I bent over backwards for you and now you’re telling me I have no right to hesitate? I compromised a lot here!”

“And I haven’t?” scoffed Tony.

“That’s not…” Steve shook his head, trying to focus on the purpose of his visit. “I didn’t come here to fight with you.”

Tony let out a disgusted laugh. “Well, you could have fooled me.”

“Tony, can you just, for five seconds, not be-”

“What?” Tony snapped, rising from the desk. “Abrasive? Annoying? A bully? A waste of space? A walking talking sex god that you can’t keep your eyes off of?” Tony demanded with each step as he encroached on Steve’s space.

Steve tried to hold his ground, but his feet walked back against his will. “Can you be serious for five fucking seconds!”

“I mean, if you’re fucking me, I can be serious about that. I’d also accept you on your knees sucking me off.”

“Tony!”

“What?” sneered Tony. He pushed himself up on his toes so he was almost eye to eye with Steve. “With all the pent up sexual tension in this room, I thought it was a good suggestion.”

“Can you just stop!” Steve slammed his fist back into the office wall, sending a shockwave across the room. The painted concrete cracked under his fist like it was made of glass. Lights flickered. A few whiskey glasses fell down and cracked on impact.

Steve just stood there for a few minutes, fist buried deep into the wall as he gasped for breath. He hadn’t meant to lose control. He had just come to talk with Tony. He hadn’t intended to lose his temper again. Slowly, Steve pulled his hand out of the wall. Concrete stuck to his knuckles like white chalk.

“You need to stop saying those things,” Steve choked out. It was hard enough having Tony beat him over the head with the Accords, but Tony’s sexual advances and innuendos were just making it harder for Steve to focus.

“You need to stop it, all of this. I’m serious,” Steve said, hating how his wavering conviction made his voice crack like a pubescent teenager.

The anger drained from Tony’s critical gaze. “Jesus, Rogers. I know, okay?” Tony said with a tired sigh. He took a couple steps back, giving them both space to breathe. “It’s just, every time we try and talk, I end up pushing all the wrong buttons. I’m not trying to push you away on purpose, but I just - If it were anyone else, I’d say let’s fuck it out of our systems and move on with our lives.”

“But not with me,” Steve said. “You wouldn’t want to do that with me.”

Tony’s head shot up. “Woah, hold your horses Cap. Of course I would totally - ah, shit. There goes my mouth again. Uh…”

Tony nervously rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, I know you and everyone else in the world consider you the shining paragon of heterosexuality. You’re straight. Fine, I get it. I need to stop trying to get under your skin if I ever want us to be civil again. I know that, okay? Don’t need to rub it in.”

“It’s just, everytime I see you, every time I open my mouth, something stupid comes out sending you running away to someone else and I just can’t-” Tony abruptly cut himself off. From the look on his face, Steve could tell that there was something else Tony wasn’t saying. But in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

“You know what, forget it,” Tony said in defeat, throwing the thought away like a ball of trash. “I’m the one at fault here. Let’s just move and forget this ever happened.”

He moved over to his desk and absentmindedly began flipping through the documents strewn across the surface. “Should have stuck to those emails,” Tony muttered, his shoulders sagging like a rejected dog.

Steve looked at the man, worn down to the bone with dark bags under his eyes, and something in Steve’s heart began to ache. His stomach flipped. Steve’s arms began to itch - they wanted to reach out and comfort Tony. He wanted to assure Tony that everything was okay, everything was going to be all right. But Steve’s military trained feet held him in place. His once sick lungs choked down his sinful desires and heartfelt words on his tongue, filling his body with a paralyzing fear. Steve couldn’t move. He couldn’t say anything, not without destroying what was left of their shattered relationship.

Steve wanted to keep it, not matter how broken it was. He wanted to keep it safe. He couldn’t lose it now.

So, Steve did what Steve did best when he stood face to face with fear; he pushed through it and jumped.

“What if I don’t?” ventured Steve. “What If I don’t consider myself the shining paragon of heterosexuality like everyone thinks?”

The paper froze in Tony’s hands. “You don’t?”

Steve shook his head. “Not right now, I don’t.” And saying that aloud made Steve wish that a hole could appeared under his feet and swallow him whole before he could say anything else stupid.

The hole never came.

“I don’t know what I am or how I feel right now, but whatever it is, it’s not how they describe me on Fox News.”

Cautiously, Tony turned around. “If you’re not straight, what are you?”

“I…um… I really don’t know,” Steve said, his voice trembling.

Tony took a step forward. “Why not?”

Suddenly, Steve felt three inches tall. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “It was just easier for everyone to assume I was and not correct them. And with the constant fighting during the war, it didn’t seem important. We were so worried about staying alive, the question of who you liked and why never really came up unless you were serious about someone.

“I mean, it did come up occasionally, but I talked about Peggy or played it off for laughs. The guys bought it, so it was never a problem. Besides, thinking about sexuality confused me. So I decided not to give it much thought unless, you know, it mattered.”

“I don’t know,” Tony murmured, take a few small steps closer. “Seems like it matters now. Might be a good time to figure it out.”

Steve nodded in agreement. Now would be a good time, but he hesitated. Every cell in his body wanted to run away from Tony as fast as he could. He hadn’t dug deep into his sexuality much and he was terrified of what could happen. What would he find out? Was he gay? Was he a straight? Was he faking being queer and all this was a misunderstanding ? Or was he something else?

Steve took a deep breath. Guess there was only one way to find out.

“I … I like women,” Steve confessed. “I liked Peggy and I think I could grow to like Sharon. But I don’t like her the same way I liked Peggy. And I don’t like her the same way I-” Steve stopped. The words caught in his throat, holding on tight to the status quo, but Steve forced them out. “I don’t like her the same way I like you.”

There. He had said it. And admitting it out loud only spurred him onward.

“I enjoy her company and I admire her as a woman, but what I feel when I’m around you is something different.”

“I know, logically, I shouldn’t like you,” Steve said. His shoulders sagged as he curled in on himself. “Sharon has always been in my corner. She’s looked out for me and helped me out when I was in a bind. You betrayed me. You signed the Accords and you went after Bucky and me like we were criminals. I shouldn’t like you Tony, and yet I can’t bring myself to hate you. No matter how hard I try to hate you for what you did to me and Bucky, I just can’t. My heart hurts just thinking of you, but it hurts more when you’re not around.”

 

“I tried calling you my enemy, my friend, but nothing feels adequate. I want to define what I feel, but I’m also scared of what will happen if I do.”

“Steve.” Steve raised his head. Tony stood less than a foot in front of him. His eyes were filled with a hope and a compassion that Steve had never seen before. Tony swallowed and Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. “What do you want? What do you want between us?”

“I… I don’t know,” Steve stammered.

But he did. Just seeing his reflection in Tony’s beautiful dark brown eyes, Steve knew what he wanted.

Steve reached out and touched the back of Tony’s hand, fingers trembling as the soft pads brushed against Tony’s skin. With a stuttered breath, Steve closed his eyes, leaned forward, and pressed a gentle kiss to Tony’s lips.

It was nothing big or dramatic compared to his past kisses. Steve wasn’t barreling towards the tarmac at 100 miles an hour. He wasn’t trying to distract an enemy agent by hiding in plain sight. He wasn’t offering a good friend thanks for an impossible favor. At that moment, he was just a boy from Brooklyn kissing a man from Manhattan. There were no lights, no sparks, no tongue, no fireworks, nothing but the soft press of flesh against flesh and yet it felt more right than anything Steve had ever experienced before.

“This,” he said, voice catching in his breath as they pulled apart. Steve wrapped his arms around the man and held him close to his chest. He buried his nose along the curve of Tony’s neck and inhaled Tony’s scent. “I want this.”

Steve wanted Tony and everything that came with it. He wanted Tony in his arms when he woke  up in the morning and when he went to sleep at night. Steve wanted to hear Tony laugh. He wanted to wipe your tears away when Tony cried. Steve wanted to be Tony’s everything, and he never wanted to let him go.

“But it’s not right,” Steve said, lamenting the loss of Tony’s heat as he pulled away. “It’s not natural and it’s not fair to ask that of you when I can barely think straight. And yet-”

“It’s what you want,” Tony said as if it were a fact and not a selfish wish.“It’s okay. As long as talk to each other and we’re both happy, it’s not selfish to want something like this,” he assured, brushing back a stray strand of Steve’s hair.

“But I don’t know what I am. I’m not straight, but I don’t feel gay either.”

“What about bisexual? Maybe asexual?” offered Tony.

That sounded accurate, but, “It doesn’t feel right. Maybe I’ve spent so long trying not to think about it, defining it just makes it-”

Tony brushed a gentle hand against Steve’s cheek. “Hey, it’s okay. Maybe you just need some time to get adjusted to it, that’s all. No labels. Just you and what you want.”

Steve nodded. He could do that. Labels were confusing, but being here in the moment with Tony, he wasn’t confused about this. Steve knew what he wanted and he knew who he wanted to share this feeling with.

He bent down and pressed another kiss to Tony’s lips. “I want this. I want you. Are you okay with that? Me not knowing?”

Tony smiled, the sparkle of his eyes lighting up the entire room. “Of course I am. Just promise you’ll be honest with me from now on. I try not to be a jealous lover, but I know I’m an insecure one.”

Steve could do that. Communication was easy. Feelings were hard. Yet in this moment, with Tony secure in his arms, the idea of communicating feelings didn’t feel so hard. Steve leaned down toward Tony’s ear and sealed the whispered vow with a kiss. “Promise.”