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Tony is a boxing manager with a past, someone who was once great, but has for reasons of his own doing ruined his own career. Steve's a young gun who really had no experience, but Tony saw something in him from the start - or maybe just, no other boxer with a lick of insight would trust themselves in his hands anymore, and since nobody else was really seeing much promise in Steve and Tony had nobody else who'd work with him, they came together - professionally, nothing romantic yet by far. With Tony's guidance and training, Steve fights his way to the top, to the heavyweight title match against the current defending champion, Vanko. But when Vanko enters the ring with Steve for the title match, as soon as Tony see's him his instinct from years in this damn business tells him that something is wrong. Their damn opponent is too optimistic, too pleased to be there. Nobody should be so confident climbing into the ring with a fighter like Steve's, even if he's technically still a nobody - even a defending champion knows how scary a young, hungry competitor is, so why is Vanko and his team smirking? And by the second round, Tony's pretty damn sure the other guy is cheating, either by wearing reinforced gloves or knuckledusters under them, because that's not the right sound and that is not how Steve's body would react if it was a clean hit. And when Steve comes back to the corner at the end of the fourth round, not even a third of the way through but so badly bruised and bleeding, Tony's tells him his suspicions and that he's throwing the towel in.
Except Steve won't let him. This is his shot at the damn title, and he's not going out because he can't take a few punches. But since he now has been made aware that the other guy is cheating, he knows he can't just let it drag out and win by strategy: he can't win by points, because if Vanko is cheating, Steve won’t last long enough to see it through. Vanko has to go down as soon as possible, while Steve still has the energy to fight. So the next time Vanko comes at him with a straight punch, Steve meets him fist for fist with a straight left jab, putting all his weight and power into it, hitting it so hard the metal breaks Vanko's hand as well as his own. That leaves Steve with his dominant hand, and Vanko in sudden shock and pain, so he swings with the right and knocks Vanko out cold.

Tony would know without Steve having made a sound: he'd know what it means to punch into metal like that. He'd be so angry with Steve; impressed, but so angry. The second Steve has his belt and has given his speech, Tony shepherds him out to the locker rooms, and throws everyone - including the medic - out. But once they're alone, he wouldn't say a word. Tony who always talks a mile a minute and is never slow about telling Steve what problem he's got, wouldn't say a word. Steve would probably be scrambling to explain himself and tell Tony why he had to, or why it was worth it, or offer any kind of explanation for defying his manager's call, and the forceful shove into the lockers rattled him almost as much as seeing Tony drop to his knees at his feet, wasting no time pulling Steve's cock out of his shorts, letting his balls hang over the elastic all pushed up and swallowing him down before Steve knows what's happening.

That's the image I can't get out of my head: Tony sucking on Steve's balls just a little too aggressively, hungrily, sloppily, dripping spit, while looking right up into his eyes, Steve still choking in disbelief and staring at Tony with wonder, while Tony is jerking Steve off over his own face. Tony looking up at Steve until Steve comes all over his face. Tony would moan heavily around his balls when Steve finally comes, and as Steve is coming off his high Tony finally releases them, lazily sucking open kisses to catch all his excess spit, then lapping the length of his softening cock base to tip, maybe even taking it softly into his mouth for the very last of his come. And when Steve's thighs really start quivering dangerously, and he's whimpering from too much stimulation, Tony releases him. Draws a thumb through the come across his face and purposefully catches Steve's eye as he sucks it clean. It's just burned into my thoughts. that eye contact. the Want.

Later, when they eventually get Steve to the hospital he desperately needs to go to, Tony would pace outside his operating room while Steve was down for the surgery and Tony can only remember how it was his fault in the end, because he's the manager, not Steve, he's supposed to be Steve's objective oversight and he failed Steve.

He'd spend hours in the chair next to Steve, waiting for him to wake up again while he stared at the cast on Steve’s hand and relived every hit Steve took, his broken ribs, his fractured arm, and the hand that with great luck and a life-time of therapy might recover. All because he listened to Steve and didn't throw in the towel. And sure, Steve wanted that championship, and he probably meant it when he told Tony he wasn't going to end this because if Vanko's a cheater, then he doesn't deserve to win any more titles. Cheaters have no right to stand on a winner's podium. But there'd also be that slight possibility that some of Steve's decision was because of Tony, that Steve wouldn't have wanted to let him down. That possibility is enough to make Tony sick to his stomach. Once Steve comes to after surgery, after the the doctors and therapists take a look at him and finally determine that, with hard work, he has a promising chance of recovery, Tony would be at his side long enough to let him know that he has arranged for Sam Wilson to join their staff in his place. That Tony will be leaving Steve's team indefinitely. He can't handle another match like that, he can't see Steve do what he did again. Tony left for good after that, leaving Steve in Sam’s hands regardless of what Steve tried to argue from the confinement of his hospital bed.

He left Steve in the best hands he could have found. And if Steve was ever to recover enough to continue fighting, any and every coach under the sun would be lining up to work with him. Tony had done what he could: Steve would not want for anything.

Some years later, though, there's a big match going on - not quite The title match, but a big high profile match in Madrid, with Steve as a defending champion. Madrid was a big enough city and so removed from America that when Tony left the boxing world behind and moved there, he didn't think he'd ever have to worry about needing to hide. Why should he, when the chances of them running into each other were so slim? Steve wouldn't even know he was there to go looking for him, Tony having left his whole career in boxing and competitive sports behind. He had a new life in Spain, where he had invested himself in starting up a youth center where neighborhood kids could go and learn a few things. Serious things like self-defense, or even just playing around.

Steve had not wandered out into the city to find him, but he had heard of this youth center, this little hole in the wall spot in Malasana between the hip restaurants and funky bars where boxing was turned into a healthy pass-time and basics of self-defense for young children who had few alternatives otherwise. And sure, he didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t really speak English, but Google Maps still understood what he wanted to find, and he got there in the end. One day he just walked in, surprising the kids with a visit to make them happy and support a space that's introducing them to boxing in a positive way for positive reasons, and he wouldn't even really think to stay for too long - he wasn't there to disrupting anything, after all - but when he walked in, the first thing he saw somewhere in the middle of a gaggle of teens taking turns on the punch mitts was Tony. He had yet to turn away from the kids, and only his back was turned to Steve, but Steve could have recognized him anywhere.


But Tony wouldn’t be alone. He had Rhodey. Rhodey, who was there from the start when Tony first fled, who helped Tony try to pull himself together to get past Steve. Anyone with access to internet or a TV would know Steve was in town, and even if Tony thought the city was big enough to preserve his anonymity, Rhodey wouldn’t leave it to chance. Rhodey would find a reason to be there at the youth center, just in case, because despite whatever Tony said, he wasn’t over it. He might not admit it, but just knowing that Steve was in town hurt him.

Thankfully, Rhodey’s preemptive consideration paid off big-time, because when Steve showed up unannounced at the youth center, Rhodey was waiting. He was the one who stood in the doorway and told him that Tony had moved on, and that if Steve hurt him again, Rhodey will make him regret it.
Later that night, Tony would all but drown himself in tapas and wine (and wine, and wine, and wine) and complain about how perfect Steve still was and how he didn’t deserve to be punched in the face for a living. That face was too perfect. Rhodey, it'd be like punching Michaelangelo's David in the face, and wasn’t that a war crime? And when Tony's finally stopped ranting long enough to breathe, Rhodey'd casually point out, you know, he thinks we're together, right?
And you know Tony. Even though he wants to keep away, he really can’t. Maybe he went by to see Steve in an open practice, along with a smattering of Steve's fans (and also the opponent's fans, who come to see what they're up against for betting purposes), and the media, all of them there to see Steve train. It was a beautiful sight, whether he was sparring or if he was throwing power punches at the reinforced bags. Tony would try to stay in a corner, try to stay unseen, but when the new manager wasn’t calling the right shots, wasn’t keeping a close enough watch on the trainer, and maybe even getting swept away with the media attention, more focused on making sure a good photo is taken of them/Steve/himself, Tony would get fed up on Steve's behalf. This was not what you were supposed to be doing the week before a fight: you needed to focus.

You could guess what he did. And, sure, he wasn’t not dressed for it, he wasn’t prepared at all. He had got a good life; he had other shit to do. But despite it all, he'd elbow his way up to the ring and yell up at Steve:

"Rogers, get this circus out of here. If you want my help, I'll get in there. You and me. And if you don't, fine, but this is not how you train to win. You won't last two rounds with training like this."

Steve would hardly believe he wasn’t dreaming. Here was Tony, Tony who got him, understood how he moved and his strengths and his weaknesses. So he had no doubts when he sent everyone packing; in the end, it was just the small team closest to Steve, his sparring partners, the medic and physio, and Tony, drumming Steve through basics, re-familiarizing himself with Steve. And one by one, as people on the team beg off from exhaustion, Tony dismisses them individually, never as the full team, requiring everyone to work as long as they can, until even Steve's sparring partners are all gone. And by then, Tony takes the striking pad up himself and drills Steve on further, in part to see how far he can push Steve, but in part also because he doesn't want to end their time together. It wouldn't be until night time, when even Steve was swaying on his feet, that Tony would call it off, tell him to get back to the hotel and rest. But Steve wouldn't want to so readily admit he's exhausted; this was his chance to impress Tony, and he wouldn’t want to let him go either. Steve would stay, hesitate, pouring sweat, standing but only just. Tony would be giving him advice on what to do in future, how to get what he needs out of his trainer and manager, but Steve wouldn’t really be listening as much as he was just waiting for his turn to talk. He knows what he's supposed to say: he was supposed to be grateful, to say 'thanks for today, I appreciate your advice,' but when the words left his lips, he was begging Tony not to go, to please not leave him, not again. Tony was the one Steve wanted next to him when he stepped into the ring next week.

Tony would try to back up, try to find the words to say no, except he knew from the beginning that he wouldn't have been able to deny Steve anything again after leaving him in the hospital after their first win. He couldn’t bring himself to say no, but he would physically try to put space between them, backing away from the center of the ring with Steve in cautious pursuit, backing away until he had nowhere to go. And once he inevitably caught up, Steve would gently take Tony's face in his sweaty, wrapped up hands, and brush his lips chastely over Tony's, asking for permission. The moment Tony gave any indication of responding to the little tentative kiss positively, Steve would immediately shifts gears, giving it his all to show Tony how he feels with his kiss, his hands, his whole body. He'd make quick work of turning Tony around, pushing him up against the ropes and jerking Tony's pants own over his perky ass, barely even down his thighs. Kick his feet farther apart while he's pouring out a palm-full of the body oil they'd been using hours ago for the cameras to make Steve’s body shiny and attractive for photos and video, using it now in excess to slick his hands and fingers. Tony's pants and briefs would quickly become a mess from all that spilled off Steve's hand, but greased up as his hand was, Steve’d work his fingers into Tony in such a rush in what he had assumed would be perfunctory prep. Except, contrary to what Steve assumed, Tony hadn’t been in a relationship with anyone, Rhodey or otherwise, and he needed more time than Steve first thought. And while it could just be that Tony was tight - he was fit after all, he kept active at work, it wouldn't be impossible - but driven by his lust Steve would draw the conclusion that he prefers, that Tony wasn’t being fucked regularly, so he could not be in a relationship with Rhodey. The possessive side of him just hungered to take him hard, making Tony hurt, making sure Tony couldn’t think of anyone else once Steve was done with him. Make sure Tony would remember Steve every time he moved tomorrow, and the day after that. He’d shove Tony away from the center and spread obscenely over the ropes, with one knee braced against a middle rope to keep his body open for Steve. A slick hand would come around to jerk him off, Steve's hand wet enough with the oil that it would just drip down his cock, down his balls, smear across his abs, with Steve purposefully working to undo Tony over and over again without letting him come, squeezing the base of his cock so tight that Tony wouldn't find any release But Steve would come several times, using Tony for his own pleasure, taking his cue from their only other time together when Tony had sucked his cock and jerked Steve off across his face; a man like that would be turned on from being used and filthy with come.
He wouldn’t pull out of Tony until he was satisfied, but he’d still keep him shoved up against the ropes and exposed. Instead, Steve would kneel down to eat him out, cant Tony’s hips back and spread his cheeks wide, eating his own come out of Tony until Tony was a panting, whimpering, wheezing mess, and the ropes were pretty much the only thing keeping him upright anymore. After countless months of being haunted by the look in Tony's eyes from their one moment of intimacy, of wanting him but never finding him, Steve wouldn't want to stop. If they stopped, Tony might never come back. This could be their last time all over again. So Steve would throw an arm across Tony's hips to anchor him in place against the ropes, first to straight up rim him, then eventually press his fingers in, too, spreading Tony further for his tongue and mouth or to massage his prostate, forcing an orgasm out of Tony at last.

Tony wouldn't have much strength to stand after that, if to even stay awake. When Steve was finally done with him, he'd help Tony get fixed up as best as he could, drape him in an overcoat and take him back to his hotel.

But then next morning Steve would again wake up to find he was alone. Tony had snuck out of bed in the morning before Steve got up. And all in one breath, Steve's heart would sink, devastated to again lose Tony without so much as a chance to beg him to stay. He’d be so busy with his own racing thoughts that he wouldn’t realize Tony was sitting on the bedroom floor behind the nightstand, hunched in on himself and mostly hidden by it. Because here they go again, him and his feelings for Steve, and Steve still had a fight next week. He'd have to stand there and stomach watching Steve beaten down to god knows what state again.

As soon as Steve noticed that Tony was still there, that he was having an emotional crisis, he'd rush down to him, crouch down with him and try to calm him down and convince him it wouldn’t be as bad as with Vanko. They're going through so much more to catch cheaters now, this would be a clean fight. But Tony all could see was Steve's battered face, his crushed hand, and Steve would have no way to respond to that, not with words. So he would cradle Tony's face in his hands, carefully and slowly talking him off the ledge, pressing little kisses into Tony’s hair, his face, working his way to Tony’s lips, until soon he'd be cradling Tony's whole body in his own, enveloping him completely and kissing him softly, slowly, showing a completely different side of himself than yesterday's fierce lust.

Steve would be bracketed between Tony's thighs, with Tony's body curled up into Steve, both tangled together. It wouldn't take long for Steve to dig into the nightstand behind Tony for the lube he kept there, sometimes for company, sometimes for his own hand. And with Tony's thighs spread, his hips canted up on Steve's knees, for all intents and purposes offered up to him, Steve could get a hand between them and press two, three lubed fingers into him. And even with last night’s multiple rounds it was still a tight stretch, a burn with the pleasure. But Steve would waste little time pushing right in, swallowing Tony's moaned whimper in a kiss. Show Tony how much he cared this time, kissing him thoroughly, cradling him close, protecting him from the world with his body, rocking into him with slow, rolling hips, luxuriating in him right there on the floor in a little cranny cramped together in a tiny space between the wall and the nightstand, with Tony's back pressed against nightstand, Steve rocking the furniture with every thrust. Steve would have his full attention on taking care of Tony, on pushing him past his fear of losing Steve, or seeing him hurt.

With all that attention and focus, wanting to take care of him, Steve would make damn sure that Tony came first. And as Tony was catching his breath, body still going through tremors, fingers still curled around Steve's hair, Steve would pull him even closer and push in further, wrap his arms around Tony's body and lift, moving them to the bed and ease them back down, taking care with laying Tony back on the sheets and following him down, covering him, rocking slowly and gently into him through his orgasm.

Much later, after a second for Tony and Steve coming hard at last, Tony'd just give up resisting. He wouldn't have so much energy left, he'd really just want to fall back asleep, but he'd motion Steve closer to press their foreheads together, and he'd quietly promise not to leave, that he'd come back to Steve's team on the condition that they return to their original agreement, that Steve would only (and always) do precisely what Tony told him.

Steve would agree in a heartbeat.

Chapter Text

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 07:37 >
I blame you.

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 07:37 >
My bed’s a lost cause it’s gross and broken.

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 07:38 >
There should be a limit to the level of dick a man can handle.

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 07:38 >
Send ginger chicken soup and ALL THE VASELINE.

It took several minutes for Tony to turn away from wiring the finer sensor and rotating mechanism of his robot’s claw, but nothing about the damn device made sense. When had 9PM become 8AM? Who the hell did he not know from Brooklyn (and why doesn’t he already know him or her)?

New phone who dis?

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:12 >
Bucky this isn’t funny.

How am I supposed to know what bed you’re in

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:13 >
Attachment: 1 Location.

Dicks still on parade?

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:26 >

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:26 >

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:26 >

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:27 >
Damnit Bucky don’t be difficult just bring me the ducking soup

Can’t leave right now but ginger chicken soup and ALL THE VASELINE are en route

Lube up & feel better

RECEIVED FROM UNKNOWN NUMBER (+718 212 8766) @ 08:28 >
Thanks. But i still blame you.

I don’t know who you are but i don’t care

This is the best chicken soup i’ve ever had

Don’t tell my mom

Wouldn’t dream of it

Who are you?

Friends call me Tony

I’m Steve.

Not to be too awkward but you’re not some kid or old dude are you?

Isn’t that relative?

I’m 20

Senior in college.

19 student in Boston too

I’d like to take you to coffee when I’m better

If you’re single + interested in men… maybe consider it a date?

I like your style

It’s a date

Chapter Text

It took hours, but sometime after 9am Steve finally got up and crossed the bullpen in the direction of the bathroom. Tony shot up from behind his desk and low-key ran over to plant himself in the spare chair beside Sam’s desk.

“Wilson, I need a favor,” he announced, pitching his voice low. “Steve’s birthday is in two days and the man eats everything. He likes everything. He’s perfect. You gotta help me: where do I take the man for a birthday feast? Something special.”

“What’s this? Detective Stark has a heart? A romantic heart?” Sam gasped in feigned astonishment.

From across the bullpen, they heard Natasha chamber her SIG. “Wilson. I believe my partner asked you a question.”

“Alright, alright, no need to get nasty, Romanov,” Sam muttered, but he folded in a heartbeat. “So what’re you after, man? You wanna know the spots he’s been wanting to try, or just the food he loves so you can get some good reservations?”

“I know those categories,” Bucky said from his own desk, perking up with a broad grin. “Stark, are you planning a date?”

“Don’t get involved, Barnes,” Rhodey suggested, but Bucky blatantly ignored him.

“He needs all the help he can get,” Bucky reasoned. “Sam might be Steve’s partner, but I’m his best friend. So, here’s what you do, Stark: you order take-out from a really nice place and you throw it in a pot, then act like you cooked it.”

“First of all, the man’s allergic to liars; remember last week when he wouldn’t believe you knocked his cup off the desk?”

“Because you spent two minutes explaining how Barnes did it,” Natasha reminded him, which Tony elected to ignore without acknowledgement.

“Second, hell no,” Tony continued emphatically. “We’ve been dating for five weeks; this is not a marriage. I’m not buying a fucking pot.”

Bucky stared across at his partner in the kind of disbelief that, not for the first time, begged the question of how Tony had ever made it to this age, but Rhodey shook his head slowly and went back to his paperwork. Some questions were better left unanswered.

“Dude, listen. I hate the burst your bubble, but,” Clint said from his leisurely sprawl at his desk nearest the Captain’s office, and he paused long enough to thoroughly chew and swallow his beef jerky before elaborating. “The man’s birthday’s the Fourth of fucking July. You ain’t getting a reservation for a day like that in a city like this with two days to spare.”

“Nobody likes a naysayer, Barton,” Tony hissed in alarm, “you’re wasting valuable time and oxygen.”

“Why don’t you take him on a tour of some Brooklyn roach coaches?” Rhodey suggested. “He always complains about Manhattan being a sterile financial district with no character—”

“Down boy,” Bucky cautioned him.

“Take him to see the roof top view from the Empire State Building at sunset.”

A hush fell over the precinct as the detectives turned as one towards the holding cells to eye the grimy drunk leaning his weight against the bars.

“What, I can’t have ideas?” the man asked. “It’s a sure hit, dude. You could pee on the whole city from there.”

Tony stared at the man in silence for another beat before turning back to his colleagues. “I hate to say it, but up until the public urination, that’s the best plan we’ve got so far.”

“Uh, Stark? He—”

An icy chill clawed its way through Tony’s body at the aborted warning. "He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he.”

“Why don’t you take me to Bea in Hell’s Kitchen?”

“How much of that did you hear, Rogers?”

Steve strode across the bullpen, smirking at his good fortune. “I heard every word, Detective.”

Tony closed his eyes, hanging his head in defeat. “Not fair, I didn’t know you could do that.”

“Not through the walls,” Steve admitted with a little shrug of his broad shoulders. “But you’d been on the same half sheet of paperwork for forty minutes, and my birthday is on Thursday. Stealth never was your strong suit, Stark.”

“Neither is dating, clearly,” Tony muttered, and finally he spun in his seat to face Steve.

“Or detecting,” Bucky dropped in a stage whisper, and Rhodey fished a peanut M&M out of his snack jar and lobbed it at him. Bucky, predictably, caught it in his mouth.

“He’s not wrong,” Steve agreed slowly, and he leaned in closer to brace his weight against the chair Tony sat in, boxing him in between his arms. “Neither of those are your strongest suit.”

“Those pecs make up for a lot, Rogers, but you are going nowhere fast…”

“Your best suit is your birthday suit. And incidentally,” Steve whispered against his jaw, a rumbling sound deep in his chest. “Your birthday suit is my only birthday wish.”

Chapter Text

“Room service!”

Steve startled on the couch and, for just a moment, wondered if he had heard a voice or if it had been his imagination. With a shrug, he flipped his notebook shut, tucked it under some pillows, then went to go check the door.

There was Tony, clear as day, in scuffed sneakers and a travel-worn duffle bag dumped on the floor at his feet.

“I didn’t order this,” Steve said with a tired sigh. “I said medium-rare; this is we’re-done.”

“Don’t give me that, Rogers,” Tony said quietly, glancing down the hallway then as if to check for someone in pursuit. “Look, please. That was three years ago. Can we talk?”

“That was the problem the first time, wasn’t it?” Steve pointed out, leaning into the doorframe now instead and holding the door in a firm grip, as if Tony might try to barrel his way into the room and Steve had to brace himself for the tackle.

“We talked. I trusted you. You published anyway.”

“It was good stuff!” Tony insisted, visibly struggling to keep his hands to himself. “Steve, please. I was careful—there was nothing unflattering—and you, you got picked up by LA.”

“I don’t care if it was good or unflattering, Stark: it was told in confidence. The world doesn’t need to know everything about me. You know how hard Fury and Coulson had to fight for them to even let me compete here?”

“They can’t stop you from playing in Qatar just because you’re bi,” Tony tried to say, but even as the words came out of his mouth, he regretted them. Yes, they could.

“In what world—yes, they can!” Steve hissed.

“Look, they couldn’t afford the backlash—”

“—Gay is gay to people here! That’s all that matters. Homosexuality is illegal, do you get that? Four hundred lashes and who knows how many months in prison. I can’t leave my fucking room without an escort, for the safety of everyone around us. So I don’t look at another man the wrong way. Can’t you see what you’ve done?”

“What I’ve done? I gave a whole fucking community a hero!” Tony snarled in reply. “For the kids who are struggling to be themselves because they don’t fit the mold, they can look back and remember when they watched you score the penalty that got us our first Olympic medal in 2020. And now you’re the man who isn’t going to let some archaic, backwards country stop you from representing our country. Don’t—they don’t need athletes who come out in suicide notes or, or when it’s convenient, after retirement. You’re a hero to people right now, when they need to believe in you.”

Steve watched Tony through his monologue with a tired expression, resigned to just letting him finish. When Tony finally quieted down, Steve shook his head and simply said, “No, Tony. You had no right to out me without my consent.”

Tony blinked at him at first, but soon whatever energy and hope he’d carried with him seeped away. He couldn’t meet Steve’s eyes anymore, and so he looked anywhere but directly at him, finally just frowning at the floor.

“Yeah,” he agreed, in a whisper. “You’re right, that wasn’t my call to make. I am sorry,” he said, making himself look up at Steve for those words, even if for a second. “For… for messing up your life, or career, or—anything else, you know, that I can’t think of right now. I’m sorry.”

Steve watched Tony stumble through his apology, and finally, Tony seemed to give up. He picked up the old duffle, slung it over one shoulder, and with a final mumbled sorry, he walked away.

“What about the relationship you ruined, Tony?” Steve called after him before Tony got to the elevators. Tony slowed to a halt and turned to look at him, frowning in confusion.

“You weren’t—”

“With you,” Steve corrected, more quietly. Then, his expression warmed and a satisfied smirk curled his lips as he added, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember you ever giving up on anything that easily.”

Tony stared at him, dumbstruck. “You—what?”

Steve rolled his eyes, but rather than answering him, he stepped back into his hotel room, leaving the door wide open in his wake as a giant hint for Tony to follow. It wasn’t long before Tony stepped into the room and let the door fall shut behind him.

“I really hated you, for a while,” Steve told him from the kitchenette. His back was still turned while he puttered around, and Tony stood in the small entryway of the room, watching him from a distance without adding a word to the conversation yet. Eventually, Steve came back with two cups of coffee. “You made my life a living hell. Hate mail, phone calls—people were calling my mother, Tony, do you understand how scary that is?”

Tony could only shrug a little and shake his head.

“But then, people started coming up to me,” Steve continued, his expression warming as a smile curled his lips. “People who didn’t even know what team I played for; they probably hadn’t seen a game in their life, honestly. A woman told me her gay grandson had cried when I got transferred to LA. Then all he wanted for Christmas that year was my jersey. I lost count of how many people I met in the first week alone who wanted to talk to me and thank me, Tony, people of all ages. And people kept showing up, to every open training, to every game.”

“I don’t… Are you surprised?” Tony asked, with his tone and expression caught somewhere between confused and rhetorical. “You’re my hero, Steve. I—uh, I mean,” color rose in his cheeks and up his neck and he cleared his throat, clearly not having meant to admit that quite so casually. “You’re obviously a hero.

“That means a lot to me, Tony. I really never thought I’d hear that, from anyone, and every time I hear it again, it somehow means even more,” Steve admitted, offering Tony the cup finally and doing his best not to let Tony escape the conversation in his obvious embarrassment. “So, yeah. For a long time, I blamed you, but it’s… I wouldn’t change what happened now, even if I could. In whatever backwards way, I have you to thank for this. You had no right, but you did it elegantly and kindly. Nobody could have done it better. So, I guess… thank you.”

Tony stared at him for a moment, as if waiting for all of this to be a terrible joke. But when the punchline (or simply, the punch) never landed, it all started to sink in, and he took a few stumbling steps to the left to perch on the sofa’s firm armrest for support. He glanced up at Steve, still in disbelief, and absently sipped some of that coffee for some strength (and for something to do), until he finally made up his mind.

“This isn’t happening.”

Steve frowned at him a little in confusion. “What isn’t happening?”

“This isn’t real, is it?” Tony mumbled, frowning into his coffee. “This is a dream.”

“I sure hope not,” Steve replied, walking around to sit down on the armchair not far from where Tony had settled. “You heard what happened to Coulson?”

Determination and disappointment flickered across Tony’s expression, one after another. There were a great many things he’d rather do than talk about the accident, but it was too important to push aside. Coulson was too important to push aside.

“It looked awful. Is it really broken?”

“Two breaks: one in his ankle, one in his foot,” Steve confirmed grimly, and Tony could only shake his head in dismay. “He wants to stay, but, there isn’t much we can do about it.”

“Who’s the new captain?” Tony asked after a short silence. Steve frowned at the thought, drawing a hand through his hair.

“They offered the captaincy to me, actually,” he said, quietly, as if Tony wasn’t hanging on his every word already.

And?” Tony demanded when Steve didn’t continue talking fast enough, and he dropped his coffee on the nearest flat surface before he accidentally spilled or broke it. “Steve, what—what did you—”

“I haven’t accepted,” Steve said in calm, measured words. “I don’t know if I’m right for the job. Rhodes has been on the team longer, and Barton can see everything, from anywhere on the field, he’d be great—”

“With all due respect: anyone but Barton,” Tony said immediately, but the quelling look Steve levelled on him quieted him at once. “Alright, fine, okay. Cool cool cool. But,” he added in a quieter voice, “uh, thank you for trusting me. I will keep the news to myself.”

“We will go public with a decision tomorrow,” Steve told him, trying to smile. “You’ll know who the new captain will be soon either way.”

Tony frowned a little at Steve’s drawn expression, as if he wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. “You want me to go?” he asked after a minute. “If you’re… if you need time.”

“No, it’s—” Steve answered reflexively, then stopped himself before he spoke too hastily. “Stay? I don’t really want to be alone.”

“Yeah, alright. Sure,” Tony said with a smile, and without thinking, he reached over to give Steve a friendly clap on the arm. “I got nowhere else to be.”

Chapter Text

“Why did you even keep coffee in the house when I was little?” Tony complained between one delicious cup of coffee and the next. “You knew it would stunt my growth.”

Howard snickered behind his morning paper. Maria clearly had no compunction about laughing in her son’s face. “Oh, my sweet child. You still believe that old wives tale?”

Tony scoffed and turned to Steve for back-up, but ever the strategist, Steve had furtively started a quiet conversation with Laura and was not available for throwing himself in front of the freight train that was life-long family arguments.

“Traitor,” Tony groused, but he added a playfully nudge at Steve’s foot under the table to take the edge off. His mother, on the other hand, got a stone cold stare. “Look at me, ma! You couldn’t tell me heaven exists in a cup but don’t drink it, and look at me now. I’m five-nine and a half. A half, I’m a grown man who counts a half.”

“You’re five-nine,” Steve and Howard and Maria all reminded him, to Tony’s continued bemusement.

“I’m five-nine,” Howard added without looking away from his paper, and Maria looked so pleased about it that Clint and Tony both rushed to plug their ears.

Smug as can be, Maria didn’t say a word. She didn’t need to.

Steve leaned in close while Tony still had his fingers over his ears. He pressed a kiss to Tony’s shoulder in a silent expression of affection.

“It had nothing to do with your height, honey,” Maria said when her boys eventually dared to put their hands down. “Besides, even if it was true, some medical trivia is more important than others. So what if you grew to be five-nine instead of five-ten?”

“Don’t tease him, ma,” Clint said with a straight face at the same as Tony cried, “Every inch counts!“

Steve was so red his blond hair started to look yellow by contrast. Next to him, Laura nearly choked on a pickle.

“Honey, you would either take after your father and be fine,” she said with meaning, “or coffee would magically affect your genetic potential.“

“But you took that risk?” Tony asked rhetorically with rueful shake of his head. “My own mother.“

“How about Sally’s pumpkin pie?“ Laura said in a blatant effort to change the topic. “Who wants some of that?”

“Yes, please!” Steve said immediately, followed soon by Clint’s ready agreement.

“No, stay. I’ll go get it,” Clint assured Laura when she stood to fetch the pie, though rather than looking grateful, she looked betrayed by his help. She turned to Steve instead and they shared a look of silent commiseration.

“Honey, what do you want me to say? I tried to scare you off the coffee, you drank it anyway. You could have listened like a good kid so mommy and daddy didn’t have a kid hopped up on caffeine, but you snuck some coffee anyway, so mommy and daddy let you go run outside with the dogs until you were tired. Either way, your height wasn’t our concern,” she concluded. “Of all medical myths, mommy and daddy were much more interested in the g-spot.”

Tony whimpered with regret. Laura called Clint’s name and left the table under the guise of going to help him with the difficult task of carrying a homemade pumpkin pie.

“I’ll, um. I’ll go help,” Steve said and followed on Laura’s heels, while Tony all but tripped his chair over in his rush to follow Steve to safety.

There, they found Clint digging into the pumpkin pie alone in the kitchen. He wasn’t even using a plate, he was just digging into the pie directly with a spoon.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he mumbled between bites as Laura handed out spoons; they were all past the point of caring about plates. “Aren’t you glad you came?”

Chapter Text

Tony shut the door behind him, leaving the demands and the responsibilities behind him to the extent that he could. He was tired, so tired his fingers curled around his work phone even though he couldn’t remember if he was still holding it. Tired enough that when he acknowledged the soldiers he passed, he wasn’t sure whether he did so in English, Spanish, French or Russian.

He trudged into the beautiful residence on autopilot until he heard the voice of the man he’d been without for far too long.

“Tony? Is that you?”

Four years ago, Steve would only ever sound cheerful and happy when Tony opened the door and came home. ‘Tony, is that you?’ would be an expression of excitement, a thrill to have his husband home from meetings or the workshop before sundown.

That all changed after the election.

Ever since Tony’s inauguration and their move into the White House, any time Tony returned home later than expected, ‘Tony, is that you?’ was a question of genuine concern, demanding fate to let his husband come home. It wasn’t blatant, and maybe to others he still sounded happy and curious, but to someone who knew Steve so well, the fear was palpable. The fear that one day the answer to ‘Tony, is that you?’ would be an apologetic Secret Service Agent delivering a grateful nation’s condolences.

Tony’s feet turned of their own volition until he ran into Steve coming through from the bedroom wearing nothing but a towel and a beaming smile.

“Dear god,” Tony whispered, powerless to resist as Steve reeled him in by his tie for a slow, tender kiss. When they naturally eased apart, Tony sighed against Steve’s wet, kiss-swollen lips, tired but content. “You… look like a dream.”

He felt more than heard Steve’s soft chuckle, and he nestled in closer. Tony might as well be asleep on his feet, but he was no fool - he wasn’t letting any of this go to waste. After all, Tony had insisted on a schedule that got them back to the Residence for the night just for this: to be with his husband and recharge in his company.

Whether someone had told Steve about his insistence on being back that night, or if he simply felt the same, he re-settled his arms around Tony’s middle to press in closer, unwilling to let him go yet.

“The next time you go to Alaska, I’m coming with you. I’m glad you’re home, but that’s too far for you to come home the same day.”

Even half asleep Tony wasn’t falling for Steve’s promise so easily. He tilted his head back far enough to give him a long-suffering look. “Don’t you mean, you’ll come with me if you’re not busy?”

Steve nudged his forehead against Tony’s with the biggest puppy-dog eyes. “That’s not fair,” he pouted playfully, “I’m not always away.”

“Says the busiest First Spouse of our generation.”

“Don’t act like you don’t like it, Mr. President,” Steve teased in a deep rumble, but before Tony had a chance to respond or climb him like a tree, he pressed a quick kiss to Tony’s cheek and straightened with a more thoughtful expression.

“Tony, you’re dead on your feet. Come with me.”


Tony huffed a laugh but followed Steve’s lead without resistance. “Even if I could, I’m pretty sure you’d have to do all the work.”

“Come sleep,” Steve clarified with intentional enunciation. He took Tony by the shoulders and guided him to sit on the bed before he fell over. “What’s your earliest tomorrow, eight-fifty?”

Sitting had been the wrong decision. Steve hadn’t finished his question before Tony’s eyelids started drooping and his whole body listed to the side. The second the pressure was taken off his feet, gravity started pressing on him with insurmountable power and Tony could only manage to hum in some general acknowledgement to a question he hadn’t heard or understood.

With deft, nimble fingers, Steve got Tony out of his suit and tie. The cherished task was long-since committed to memory. After all, Tony’s habit of working to exhaustion had nothing to do with his presidency - the only difference was that these past three years had complicated Steve’s work with countless buttons, and undressing his husband without waking him now approached the complexity of that old-time sadistic game, Operation.

Thankfully, Steve was patient. Patient enough to gently redirect Tony’s attempts to cuddle in close in his sleep, and carry on with nonsensical conversations while he fiddled with Tony’s cufflinks. Patient enough to unstrap the elegant watch from his wrist so it wouldn’t clock Steve in the nose in the middle of the night. He placed the watch and Tony’s phones on the bedside table where they would be within easy reach for him in the morning, then quickly tossed his own towel over a chair so he could crawl in under the covers with his husband.

They’d intentionally tried to maintain the everyday norms of their relationship even in the White House. Much of it had been an easy transition, but some change was inevitable. Before Tony became the 46th President to move into the Residence, Steve coveted the role of big spoon. Back then, the idea that one of the wealthiest, most intelligent men on the planet deferred to him for anything was overwhelming and deeply romantic. That was a responsibility he thought he couldn’t live without, being the man who Tony Stark trusted to keep him safe and cherished through the night.

Now, Steve wanted nothing more than to be the little spoon. He wanted to feel Tony’s heartbeat steady and reassuring against his back; he wanted to feel his even breathing warm his neck. He wanted to hold those calloused, scarred hands in his hands until he fell asleep, and cradle them throughout the night whether they twitched in Tony’s dreams of endless paperwork, or they clenched in the odd nightmares that followed the less humane duties of his position.

Like so many nights before, Steve nestled up close to his man, made space for himself between his arms, and turned so his back was pressed flush against Tony’s chest. He counted Tony’s slow, even breaths, pressed his relaxed hands to his lips in a good night kiss, and slowly drifted to peaceful sleep.


“It’s only a start, but the schools onboard with re-introducing shop classes to build houses for vets have seen great results. The kids seem to get a lot out of it, teachers say that working together toward a common goal is bringing them together, and the homes they’re creating are really something else.”

Tony’s smile only drew wider as he listened to Steve share what he’d observed in California over the past week. “Are any of them ready for people to move into?”

“Four-hundred and thirteen homes will be available in Southern California by May,” Steve told him from memory, “I couldn’t get a clear answer about the schools up north. They’ve had trouble with the weather.”

“Weather in California,” Tony mused, so lazy and content that he couldn’t quite find the energy to fully snark. “How bizarre.”

“The whole state isn’t Malibu,” Steve drawled, then in a firmer tone, he said, “and unless you want a clean shave, Tony, stop moving.”

It wasn’t a threat Steve would ever follow through with, but Tony heard him all the same. Taking a bath together had been his idea, after all, and the least he could do was to not make Steve’s puzzle any tougher than it already was. He reached for Steve’s left hand and brought it to his lips for a grateful, adoring kiss.

“I love you, too, but that’s still moving.”

“Sorry, not sorry,” Tony said with a satisfied smile, but he melted back against Steve’s chest happily, pleasantly boneless in the embrace of Steve’s body and their warm bath.

Unlike most modern First Couples, they didn’t have children to think about. For them, family time wasn’t the most sensible way to structure their days - Tony didn’t try to be home by six-thirty for family dinner, and Steve could devote himself heart and soul to his endeavors without having to raise any children on the side. He wasn’t the busiest or most powerful First Spouse in history (that probably went to the de facto President of 1919-1921, Edith Wilson), but he, too, wanted to make the most of Tony’s time in office.

Instead, small, daily rituals became their foundation. Every day that they were available at home, Tony carved twenty to thirty minutes out of his lunch time so they could take a walk together. For them it wasn’t as easy as letting themselves out to wander through the White House gardens, so ‘a walk’ usually meant wandering the halls and visiting historic rooms and artwork, or bowling a few rounds in the basement. On the weekend, they watched TV and movies in the family theater so it was more like an intentional date than falling in front of a TV in the Residence, and they only kept a TV in the dining room for emergencies.

Their most consistent ritual was the morning shave. Every morning that they were both in the White House, Steve shaved Tony’s beard. If Tony had big matters of state or a televised speech to deliver, it was an old fashioned shave with a straight razor, but days that were more casual and administrative, Steve was happy with a regular double-edged razor.

Those casual days were Tony’s favorite, and today was no exception. There was simply nothing he enjoyed more than starting his morning in a hot bath, cradled by Steve’s body, while Steve doted on him. Unlike the (admittedly excellent) barber on staff, this time with Steve was a chance to catch up or prepare for the day, to steal kisses, and to indulge in a meditative, intimate start to their day together.

With a gentle touch of his fingers, Steve tipped Tony’s head back to clean up his throat and his jawline. Tony closed his eyes and relaxed into the position Steve wanted of him. The distinct, familiar scent of Steve eased the last, lingering trace of tension in Tony’s shoulders until his entire world narrowed down to savoring the smell of his husband with his every breath and drifting as Steve’s words wash over him. Before long, the tender, repetitive sweeps of the razor over his skin carried him away to a space beyond the burden of his position and his responsibilities, and in these sacred few minutes before the day began, Tony floated in their shared momentary peace, safe, loved, and content in Steve’s arms.