"Close your eyes and hold out your hands."
Steve's not doing it. The
last time someone said that to him, he ended up with
radioactive goop in unmentionable places, no eyebrows, and a
ringing in his ears that took three hours to clear. "No."
Tony gives him a wounded
look. "We're pals. Buddies. Bros. You want me to arrange some
trust exercises? Because I will." He pursed his lips. "Okay, I
won't, because they're bullshit. I mean, you don't have to
fall backward into my arms to prove you trust me, I know you
do. Deep down. Where it doesn't show. And right now, it isn't
showing, so hold out your hands." His eyes widen appealingly.
Steve frowns. "Why would
falling into your arms prove anything? If you didn't catch me,
it's not like I'd get hurt, even if we did it at the top of a
"You'd be surprised how
hard it is to let go and fall for someone even if you don't
think there's any risk."
Steve can feel the water
getting deeper and colder, hear the fin slicing through a wave
as a shark circles closer. Focus on something safer, he
tells himself. Not you in Tony's arms.
"What are you hiding
behind your back?"
Tony looks as if he's
going to try asking for the eye-closing thing again, then
visibly gives up, shrugging aside the minor defeat as if it
never happened. With Tony's attention span, he's probably not
Steve takes the two
plastic encased objects and stares at them. Figurines. Captain
America and Iron Man, detailed, gaudy with color, the
"Well? What do you think?"
He shrugs. "They're okay."
"That's it? That's all
"It's not like they didn't
do this kind of thing back in the forties, you know." He makes
himself say it as if it was a long time ago, pressing on the
bruise, scratching at the scab. "The Captain America shield
was the top-selling toy one Christmas. Every boy wanted one."
"What about the girls?"
Steve sets the packages
down on the nearest table and takes a seat facing the window.
"Is this when I say girls played with dolls in my day and you
lecture me about, uh, gender equality?"
"You say that like it's in
a foreign language," Tony says, dragging out a chair and
flopping down onto it. Steve gives him a minute before he's up
and pacing. Tony's tired, he can see that, but the man doesn't
stay still, ever. Steve wants to go into his bedroom one night
and watch him sleep just to see Tony relaxed, unmoving, for
once, but it's on the creepy side, so he feels guilty about
even thinking it. Tony's probably just as restless asleep
anyway, the kind of guy who tosses and turns, sprawling out,
starfishing across the bed on his stomach, the covers kicked
out of the way. If he walked in and saw Tony like that, bare
ass pale, legs spread invitingly, he'd...no. No, he wouldn't.
He clears his throat. God,
he wishes he could get drunk. He's gone from passing out after
one beer to being incapable of getting even the smallest buzz.
Doesn't seem fair. "Might as well be." He flicks at the
miniature Iron Man package. "So do the proceeds still go to
the war orphans?"
It's Tony's turn to clear
his throat. "To the-- Uh, no."
"Who, then?" Suspicion
rising, Steve turns the packet over and reads the fine print.
"Stark Industries make these? You?"
"Hey, if we're going to be
the victims of crass commercial exploitation, let's do it to
ourselves, huh? And let me tell you, Thor's hammer is the
cutest thing that's ever going to get swallowed by the pet
"How much are you making
off them?" Steve demands, tearing into the packages over
Tony's anguished yelps about collector's items, mint in box,
"You've got to factor in
production costs, distribution...impossible to say."
Steve raises his voice to
parade ground level one. "JARVIS! Profit on these pieces of
crap. How much?"
"They're not due in stores
until next week, but the projected net for the first day is
approaching 800,000 dollars, with estimated--"
"Never mind. It's a lot."
He pokes his finger at Tony. "To charity. Every single penny."
"It's not like I was gonna
blow it on wine, women, and song," Tony protests. "I was using
it to finance the team. Do you have any idea what the running
costs are with us? We eat a lot. We destroy a lot. We break
million-dollar pieces of tech a lot."
"So the profit on these
isn't going to make a difference to us. Drop in the ocean."
"It'll make a difference
to the kids who need it. My time or yours, there's always
someone who could use a helping hand."
Tony's weakening. Steve
knows the signs. The thoughtful frown, the momentary pause as
Tony changes direction. He nudges him with an appeal to Tony's
self-interest. "It'd be great publicity."
"I guess. Oh, what the
hell. JARVIS, make a note, send a memo, whatever."
"And this is your
time, Steve. You belong here with me. The team. Us." Tony
jumps up off his chair and yeah, here comes the pacing. "It's
cool though? You like it? Hulk's one is outperforming both of
us in the test groups, but I think you look pretty cute."
Cute? Steve shakes his
head and places the two figurines side by side. "Why are you
bigger than me?"
"I'm taller than you. Why
is my figurine smaller?"
"It's the suit," Tony says
quickly. "It adds an inch or two. Or whatever the to-scale
"And it makes your butt
look bigger," Steve adds, awarding himself a point for a
modern reference and a gold star for the pained expression on
"That suit was designed to
make my ass look even better than it does in real life, if
it's even possible to improve on perfection." He slaps his
ass, the sound curling like fingers around Steve's throat,
making breathing an issue. "You could bounce a dime off this
"I'd like to test that
No. He did not
just say that.
A coin, silver and
spinning fast, lands on the table.
"Try it with a quarter."
The coin is cool for a
moment in his palm, but he's blushing so hotly his core
temperature is approaching meltdown. When he looks at the
coin, he expects to see a puddle, not a circle. "I was -- It
was a joke--"
Tony bends over the table,
arms folded, ass up, as casually nonchalant as if he's not
offering his ass to be played with. "Go on. Test away, Cap. If
it doesn't bounce, you can claim a forfeit. You choose.
Anything but polishing your shield. I don't want sprain my
wrist getting a shine on it."
He's done this to test his
bed-making technique in Basic dozens of times, anticipating
inspection. He can close his eyes and smell the boot polish
and gun oil, the indefinable musk of twenty men crammed into a
The chair scrapes back and
he's on his feet, his hand on the small of Tony's back holding
him in place, his other hand rising.
The coin falls, a lazy
turn and twist and flip, falls endlessly, then strikes the
curve of Tony's ass, and soon after there's a muted clink as
it hits the floor.
"Well?" Tony demands,
twisting around without dislodging Steve's hand. "What did it
"I don't know," Steve
says. He'd been watching Tony's ass flex and mapping every
contour. "I think it just fell -- I don't know, okay?"
He steps back, rubbing his
hand against his blue jeans, trying to scrub away the heat
from Tony's back that's soaked into every pore.
Tony straightens, and he's
standing close now. And yes, he's shorter, but not by much.
Tony fills the space around him, steals Steve's air. "Hey, I
know a good forfeit."
His hand cups Steve's face
and a freeze ray couldn't do a better job than that light,
"Leave me alone."
He's begging. He can hear
his voice break, so every word is jagged glass in his
"Not going to do that."
"Tony, you really need to
Tony raises his hands,
smiling his dangerous smile, the dream-haunting one that
promises delivery on everything Steve's every dreamed about
and never had. "Backing off. See?"
He steps forward, not
back, and a complicated, confused, chaotic moment later, his
mouth's on Steve's and they're kissing. It's like licking a
frosty pole or a battery. Tingles and chills and a zing that
shoots through Steve's body then mellows to a liquid heat.
Steve jerks his head to
the side, his mouth worked pliant, slicked wet. "H-How is that
"There's a spider on the
wall behind me," Tony tells him. "Giant. Dozens of legs.
Probably mutated and deadly. I'm backing away from it and you
got in the way."
It's funny, but there's a
familiar, satisfied gleam in Tony's eyes. Steve's seen that
look aimed at super-villains just before the plug's pulled on
their grand scheme to conquer the world (and why do none of
them realize that's the easy part and it's ruling it that's
the life-destroying pain in the ass job of all time?).
"Done talking?" Tony
murmurs. "Want to get back to what we were doing, maybe
somewhere with a bed?"
"I said, back off!"
When he pushes Tony away,
he forgets that without the suit Tony's human. Fragile. Tony flies,
landing awkwardly, the swaggering grace that makes Steve's
gaze go to him every time they're in a room together lost for
"Tony!" Steve starts
forward, a hand outstretched, but Tony's already rising, his
hand rubbing his ass, his expression rueful, a little hurt.
"I'm sorry. Really."
"I feel your pain." Tony
winces. "No, wait, that's my pain. No, make that
agony." His eyebrows lift. "Mind filling me in on what I did
"You're playing me," Steve
says flatly, contrition forgotten. He points at the Captain
America figurine. "That's a toy. I'm not."
"Steve, I would never--"
"You want me? Ask. Don't
push me around a board until you think you've got me
checkmated with no way out."
"You think that's what I
"You've been nudging me
into position for weeks." Tony walking by half-naked, always
with a reason to stop and chat. Tony cramming an innuendo into
every other sentence, like a prize in a Cracker Jack box. Tony
always with a reason to touch him, stand close, save his
Okay, maybe the life
saving's incidental, not part of the seduction of Captain
America, but hell, knowing Tony, maybe not.
"You make it sound so--"
The door opens and Thor
walks in, Clint beside him. They're arguing about something,
but their words slip by Steve, as impossible to catch as one
of Clint's arrows.
"We're not done," Tony
tells him under his breath.
Steve shoves past him,
heading for the door. "We never started."
His mouth remembers the
feel of Tony's lips, so he knows he's lying, but he can't do
this. Can't be one of Tony's conquests when he knows that
after that submission, there's nothing Tony will want from
Tony doesn't kiss and tell
because Tony doesn't remember their names.
When he gets to the door,
he glances back. Tony's at the table, the figurines in his
hand, tapping their heads together, his expression unreadable.
Making them butt heads. Or
From here, he can't tell
Tony's been rejected
before. He never minds. It adds fizz to the foreplay, a sizzle
to the sex -- because, of course, the rejection's never for
real. He can guaran-fucking-tee that the pretty lips telling
him sweetly he's an asshole with no chance, ever, of getting
any, will be kiss-swollen and pouting as they part for his
dick an hour later.
It's that much of a sure
He's used to that. Likes
Being pushed on his ass,
knocked flying...that, not so much.
His ass is tender.
Bruised. His chest, where Steve's hand had landed, isn't
marked at all. He's studied it in the mirror, using the need
to check for damage as a reason to avoid staring himself in
No marks. Still feels as
tender as his ass.
He's annoyed. No, amused.
Make that confused.
The kiss had been a good
one. B minus. Room for lots of improvement -- like both of
them being naked -- and he wanted to coach Steve through using
his teeth just a little now and then, mm, yeah...but not bad
for a first kiss. Sweet. Hot. Like kissing a pineapple doused
in rum and set alight.
He'd been prepared for
some blushing, some 'I'm not that kind of superhero' shit, but
Steve had known what he was doing once the shock had worn off,
approximately a tenth of a second after Tony's tongue had met
He just didn't want to do
it with Tony. Arrogant, plays the field Tony.
Well, fuck you too, Cap.
Fuck you very much, you...
Tony runs out of righteous
steam before he can come up with a single curse to apply to
America's favorite hero. They'd slide off all that red, white,
and blue like water off waxed paper anyway.
Tony glances down. He's
rubbing his chest again, tracing a handprint that only exists
in his imagination.
He decides to do an
informal survey. The results will back him up, he'll present
Steve with said results, Steve will grovel -- ooh. Groveling
requires Steve being on his knees. There's so much he wants to
do to a kneeling Steve, who takes orders with a calm
acquiescence to authority that sends pleasurable shivers over
Tony every time.
Clint's hanging around the
kitchen, doing something to his bow and drinking chocolate
milk, which is frankly bizarre. Tony's never bothered to riff
on the bow and arrows being penis substitutes even when
Clint's pissed him off. He tells himself it's because it's too
boringly obvious for a witty guy like him, but he knows it's
really because Thor would start swinging his hammer
meaningfully and lightning strikes indoors are a pain in the
ass to clean up after the fun part's over.
"Hey. On a scale of one to
ten, what am I when it comes to being--"
"I didn't finish."
Clint shrugs one shoulder.
"It's you. You're a ten at everything. Make it an eleven if
Tony stops himself from
preening and then does it anyway. "Is that a compliment?"
"No." Flat and incurious.
Impossible for anyone to interpret as Clint being coy, but
Tony's not everyone.
"Are you flirting with
me?" Tony asks cautiously, secretly hoping the answer's 'no'
because things are soap opera enough around here without love
triangles. People get crushes on him a lot. Occupational
hazard of being, well, Tony Stark.
He'd always thought the
Hulk was the only one who could laugh loudly enough to crack
He calls Pepper and sneaks
up on it. He can do subtle. "Pepper, if you had to describe me
in three words, 'arrogant' wouldn't be one of them, would it?"
Not that Steve had come
out and used that actual word either, so why it's stuck in
Tony's head like an echo, he's not sure.
"No, of course not." She
makes a thoughtful humming sound. "Infuriating. Insufferable.
I'm having a hard time choosing between 'incorrigible' and
'annoying' for the third."
Wow. "But you love me?
Despite the fact that you know a lot of insults starting with
'i' and that's one of my favorite letters."
God, why didn't she just
go with 'pathetic' or 'needy'?
Pepper chuckles. "Don't
you mean 'words'? Yes, of course I do. You're also
intelligent, charming, and -- no, I think being charming goes
in the other column."
"Why?" He's honestly
confused here. Again. When did his life gets this complicated?
"You want me to be an asshole instead?"
"Your version of charm has
more insincerity than most."
"Again with the
"Are we done massaging
your bruised...ego? Because I've got a meeting in three
Bruised, pause, ego? She
knew. How the fuck did she---
"Who told you?"
Pepper laughs and hangs up
like the heartless woman she is.
"Tony smash," he says
through his teeth and throws his phone at the wall, misses,
and watches it rebound off a cushion to land on the couch.
He missed the wall.
Not his day, his week, his
Oh God, did he really just
earworm himself with a theme tune?
"Why was Tony crying and
banging his head against the wall?" Natasha asks. "Not that I
care, but if it was because of one of you, I'd like to know
who to thank for the smile."
Everyone looks away from
Steve. It's like there's a flashing neon arrow pointing at
him, and Hawkeye's probably got one of those lying around
Steve gets up and walks
out of the kitchen with quiet dignity. It's not his fault, so
he's got nothing and no one to apologize for or to. The
snickering he can hear behind him is just rude.
He wanders by all the
places Tony usually is to check up on the crying, though. It's
a disturbing image even if he's mostly certain Natasha was
exaggerating. Heck, maybe Tony put her up to it just to see
what Steve would do, and here he is doing it.
Dancing to Tony's tune, as
Tony's in his workshop.
Steve watches him from the hallway for a moment, not intending
to stay once he's seen the complete lack of tears, but oddly
unwilling to move on. Tony's tinkering with something small
made of metal, wires sticking out here and there. Blue sparks
erupt every few seconds, as if the thing's got hiccups.
There's grease under Tony's fingernails and a scratch on the
back of his hand. Steve wants those hands on him, even filthy
like they are. They'd slide over his skin, confident, assured,
knowing just where to touch him. Long, strong fingers sliding
inside him, a taste of what would come a moment later... He
wants to arch and shudder under Tony, pierced and filled,
taken and held... Release and a moment of oblivion...
He could walk up to Tony
and get that for the price of a few vaguely apologetic words
and a smile. Spend fifteen minutes or so naked in Tony's room
and find out what it's like to have Tony Stark focused on you
for a brief space of time.
Then watch Tony get
dressed, that focus fading, Tony looking forward to the next
warm body, the next easy lay...
"I know you're there."
Tony sounds subdued but when Steve turns to leave, his voice
sharpens. "Get your ass in here, Cap. Something I want to show
Steeling himself to seem
normal -- if that's even possible for him, for Tony, for any
of them -- Steve does as he's told and sits across the
worktable from Tony. "What is it?"
Tony pats the device
affectionately. It's stopped spitting sparks and as Steve
stares, the wires retract smoothly. It looks like a baseball
and it's shiny. Most of what Tony makes has a glitter and a
gleam to it.
Look at me, look at me.
Aren't I sparkly? Don't you just want to touch me, play with
me, make me hum?
"This? Ah, it's nothing.
It's a thingummy, a whatsit. Or possibly it's an
impossible-to-fool lie detector called, hmm, Henry. Depends on
"It's Wednesday," Steve
"Then it's absolutely not
a lie detector called Henry." The thing beeps, an honest to
goodness beep, and glows red. Tony wiggles his eyebrows. "Or
maybe it is."
"Or maybe it's programmed
to beep and turn red when you touch it?"
"Wouldn't be the first
time that's happened," Tony agrees cheerfully. "Why don't we
test it out on you?"
He tosses it across the
table and Steve catches it without thinking.
"Lie to it," Tony says.
It's heavier than it
looks, warm from Tony's hand. Steve knows he's being played --
the serum didn't just pump up his muscles -- but he hates the
way the air between them is full of question marks.
He'll play Tony's game. He
just won't sleep with him. He doesn't want to. Not
"Why is it beeping?" It's
going crazy, scarlet and noisy, vibrating in his hand.
Tony widens his eyes, all
innocence. "Didn't I say it reads thoughts too? What were you
thinking just then? Share with the class, Mr. Rogers."
If he squeezes it, he'll
break it, but it's Tony's toy and so he places it carefully on
"Um, in the interests of
full disclosure, you don't actually have to be holding it for
it to work now it's locked on you." Tony shrugs. "It's new and
"Of course it is. You
always have to do everything better than everyone else, don't
"Well, there's not much
point in doing it worse." Tony picks up a leftover piece of
blue wire and twirls it between his fingers. "Get kissed
He doesn't look away when
he answers. "Not that I remember."
hopping up and down at that one. Good. Maybe he'll break it.
Overload its circuits, fry it until it's scrap metal.
"I kissed you,
"You put your mouth on
mine. Not the same thing."
Henry goes quiet at that
and so does Tony. "I kissed you. I meant it." He flicks the
wire at Henry. "It'll tell you if I lie too, you know."
"Fine! You kissed me."
"And you kissed me back."
"I didn't--" Steve sighs
as he's reprimanded by a machine. What's the use? "Yeah. I
did. And to save you going all animal, vegetable, mineral on
me, yes, I like it, yes, I wanted more than that, and no, it's
not gonna happen, so don't pencil my name in on the
"What timetable? What the
hell are you even talking about?" Tony smoothes back his
unruly hair with an impatient shove. "I don't organize who I
Henry blushes faintly pink
and makes a chirping sound. Tony glares at it. "That was
triplets! It was a special case."
Triplets? Oh God. He
doesn't even want to think about that from a sanitary or a
logistical point of view.
"I hope they tied your
balls in knots when they found out."
"No, but the mattress was
never the same after we'd...never mind. That was then and this
is now." Tony leans across the table. "Old me. New me. Big
difference. You got kissed by--"
"The new and improved
version?" Steve pushes back his chair and stands. "Yeah. I
still don't want to dip my bucket in the town well, thanks."
"That sounded really
dirty. I'm impressed." Beep. Tony compresses his lips tightly
enough that they turn white. "Okay, I lied. I'm pissed. Where
do you get off being the poster boy for the morality police?
Yes, my sex life is the stuff of legends -- and like most
legends, there's been some editing over the years. I've slept
with maybe sixty percent of the women I'm supposed to have
fucked and when it comes to men, well, I'd need to
be triplets. But recently, don't know if you've noticed, I've
been busy saving the world. You live with me. See any
hot babes knocking at the door round about bedtime?"
"When was the last time
you had sex?" Steve asks, surprising himself.
Tony exhales. "The fact
that I have to think about it should tell you all you need to
know. Uh, a month ago? Five weeks?" Henry gives an indignant
beep and Steve's about to curl his lip -- he can pull it off,
he's checked in a mirror -- when Tony adds wearily, "Five
months, okay? God. Way to make me look pathetic, the two of
Henry's silence has an
approving quality to it. Five months? Five? That's...quite a
"Don't go thinking that I
was saving myself for you," Tony says. "I've just been busy."
The beep's muted, as if
there's some truth in that and Steve, who's been involved in a
lot of the busy, gets why.
"I thought..." He bites
down on his lip. "I didn't want to be a notch on the bedpost."
Tony rolls his eyes, then
grins at him. "I don't think my bed even has posts. Want to
come with me and see?"
Steve picks up Henry in
his hand, weighing it. "No," he says deliberately and watches
Henry turn crimson, turn scarlet, turn red, white, and blue.
Tony's bedroom is bigger
than Steve's. And yes, in an ostentatious, I own the building
kind of way, but standing in it wondering whether to take his
socks off before his jeans or after, Steve doesn't really
He's nervous. He's allowed
to be. Looked at one way, this is the first sex he's had
in...oh God, so long. Looked at another, it hasn't been long
at all, and that's even worse.
"You're not a rebound," he
tells Tony, skinning out of everything he's wearing beneath
the waist and wishing his T-shirt was a few inches longer. "I
want you to know that."
Tony, already naked,
reclining on a bed big enough that it's probably got its own
zip code, looks blank. "Uh, thank you?"
"And can you stop
lounging? I feel like you're going to be demanding peeled
Tony obligingly rises up
to his knees, kneeling up, not back on his heels, his dick
sticking out and up, matching the room nicely.
Steve's definitely not
complaining about that, though he has the feeling that even
under-endowed, Tony would still have that same magnet to iron
confidence. It's mental, not physical.
He realizes that he's been
staring at Tony's erection for a little too long. Tony's
grinning at him. "It isn't just the suit that gave me the
name." Tony throws in a hip-thrust and sings something that
sounds like a reference to a dog and a bird dancing.
Steve really doesn't want to ask about it. Tony can get
distracted bringing him up to speed on something that started
in a different millennium than the one Steve was born in.
"Stop doing that." Steve
peels off his T-shirt and look at that, Tony's the one doing
the staring now. He raises his eyebrows. "What? You've seen me
naked before. Remember when you had to hose that purple mud
off me before I mutated into something with too many legs? And
at least once a week there's a fire alarm when I'm showering
and you're always waiting in my room with a towel."
He's embarrassed by the
fact it'd taken the Hulk to clue him in on that one, with an
elbow nudge that would've cracked most people's ribs and a
growled, 'Only fire in Tony's pants, ha, ha!'
Waiting for Tony to look
even vaguely guilty would be a waste of time, so he takes the
tighten and twitch of Tony's mouth as Tony holds back a grin
as the only apology he's going to get.
"There's a lot of space
between us," Tony says. "How about we do something to change
Steve wants to, but he's
not done staring. His cock's the only part of him he's aware
of right now. It's at the stage where the stroke of a wet
finger would be enough to trigger his climax and all he's done
is look. Tony's strong and lean, battle-hardened, the
sophistication and elegance shed with his clothing. Steve can
see scars and nicks, and here and there faint bruises that,
given the suit's ability to soak up punishment, were inflicted
during a training session without the suit or the
after-effects of what would've been a killing blow.
The bruises bother Steve
more than they should.
"Is it this?" Tony puts
his hand so that it covers the center of his chest. "Think of
it as really out-there jewelry."
That jolts Steve out of
his appreciative haze. "Huh?"
"I've only had one woman
throw up for real when she got it through her pretty skull
that yeah, hole in my chest, not just a sparkly stick-on, but
it does freak people out and I can't blame them."
Steve's by the bed, his
hands on Tony's shoulders before Tony's finished talking.
"You're nuts. It's keeping you alive, Tony. The only time I'd uh, freak, was if it
stopped working." He traces its shape with his fingertips.
"It's part of you now."
"So's this," Tony says and
grabs Steve's hand, pulling it down to his erection.
Curling his fingers around
all that hard heat is reflexive, but Steve knows just what
he's doing when he lets go. His hand closes on captured warmth
and emptiness, but the pang of loss is worth it. No way is
Tony running the show. Maybe later, Steve will feel safe
enough to surrender, but this first time, he's going to be the
one calling the shots. He's been fighting with Tony since they
met. Sex won't change that.
"We do this my way," he
tells Tony and pushes Tony to his back on the bed. "You okay
"What if I'm not?"
"We still do it my way, we
just waste time fighting about it first."
There's a voice telling
him not to make this easy for Tony. If there's an Iron Man
dictionary, the definition of 'easy' is 'boring'.
"You're the take orders
"I gave orders.
People under my command obeyed them. I took them from people
who out-ranked me. You don't." He puts his hand against Tony's
face, needing to remind himself that under the suit, Tony's
warm, fragile, human. "And if you tell me you're the team
leader, I'll tell you that's out there, not in here."
"Want to tie me to the
bed? Put a collar on me?"
"All the super-villains
tie you up. It's a smart move, but gagging you should be top
of their list. Me, I want your hands free. I'm not scared of
what you'll do with them."
"Might make you beg for
"I was kinda hoping I'd be
asking for more."
Tony sucks in a breath.
"Oh, I think I can make that happen."
It's two minutes in when
Steve realizes this is different. It's the noise. Every
encounter he's ever had has been handled in silence
interrupted by muffled groans, bitten-off sighs, or the urgent
slap of flesh on flesh muffled by blankets. Tony doesn't
bother to draw back the covers or dim the lights. He doesn't
even lower his voice much, commentating cheerfully on what's
going on until Steve, nervous, exasperated, shuts him up with
a hand across Tony's lips.
"Stop talking," he says,
whispering it, eying the door anxiously. "What we're doing --
people might hear. And yeah, I know it doesn't matter, but..."
"Captain America and Iron
Man, sitting in a tree, F-U-C-K-I-N-G," Tony belts out with a
sunny smile. "Somehow, I don't think what we're doing will
surprise people. That we took this long, well, yeah. They were
probably placing bets on who'd crack first five minutes after
"Shut up." He's
blushing, hot and sweaty with embarrassment.
Tony rolls to his back,
shoves a pillow under his head, and taps his mouth. "Make me."
"I -- like that?"
Steve points out where his
ass will be and Tony grins. "Now you're making me wonder if I
can equip it with some accessories. Imagine the possibilities.
Plug and play."
Steve shakes his head,
disgusted with himself for thinking, even for a moment, that
Tony saw him as more than a warm body to fuck. The man's
crude. He remembers gentle touches, whispered, urgent
confessions of love, and bites down on his lip. Hurting
himself helps, but it's a bad habit, he knows that. "This was a bad
idea. This was a really bad idea--"
He's halfway to the door
when Tony puts himself in front of it. "If you go and leave me
like this, I'll hide your shield." Tony shrugs. "Plus, hello,
"Tony..." He's feeling
tired. Fighting doesn't wear him out, but five minutes trading
quips with Tony and he's wrung-out and jittery, though he
never lets it show. "I'm not ready for this. With you."
Tony's gaze dips. "Some of
you seems totally ready for take-off. Did I mention I'm really
good at working with small parts?"
"I'm not small!" God, he
is not going to defend or debate the size of his dick
with Tony Stark. "I'm
going to get dressed, then I'm walking out of here, and we're
going to pretend this never happened."
Tony purses his lips. "I'm
good with, well, none of that plan. Counter-proposal. You
naked, back on the bed, me, okay, fine, shutting up, also
staying naked, also on the bed. Sound good?"
The trouble is, it does.
Even with Tony's brashness acting like sandpaper on his
nerves, it does. But Steve shakes his head. "I'm leaving. I
made a mistake. A big one."
"Letting yourself have
some fun, isn't a mistake! We could die tomorrow. Gather some
"We'll die one day,
guaranteed, but I'd prefer to do it without regrets, if it's
all the same to you."
Tony looks genuinely
baffled. "It's sex. What's to regret? Even when it's bad, it's
-- okay, it's me. It's always good."
"I've got standards! I
don't just -- not with anyone -- just--" He hears his voice
break on a name he's not going to say and hurries on, burying
a slip under an insult. "I wanted this, yeah, but that was
before you reminded me what an asshole you are. Now I want to
go. You want to try stopping me?"
Tony shrugs and wanders
away. "Your choice, Cap," he throws back over his shoulder and
he sounds as indifferent
as if Steve's just said no to an offered cup of coffee.
He's got both socks on and
he's trying to untangle his briefs from his jeans when he
glances at the bed. Tony's jerking off, his hand sliding and
gliding over hardness casually enough that it doesn't register
for a moment.
He meets Tony's flat
stare, then turns away, scooping up the rest of his clothes.
He'll dress in the hallway if he has to, but he's not staying
to watch the floor show.
"JARVIS! Lock the doors,"
Tony snaps out.
"What the hell?"
"You don't have to fuck
me. Or be fucked by me. But you got me like this and you can
watch me take care of it."
He's seen Tony grim
before, not often, but sometimes. This isn't like that. Tony's
voice is chilled steel, his eyes sharp with hurt. He swallows
and lets what he's holding slide to the floor, ashamed for a
different reason. He's been like this. Aroused to the point of
discomfort, no outlet but his hand. Hell, he's still mostly
hard himself, anger lighting as hot a burn as lust.
"Look, maybe I can--"
"You can stand there and
watch. Invitation to do more's been rescinded."
"Fuck you," Tony says
through his teeth, and his hand blurs, squeezes, punishes
until it's all over and Tony's stomach is painted with white
streaks and he's lying back, staring up at the ceiling as if
Steve dresses like he's
heard the enemy planes approaching, and bites his lip again
when Tony orders the doors to be unlocked for five seconds, no
more. It doesn't give him time to apologize, it doesn't give
him time to explain.
If it was hung any
differently, the door would've hit him on the way out, but
it's Tony's door and it slides shut.
With a very final click.
Tony walks into the den
and holds up his hand when Captain Stars 'n Stripes gets to
his feet, clearly intending to leave before he gets a lungful
of Tony's used air. Won't share a bed, won't accept an apology
-- not that Tony's given him one, but something tells him it'd
be a waste of time -- won't share oxygen molecules. Steve's
been doing the pointed exits a lot recently, along with stony
silences, and icy, chipped-off monosyllabic answers to
questions that deserve better.
Or, as Tony likes to label
"As you were, soldier."
Steve ignores him, heading for the door, his face set in grim
God Tony wants to
trip him and watch him kiss the ground. He wouldn't do it, but
he wants to. He's feeling so fucking petty these days and he
He puts up his hand,
reconsiders slamming it into Steve's broad, muscular chest,
and jerks his thumb at the door. "Emergency. Something's
getting slime over the Statue of Liberty and it's green,
furry, and has tentacles, three adjectives that should never
apply to the same thing, especially not when it's twenty-foot
tall and the slime's corrosive."
"Green's not all bad,"
Bruce remarks and gives Tony a smile that's vaguely
sympathetic, from one shunned, spurned beast to another, Tony
No one's taking sides
exactly, though Clint's made himself popcorn and settled down
to watch the fun the few times he and Steve have both stayed
in the same room for more than thirty seconds, but somehow
it's All Tony's Fault and Steve's the injured party.
That's what happens when
you've got boyish good looks, a tragic backstory and a faintly
virginal air about you. Instant sympathy vote.
Tony's been tempted to
stand up in the middle of supper and set the record straight,
but he can't do it. He'd expose himself as much as Steve and
he works with these people. He leads them.
Kind of. Sort of.
They have to respect him
and if they knew he'd gotten Steve naked and then failed to
seal the deal, well, enough said.
And when the door closed
behind Steve, leaving Tony with a hand slick with come and his
gut twisted with anger and hurt, even he didn't have much
respect for himself.
He'd begged. Groveled.
Jerked off in front of the guy and Steve had stood there,
expressionless, blank, the offer of a mercy fuck clearly made
out of pity or old-fashioned good manners.
He'll have to research
fuck-buddy etiquette of the Forties to be sure about the last
When he isn't tackling
slime monsters, of course. God forbid he has a personal life.
Once inside the suit, he
feels better. No one can see his face and realize how often
he's staring at Steve and grinding his teeth.
He organizes his troops;
just Cap, Hawkeye and Thor; Bruce has decided to hang back
until needed and Natasha's off doing something for Fury. The
kind of something that Tony's learned not to ask questions
about because Natasha never flinches when he does, but part of
him wonders if she wants to and just can't anymore.
The crowd's thinning out
when they arrive on the scene after a quick jaunt in the
Quinjet. For a ten-mile trip, it was hardly worth it, but
traffic's a bitch and Tony gets seasick on ferries. With the
statue closed for repairs and only Liberty Island open, it's
still a draw for visitors, but the monster's just not that
impressive -- pathetic, really -- and the slime stinks.
There's a ferry waiting to take the tourists off the island to
safety, but there's no sense of panic, more a collective yawn.
The world's seen a hell of a lot worse recently.
"Taste the fury of--"
Tony stops Thor just in
time to save the Lady getting a thunderbolt. "Uh, Thor, don't
damage the statue. It's kind of a landmark."
"But yonder creature is
clinging to it. How can I attack it without damaging that to
which it clings?"
"Speak English! Or speak
less English English. I don't know, but we'll figure it out.
That's why they pay us the big...do they pay us?"
"A true hero's reward is
the satisfaction found in victory," Thor says absently,
twirling his hammer so that it blurs, making Tony wonder, not
for the first time, if Mjolnir goes out of phase at times like
this, sucking power from an alternate dimension. He's asked
Thor to let him examine it, but Thor's insanely protective of
the thing and it's not like Tony can sneak off with it.
Even the fucking hammer
thinks he's unworthy.
Okay, now he's
"What is it doing?" Clint
demands, reaching back for an arrow, then changing his mind.
"Besides clinging and stinking up the place?"
A tourist taking pictures
turns her head. "It came out of the water and headed right for
the statue. It didn't hurt anyone, but a few people passed out
because of the smell." She taps her nose. "Allergies. All
stuffed up. Doesn't bother me."
The suits filters out most
of it, but the fact that anything's getting through means the
stench must be off the scale. Steve's looking on the pasty
side and when the wind changes, Clint gags.
Thor seems to be immune.
The monster's slithered
over stone steps and onto copper plating, leaving a trail.
It's reached the Lady's left knee, and is moving its head from
side to side as if planning out its route. What it's going to
do when it gets there is anyone's guess, but Tony doesn't feel
like waiting to find out.
"Hey! You! Did you buy a
ticket? Stand in line? Thought not. Slither away from the
landmark, or get zapped."
Steve tilts his head.
"What is it?"
"Looks like a cross
between a poodle and an octopus."
Steve gives him a
dismissive glance. "I don't think they'd be viable mates."
Gah. "It was a joke. Like
you seem to think I am when in fact I'm dashing, heroic, and
an all round good guy." Tony takes a deep breath. Focus on the
target, and that isn't Steve, even though it feels that way.
What is with the guy? "It doesn't seem dangerous.
Nothing a bar of soap and a haircut wouldn't cure."
"It offends me," Thor says
darkly. "I will smite it and let the water take its broken
"I think there's a law
about throwing toxic waste into the ocean -- did it just say
The monster's turned its
head and if a face made up of slime-oozing skin-flaps and
tangled hair could look pitiful, this one does.
"I think it said
'Aaaargh'," Clint tells him. "Maybe it's got indigestion. Am I
the only noticing that the statue's dissolving and it's
getting bigger? Connection? Coincidence?"
Steve's mouth falls open
in horror before he takes off, shield held at the perfect
angle to catch a sunray that makes it glow, lambent, bright.
The guy's a walking photo-op. "It can't do that!"
Tony allows himself a
second or two -- okay, four -- to watch Steve's long legs and
tight ass in motion. Nice. Even mad at him, he can
still appreciate a perfect body. Knowing what's under the
uniform adds a bitter-sweet tang to the lusting.
You can look, but you
can't touch... except, he had touched it. His
hands can remember the shape they'd made cupping Steve's jaw,
his mouth knows what Steve's lips feel like pressed against
it, warm, shy, eager.
Okay, not that
shy. Steve had been pretty damn clear about who was topping,
Steve's shield bounces off
the statue with a clang and slices a chunk off the monster.
The sound bangs around inside Tony's head, dislodging some
sentence fragments that he's been holding on to, apparently.
You're not a rebound... I don't just -- not with anyone -- just..."
Oh, sure, there were
rumors. Gossip. Cap's life -- and death -- were covered in
detail. Tony's read a slim biography -- too much classified
for it to be more than guesswork -- and even that spared a few
pages to ponder Cap's attachment to his team, one in
Bucky. Long dead in Tony's
timeline, but there's that chunk cut out of Cap's and so...
Tony does some quick
theory-shuffling and groans. God, the poor guy. Performance
anxiety, guilt, concern that he was screwing up the team
dynamic...it must've taken Steve everything he had to walk
into Tony's bedroom and it 's no surprise that he ran out of
it as soon as Tony gave him a viable excuse.
"Stupid," Tony mutters
under his breath as he rises up to join the fight. "Should've
made it a threesome and brought Henry with us."
"See! It falls!" Thor
calls out, triumphant as a ringing bell. "Well struck,
"I am not cleaning
up squished monster," Clint says, an arrow nocked and ready.
Tony frowns. One hit from
Cap and it's down? Seems too easy. He doesn't like easy.
The monster swells, its
form changing rapidly, thickening, swelling. It's not falling
fast enough and Tony sees the thick line of
spun...something...that's wrapped around the statue and is
unspooling from the creature's body, allowing the descent to
be a controlled one.
When it reaches the
ground, it's barely moving and it rolls, gigantic now, a soft,
amorphous blob of green and hair. The tentacles have
"Is it dead?" Steve asks.
"I'm still getting life
signs," Tony tells him. "Faint but strong."
"Pick one," Steve snaps.
"Pick your nose!" And
regression to age twelve is complete. He tries to explain
himself. "They're faint because they seem far away, but if you
were on top of it, they'd knock you over."
"We are on top of
it," Hawkeye points out.
"I know." The
readings go wild and Tony circles around to land a prudent
distance away. The tourists have fled now. It's just him and
his team and Steve.
The blob is hardening
rapidly, green cotton candy turning to an opaque shell,
glistening wetly here and there. That's followed by an ominous
crackling sound as it
begins to rock and split. It's a nature movie in fast-forward
and Tony has his second epiphany in as many minutes. "Anyone
think that looks like a cocoon?"
"Maybe," Hawkeye says
cautiously. "So you think the big hungry caterpillar's going
to hatch into something we can be friends with?"
"We're about to find out,"
Steve says, striding over to join them. He's so fucking heroic
he makes Tony's teeth ache, but he's seen the man behind the
razzle-dazzle, insecure, lost, and that guy makes different
parts of Tony ache.
Later, he promises
himself. He'll tie Steve to his bed if he has to and make the
man listen -- or talk. Both.
It's a thing with wings,
but it's sure as hell not a butterfly or a moth. The tentacles
are still there for one thing, transformed to thin, whip-like
antennae. The wings are tattered as if the creature was born
old, web-thin in places, coated with verdigris like the statue
it fed on.
Tony feels an odd pity
"When I find the mad
scientist behind this, I'm gonna drown him or her in a vat of
whatever gloop they used to do this."
"How dost thou know there
was gloop?" Thor asks.
Tony shakes his head
wearily and Hawkeye answers for both of them. "There's always
"Look, it hasn't really
done anything. Maybe we can capture it, start a zoo for
mutants..." Tony shakes his head as the creature rises, a thin
scream slicing the air. Hate needs no translation. "No, guess
not. Avengers, let's do the assembling thing, followed by the
pow, bam, zinging."
"And you think that I
need to learn to speak thy tongue?" Thor inquires.
Tony's got a really snappy
retort, but then the fight starts and it's lost.
Four against one isn't
fair, but chivalry's never been one of Tony's weak spots and
he's more concerned with them getting out of this unhurt. The
wings turn out to be razor-sharp, those tatters perfectly
designed to catch and rip. His suit picks up some scratches,
but Hawk's bleeding in a few places and the star on Steve's
chest has been obliterated.
"Tony, smash," he mutters
and goes for the kill.
The creature's ignored him
for the most part -- the fight's been fast, as they often are,
and it's barely made it to the thirty second mark. For some
reason, the other three moved first, Hawkeye peppering it with
arrows, Thor swinging his hammer, Steve's shield carving air.
There's no room for Tony to strike without hurting a team
He hovers above the
action, frustrated, waiting for a space to fill with something
fatal to bugs, and the creature sees him as if for the first
Tony has idly wondered
what it'll eat now it's in this stage -- and if there's
another mutation on the way. From the way it's looking at him,
he thinks he's got an answer to the first question.
"Shoulda worn my Iron
Butterfly T-shirt," he says to no one in particular, and a jet
of green -- more fucking goop -- sprays toward him from the
creature's gaping maw, oily droplets glistening, a deadly,
destructive mist. He can't get out of the way of all of it,
and he watches as part of his suit's forearm begins to melt
like chocolate in the sun.
He flails at it wildly,
trying to brush it off, which is so deeply stupid he's mocking
himself even as he does it.
A second spray jets out
and he's so distracted by the effects of the first that he
doesn't see it until it's too late to take evasive action, but
Steve's leaped up, springboarded by a boost from Thor and
yeah, good move, Steve's shield will block it and then they
can end this --
He realizes Steve's shield
is on the ground just as Steve slams into him, taking them
down. Steve's heavy on him, but it's a welcome weight for a
moment and in the suit, sitting up is easy -- but as he
catches his breath, he sees a green droplet coming for his
face, syrup-slow and it's dripping from --
Steve's face is covered
with it, like a gross giant sneeze caught him. Steve's face.
Tony's suit had melted --
He rises, Steve in his
arms, struggling. God, he can't imagine the pain, and Steve's
not screaming, which is worse, because if he's not screaming,
maybe he can't, his throat destroyed, clear blue eyes turned
to dark, empty craters, that clean line of cheek and jaw
blurred and spoiled...
The water's right there
and Tony turns is back on the fight and takes them into it,
down deep, into the cold, clean salt water. He can't look at
Steve's face, not yet, not brave enough, but he watches the
tendrils of green join the water and dissipate and when he
can't risk keeping Steve under water any longer, he takes them
up to the light and looks.
Steve's choking, nose
running, eyes red, gasping for breath, gloriously furious and
"What the hell?"
"You're okay," Tony says
blankly. He lets his visor slide open, needing to see that for
himself, with nothing in the way. "I thought you were-- It
"Doesn't do anything to
skin, but I guess that wasn't the ideal way to find out."
Water's dripping off Steve's hair, clean, translucent water,
and he's looking less pissed. "Thanks."
"Right back at you." Tony
shakes his head. "Throwing yourself at me like that.
Shameless. Or are we pretending it was heroic, not just you
needing a hug?"
"I wasn't--" Steve glares
at him, but there's no edge to it now, as if the water's
washed away at least some of the crap preventing them from
seeing each other clearly. Not all, but enough. "You were in
danger. I rescued your sorry ass."
"Bullshit," Tony says
cheerfully. "I'm still your favorite Avenger. I knew it."
Steve shoots him an
exasperated glance. "You've never been my favorite."
"Liar, liar, pants on
fire..." Tony can't keep this up forever. He touches Steve's
cheek with his finger, wishing it was skin on skin. "I thought
I'd never see you like this again. Whole. Perfect."
He can claim the venom got
to him if Steve laughs at the sheer cheesiness of that.
Maybe it's the pint of
ocean he's swallowed, but Steve chokes instead, looking, yeah,
adorably confused covers it. "I'm not -- You think I'm--
Someone's playing music
and the sun's warm on his face. "I think you're--"
"Captain! Iron Man! The
monster lies in pieces. How fares it with you?"
Thor's sense of timing is
seriously screwed. "Not now, Thor, damn it!" Tony snarls, but
the moment's passed.
He'll get it back. He's
getting all of it back.
Steve's room is dark. It's
easier to talk in the dark, somehow, and it doesn't feel like
hiding, more like closing out the world so it can be just the
two of them.
Though there's a memory
with them that's like a third person.
Tony lets Steve talk, the
words halting at first, then pouring out. Friendship, love,
admiration -- then the twist of fate that made Steve the
Tony thinks Steve always
was, but he keeps that to himself. Steve knows how special he
is on one level, but on another he doesn't and never will, and
that's why he's special.
Why he was chosen.
Steve glosses over
everything that Tony guesses has been kept private and secret
for so long that talking about it would feel like disloyalty.
He respects that reticence and really, he doesn't want to know
the details. He's got a high enough mountain to climb as it
"I'm not like him."
"You're not?" Steve
laughs, quiet, confiding. "You didn't know him. I knew -- know
-- you both. You've got a lot in common. The way you smile.
The way you make me feel. You're not him, and I don't want you
to be, but you'd have liked him."
"Okay," Tony agrees. It'll
wear off, but right now he's all about agreeing with Steve,
building a fragile peace into something strong enough to
withstand everything they'll throw at it when they get back to
"Thanks for letting me
tell you about him."
"Thanks for telling me."
Tony lets the silence stretch and thin to a waiting
expectancy, then puts his hand on Steve's shoulder. "Are
"Yeah. It's time."
Steve's mouth is warm
against his a moment later, the taste of him, scrubbed mint,
so fucking clean, making Tony realize he'll never
measure up. Cap probably brushes for the full two minutes and
takes his showers cold.
But when Tony's hand closes around Steve's cock,
taking all that heat and hardness in his fist, claiming it,
Steve mutters, "Fuck, yes," breathless, demanding, a man, not
just a hero, and Tony smiles into the darkness and keeps his
mouth shut until Steve gives him a good reason to open it.
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