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"Come on, just a little more," Tony needles, wondering if they'll make it to Steve's room without a major injury.

Christ, the man is heavy; another stumble and Tony might throw his back out real bad. Though, honestly, he might die first from his poor heart giving up due to having a mostly naked Steve draped all over him.

"That's what he said," Steve slurs, and then sniggers.

Tony doesn't have the time to marvel at what has to be a dirty joke as Steve lists to the side. He barely keeps a hold of him, desperately grasping both Steve's wrist from the arm over his shoulders as well as the fabric of Steve's bathing suit at the small of his back. That's the only grip he has on the guy at all. Now, if Steve goes down, there's a danger that Tony will give him a hell of a wedgie.

"Just so you know, I will never, ever let you live this down," Tony promises.

"I don't care," Steve says with strong confidence. He then looks down at Tony and grins widely, carefree and happy in a way he rarely shows. A real shame, too, because he's breathtakingly beautiful like this. "I'm drunk."

"Yes, yes you are."

Very drunk. Asgardian hooch is the shit, visibly. People might not believe it, but Tony learned from his dissolute past. In consideration to his old age, he knows how to sustain a buzz while avoiding the pesky hangovers. One sip from Thor's magic flask - not just the God-approved booze, the darn thing also never emptied - and Tony had instantly known it would be too strong for him. It turns out it's too much even for a Super Soldier's metabolism.

"Where we going?" Steve asks, adorably confused even though they are currently in the middle of his own living room.

"Your bedroom, you lush," Tony says. "Hopefully I'll get you there before I drop you."

It makes Steve perk up. "My room? Ohhhhhhh! Great! Good'idea. Has a bed."

"Sure does, Big Guy." Tony manages to drag him for several strides with less difficulty, Steve even cooperating for a minute there.

With a last effort, he takes Steve to his surprisingly messy room. He would have thought Steve tidy, but there are reports and other papers scattered on a dresser, while multiple canvases lean against walls and furniture. They are all turned around, though, which makes Tony curious; he knows Steve paints, but he's never seen his work. He might take a peek later in exchange for not having let him pass out on a patio chair. In the middle of the room, the bed is - in contrast - perfectly made, and establishes a nice final objective. Steve can barely stand on his own power so Tony figures he just needs to get close enough, position Steve next to it, and then let him go.

It doesn't work as planned. First, Steve starts to wiggle and Tony doesn't realize what is going on before it's too late. Steve's bathing suit has slipped from the slim hips it had been valiantly hanging on to all night, leaving him bare as the day he was born. Tony chokes in surprise and sudden arousal and stumbles: he's not pass out drunk but still well into tipsy, and a naked Steve is more than he can handle.

And then, to make matters worse, Steve trips when Tony unhooks his arm from over his shoulders and tries to step away. Steve goes down in the direction of the bed, which was the goal. But what Tony hadn't factored in is that Steve is still - even drunk as a skunk - fast enough to grab him and pull him down on the mattress too.

"Jesus," Tony curses when he gets his breath back from the shock of landing on Steve, hard, chest to chest.

"No, it's Steve," Steve says, his gorgeous grinning face just inches from Tony's own, and yeah, he's determined to kill him tonight.

Especially because he's not letting go, which means Tony is plastered against miles and miles of naked Steve.

"Hi Steve," Tony quips, trying to push up to get away, but finding he's trapped. "Gonna let me go, buddy?"

Steve scrunches his face comically. "No? Why would'a do sum'thing stupid like that?"

"Because I safely delivered you to your bed? And now I can go crash in my own?"

That earns him a pout, and Steve’s arms tighten just a little more around him. "No."

Tony raises his eyebrow. "Plan on keeping me here?"

A vigorous nod. "Yeah. Big bed, gets lonely." And then, a hot hand travels as a caress up Tony's spine, sending every senses on overdrive and his mind reeling. "You're soft."

"Well, thank yo-" he starts to say, but Steve has leaned up and is kissing him.

His mind blanks for a second, shocked. All he can register is the faint taste of honey from the Asgardian alcohol and how hot Steve's breath is, then the softness of his lips. Steve is kissing him, and after staying frozen while even his own heart had stopped beating, Tony kisses back, the exchange going from sweet to dirty in seconds. Steve lets out a breathless little moan that makes Tony absolutely crazy. He's been in love with Steve forever, but he never thought he could have this, which makes him desperate. What is additionally mind-blowing is that Steve is groping at him, clumsily but with intent, as if he's trying to touch Tony everywhere at the same time.

"Shh, Shh." Tony tries to slow him down because that's good, a little too good in fact. "Easy there."

"I wanna fuck," Steve says, pupils blown wide. He rolls his hips and Tony almost chokes again when he feels him hard and wanting.

It's tempting, very tempting. In fact, there's probably nothing that has been more tempting in the history of the universe and Tony longs to touch him. But Steve is drunk, his judgment is definitely impaired, and it would be so wrong.

"You're drunk, Blondie," Tony says, still gently trying to get out of Steve's embrace, but he's not having it.

Steve's smile is wolfish as he rolls his hips. "S'not a problem."

"Visibly," Tony gulps, and bats one of Steve's hands away when he tries to slide it in his bathing suit. "I want to. God, I want to. But not when you're drunk. Do you understand?"

"S'not fair," Steve whines, starting to kiss his neck, sending shivers all over Tony's body. He's keeping his hands above the waist now, though, so apparently he gets the gist.

"It will be better sober, anyway," Tony says, half trying to convince himself.

God, he loves Steve like this, all relaxed and pliant. But he couldn't look at himself in the mirror if he took advantage of him.

"Okay. Stay?"

"Not going anywhere."

Tony keeps his hands on Steve's shoulders, flanks and arms and they trade sweet kisses for a few minutes, making Tony's heart swell three sizes. God, he loves him so much. Steve is losing the fight with sleep, though, his eyes closing and coordination shot to hell. He buries his face in the crook of Tony's neck with a satisfied little sigh and from one moment to the next he goes limp, fast asleep.

It takes a bit of squirming and repositioning, but Tony pulls a sheet over them both and gets them in a position where hopefully no one’s limbs will go numb. Steve's arm is across his chest and he loves the weight of it. He savors the moment, but after Tony relaxes it only takes a couple of minutes before he drifts off too.

 

***

 

Something is not right.

The thought is vague but insistent, and it brings Steve out of sleep even if he really, really wishes he could just go back under. Blood is pounding in his head and he almost expects the hums and beeps of hospital equipment that usually go with uncomfortable awakenings. It's silent, though, save for slow breathing coming from his right.

Steve’s eyes pop open in surprise, and he immediately regrets it, as the light is like a stab right to the brain. He has seen enough. His room. His bed. And there's someone in it with him.

More carefully, he looks again and his heart, which was already beating wildly, does a triple flip. Solid shoulders and short brown hair; Steve doesn't need to see his face to recognize Tony instantly. He's fast asleep, back to Steve, and frankly it's enough to make him freak out. Especially when he realizes that he's completely naked under the sheet.

"Oh God," he says out loud. This cannot be happening.

Tony wasn't sleeping deeply because he immediately stirs and then stretches with a yawn. Steve doesn't know what to say, what to do. He's certainly not ready when Tony turns to look at him and grins. Fuck, he's beautiful, and this is the very sight that Steve wishes could be his every single morning, but not like this. Definitely not like this.

"Oh wow, you look like you're going to be sick."

"I might," Steve says, voice tight. It's true from the panic rolling in his gut as much from the queasy feeling from his hangover.

The admission makes Tony’s smile turn softer. Sympathetic. "Yeah, looks like the Asgardian stuff hits pretty hard."

True, Steve remembers drinking from Thor's flask, Clint teasing him that he might be bullheaded enough to find its bottom, enchanted or not. But there's not much more after that, just bits and pieces of conversations, flashes really, and feeling drunk for the first time since the serum. Then absolutely nothing.

"I blacked out," he says, dread seizing him some more.

"Yeah?" Tony asks, furrowing his brow now. "You don't remember?"

"No!" It's maybe a little too loud and Tony flinches. "I don't even recall when you got to the party!" He remembers looking forward to it, and Bruce being fondly exasperated when he kept asking when Tony would arrive, but that's about the last of his evening.

"Wow," Tony says, looking impressed. "Missing a couple of hours there. That stuff is potent."

"It's not funny!" Steve says, sitting up and clutching his head in his palms when the room lurches and nausea hits.

"I know, sorry. I hate that feeling. There must really be a God for drunks because as far as I know, I never majorly fucked up when it happened to me."

"Seems like I did," Steve murmurs, grinding the heels of his hands into his eye sockets.

He barely has the guts to look at Tony, he's so embarrassed. He's been completely smitten with the guy for a long time, but never risked making a move because he was convinced Tony would turn him down. Or Tony would want to sleep with him once, and that would be it - he'd move on to someone else and Steve would have his heart broken. And now it happened, he had sex with Tony and doesn't even remember it. Even in the sad scenarios Steve had in his head where they did it and it ended badly, he at least had the memories.

"Are you okay?" Tony asks.

"No!" He's so not okay, he doesn't even have the energy to repress and try to hide everything. "Oh fuck."

"It's alright, Steve. I swear, you were just a fun drunk."

A fun drunk? Steve looks at Tony then, not knowing what to say to that. He probably got clingy, propositioned him. Made it sound like a fun thing to do, because technically sex is, but being intimate means so much more to Steve than fun. He's hurt, too, that he was just an enjoyable way to spend the night but no more.

"Well I'm glad one of us remembers the fun," he says curtly, even though it's not Tony's fault that Steve forgot it all.

Tony frowns, brows furrowing, but then his eyes go wide. "Oh! No! Jesus, no, we didn't have sex!"

And all of Steve's frantic thoughts come to a halt. "What?"

"We did nothing," Tony insists.

"I'm naked. You're in my bed." This does not make sense, but the panic is receding.

"I dragged you here, or you would have slept on the floor somewhere. You took off your bathing suit before going to bed and you didn't want to let me go back to my room, that's all," Tony explains. Could it really just be that, and their friendship isn't compromised after all? A moment later Tony looks angry. "You really think I'd do that?"

It's an unexpected blow to have Tony confirm plainly that he's so uninterested in Steve that the suggestion of having sex with him makes him mad. Steve shrugs, because no matter how much he rationalized that it wouldn't happen, there always was a lick of hope, deep down, that Tony could want him back.

Tony sputters, as if he's shocked by Steve's semi-admission. Then the worst thing happens: the bland mask of what Tony wants everyone to think is indifference takes over his features. It only comes out when Tony is either beyond mad or hurt.

"Wow, okay then," he says, and gets out of the bed as if it's on fire.

A part of Steve screams at him that there's something wrong; Tony can't find him that repulsive. He's pretty sure he had caught Tony looking sometimes, especially in sparring, which had been quite a thrill. Tony might not be interested in him for a relationship, but the idea of them couldn’t possibly make him this angry. Through his confusion, he notes that Tony is wearing his own bathing suit, which fits with the story.

He almost cries out Tony's name. He shouldn't let him leave like that, stiff and furious about something Steve isn't sure he understands. He wants to ask what’s wrong; maybe he should apologize for his behavior both last night and this morning and explain that he can’t think with this stupid hangover. But the words stay stuck in Steve's throat and he helplessly watches Tony slip out of his room without looking back once. Groaning in pain and self-pity, Steve falls back on the bed and pulls a pillow over his face.

Maybe God will have mercy and let him suffocate.

 

***

 

So. The morning after was an unmitigated disaster, to put it lightly. Tony should have remembered that he's not allowed nice things, and even less, extraordinary ones like Steve Rogers. He cannot get out of his head how distressed Steve had been at the idea of them having slept together. He'd practically turned green, on the verge of being sick, and that clearly wasn't just the hangover.

Tony was so stupid, getting so swept up in the moment and his own feelings that he thought for even a few minutes that Steve liked him back. Thank god he didn't accept Steve's proposition, but now Tony feels guilty that he didn't stop the kissing. It makes his skin crawl that he took advantage of Steve's inebriated state like that for his own pleasure. Yes, it had been hot, and Steve seemed into it - into him - but apparently that was just the liquor making him horny. Tony had had several years, or more like decades sadly, where he also had done idiotic things when intoxicated. He has no excuse for letting it happen to Steve, especially when he had been acting so out of character. Fuck, Tony just hopes that the serum won't let Steve remember as he gets over his hangover, or he might get clocked. Justifiably. He definitely will never mention it ever again.

He showers and brushes his teeth, but there's no way his spinning mind will let him go back to sleep. Heck, he might not rest for days, thinking about every single second of the night before. And then, this morning… for a moment there, before he realized how majorly he had fucked up, Tony had been so happy. He'd woken in Steve's bed, and remembered how well they had fit, how electric those kisses had been, and he'd thought it would be a great day. What a laugh.

But life has to go on, and he is determined to do everything in his power to smooth things out with Steve. He'll do everything he can so this cluster fuck doesn't affect what they have built with the Avengers. Tony is still friends with Pepper and continues to work with her after their actual relationship, so he'll manage after having spent just a few hours in Steve's bed along with a few kisses. He's not certain how, because Steve's horror had cut deep and he's heartbroken, but he will hide and repress like a champ. He has practice after all.

First thing first: make sure that their next interaction conveys that they are cool, and pretend Tony's not thinking about it anymore. Steve had looked pretty hung-over, but he's not one to wallow in self-pity, so he'll go down to eat, eventually. Maybe he already has.

"JARVIS?" Tony asks after a meticulous shave before walking into his closet, looking for clothes he'll feel good in. A little extra confidence won't be amiss today. "Has Steve left his room yet?"

"No Sir. At this moment Captain Rogers' shower is running."

"Okay."

He can do this. Tony dresses up in his favorite pair of jeans, a white shirt, a gray vest with red pinstripes to go with a classic silk red tie. He finishes the ensemble with a black jacket he was told makes his shoulders stand out. Not as much as a certain someone, but decent enough for a nerd like him. He checks his image in the mirror critically, and it will do.

"Let's do this," Tony mutters before striding out of his room, head held high.

On a hunch he goes by the gym level and yeah, he finds stragglers who hadn’t even gone back to their rooms. Thor is snoring from where he's stretched out on the tiles by the pool, and Clint is fast asleep too in a floatie in the middle of it. Tony puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles, the sound echoing loud in the room, and it wakes both Thor and Clint who groan in unison.

"Up and at ‘em, boys," Tony says.

"Fuck you," Clint says, rubbing his eyes. "Ow."

"It's no place to sleep, come on," Tony argues. "You'll thank me later. Kitchen in twenty if you want food."

"I might be convinced," Thor says, sitting up and rolling his neck.

"I'll make enough eggs, then."

Tony leaves them to their difficult awakening and goes to the kitchen to start breakfast. It makes for something to do even if his thoughts are still unfortunately going back to what happened with Steve. Minutes later Natasha slinks into the room, goes straight for the coffee pot and then fixes herself a cup a lot sweeter than her usual. Without a word she sits at the table and delicately sips at it while Tony starts on the bacon.

The second Avenger to join them is Steve, and it makes Tony's heart race. He avoids looking at Steve directly - it would kill him to see disgust still - and goes back to move the sizzling meat in the pan. He doesn't want things to be weird between them, but isn't sure how to get there.

"Take it from the expert," he says, and in the process realizes he's the first to speak up. "Bacon is essential in after-party breakfasts."

"Thanks Tony," Steve says. His voice is soft, tentative and Tony risks looking over to him. Steve looks better already, if a little pale, and it seems he's avoiding meeting his eyes too. Great. "Can I help you with anything?"

Okay, okay, they can do this. "Sure. Whisk the eggs?"

It's not comfortable, or at least Tony is very tense, but it's going well. Tony eventually cooks the scrambled eggs while Steve starts on a mountain of buttered toast. Steve dressed up in one of his few stretched out t-shirts and sweatpants, choosing comfort first today. Even though Tony knows he should squish this line of thought and that he's just being a masochist, he can't help stealing glances. The man is unfairly beautiful. Thor and Clint join them a few minutes later, just as Tony is putting the pound of bacon he made on paper towels.

"It smells amazing," Clint says, coming over to steal a strip, but Tony swats his fingers away with his tongs.

"Careful, it's hot."

"Ow! That hurt more than the burn would have, by the way," Clint says.

Steve is dividing the eggs, giving Thor at least the equivalent of a dozen of them.

"Go sit down, Clint, I'll bring you a plate," he says.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Clint replies. "It turns out that sleeping with my butt in the water made it as wrinkled as my balls."

There's a unanimous noise of disgusted exasperation, but it's Nat who speaks up. "God, shut up Clint. No one wants to know that."

She's speaking unnaturally softly and Tony looks at her with a smirk. It seems that their Russian queen, who generally drinks the regular humans under the table with no trouble, is hung-over as well. At least Tony isn't suffering physically this morning, unlike everyone else.

Nat notices the smugness and points at him. "Not a word, Stark."

"I am impressed at your resilience, my friend," Thor tells him. "Few come out of drinking Volstagg special mead at no cost."

Unfortunately Tony can feel Steve going tense by his side for a second. Yeah, that's a guy who regrets getting drunk for the first time in 80 years all right.

"Heh, what can I say," Tony responds with a shrug. "I've got experience on my side, Thor."

"What a nice way to admit you're now old and boring," Clint says between two bites of toast.

Tony's about to banter back when Steve speaks up.

"Clint, enough of that. Shut up and eat."

Steve sounds annoyed and then looks at Tony apologetically. Is it because he thinks Clint is an ass and crossed a line? Or because he inwardly agrees with Clint and feels bad about the fact it's been said out loud? God, that's another fact. Tony's way too old for a young stud like Steve, something he didn't think about when foolishly falling in love with him. Fighting his own bout of nausea, non-alcohol related in his case, Tony pops a slice of bacon in his mouth.

"Yeah, let's eat." He takes his plate to his regular seat.

He's not surprised that after a slight hesitation Steve sits by Natasha in Bruce's usual chair instead of his usual spot next to him.

"Thanks for breakfast, Tony." Steve sounds grateful, and his smile is genuine, so not all is lost.

They should make it.

 

***

 

Steve is confused that life continues as usual even though nothing is the same. There should be a shift between the before and after knowing for sure that Tony will never love him back. There are indeed some ripples when they tiptoe around each other almost painfully at first, but nothing drastic. Tony makes breakfast for the Team without looking at him much, but he's friendly, visibly over his anger from before. He's also unfairly gorgeous while Steve feels like a complete slob and is still reeling from that Asgardian booze. He'd blame it on Thor but it wouldn't be fair: no one forced him to drink, after all. Steve dug his hole all by his lonesome. Plus Thor looks contrite enough that everyone is hung-over, so he gets a pass. After a quiet meal, Tony leaves for work and Steve goes about his day too. The world didn't actually end after all.

To say it's a good day would be a lie, because too much of his mind is playing what happened that morning on a loop. But at least there are no villains to fight, and Steve takes a day off from training. Not being able to focus on a book turns into staring vaguely at a muted TV until Bruce joins him.

"I am never, ever drinking again," Bruce announces, plopping down beside Steve on the couch. Steve can't help smiling when he notices that Bruce is wearing dark sunglasses. Indoors. Steve didn't know he even owned sunglasses.

"Yeah," Steve replies, passing him a water bottle. He'd brought a twelve pack next to the sofa and feels more human now that he drank five. "I think I’m done too."

Bruce drains half the offering and eyes him critically. "You don't look so great either, I thought the serum would spare you the hangover."

Steve shrugs. "Meh."

"You know, you were quite a handful last night," Bruce says. "There wasn't a dare you let lie."

Steve isn't surprised, but it makes him blush anyway. "I am not sure I want to know."

Bruce turns to him in surprise. "You don't remember?"

"It wasn't that bad, right?" Steve asks.

"Not at all," Bruce waves off his concern. "You were having fun. It was nice to see you so playful. It's a good thing JARVIS regulates the pool because you would have emptied it with all the cannonballs."

That's not so bad. "As long as it was just harmless stuff."

"Well there was that bit where you almost drowned Clint-"

"What?" Steve cries out, appalled.

Bruce chuckles. "It was an accident! There was a game of chicken fight between you and Clint against Thor and Nat. Mid-game, you suddenly wanted to switch from carrying Clint on your shoulders to the other way around. Of course Clint, who was even more drunk than you were, thought it was a great idea. Until he ended up with his nose underwater while you were unaware of it and too busy trash talking Thor and Nat."

"Shit. I should have realized!"

"He just took it and stood there, eyes round. So stupid drunk he didn't even tap your leg or struggle. But Thor noticed and tipped you off before Clint actually swallowed water."

"Good." It's true that a drunk Clint makes questionable life decisions. It still worries Steve that his defenses had been shot and he propositioned Tony though. "That's the worst I did? And, by the way, I don't see how Clint being an idiot is my fault."

"You kept hugging everyone and declaring you loved us," Bruce says teasingly and nudging him with his elbow.

He's smiling, amused when Steve squirms. It's not that it isn't true, Steve does love all the Avengers. The problem is that it's not all in the same way. Or more accurately that there's a little extra, on top of friendship, with one of them that he is afraid he let slip the night before.

"I was clearly intoxicated," Steve smiles back. "Nothing out of the ordinary?"

Bruce would let him know if he confessed his love to Tony or kissed him, right? He's pretty sure.

"No. The hug with Thor lasted half an hour, though, it was quite something. You couldn't wait to see Tony to hug him too. You kept asking for him every thirty seconds or so. By the time he arrived, though, you had mostly run out of steam and decided you wanted to go to bed."

All things considered, it doesn't sound as if Steve made too many bad choices, apart from apparently refusing to sleep alone. And when Tony had woken up - in his bed! - he looked in a great mood at first. If Steve had propositioned him, he wouldn't have stayed.

"You missed breakfast," Steve tells Bruce. "Want to go to the juice place?"

"Outside?" Bruce asks dubiously. "Where the sun is?"

It makes Steve laugh. "Yeah. Come on."

He gets up and hauls Bruce upright too, even when he protests. Fresh air will do them some good, and maybe Steve can clear his mind.

 

***

 

Tony loves robots.

It's a given, and has been a constant in his life, including but not limited to everything that has to do with his amazing armor. Absolutely everyone on Earth knows Tony Stark loves robots, unless they lived the last 30 years under a rock and cut off from the media.

But right now? Tony thinks he might hate robots a little.

They are everywhere, and the Avengers have been fighting them for hours now all over New York. The vigilantes who live in the city are there too. It's an all hands on deck situation. Heck, Tony has seen several civilians gang up on a stray damaged robot to finish it. Honestly? Tony is fine with letting them blow steam and participate in the robot destroying efforts because he's just that done. Hopefully no one will get hurt too much doing so.

As far as robots go, the start of the battle was not a surprise: Victor Von Doom decided Latveria wasn't big enough for him anymore and he wished to expand. So why not take New York City, right? It seems to Tony that the villains always start trouble here, anyway. So here came Victor with his robots and his demands for the authorities to surrender, and for the heroes to step aside. It's a given that no one wanted to do that, so the fight started.

The robots themselves are flimsy and easy to dispatch, but the problem is that they are coming in unending waves. If Tony puts one down, it seems as if two more appear in the next five seconds. The result is that there are robots everywhere. JARVIS has a counter in the Hub and he's in the thousands and more that Iron Man has put down, unassisted, and several hundred in tandem which others. They had to split to cover more ground because there are just too many of them.

Tony uses the uni beam to clear out five in a quick sweep and flies up high to spot Doom himself. At this point, he only wants to kick his ass, anyway.

"Sir, Captain Rogers is being swarmed near the Rockefeller Center," JARVIS says, zooming in on the situation.

"Shit."

Steve is indeed battling with two dozen of those useless pieces of trash, using punches, kicks and the shield liberally. Admiring Steve fight is a distraction Tony can't allow himself at the moment, so he flies in.

"Incoming, Cap. Where do you want me?"

Before The Incident, as Tony calls it in his head, it might have been something of a joke. But now it's all business, looking to be quick and efficient.

"At my back, let's clear the square."

"Aye aye."

He falls into the required formation and they go to town, mowing through the robots.

If there is one thing that has worked pretty well from the start between Steve and himself, it's the fighting. They are often synchronized without consulting each other, and able to anticipate what the best move would be for the best results. In battles they push aside every single argument or awkward situation like The Incident and mesh beautifully.

"How can there still be so many of them?" Steve asks.

"Spellwork," Tony has to admit. "It makes no sense, there's too many for the resources available in Latveria, even stockpiling them for years. And building them here under our noses? I don't buy it."

"They look real to me," Steve says, grunting when he's hit with a thrown piece of concrete. It isn't big enough to hurt him seriously though, and he shakes it off. The robot that threw it is swiftly decapitated by the shield.

"Everyone, there's an Asgardian chick in Times Square," Clint says on comm.

"Enchantress!" That is Thor speaking. "What are you doing in Midgard?"

A quick command puts a feed of Times Square in the Hub. There is a woman with long blond hair and a green gown standing at the top of the stands behind Father Duffy's statue. She looks unimpressed by the battle raging around her, arms crossed over her chest. Tony spots Thor in the street near her, numerous pieces of dismantled robots stranded on the ground all around him.

"Is this what you want, Thor? Pointless battles?" she asks loud enough that it's picked up by Tony's feed, gesturing vaguely to the surrounding city.

"Cap," Tony says. "I have a feeling that this Enchantress woman is trouble."

In his opinion Asgardians generally are, save for Thor.

"We're mostly done here," Steve says. There are a few bots still milling around, but they're not doing much damage and it seems the more pressing situation is two blocks over. "Fly us there?"

 

***

 

It doesn't happen often, but every time Steve gets to fly with Iron Man is a thrill. Tony's armored arm grabs Steve by the waist as he steps onto the suit's boots, holds its shoulder and then zips down 49th Street. It's bittersweet to be in Tony's arms, even in a combat scenario, but he does his best not to think about it. By the time they get to Times Square, the two Asgardians are in a full argument.

"I do not seek battle, not anymore, but I will fight if I am needed!" Thor is saying.

"And protecting these humans is so important? Look at their world, they are destroying it themselves!" Enchantress shouts back.

"Admit it, you are involved in this attack," Thor says. "This reeks of magic."

"I told you so," Tony tells Steve through the communicator as they hover, sixty feet away.

"Cap, it's an easy shot," Clint says. "Want me to knock her out with a tranq?"

They've studied Thor's physiology, with his consent, and have a formula that works on him. On the other hand, they don't know if the Enchantress' magic would protect her from it. It takes a lot to incapacitate Thor for more than a minute, and Steve doesn't want to end up enraging her instead.

"Let's see if Thor can reason with her, but stay on standby."

"I am proving a point," Enchantress continues. "They attack each other, and will form alliances with forces they don't understand for their petty quests, no matter the consequences!"

"How is helping Von Doom damage this city proving anything?" Thor asks, throwing his arms in the air. Exactly Steve's question: the woman isn't making any sense.

"Midgard doesn't deserve you, or your time. You are here, fighting meaningless battles against pitiful foes when Asgard needs you."

Thor looks rightfully done. "And you think hurting innocents here will make me want to go back? Clearly you have lost your head. Cancel your spell, stop this nonsense."

This is going nowhere, and as far as Steve knows the robots are still all over the city, doing damage and injuring people. He lightly raps against the side of Tony's helmet to catch his attention. "Do you detect Von Doom anywhere nearby?"

"No sign of him, but I'll keep scanning."

Meanwhile Enchantress is bristling. "I have not lost my head, you have! You abandoned us to play hero for these puny Midgardians, for an insignificant woman." She almost spits in fury and Steve abruptly realizes this isn't just a loyal subject of Asgard who wants her prince back, it's personal.

Thor's shaking his head. "Amora, it is not a contest between the two realms. I love Asgard, you know I do. But I will ask that you do not speak of my Lady that way."

"Can she do this?" the Enchantress asks, snapping her fingers and the robots on the ground start re-assembling themselves. "Or this?" Another snap and all of the surrounding robots fall in pieces again, even the ones that had still stood. She is without any doubt very powerful.

"She will never love you the way I do!" Enchantress cries out next.

And okay, now they are firmly getting into uncomfortable territory. The woman is harassing Thor when he doesn't want her back, and it rubs Steve the wrong way. He loves Tony with all of his heart, and he isn't lashing out and hurting other people because it is one-sided. He won't impose his feelings either!

"Amora, this is not how love works," Thor says, taking a step forward. His voice and expression are kind, but it's not what the Enchantress, or Amora as he's calling her now, wants to hear.

"And how would you know how love really works?" she says, getting her hackles up again. "You've never loved anyone but yourself! I will help you learn though. You and everyone here will realize that there is only one certainty: love hurts!"

"What kind of Nazareth shit is that?" Tony asks on comm, which is followed by a few amused reactions by the others.

It is a reference that Steve doesn't get - what does Jesus' hometown have to do with anything? - but he can't dwell on it because Enchantress has raised her hands up above her head. She's about to do something, and they have nothing to lose.

"Clint, now!" he orders.

She's faster, though, and when her balled up fists hit each other, a pink wave of energy radiates out from the point of contact. The spell's shock wave is expanding fast, and the Enchantress disappears while the dart fired by Clint falls to the ground without reaching its target.

Steve holds his breath and closes his eyes on reflex when the pink wave reaches him, as if that ever changes anything when it comes to magic. He expects pain, to go with her last words, but only feels a tingling down his spine.

"Is everyone okay?" he asks when it passes.

A series of "yes" and "looks like it" is reassuring, but Steve knows something happened. It's never that simple with spells.

"Cap, now that all of his robots are dead, I've got one Von Doom retreating towards Battery Park," Tony says.

Good, maybe they can capture him before he flees.

"Let's get him."

"Hang on tight," Tony says as he heads that way.

Frankly, Steve never wants to let go, but that's a problem for another time. Right now, they have a job to do.

(Unfortunately their day ends without Von Doom in custody. But the metal recyclers? They sure enjoyed quite an unexpected boon from the whole mess.)

 

***

 

Even when he's wrapped in gold-titanium alloy, Tony gets hurt a lot more than he likes. A good hit can cause whiplash, make him see stars, or cause a metal plate to bend and pinch. Occasionally the armor gets pierced, if it's hit in a joint or by a very powerful weapon. That's why JARVIS is programmed to monitor the suit's integrity at all times and also scan for possible harm to his person. The AI also has the annoying habit of exaggerating every little injury in the 'health figure' that represents Tony's body in the Hub, making the hurt area flare red. And often flash alarmingly. Thank god Tony still has control over the fact that JARVIS doesn't tattle, but he has a nagging doubt that it would happen if he downplayed a major injury.

All of that being said, Tony is lucky to be in what is essentially a flying tank, protecting his squishy self. If he gets banged up, he knows what caused it and the extent of the damage. Which is why he's totally taken by surprise when he's cruising in a bright blue sky towards the Tower, not even close to anything, and there's a sudden sharp pain to his right shin. He yelps and tumbles to the left in an evasive maneuver, eyes immediately going to the health figure… which is completely green.

"Sir?" JARVIS asks, sounding concerned. "Is something the matter? Your pulse just spiked."

"What is wrong with my leg?"

"There is no-" After a slight pause, JARVIS resumes. "A scan shows an elevated temperature on your right tibia, consistent with the formation of a bruise. I cannot detect a cause."

Tony is still reeling from this, because he didn't get hit at all, when there's a pressure on his throat and a sudden impact on his back that steals his breath away. It's gone a second later, as is the pain in his shin, but he continues freaking out nonetheless.

"Shit!" Tony squeaks out when he can breathe normally again, heart beating double time. "What the hell?"

"Sir?" JARVIS is generally cool as a cucumber, as is appropriate for an AI, but his tone is definitely tight and Tony sees there are multiple scans ongoing.

"Something's wrong. Home, now."

"Yes, Sir."

This was just a spin in the armor to test his new boots, and he can't understand what is going on. He reaches the Tower fast, and while going through the suit's disassembler he sees that Steve and Natasha are sparring on the boxing ring set on the roof. Good, that means help is close enough. Maybe they'll know what the fuck is happening, or at least offer ideas to help him with those freaky phantom injuries.

Nat and Steve are hyper competitive in sparring, so Tony's not surprised that they haven't paused as he approaches the ring. It's a good thing because Tony is quite literally hit with a realization in the following seconds. He sees Natasha pivot in a graceful roundhouse kick that Steve can't avoid completely, her foot clipping his shoulder. In itself, it's an excellent move with perfect form. What’s mind blowing, though, is that Tony feels the impact on his own shoulder immediately. He stops in his tracks, hands going to the hurt area, and gapes when Nat solidly steps on Steve's foot and Tony feels that too. What the fuck?

"What's the matter with you, Steve?" Natasha taunts, escaping a hold. "Not only did I bring you to the mat in three moves, now you fall for this?"

"Gloating isn't attractive," Steve says, trying to sweep Nat's legs from under her. She jumps and avoids it.

Earlier, in the air, the pain to Tony's throat and subsequent loss of breath with the impact on his back sure felt like the Widow's signature take down with her thighs. He's experienced it enough times to know the sensations. Which means that at the moment, Tony is feeling whenever Steve gets hurt. At least the pain goes away quickly, but it's disorienting and worrisome.

Halfway to the ring and still shook by the fact it's happening at all, Tony almost speaks up. Which he should, he knows it's the right thing to do and that not saying what is going on will bite him in the ass later. But immediately Tony sees the repercussions of confessing: if Steve knows Tony can feel every hit to his body, he'll do everything to avoid them. He won't train, he won't spar, and he certainly won't fight if it means his teammate could get hurt. Speaking up would essentially sideline Captain America, and that's something the world can't afford.

Tony lets them continue to spar - while hoping it won't be too much of a beating for Cap, because ouch - and retreats inside instead. He goes straight to his workshop, determined to dig into the situation and see how he can make it stop with no one being the wiser.

 

***

 

Steve is eating a piece of cold pizza while walking towards the elevator when he notices that Clint and Natasha are intently watching the television. It wouldn't be out of the ordinary if it was showing a nature documentary, but it seems to be a news program. Curious, Steve stops behind the couch.

"What's going on?"

On the screen, it switches from an interview with a first responder to a map of the Five Boroughs. It shows a smattering of pink dots, relating to 'love connections', whatever that means.

"Something weird," Clint says.

"People are reporting being able to feel the injuries of the person they love," Natasha explains.

"What?"

A psychiatrist named Dr. Minao is giving more details. "It is fascinating, really," she says, fingers constantly touching the tablet on the desk in front of her. She can barely look away from it to discuss with the news anchor, and Steve has the certainty she'd prefer going back to her work than having to give this interview. "The phantom pains experienced by the recipients, who are being called the 'lovers' by many people, are always situated in the very same spots as the ones received by the person who is experiencing the injury for real."

"I've heard that person in the pair is called the 'loved'," the interviewer that Steve knows as Nina says, doing finger quotes.

Dr. Minao nods. "Yes. It's a constant that the 'lover' has strong feelings for the 'loved'. We have cases where subjects are hurting if their spouses or significant others experience pain, but it's not always mirrored. Also, the shared sensation is simultaneous in both people, no delay even if the couple lover-loved aren't physically close to each other."

"Is every age group affected? Do children feel their parent's injuries?"

"Not as far as we know. It seems that the sentiment between the 'lover' and his or her 'love' must be romantic in nature. And strong at that," Dr. Minao says. "A so-called crush, admiration or sexual interest isn't enough. We're talking about what the subjects interviewed constantly describe as 'being in love', though it doesn't have to be reciprocated."

On the screen, the male news anchor hums. "Interesting," he says, and turns towards his colleague Nina, raising an eyebrow. The co-host looks back, puzzled, and the man sighs exaggeratedly after a second. "You obviously didn't feel that," he tells her.

"Feel what?" Nina asks.

"I pinched my thigh," he says, pouting. "You didn't know, so you don't love me."

Dr. Minao's eyes go round in alarm. "Hum, I would advise against doing experiments like that? It could cause unnecessary drama. Nothing says the link is foolproof, or felt by all."

Nina makes a joke of it, laughing. "Bob very well knew it wouldn't work!"

"A guy can dream," he replies with a wink and Steve roll his eyes in annoyance.

Nat is more vocal with a "shut up, Bob."

"Hopefully your wife felt it, though," Nina says dryly.

"Ouch, burn," Clint says. He then immediately grows thoughtful, uttering a soft "shit!"

"What?" Steve asks.

Clint is getting up, fishing out his phone from his pocket. "What if your 'loved' is in a high-risk job? A first responder? An MMA fighter?" he asks, striding to the balcony to make a call.

Steve blinks, immediately seeing the complications too. He imagines soldiers being shot and their wives getting struck by surprise by a ghost bullet. What if someone in the Team gets hurt? God, he's definitely in love with Tony, will he feel his injuries? How bad can it get?

"Is it only pain or does it do real damage? Can it be fatal? Did they say?" he asks Natasha. He has so many questions.

"The ambulance driver earlier said it's psychological, without actual injuries apart from cases of bad bruising. With the caveat that the deeper the connection is, the more accurate the pain level becomes in intensity and duration."

The interview has continued and a toll free number is now scrolling at the bottom of the screen. Dr. Minao is asking for testimonies, to build up the data.

"It's a simple survey about where and when the pains were first noticed, the link the subject has with the 'loved', where they were on Tuesday afternoon -"

"Why Tuesday afternoon?" Nina asks.

"We think there could be a geographical component to the phenomenon."

"Ah fuck."

Steve jumps in surprise. He hadn't heard Tony enter the room. He's a few steps away, staring at the television too.

"What?" Steve asks. Tony has his 'I Know What Is Going On But I Don't Like It' expression on right now.

"Amora, Enchantress, whatever her name is," Tony says, a hand on his mouth. He really looks troubled about the whole thing. "It's got to be her, with the pinkish spell. On Tuesday."

Tony's right, it's too big a coincidence not to be linked. Plus her cryptic parting shot fits too.

"Love hurts," Steve recalls.

"Yeah. Fuck. Dammit," Tony says, this time passing a hand through his hair and pulling it like he tends to do when he's agitated.

Steve is absolutely unshocked to feel the tugging on his own scalp, brief but there. He doesn't need a spell to know he's in love with Tony, it's been clear to him for a long time. He does his very best not to react though. It would be mortifying to give his feelings away so blatantly when Tony reacted badly after the party.

"Is there anything we can do about magic?" Steve asks, taking a bite from the pizza slice he had forgotten about for a bit.

"I think we should ask Thor," Nat says. "I'm pretty sure he's linked to the spell, and whatever he had going on with that woman."

"Yes, that makes sense," Tony says, pulling out his phone. "And he's used to magic, maybe he'll know how to break the curse. I don't know shit about that stuff."

He strides towards the kitchen, full of nervous energy. It must be frustrating and unusual for Tony not to understand something. Maybe Steve should speak out; embarrassment aside, he'd be a good test subject to experiment on how to break the spell, and one readily available. Now that he thinks about it more, Steve would want to know if him getting injured is affecting someone else. He would have to be more careful, or as much as he can be. He doubts it's the case though: people admire Captain America, but someone being in love with Steve Rogers? He can't see whom.

Steve needs to take stock of how compromised the Team is, apart from him. Does Tony hurt through Pepper? It's been several months since they've broken up, again, but Tony has such a big heart. Steve wouldn't be surprised if he still carries a torch for her. Pepper isn't injury prone, at least when she's not kidnapped by fire-breathing villains, so it's basically as safe as can be for Tony. Which raises another question: can two people hurt for one person? What if Pepper feels Tony too? Aware that his thoughts are spinning, Steve consciously puts the Tony and maybe Pepper situation aside to focus on his other teammates.

"The Enchantress sounded jealous of Jane. If Thor is bound by the spell, it could be a way to get at her," Steve says.

Nat nods, thoughtful. "Makes sense. And the other way around, too."

Steve doesn't know how to ask Nat if she will hurt for someone. She's always been very discreet with matters of the heart. Plus if he tries, he's afraid she will question him right back, and he'd prefer not to talk about his own situation. From what Steve knows, Bruce has no one in his life at the moment. And for Clint, well he visibly had someone in mind when he left abruptly, which is a surprise. In fact, for a long time Steve thought Nat and Clint were in a relationship with each other.

"Let's hope it gets resolved soon."

He doesn't mind hurting when Tony does all that much, he can take it. But that doesn't mean he likes having a vivid reminder of how hopelessly devoted he is; it was enough when it was just in his head.

 

***

 

The one thing that Tony hates the most about magic-weilding Asgardians is how they often vanish as if they’ve dropped off the side of the Earth. Maybe that's exactly what happened, though: Enchantress could be back on her own planet for all he knows. But if what they believe is right, that she did this to teach Thor a lesson, Tony has a feeling she's not far and watching the fallout.

It is no surprise to anyone who has seen Jane and Thor together that they are indeed in love with each other, to a metric that satisfies the spell. They share a strong reciprocal bond. That, right there, must drive the Enchantress completely bananas. Plus it cranked Thor's protectiveness to eleven, who scowls at everybody who even taps him on a shoulder because it could incomodate Jane.

Not long after the television program, Nick Fury called for a meeting at SHIELD to discuss the situation. In short, he suggested that anyone - Avengers, SHIELD or otherwise - with a bond should avoid battles. Clint is the only one who fessed-up, without saying for whom, and requested to be exclusively in sniper duty and nothing that could lead to hand to hand combat. As for Tony, he lied through his teeth. Well he didn't lie as much as he withheld the relevant information that he was bonded. So did the rest of the Avengers, but he doesn't know for sure, they might have been truthful.

"Really?" Fury had said, disbelieving. "Only Clint and Thor."

Tony remembers having thought it was a good thing, if true, because it would be less dangerous for everyone. But he does wish for his friends to find love, even if it means Steve getting into a relationship with someone else.

"I love myself, does that mean if I get hit it will hurt twice as much?" Tony had quipped to diffuse the situation.

"I won't even acknowledge that question," Fury had continued. "But each and every one of you better not get distracted at a crucial moment."

Tony knows it's a gamble to go out in the field with the potential of feeling every hit on Steve - but he has the suit, he'll be fine. He's always bled for the ones he loves, of course he'd do it for Steve too. It only becomes even more important to prevent - as he invariably does - Steve from getting into serious trouble. He already adapted JARVIS's programming to monitor Steve closely at all times to see, quite literally, the hits coming. The AI can also take control of the armor if needed.

Afraid of what Amora could do to hurt Thor, they brought Jane back to the Tower, where hopefully she'll be as safe as possible. While having her close, Tony has invited her to join his and Bruce's impromptu research squad. They've had long and passionate discussions about how improbable the whole situation is, but very little success about how to break the bonds or the spell.

Tony still hasn't confessed to a soul that he's bonded to Steve, but it doesn't seem an issue at this moment. No one is asking questions, anyway. A very awkward conversation has also helped Tony determine that Pepper and him aren't linked either in a "lover" or "loved" configuration. Maybe someone else would be bummed that the person they thought as 'the one' for the longest time has clearly moved on, but Tony had only felt the largest sense of relief. The last thing he wants is to cause Pepper more pain.

Fury had a point about people getting distracted by the effect of the spell, because even deep into an actual battle, Tony can't stop thinking about it. Especially when, like now, he can't see Steve. There are trolls in Manhattan today, and the fuckers pack a hell of a punch. He's leading several of them away from Steve at the moment, to give him a break. There have been way too many hits that connected to Steve; if the hurt fades fast - probably because of the serum - Tony feels like he will end the day black and blue all over. More than he already is, in fact; it's been a rough couple of weeks.

Tony banks to the left and cuts off a swear when he nearly hits a wall flying into an alley. Jesus that was close, and it wouldn't have been just a harmless scratch on the suit either. He can hear heavy feet thumping in pursuit and pirouettes to turn around when he reaches the end of the alley. Yeah, some trolls followed him, he was counting on that. He scrunches his nose at how ugly the beasts are, with gray skin, deep-set eyes and way too many curving teeth. Powerful, though, so Tony must stay out of reach of the war hammers they are brandishing menacingly.

"Iron Man, status?" Cap asks over the comm.

"I've got three here with me," Tony says, already starting with repulsor fire. A handful by his lonesome, but doable. He winces when two more turn the corner. "Okay so make that five."

Steve's tone turns clipped. "Disengage if it gets too much."

"Yeah yeah," Tony says. He has the luxury of being able to fly away if it happens. "I promise."

There's a soft disbelieving huff on the line, but it could be any of the Avengers.

"Do I have to go over there myself?" Natasha asks.

"I've got this," Tony says, unleashing small shoulder rockets.

He frowns when the first troll only slaps them out of the air to explode on the ground. Those fuckers are tough. Thankfully the chest beam is more effective and Tony takes care of the five trolls in one neat sweep.

There is no time to gloat because a fraction of a second later Tony cries out in pain when something smashes into his ribs on the right side. Not for real, which means it's Steve that got hit and Tony immediately worries. Christ that hurts, it must be at least two broken ribs. He blinks tears out of his eyes, and is glad he made sure JARVIS only relays the sounds Tony makes when it's actual words, and that no one heard him shout.

"I'm done here!" he says, making his tone as light as he can when he wants to grit his teeth. "Who needs my awesome skills?"

He's flying to Steve, of course. At least there hasn't been another injury following the ribs.

"I wouldn't say no," the man says. Maybe it's just because he knows very well what just happened, but Tony can hear Steve's breath hitching.

"Incoming," Tony announces, hand repulsors ready when he banks around a corner towards Steve's last position.

He's at the top of a large staircase, in the entry of a building. As fighting spots go, it's well chosen for Steve: large enough to allow him to move, but it forces the trolls to climb towards him one at a time. There are two on the staircase, the first one getting a red boot to the face while Tony fires at the second beast as soon as it's in range.

Tony ducks an ax thrown his way, and bowls into the second troll to make him fall down the stairs. It reacts fast, though, and pushes Tony's left arm with an incredible amount of force in an angle the armor isn't designed for. It pulls at the muscle, a sharp pain to the shoulder that flashes red on his health monitor. Thankfully Tony rolls with the movement and avoids a dislocation. Above him Steve curses, and Tony figures he's having trouble with his own beast, so he needs to hurry. The chest beam does the job once again, going through the troll's rib cage and killing it on the spot. Tony pushes the big body aside and immediately flies up the stairs to Steve, who is fighting off his beast with high kicks and punches. Unfortunately he gets hit in return and Tony has to grit his teeth when a blow lands on Steve exactly where his left shoulder is already sore. Steve's shield is halfway down the stairs, useless, and Tony picks it up while Steve suffers a hit to his right arm. Jesus, those things are fucking strong.

"Shield! Head's up!" Tony cries out. He lobs it at Steve who swiftly takes it with two hands and strikes with all his might to the side of the troll’s head. Vibranium wins as the thing drops to the ground, knocked out.

"Are you okay?" Tony asks as Steve gives the downed monster another blow. It won't ever get up again.

"I'm good," Steve says, while Tony knows he's in fact hurting in the ribs, the shoulder and the right arm. "You?"

"I'm fine," Tony replies, glad that the helmet hides his face. He doesn't feel so good, and he suspects it would show.

Steve's expression gets pinched, but he doesn't comment. He opens the comm link to the Team.

"Status, everyone," he asks.

"I just got rid of mine," Nat says.

"I have had a good workout taking care of my foes," Thor adds.

Clint speaks up from the helo he stayed on throughout, giving strategic positioning and using his sniper abilities with great efficiency. "I can confirm that all the threats are neutralized. Hulk has two on him, but is like a cat playing with his food. I expect imminent smash. Oh- " a slight pause. "It's done, all the trolls are down for the count."

"Good job," Steve says. "Anyone in need of medical?"

Tony thinks to himself, yeah, you do with the ribs. He's not surprised when Steve eyes him dubiously: he saw the troll go hard on the armor earlier. But even without that, Steve always suspects that Tony is hiding injuries, which is annoying. Sure, it happens sometimes - like now with his shoulder - but it's not a reason to look at him like that.

No one speaks up about medical, anyway, so Steve is just being a big hypocrite. And he gets hurt a lot more than Tony expected when he fights, which means he’ll have to upgrade the Captain America suit to offer more protection. The pain fades fast, but there’s no need to feel it at all, if Tony can prevent it. And actual bones breaking? Hurts like a bitch for Super Soldiers too.

"Captain, SHIELD will take over with cleanup," Maria Hill announces next. "We expect the Avengers for a debrief on the helicarrier in thirty minutes."

"Fine," Steve agrees. "Thor, see you there. Widow, calm Hulk down. Hawkeye, you and your pilot retrieve them."

"Roger that," Clint and Natasha say in synch.

"Need a lift?" Tony asks, already opening his arms.

Steve takes a second to reply but nods, coming over. He generally fits himself to Tony's left side, but this time he does the opposite. When he leans into Tony's right side, a lancing pain in his not-really-hurt-ribs tells him why. It's with utter care that he encircles Steve's waist for the hug and fly and then takes off.

 

***

 

It's normal for Steve to replay battles in his head several times in a row once they are over. His eidetic memory is a great tool to analyze what was done right or wrong, as much by him as everyone else. Once he's gone through the fights with as much detail as he can muster, he has a clearer idea of what went down. He then can organize his thoughts for the debrief and his subsequent report.

Right now, though, he can't stop replaying little things from the last leg of the battle with the trolls that have nothing to do with defeating the beasts, but more so how Tony acted. How Tony sounded. What Tony said. The way Tony got hurt. Tony. Tony. Tony. He knows his obsession is not healthy, but being linked to the man just adds to everything he's already felt for months. He cannot concentrate on much else, especially because some details stand out.

How Tony seems to always hover close to him, more than normal, and throws himself between Steve and foes. The way his voice was tight after Steve got a nasty hit to the right side, breaking a few ribs. How delicately Tony locked the armored arm around Steve's body to fly out, plus the care in the flight and landing. Not that he tosses Steve around generally, and it's true that Tony's left shoulder is not so great right now so it could be that, but still. It's the little things that add up.

It wasn’t just today, either. On Thursday, in mandatory team sparring, Tony's heart hadn’t been it it, while he's normally dead set in proving himself at hand to hand combat. He sure had made a face when one of his punches went through Steve's guard to clip his nose. At the time, Steve had chalked it up to surprise - Tony rarely manages to hit Steve in the face - but what if it wasn't just that? JARVIS had spoken up, announcing an important call for Tony. Weird in itself, since Tony blocks training periods with strict orders not to be disturbed. That day he'd gone to his phone without protest and skedaddled out of the gym as soon as Steve began fighting with Thor.

Yesterday, half asleep in the kitchen, Steve had hit his toe on a chair and Tony had choked on his coffee. He hadn't linked the two facts together before now, too busy going for a glass of cold water (Tony has the bad habit of drinking coffee that’s too hot, and it now burned in Steve's throat). But it's all Steve can think about now, how there have been strange coincidences for days.

Fury is talking about how a rift caused by Reed Richards caused the trolls, and Steve isn't paying enough attention, he knows that. He's observing Tony instead, who's sitting across the table from him in his undersuit. Oh, it's not the first time Steve has had trouble keeping his eyes away from that tight, black little number. It's really flattering for Tony's compact physique. But that's not what Steve is focusing on right now; instead it’s Tony's posture.

Since Tony got out of the armor for the briefing, he had rolled his left shoulder slowly a couple of times, sending lancing pain through Steve by association. But that's not all: he's clearly hunched on his right side, arms crossed in a way that eases the pressure on his left shoulder. He should put ice on it, for sure, and Steve doesn't know how to bring up the issue without confessing he feels Tony's pain. But what makes Steve's heart speed up is how Tony's fingers are also absently rubbing at his ribs on the right side. It's feather light, nothing Steve can feel on his own injury, but it's damning.

The inexorable rise of a bright hope that Tony might love him back is making Steve light headed. Tony is hurting, that's for sure, and not once in the battle did Steve feel him getting hit in the ribs. By now he can differentiate between his own pain and phantom ones, so he would have noticed. Heck, it would have worried him sick, even though he was thrumming with adrenaline and in the middle of a fight himself. Tony received several annoying hits to the head, and the damn shoulder almost popping out. The shock of that injury had made Steve completely miss a throw with the shield, but he recalls no hits to Tony's chest. It's impossible, as far as coincidences go, that Pepper got hurt significantly in the ribs today. But Steve did, and he must know if he's delusional in thinking it's related.

"Does anyone have any control on Richards and what he's allowed to do with portals to other universes?" Tony is asking. It's been a sore subject for a while, and if not for his arm he'd be gesticulating for sure. Bruce, by Tony's side, is nodding his assent.

Steve has absolutely no excuse for what he does next, just that he doesn't think further than the fact he needs proof that Tony is connected to him. Tony hasn't told him or anyone, for whatever reason, and he'd probably lie if asked outright. Eyes on Tony, Steve grabs the little finger of his left hand tightly and yanks, popping it out of its socket.

The effect is immediate: Tony yelps in pain and his arms flail out - sending intense pain to Steve's left shoulder in return. Tony also almost falls out of his chair before he straightens up. He immediately turns an accusing glare towards Steve, eyes round with shock and face twisted in anger.

"What the hell is your fucking problem? Jesus!"

Steve gapes instead of answering, realizing what he's done, but also what it means. Shit. Tony gets up, cradling his left hand to his chest protectively and Steve hurries to realign his fingers, which earns him another dark look (it does hurt).

"I, huh, I-" he stutters as Tony storms out of the room without another word.

The meeting has understandably come to a sudden halt.

"What the hell just happened here?" Fury asks.

Steve flushes bright red as he stands up too, his heart jackhammering in his chest. What did he do? "I need to go too. Sorry."

He runs out, hoping he can catch up with Tony before he leaves.

 

***

 

Tony doesn't know what hurts most: his finger, which took him totally by surprise, or his shoulder, which he worsened when he flailed. The combination of real and phantom pain is overwhelming and confuses his system. Maybe it's his pride that received the worst hit, though. His reaction was undignified, and Tony probably looked like a total fool in front of not only the Avengers, but the higher level spies from SHIELD too. He also realizes that storming out of the room, while yelling at a stunned Steve, obviously gave the game away.

Fuck. He'd been so careful, though clearly it would not have been sustainable for much longer. Tony's bruises have bruises by now. And, quite frankly, he's tired of holding in that secret, anyway. Steve will just have to deal with the fact that Tony loves him, even if he's disgusted by it. It's too bad that Tony's little tantrum probably let everyone else know about it too, but he suspects they already knew about his crush. Heck, Nat and Clint tease him about it all the time. Maybe they hadn't realized how serious Tony was, but hey, there's a saying about stable doors and bolting horses that applies here somehow.

He'll deal with the fallout later. For now what he wants is to go home and lick his wounds in peace. The armor is waiting for him in the hangar, and he needs to get away ASAP.

"Tony!"

He reluctantly stops at Steve's shout. Tony doesn't want to be here right now, and he certainly doesn't want to talk. No, he should go before he tells Steve to go fuck himself. He activates the bracelets for the armor and starts walking again.

"Tony please," Steve says and… grabs his left arm. The pain makes him pivot and snarl.

"What? Haven't you done enough?" Tony accuses. Steve takes a step back, hands up in the universal sign of letting go, giving space. "I stayed away," Tony continues. "I was handling it. Why would you do something like that?"

God, Steve's expression is wrecked, a combination of guilt and mild horror. "I'm sorry," he says with a small voice.

"Did you know?" Tony asks. He's barely hanging on to his calm right now.

Steve's eyes are scanning his face for every twitch or reaction. "God, I'm so sorry Tony, I wasn't sure and I-"

"Don't bullshit me, Steve!" Tony interrupts. "Did you know?"

Oh, he knew, Tony realizes as the guilt intensifies on Steve's face. He's certain of it even before Steve nods and says "yes", eyes brimming with tears.

And he almost broke his own finger anyway, for a test. The betrayal Tony feels at that is sharp and twists at his insides: he never thought Steve could hurt someone so deliberately. The actual physical pain is nothing compared to the feeling that he doesn't matter enough for Steve to care about hurting him.

He senses the vibration in the bracelets that announces the armor is three seconds away, probably right around the bend in the corridor. Scoffing at Steve and his conflicted face, Tony takes a step back and spreads out his arms, as much as he can, anyway.

"Wow." He hopes it sounds dismissive, and that his renewed heartbreak doesn't show. Can Steve feel that too, how Tony's heart is heavy, the way he's close to choking with the riots of sentiment in his chest? "And I'm out of here."

The armor envelops him and Tony doesn't waste a second in powering it to fly towards the exit.

 

***

 

Legs like jelly, Steve puts a hand on the corridor wall for support. Shit shit shit, goddamnit. The whole fiasco from hurting his finger to Tony departing is the new loop in his head, playing in vivid colors and as unavoidable as a car crash. Steve staggers until he has his back to the wall and then slides down to the ground. He cannot believe how wrong everything went, so fast.

Tony loves him. That is huge, and he wants to be happy about it, but at the moment he's mainly shocked. Did his careless, impulsive gesture ruin everything forever? What if Tony falls out of love because of it? He was so mad. More than that, he was deeply hurt, and not in the physical sense - or not just that, anyway. The raw emotion on Tony's face when he realized that the finger thing was deliberate had been like a stab right through Steve's heart. How could he have been so stupid? He almost bangs his head against the wall but thankfully stops himself in time. Tony is flying, he can't do that.

Fuck. Steve had been hurt dozens of times in the last two weeks, since the spell, and Tony never said anything. There were the little things like stubbing his toe, yes, but what about the sparring with Thor? No wonder Tony had left the gym, Steve had received a beating for a whole hour after that. He even encouraged Thor to go hard, so he could bleed out his frustration with the whole Enchantress situation. For someone who obsesses about every little thing Tony does, he's been particularly blind lately.

He's rubbing at his brow with both palms, head down, when the tips of women's boots creep into his field of vision. Natasha doesn't speak up, but when Steve stays quiet too she sits by his side, mirroring him with her back against the wall, shoulder brushing his. She's always been good at silent comfort.

The rest of the debriefing attendees walk past them, Fury with long pissed off strides, but no one stops to ask questions. Both Clint and Bruce slow down, then Thor, but Nat must signal them because they continue without stopping.

After another minute, and a deep sigh, Steve speaks up. "I fucked up, Nat."

"What happened?"

"In the meeting, I broke my finger." Or close enough, anyway. She'll get what he means.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

Should he have told her that? Tony didn't seem to want anyone to know he is bonded to Steve.

"Did you catch up to him?" Nat asks.

"Yes. But I made it worse." Steve can't believe he grabbed Tony by his hurt arm, first of all. The pain had been red hot, on top of how Tony had injured it again when he reacted to the finger thing. But more than the physical side, there was the whole confrontation about Steve hurting him when he more than suspected that Tony would feel it.

"You know Tony, he lashes out when he's hurt," Nat says.

"I know." They are a lot alike in that. "I didn't manage to explain-" he trails off because what was there to say, anyway? That it seemed important to test the bond because he didn't trust Tony to be honest if he just asked?

"Does he know you hurt for him, too?" Natasha asks. He turns to her in surprise and she smiles wryly. "You do, huh? I didn't know for sure but there were hints. I've seen you glare at me when I sparred with him."

"You didn't have to twist his wrist that much to make your point," Steve grumbles. "He's not trained like we are."

"He is more resourceful than you give him credit for, and he learns by example. You've always been too soft on him."

Maybe. But that doesn't change Steve's current problem and the fact that this conversation is ridiculous under the circumstances. Nat was only trying to help Tony, in the long run.

"Fuck, Nat, I hurt him on purpose." His heart drops thinking about it.

"Was it to be mean? Or even to cause pain?" she asks.

"Of course not!" Steve protests. "But I hurt him anyway! I could… I could have done something small. But no, I didn't think, I just-" God, he wants to put his fist through the fucking wall, he's so frustrated with himself.

"Does your finger still ache?" Natasha asks.

Steve opens and closes his hand and doesn't even feel a twinge anymore. It's a cold comfort. "No, the serum works fast."

"I think that's part of the problem," Nat says. "You heal so quickly that you are desensitized to pain. It hurts in the moment, but you've trained yourself to grit through it because it doesn't last." She’s not wrong. "You hurt your finger like someone else might pinch themselves."

True, but still completely careless. "I have no excuse. I know the phantom pains are intense, I should have thought about how it would hurt Tony."

Heck, the unrelenting ache in his left shoulder is a vivid reminder that the serum is a miracle the rest of the world doesn't have. It's agonizing and not receding at all. He wants to go to Tony with painkillers and a pack of ice because he hates that he's feeling like that. Plus there are the remaining twinges in Steve's own ribs that must be smarting for Tony too.

"Hey, Steve." Nat elbows him lightly.

"What?"

"Tony loves you. That's good news, right?"

"Yeah."

That's the best of news, really. Even through the turmoil and not knowing what to do, just thinking about it makes Steve feel lighter. He was so sure it was only him.

"Don't you think Tony deserves to know you love him back? And not assume that his teammate is just using him as a test subject?"

"Oh." Shit, it's true, Tony doesn't know! Steve scrambles up, and pulls Nat to her feet when she puts up a hand. "I don't know if he'll want to see me, he was really mad."

She rolls her eyes. "He loves you, idiot. Go fix it."

Grateful, Steve pulls her into a quick but strong hug that makes her squeak hilariously, before sprinting to the hangar.

 

***

 

While flying to the Tower, Tony goes from raging mad and hurt, to incredibly sad and… more hurt. He honestly doesn't know what to do now. He and Steve had somewhat worked past the awkwardness from The Incident, but now the curse and Tony's feelings on top? Steve will be so uncomfortable around him. And he already feels guilty for hurting him, so Tony's initial fear - that Captain America will bench himself - seems more than likely. Plus, there's the fact that Tony is still reeling from the knowledge that Steve could casually hurt him like that.

Tony wishes that putting distance between them would break the bond, or at least ease the effects. But the studies on the curse show it wouldn't work. The link is directly related to the person who got hit by the spell - so whoever was roughly in a twelve mile radius from Enchantress and Times Square on that fateful day. It doesn't matter if their "loved" is in Australia: if that person gets boxed by a kangaroo down under, the "lover" will feel it and without a time delay. It's always the person experiencing the phantom pains that had a brush with the magic, though. Jane's analysis has determined that it's over eight million people potentially affected. And Tony was really goddamn close to the source, that's for sure.

When he wants to be left alone, Tony generally goes to his workshop. Today, though, once out of the suit he wanders to the pool room instead. He's not sure why. Maybe because it's the last place everything was fine before it all went to shit? He'd missed the start of the party because he was flying back from California… And that had allowed him to realized how hilarious it was to be the only sober person at a party. Well, at least with the Avengers. Not one of them is an annoying drunk as far as Tony experienced. There's Bruce who can get melancholic, but on that particular night he was mostly taking sips from Thor's magic flask and giggling to himself.

The funniest of them had been Steve though. Flushed and stumbling around, talking too loudly and grinning as if he was having the time of his life, he was no different from a big frat boy. Gone was the perpetual responsible legend, making sure everyone is okay; he was a combination of happy-go-lucky and mischievous. It was absolutely devastating, especially since he'd latched onto Tony as soon as he arrived.

"Hey, hey, look, it's Tony!" he'd exclaimed upon seeing him, then almost had tripped over a lounge chair and right into the pool.

"Anthony!" Thor had been the one who grabbed him first, immediately sharing his flask. "We missed you!"

"Aww, that's sweet, thanks buddy. Couldn't get out of that meeting earlier, but I'm here now." He'd peered at the golden flask, sniffing its contents. "What's this?"

Thor had grinned. "Volstagg's special mead."

He'd taken a sip of almost liquid fire - not what would be called mead on Earth - and promised to himself it would be the only one if he wanted to be functional the day after. Then Steve had collided with him.

"Tony! Finally!" he'd said, huge arm now around Tony's shoulders. He swayed as if he needed the support to stay upright. "You weren't here. I missed you."

He'd laughed, endeared. "Seems like a consensus. I came as soon as I could."

"You work so much," Steve had said, grabbing Thor's flask from his hand and throwing his head back. He'd counted Steve taking three big swallows, as if it was Kool-Aid. No wonder he was drunk as a skunk. "So, so much. Like a lot."

"Someone has to pay the grocery bills," Tony had teased.

"Mmm, yeah. Thank you, Tony. For the groceries," he'd said, blue eyes a little dazed but face earnest.

"My pleasure, Chief."

"Did you know Thor gives the best hugs?" Steve had asked.

It had made Thor beam. "What a great compliment."

"Really good." Steve was so convinced of that information, he kept nodding and steered Tony his way.

"I believe you," Tony had replied, but still got a demonstration when Thor decided it would be wonderful to make a big blond sandwich with a Tony middle. Nice place to be even if it was hard to breathe for a moment there. Steve had been particularly clingy, and Tony had let himself enjoy it.

Steve had dragged him around the room, insisting that everyone hug Tony. But soon he'd started to yawn and mumble about resting his eyes for a second. It was obvious that he'd have trouble getting to his apartment, drunk as he was, so Tony had taken it on himself to bring him there. The rest… well Tony has been thinking about the rest for four weeks now.

By the pool, feet in the water even if it means soaking the undersuit, Tony wishes they could go back to when things were uncomplicated. No Incident, no curse, just loving from afar without consequences. He'd not even considered making a move on Steve, before, resigned to living with his quiet longing. It was nice, nursing this bright affection, and not in a million years would he have thought Steve could be interested back. It's probably why he'd found it so hard to kiss him - and feel him, jesus - enough to bring his hopes up before it was brutally taken away.

Tony hears the murmur of voices, and for a second he thinks he'll dodge unwanted company and that whoever it is will keep walking towards the gym. But unfortunately the door opens to the pool room, revealing Steve in the process of thanking JARVIS. He must have asked where to find Tony, who is annoyed that JARVIS helped, even though he didn't say he wanted to be left alone. Tony also feels the immediate need to get away; he thought he'd made himself clear on the helicarrier that he wanted his space.

It seems that he will not get it, though. Steve walks over and… takes off his boots before sitting by Tony's side. At a very calculated distance, for sure, close enough but not crowding. Steve puts his feet in the pool, too, in a classic use of mirrored body language to express interest, empathy. Tony does not care to play that game. He isn't enraged anymore, but his feelings are still raw and he doesn't want to say something he'll regret. Steve might not want him, but Tony wants to at least be friends.

"Steve-" Tony says, ending in a sigh. He's tired and doesn't wish to fight, or argue. He just wants peace.

"Indulge me for a minute, okay?" Steve asks, voice so soft and kind it raises Tony's hackles all over again. God, not pity, please no. Steve adds a genuine-sounding apology next. "I'm sorry. It was a stupid thing to do."

At least he's not skirting the issue, instead going immediately to the finger-test. Stupid name, for a stupid action.

"Yeah."

"I really am sorry. I didn't-" he pauses, starts again. "I wanted to confirm that you felt me, but I didn't do it to hurt you, if that makes any sense. Hurting you is the last thing I want."

"Well good job," Tony grumbles. He thinks he understands what Steve is trying to say though. An impulse decision coupled with not quite thinking about the consequences, a sure-fire recipe for disaster. He's a bit mollified by the apology.

"I know. I'll do my very best so it doesn't happen again, promise."

Ah shit, there Steve goes. Tony breathes out forcefully. He's about to argue that Steve can't stop doing his job just because Tony feels the echo of his injuries when Steve takes him by surprise with his next question.

"Can I ask you to do something for me, please?"

Tony looks at him with suspicion, wary because he has no idea what he wants. Steve's face is open and so vulnerable that Tony immediately nods. There's no way he can refuse those big blue eyes.

"Thank you." Steve shifts, so he's facing Tony more fully, and then closes his eyes. "Okay. So pinch yourself, anywhere."

Tony's first reaction is surprise. "What?"

"Please. It's important," Steve insists.

It cannot be what Tony thinks, right? But then why else would Steve ask something like that? He almost refuses: if he hurts himself and Steve doesn't feel it, it will suck big time. But then again, he was sure for the last month that Steve felt nothing but friendship for him, so what does he have to lose?

Eyes fixated on Steve, who is still patiently waiting for Tony to get with the program, he firmly pinches at the webbing between his thumb and index of his right hand. Without opening his eyes, Steve brings his hands together and gently rubs at the same area.

Oh.

Oh god.

"Again," Steve demands.

It's difficult to pinch skin through the undersuit, but Tony squeezes the side of his thigh and immediately Steve covers his own. It should be enough, but Steve still has his eyes closed, utterly cool and waiting, determined to prove a point. He knows Tony well because it's true he can't resist another data point. Not breathing anymore, Tony pulls his left shoulder back until it screams at him. Steve makes a pained grimace and finally opens his eyes. Clear azure, they are calm and sure.

"You should see a doctor for that. And ice it in the meantime."

"Steve?" Tony asks, voice tiny and unsure.

"I wanted to show you, so you could see it for yourself. I love you Tony," Steve says, making Tony's insides swoop and his heart speed up.

 

***

 

In an ideal world, Tony would hear Steve’s love confession and immediately fall into his arms. It's not what happens. It seems to take a few seconds for the words and demonstration to land while Tony stays silent and gaping at him in shock. But then he frowns and shakes his head.

"No, you don't."

Steve blinks, surprised. "Yes, I do."

"It makes no sense!" Tony exclaims. "I don't know why the spell had a mishap with you-"

"It did not!" Steve protests. Why is Tony fighting him on this? "I didn't need a spell to know it, I have loved you for a while."

"It was very clear from the incident, like without a doubt-"

What the hell is Tony going on about? Steve interrupts him before he starts babbling. "I have no idea what you are talking about. What incident?"

Tony gestures with his right hand, like batting words out of the air. "Right, you wouldn't know. The Incident is just what I've called in my head the morning after, four weeks ago, when you almost puked just from the idea that you could have slept with me."

His tone turns clipped at the end there, the hurt shining through and Steve wants to groan in dismay.

"I felt sick because of the hangover."

"Don't lie, it was more than that!" Tony accuses. "You became snippy, and you were not happy about it before I told you nothing happened."

"I was unhappy because I remembered nothing!" Steve explains. "I'd managed to have sex with you and nothing? Just a fun drunk thing?"

Tony looks even angrier at that, raising his voice. "And I still can't believe you think I'd do that!"

It dawns on Steve that they are talking in circles and most probably not hearing each other correctly. He raises his hands to stop the argument.

"Wait wait wait, one second. Think you'd do what?"

"Give in and sleep with you, as tempting and willing as you said you were! You were so drunk, it would have been rape, Steve. I knew you'd hate me in the morning, and you obviously did when you thought it happened, and-"

Tony is trying to get up, incensed. Steve just reacts, catching him by the arm - thankfully the right one - and then puts his hand over Tony's mouth to stop him from talking.

"Stop. Stop talking."

There is so much to unpack in what Tony just said, Steve's head is reeling. Tony, eyes round, nods to show he's done. To be sure he stays quiet, Steve leaves just a finger on Tony's lips, as gently as he can. He doesn't want for it to feel smothering, but just as a physical reminder to pause and let him talk.

First of all, he was worried that he'd come on to Tony and it sure seems that he did. Blushing in embarrassment, Steve asks about it.

"That night, I propositioned you?" Tony doesn't shake Steve's finger off, just nods in agreement.

"You wanted me back?" he asks next, treading carefully. That's what he heard, anyway. Tony's eyes are still wide, searching Steve's face. After a pause he nods again.

Okay, that's great, that's awesome. But now they are at the heart of the misunderstanding.

"But you thought I'd regret it, so you said no? You would have felt you took advantage of me?" Tony's nodding is vigorous throughout those questions.

He even said rape… and then Steve accused him of doing it, sleeping with him intoxicated. Or more accurately, Steve had implied that he thought Tony would have done it without a second thought. No wonder he'd been insulted and hurt. He lets his hand fall down to his lap; there is just so much affection in his heart for this man.

"Oh, Tony, we're so fucking stupid. I assumed you were mad that I implied you'd want me. That you were disgusted at the idea."

Tony's mouth drops comically open. "What? Are you serious right now? Who the hell would be stupid enough-"

"Plenty," Steve cuts in, but he's grinning. He doesn't care about all of the people who would genuinely find the idea repulsive, just because they are not into men or not into him specifically, that is perfectly fine. What is important here is that Tony isn't one of them. "We're goddamn idiots. And by that I include you." Tony huffs, eyebrow rising in mock offense, but Steve continues, "- because you totally misread why I was freaking out too. It's not sleeping with you that bothered me, it was that I had no memory of it. And I thought I'd blown my one chance."

"One chance? What, like I'd bang you once and cross it off my to do list?" Tony says it jokingly but there's a wariness lurking in his eyes. Steve knows he's managed to hurt him again and hates how he repeatedly keeps doing it.

"Sorry, God, I was so turned around. I didn't know you liked me at all. Frankly, I can't believe someone like you is even interested in me? Tony, you're so amazing, and-"

He's the one who gets a finger on the lips now, and Tony is scowling. "What the hell? Shut up! I'm the fuck up in this relationship, Mister-"

Steve smiles widely again - Tony said 'relationship! - and can't help it, he leans in and kisses him. For a second Tony's finger is trapped between their mouths, but he quickly takes it out of the way, cupping Steve's jaw instead and kissing back. It's not the greatest of kisses, not when Steve is fighting a grin, but it's perfect anyway. The swooping in his chest is the best kind of thrill and he can't believe he gets to kiss Tony at all. And that it's welcome.

He pulls away to make direct eye contact, because it's essential that Tony understands him, without ambiguity. "I love you, so much. Me, you, the Avengers, we're all fucked up, Tony. Our issues have issues. But I love you, and I want you."

 

***

 

Tony leans in and kisses Steve this time. Steve keeps saying the word love like he really means it, which is something Tony can't quite wrap his mind around, curse or no curse. He also speaks of wanting, and that's more believable. Desire has always been easier for Tony to deal with than sentiment, for sure. He loves Steve so much, but suddenly he's getting everything he dreamt of? It seems too good to be true. Tony has had so many happy dreams that turned to dust as he woke up, he's used to it. Arm now looped around those gorgeous shoulders - jeeeeesus - Tony enjoys it a little more and pinches his forearm just to be sure. It's just a precaution: if everything is true, that's terrific. But if not, every dream must end, anyway, and it's best not to wallow too much in an artificial fantasy.

Tony might be overzealous in the pinch, viciously twisting the skin while he's at it. Clearly he didn't think this through at all. Steve jolts away and it not only breaks the kiss, it makes them both topple into the pool. It's unexpected for the both of them and Tony has a flash of real anxiety when he's suddenly underwater. He lashes out, fighting to surface and to untangle himself from Steve, and his injured shoulder screams at him. As if the whole situation is not disastrous enough, he either clips Steve or make him move wrong somehow. One of the fractured ribs, which must have started stitching up, snaps loose again and the pain in Tony's side is sharp.

The water is eight feet deep where they were sitting, and Tony ends up catching his breath while gripping the edge of the pool with his feet on a tiny ledge. By his side, Steve's hair is plastered to his head, the hand not holding him up to the pool's wall covering his ribs. He's wincing in pain - it does hurt like a bitch - and looks incredibly confused.

"Oh, fuck, sorry," Tony immediately apologizes. A dream of his would never include hurting Steve like this. How could he forget even for a second that Steve would feel his pinch?

"What was that for?" Steve asks, brows furrowed.

"I- uh." He can't play this off as nothing, unfortunately. "I might have tried to see if it was a dream?"

Steve stares at him for long seconds, blinks, and then he starts laughing. Big guffaws that are frankly not comfortable with the ribs situation. Tony is mortified, and can feel his face heat up.

"Stop that, it hurts!" he mumbles in protest.

"I know," Steve says, still chuckling. He moves closer and Tony happily welcomes him in his space again, glad he hasn't made Steve angry with his antics. He sure doesn't seem mad as he loops an arm around Tony's waist and kisses his wet forehead, then his cheek and the side of his mouth. "I love you so much."

"You've said." Tony has been slacking on that front, though, and since this is real he better man up. "And I love you too."

"So it seems. Sorry you have to feel the ribs. And the finger," Steve says, peppering little kisses along the edge of his jaw.

Tony hums, tilting his head to the side to give Steve more space.

"It's fine. The strangest was definitely when I basically punched myself in the nose." That had been one weird sparring session.

"You should have told me. I should have told you, too."

"Yeah, but we're idiots," Tony agrees.

"That we are," Steve says, eyes on Tony's mouth and leaning in.

They don't speak much after that, too lost in each other. Steve presses him against the side of the pool, and his kisses are deep and passionate. It's as if Steve can't get enough, as if it's as essential to him as breathing, which Tony can relate to. But as much as he's loving this make out session in the pool, it's just not sustainable.

"Steve," Tony speaks up when they break apart to breathe.

It earns him a hum, Steve nosing at his cheek and then biting at his earlobe. It's very distracting.

"We should get out of the pool."

"Getting in the pool wasn't my idea," Steve teases.

"Yeah, no, my fault," Tony admits. "Why don't we find somewhere more comfortable, and hopefully private?"

"I like the sound of that," Steve says, voice gravelly. He also grinds against Tony's hip and shit, he's erect and hard enough to feel through the Captain America uniform and Tony's own undersuit. "Brace yourself, pushing you out."

Without more preamble, Steve grips Tony's hips and boosts him out until he's sitting on the tile. It's an impressive show of strength with Steve's lower position, especially since he doesn't have much to brace his feet on. He immediately pulls himself out, too, and they delay their plan for privacy when they kiss again instead.

The wet clothes are even more uncomfortable now, and with a great display of determination Tony finally pushes Steve away.

"Come on, I'm too old to make out on the floor."

Steve grins at him, a hand gently pushing Tony's hair off his forehead. "That's loser talk. I'm twice your age."

Tony rolls his eyes and gets to his feet. "Ha. Come on now, let's go to my room."

They grab fluffy towels on the rack near the wall as they make their wait to the elevator, drying off a bit. It doesn't stop Steve's boots from making a squishing sound, though, and Tony has to bite his lip not to laugh out loud. He also gets pinned to the elevator wall and kissed again, which is fantastic. Steve is so broad and solid against him, it's intoxicating.

"Sirs, we've reached your destination five minutes ago," JARVIS eventually says.

"Oh," Steve says, pulling away. His pupils are huge, with barely a ring of blue around them and Tony shivers at the idea that he's the cause of that. "Thanks JARVIS."

"My pleasure, Captain Rogers. May I suggest you and Sir move to a room where water won't ruin the flooring?"

Tony glances at the puddle on the wooden floor of the elevator and drops his towel on it, mopping with his feet. "Excellent suggestion, J."

He grabs Steve's hand and pulls him towards his bedroom, but doesn't stop until they are in the en-suite.

"Let's get you out of this," Tony says, starting on the snaps and hidden zippers. "A fantasy of mine, let's be honest here."

"Yeah?" Steve asks.

He's helping out, or at least trying to because wet Kevlar is clinging to his frame. Not that Tony can fault the suit, it's a fantastic body, but it needs to go now.

"Oh yes. I've always had a very vivid imagination, and teenager me used to have a poster of you up on the wall, so…"

Steve coughs, taken by surprise, and he even blushes. "Are you serious?"

Tony winks. "Yep. Remind me to show you pictures of twink me."

God, he would have been all over Steve in an instant (including being inappropriate from the get go, which would have made a just-defrosted Steve run for the hills). He used to be such a brat.

Steve shrugs. "Sure, but it's now you I like."

He gets a kiss for that, because it's sweet. Soon after Tony crows in victory when he not only gets the outside Kevlar top off of Steve but also the ridiculously tight soaked undershirt. He gets distracted, then, by the sheer perfection of Steve's torso and shoulders. Good Lord, the man is built. He'd felt him up a bit, the night of The Incident, but now is better because he can enjoy it without guilt. Steve is incredibly responsive, nipple pebbling up at the first touch.

"You are so beautiful," Tony marvels, leaning in to mouth at Steve's clavicle.

He's trying to get the belt undone, but the wet leather is not cooperative.

"How the hell?" Steve is mumbling, hands roaming up and down Tony's body. "Take this off, please!“

 

***

 

Steve’s frustration at not finding a way to get Tony out of his undersuit bleeds into his petulant demand. He’s been trying to get to skin for minutes now, with no result. It’s like the garment was painted onto Tony, which is usually not a flaw, apart from how it’s chipping away at his sanity. Tony laughs and pops up the tab that’s hidden in the collar and Steve takes over, unzipping him to the navel.

“That’s more like it!” He says appreciatively, caressing up Tony’s flank. His skin is cold, and it’s about time he gets out of those wet clothes. It’s way overdue that he strips them off for Steve to enjoy, too, considering he’s dreamed of this for so long.

“Oh yeah,” Tony agrees, probably with both sentiments.

He has undone Steve’s belt, and it’s a relief when after a brief battle with the fabric they get his pants and underwear off. Eager to reciprocate and get Tony naked too, Steve tugs at the stretchy material of the undersuit. There’s a phantom twinge in his shoulder and he almost curses at his carelessness. He instinctively knows not to comment on it; Tony hates being coddled. He’s nonetheless more careful when he continues peeling him out of the garment. Steve does it with reverence and kisses for every inch of skin revealed, and unfortunately what he discovers makes him guilty as hell.

Tony is black and blue all over. His shoulder for sure, but also the ribs and marks on his arms and legs. There’s also a nasty looking bruise on his hip where Steve got hit by a good kick from Thor the other day. It takes his breath away, and he hears himself make a distressed sound in the back of his throat. Tony holds Steve’s face in his hands and looks him in the eyes, serious.

“Hey, it’s all right. I’m okay. The stupid curse means I feel it, but the pain fades as fast as it does for you.”

It’s probably meant to be a comfort, and it is a little, but he’s upset that Tony had to experience his pain.

“But-“

“Want to kiss it better?” He teases, pecking Steve on the lips. Tony’s eyes are dancing with joy and Steve can’t help but smile in return.

“Yeah,” Steve says, swallowing the bad emotions down. He needs to focus on the positive and making Tony feel good is a great way to do it. “Definitely.”

“Let’s rinse the pool water off. The salt always makes me itchy,” Tony says, steering him towards the huge shower stall, leaving their soaked clothes littered in sad little clumps on the floor.

Steve thought his shower was big, but Tony’s is borderline excessive. The whole Team could comfortably fit in here, and his subconscious elaborates on that and makes him wonder if Tony ever brought more than one person in here. He stows the stab of jealousy away - it’s not his business - and vows to make it memorable enough that old potential flings will pale in comparison.

There are multiple shower heads, and as far as he notices Tony gives no instruction for the settings when they step in.

“Is JARVIS in here?” Steve asks, a bit self-conscious at the idea.

“Yeah,” Tony says, as he steps under the spray. “He’s all over my floor.”

“I can limit my surveillance to the common rooms of the floor, as I do on your own, if that makes you more comfortable Captain Rogers,” JARVIS speaks up.

It would, but then again maybe Tony programmed his AI to wake him up from nightmares and things like that. For sure Steve’s own rooms are always around 75 degrees, and his windows never let him wake up to the sight of snow falling, only going transparent when he asks for it.

“It’s fine,” Steve says.

“Don’t worry, he won’t let me leak out revenge porn,” Tony quips.

Steve rolls his eyes. “As if you’d ever do that.”

Unfortunately the only reason he knows about the expression is because he got a briefing at SHIELD. The over-invested agent kept stressing all the ways he had to be careful with partners to avoid it, and had used Tony as an example of someone having been trapped into it. Just thinking about it makes Steve want to find those people and wring their necks. Nat told him how JARVIS has tracked them all down himself and helped Stark Legal bankrupt the creeps. It is telling that it was an initiative from JARVIS, and not Tony, which had made Steve fiercely glad that the AI had his creator’s back like that.

Speaking of backs, Steve stays in the shower door for a moment, openly admiring Tony’s body. He’s a lot more muscular and fit than his nicely cut suits reveal, which is always put in evidence by the undersuit. But naked and with water sluicing down his shoulders, back and glorious ass? He’s breathtaking.

“You’re gorgeous.”

Tony smiles at him over his shoulder, but there’s a faint blush behind the cocky smirk. He also gives Steve a thorough once over, so appreciative that it makes his own cheeks burn.

“That’s my line. Look at you,” Tony purrs, eyes heated.

He extends a hand in invitation and Steve unfreezes from hovering in the entrance and closes the shower door behind himself before stepping right up next to Tony. The water is pleasantly hot without being scalding, and Steve gathers Tony in his arms for another kiss. There is no pesky wet fabric separating them now and Steve groans when their middles come into contact. It feels fantastic just to have their erections pressed together, trapped between them. Tony caresses down Steve’s back and grabs his ass firmly, then grinds, ratcheting the feeling up.

“You feel so good,” Tony says, moving in tight little circles that Steve immediately mimics. It feels great indeed, and Steve knows it won’t take a lot for him to come if they continue like this.

“I’m sorry,” he says, breath hitching. God, he’s so wound up he can barely keep it together.

“You’re close Sweetheart?” Tony asks, and that’s it, the endearment tips him over the edge.
The pleasure zings through Steve’s whole body like he’s made of live wires, taking his breath away as he spends himself against Tony’s belly. He’s been extremely sensitive since the serum, a lack of staying power that he compensates with almost no refractory period, but this is downright embarrassing. Holding Tony’s upper arms to stay upright because his knees are threatening to give out from the aftershocks of his orgasm, he apologizes again.

“Sorry, sorry,” he mumbles, hiding his shame by pressing his face into Tony’s neck.

“Why? That was goddamn beautiful, Baby,” Tony says, caressing Steve’s back and shoulders soothingly. “Do you have any idea how good for my ego this is?”

Steve laughs, holding Tony a little tighter. It‘s so sweet to make it about him in such a Tony way, as opposed to teasing Steve (which he would deserve, as long as it wasn’t mean).

“Yeah, well, you can take all the credit. You make me crazy.”

“Same thing, Gorgeous,” Tony replies before gently guiding Steve’s head into a kissable position again. Steve is frankly loving all the sweet nicknames and he wonders when Tony will circle back to one he’s already used.

The kiss is deep and thorough, but if the orgasm has taken the edge off for Steve, he can feel the tension still coiled in Tony. It’s subtle, but he presses his hard dick against Steve’s hip now and again. Tony’s not demanding anything, looking perfectly pleased at just necking under the water spray, but Steve promised himself he’d make him feel good. It’s the least he can do to compensate for all the marks Tony sports because he loves him.

“I’ve got you,” Steve says, giving him one last peck before going to his knees.

“Oh sweet Jesus in Heaven,” Tony says, tone awed and Steve bursts out laughing, looking up at him. Tony’s big brown eyes are huge, and there is so much hunger on his face that Steve resolves to be worthy of it. “Please,” Tony adds.

Isn’t that good for the ego! Steve puts his hands on Tony’s strong thighs - his and Clint’s obsession with squats definitely pays off - and starts by nosing at his neatly trimmed groin. Steve breathes in deeply, enjoying the musky pure male smell of Tony, and his own cock immediately stirs. He’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have any problem going four or even five times tonight, if Tony has the desire and the patience for it. Not that Steve needs it, twice would be enough, but the potential is there.

“I don’t want to pinch myself again, it was disastrous earlier. But I want to say for the record that if this turns out just to be a dream I’ll be seriously pissed.”

“Not a dream, Tony,” Steve says, then playfully bites at the interior of Tony’s thigh. He feels the stinging echo of it, of course, but the most interesting reaction is how Tony groans deeply, his cock twitching and leaking a little burst of pre-come. He definitely liked that, and it’s something to file away for later. Steve takes advantage of the momentum to close his mouth on the head of Tony’s dick, and then sucks.

“Oh, fuck!” Tony exclaims, both hands clamping on top of Steve’s shoulders.

Since he woke up from the ice, Steve has had a couple of hookups, but only with women. The last time he gave a blowjob was eight months before the plane went down - ha! - with a French resistance fighter he’d hit it off with on a short leave in Rouen. Steve had been on the outs with Peggy at the time; it seems history glossed over the epic fights they had and only remembered the romantic side of their relationship. He and Albert had fucked like rabbits for three days, fueled by the particular urgency that comes with war. It had been fun - Albert was a good lover and a beautiful young man, blond with bright green eyes - but it had meant nothing to Steve. First, he still loved Peggy (even though he thought they were through), but also neither of them had any delusion it could become anything more than sex.

Now, with Tony, it’s not just sex, which means it’s by default better and more intense. Steve revels in having his mouth full of Tony’s cock, heavy on his tongue and stretching his lips. He’s definitely getting harder by the second, but having taken the edge off allows him to enjoy the experience of sucking Tony even more. The smell of sex is intoxicating, the taste addictive, and looking up and seeing how rapidly he’s wrecking Tony makes him feel like a million bucks. But what Steve loves the most right now is the involuntary sounds he’s pulling out of Tony. Between praise about how beautiful and perfect he is, Tony’s making little sighs and grunts that are incredibly erotic.

“God, Steve, your mouth,” Tony babbles, caressing Steve’s cheek and jaw with reverent fingers. “So good for me.”

Steve basks in the attention: it make him feel like he’s doing exactly what Tony needs right now. With as much skill as he’s learned, he keeps a steady rhythm and a tight suction. He also moves his tongue on the underside of Tony’s cock every time he pulls out to entice Tony to fuck back in again, and again. It’s tempting to take Tony into his throat - Albert had showed him that - but he’s worried he’d choke and break the mood. They’ll have time for Steve to practice it another time, and isn’t that fantastic all by itself? He’d been afraid that the only way he’d get with Tony would be a one-night stand, but here they are, starting something that Steve knows will be incredible. They haven’t talked about what they want and would like to become, but Steve knows that Tony loves him and he’s sure they’ll work it out. He doesn’t have the brain power to think too much about the future when the now is so overwhelming. Blowing Tony is everything he imagined and then some, which is why Steve whines in protest when he pulls out.

“You’re going to kill me, Honey,” Tony says. “I love it, fantastic all around, as would be coming in your mouth or on your pretty face-“ Steve can’t repress a shiver, he’d love it if Tony would mark him as his like that, “-but I’ve been thinking about your cock for weeks now.”

The suggestion alone makes Steve’s dick twitch. Fucking Tony would be glorious, and he can blow him to completion another time. Heck, he can do it later tonight, or tomorrow morning, take his time while not kneeling on wet ceramic.

“Yeah?” Steve kisses Tony’s forearm, just in reach because Tony’s hands are still on his shoulders.

“Definitely, come on.”

Tony insists on patting him dry with more gigantic fluffy towels, which Steve is happy to reciprocate. Tony is so cute, rolled in his towel and hair a mess after being ruffed up, but eventually Steve picks the engineer burrito up in a fireman carry to cross to the bedroom.

After a yelp of surprise, Tony goes limp, and sighs over-dramatically. “Oh no, this is going to be a thing is it?”

“Picking you up?” Steve asks, patting Tony’s bum through the towel. “Maybe.” It will most certainly be a thing.

He looks around the bedroom as he crosses it and is honestly surprised. He expected more fanfare, possibly red satin sheets, but on the contrary, Tony’s room is warm and muted. It’s painted in soft shades of blue and holds a few pieces of sleek furniture built in pale wood. The real luxury is the large bed where Steve throws Tony, who laughs good naturedly even though his shoulder gets a shock. It appalls Steve how he keeps forgetting about the injury, but at least this time it hadn’t hurt all that much and Tony doesn’t even react, beckoning him closer.

“I’m not a princess needing to be carried around, Boo Bear!” Tony protests, but he’s grinning wide.

“Nah, you love it,” Steve says with confidence, climbing on the bed and kneeling in the convenient place Tony makes between his legs. “And you’re the prettiest princess in all of New York.” Tony pouts slightly, so Steve amends. “The prettiest everywhere.”

“I beg to differ, Sunshine.”

That particular nickname makes Steve’s heart skip, bringing him back to his childhood; his mom used it all the time. He likes it a lot, but it hurts to think about it too much so he stretches on top of Tony, pressing him into the mattress. Tony’s erection is hard and hot against Steve, who’s returned to full mast himself.

“I want you so much,” Steve says, grinding down.

“Not going to stop you this time,” Tony replies, grabbing Steve’s ass and bringing him even closer. “Do you have any idea how tempting you were, sloppy drunk but shameless?”

Now that he has the whole context, Steve is so glad that Tony didn’t act on his desire.

“It sounds like I made a fool out of myself,” Steve admits.

“Oh no, not at all. You were wicked, and you kissed like you meant it-“

“We kissed?” Steve interrupts his mapping of Tony’s neck to look at his face.

Tony winces. “Yeah, sorry, my bad. I shouldn’t have, but you started it, and I’d wanted it for so long…”

“I wish I could remember it,” Steve says, bummed he forgot their first kiss. “I’m sure it was great. I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time too.”

“How about I’ll give you ten kisses for each of the ones you forgot?” Tony suggests.

Steve smiles. “Yeah, okay, sound like a plan. Did I grope your ass, too?”

It makes Tony laugh. “Not quite! But good try.”

“Darn,” Steve says, kissing Tony’s cheek. “And I thought drunk me was daring.”

“Oh, he was daring all right. Drunk you clearly stated he wanted to fuck, that plainly, and Downward Cap sure wasn’t slowed down by alcohol. I wonder if it’s a side effect of the serum?”

“Please don’t call my dick Downward Cap, and yeah, the serum probably compensated.” Tony’s smile widens and Steve can see the gears in his head turning by the glint in his eyes. “You’re thinking of experimenting on me, aren’t you?”

“Sexy, sexy experimentation,” Tony says with a mock-serious nod. Steve isn’t opposed, not at all. He did some testing of his own, solo and with partners, but he can only imagine what Tony could think of. It would be good, of that he’s convinced.

“Okay, why don’t we start by figuring out if I can fuck you until all you remember is my name?”

Tony laughs out loud and brings him into a kiss that starts with too much teeth, with the way they are both smiling, but soon turns wet and hungry. Skin to skin like this, Steve’s desire is ratcheting up quickly.

“I want to make it good for you,” he tells Tony.

“It’s already fantastic, Darling,” Tony says. “Lube is in the nightstand.”

Reluctantly Steve pauses the kissing and frotting, because they do need some slick to make this work. He stretches to get to the nightstand drawer, to the point where there’s discomfort for his healing ribs and Tony’s finger caresses his flank, right over them.

“You heal incredibly quickly,” Tony muses.

“Yeah,” Steve says. “I remember how it was, before. Don’t miss it.”

Speaking of, he’s unhappy about how long Tony’s shoulder will hurt. He must convince him to ice it, later. As he settles back between Tony’s thighs, bottle of expensive lube in hand, he kisses said shoulder in passing.

“Sorry you have to feel this,” Tony apologizes.

“Not your fault, and I can take it.”

What he’s interested in right now is not pain, on the contrary. Taking a pause to get the lube has brought back a bit of control and he takes his time to explore Tony’s body with licks and kisses. He thrills when he finds a spot that earns him a deeper moan or a full body shiver, but Tony is growing impatient.

“Steve, Sugar, you’re killing me here. Please!” he protests when Steve gets distracted by a hip bone.

His hands are in constant motion, going from petting Steve’s hair or caressing his shoulders to groping his upper arms. Tony doesn’t seem to know if he’d prefer pulling Steve back up the bed for more kisses, or pushing him towards his cock. He can’t resist the second option, just a little more, and he closes his mouth around Tony’s dick again, making him curse.

“Jesus, your mouth! So fucking good!”

Steve bobs his head as Tony urges him on with a hand tight in his hair now. He can feel Tony tensing up, and again it’s tempting to finish him, but he clearly wanted to be fucked. He manages to open the lube and wet his fingers, and the choked-up moan Tony makes when Steve touches his hole is worth it.

“Yes, yes, please!” Tony begs.

He’s hot inside, so soft, but also way too tight. It’s strange for Steve to feel a twinge in his own ass so he eases off Tony’s dick, adds slick and tries again.

“Relax, Sweetheart,” he says, looking up Tony’s body. He rubs his cheek on Tony’s cock while gently probing in, one knuckle deep.

“Stop teasing, fuck, come on!” Tony urges.

It’s not surprising that he’s impatient, keyed up as he is, but Steve refuses to hurt him. He crawls up the bed to go kiss Tony, who clutches at his upper arms and responds with enthusiasm.

“Shh, I’ll make it good for you,” Steve promises when he breaks the kiss. He’s trying to gauge when to add a finger by how it feels for him, but clearly Tony has opinions about it.

“Come on!” Tony insists. “I won’t break! Give it to me!”

“It’s still burning.”

Tony groans. “Dammit Steve, it’s fine. I like to feel it, okay? And that damn spell is just letting you feel the bad stuff, Bello, not how good it is.”

That’s true, he hadn’t thought about it that way. He dares a little more, sinking two digits in completely and the reward is how Tony arches beautifully against him.

“Yes, yes, that’s it!”

“Okay, okay,” Steve relents. “Promise me you’ll stop me if it’s too much, okay?”

“I promise.”

From then on he takes more of his clues from Tony’s reaction, adding a little biting because it drives Tony absolutely crazy. He still refuses to rush things and is glad of it when he finally switch his fingers for his cock. Tony’s still tight and does feel it, but he so visibly enjoys it too that Steve continues, glacially slow.

“Oh, fuck, so good,” Tony pants.

And it is, exceptionally so. It’s a good thing that Steve came once already, because pleasure is coiling in his gut and groin again. He wants to move, to take, to make Tony unequivocally his.

“God, Tony, you’re amazing,” Steve says as he sinks to the hilt, breath catching. It’s so hot inside, so good, and he shivers when Tony clamps down hard. “Fuck, don’t do that too much.”

Tony grins and Steve swoops down to kiss him again, deep and wet. But Tony squeezes again, and it makes Steve snap his hips involuntarily. Tony groans, visibly pleased with himself. Yeah, he won’t patiently wait for what he wants, he’ll coerce it out if need be.

“That’s not fair!” Steve protests, starting to move in and out, reveling in the feel of it. He doesn’t think he will resist coming for long.

“What?” Tony says, still smiling wide. “Looks like you like it, Poppet.”

Steve snorts. “Poppet?”

“Dumpling, Gumdrop, Pookie-“ Tony lists, before Steve shuts him up with another kiss and a hard thrust.

“Not an incentive to make me stop,” Tony says against Steve’s lips.

“I like it,” Steve admits. He’s amused at the creativity, for sure. “But I’m more of a single pet name guy myself, Sweetheart.” He emphasizes his point with a roll of his hips.

“Oh, God, yes, that works. It’s fine. Come on, fuck me like you mean it.”

He wants to. Steve needs to nail Tony to the mattress but he won’t last long enough to make it great for him, it’s too overwhelming. He already has to strain against the need to come.

“I don’t want to rush it.”

He shouldn’t be surprised that Tony can read him already. “You’re close again, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Steve admits. “I’m sorry-“

Tony puts a hand on his cheek and makes Steve meet his eyes. “Hey, no, none of that. It’s fine if you come, okay? I want that.”

They’ve just started actually fucking, Tony can’t be satisfied by a couple of thrusts. “But you-“

“I’d bet my company AND my suit that you can get it up again in no time at all,” Tony says.

“Yeah.” Minutes, at most.

“So fuck me hard and fill me up, Stud. Don’t worry about me - make me sloppy with your come and then fuck me again.”

It almost does the trick.

“Jesus, you’re a menace,” Steve says, moving in earnest. He’s got to believe that Tony is honest with him, here. Judging by the way his eyes are rolling up in his head, he’s thoroughly enjoying himself.

The mix of how Tony is taking it and the overwhelming greatness of the pleasure filling Steve’s whole being ramps up every single time their bodies connect. He tries closing his eyes, to cut at least one stimulation off, but Tony won’t have it.

“Look at me, Beautiful,” he insists, a hand on Steve’s cheek again. He smiles when Steve obeys. “Yeah, that’s it, let me see you fall apart.”

Steve tries to resist, but it’s too much. The love that is so clearly written on Tony’s face - notably in the deep laugh lines that highlight his bright eyes - is what tips him over the edge and he spills with a shout. He tries to keep looking at Tony as asked, but it’s like fireworks are popping in his brain and he falls to his elbows, panting hard.

“Perfect. I love it, I love you,” Tony says, petting his hair, kissing his cheek, then his nose.

“I love you so much,” Steve replies, voice cracking with emotion.

He feels like crying, which is stupid because he feels so good right now. Happy tears, he knows, but God, why is he like this? He has kept a lid on his emotions, his grief, so firmly and for so long he doesn’t know what to do with this light that wants to burst out from his core.

Tony winds his arms tightly around Steve’s neck and pulls him down until he’s almost squashed; he‘s holding on so strongly that it’s clear he wants it this way.

“I’ve got you, Tesoro,” Tony murmurs in his ear. “I’m yours, as long as you want me.”

“Always, then,” Steve says, hiding his face in Tony’s neck.

“Always sounds great,” Tony agrees. Steve wonders if Tony believes him, but it’s not important right now and he’ll make sure to show him how much he means it.

They stay like that for long moments, just breathing together, until Steve is confident he won’t start bawling. Tony gently pets his hair the whole time, grounding him with his touch. It’s only when Steve moves slightly and Tony shivers all over, tightening his hold, that he realizes how terrible a lover he’s being right now. Twice now he’s taken pleasure for himself and Tony’s still waiting.

“Shh, shh, this is fine,” Tony says when Steve tenses up. It’s unfair how well Tony can clearly read his reactions.

“But-“

“Kiss me,” Tony demands.

He does, it’s certainly not a hardship. He quickly gets lost in it, too, Tony is a great kisser, tongue agile and wicked which doesn’t surprise him one bit. It’s only because Tony starts smiling that Steve pulls away.

“What?” Steve asks.

“Won’t go bankrupt today!” Tony replies, wiggling his eyebrows ridiculously. Steve’s about to ask what he means by that when Tony clenches his ass around Steve’s renewed erection he hadn’t even noticed had perked up again. “See? All is fine.”

All is, indeed, fine. He realizes that he’s lucky to be able to go again and again. But he’s most of all relieved that Tony doesn’t mind the stop-start rhythm of them having sex. Also, after two orgasms Steve knows that he will finally last longer.

“I‘ll make it good for you now,” he promises, rolling his hips.

“It’s been great from the start,” Tony says, moving in counterpoint. “Harder, come on.”

If that’s what he wants, who is Steve to refuse? It’s so slick inside Tony now, with his come easing the glide, and he can’t stop thinking about what Tony said before.

“You feel so good,” Steve praises, picking up speed and increasing in strength to fuck into Tony.

“So do you. God.”

“I’ve wanted you for so long,” Steve confesses, eyes wide open not to miss one second of the blissed-out expression on Tony’s face. He’s got a good angle now because he’s reduced Tony to moans and clutching hands.

He’s free to take it all in, to really enjoy it all as he pistons into Tony. There’s no discomfort that he can feel, so it’s not too much. He even dares going harder than he normally lets himself, which makes Tony keen. He gets lost in it, a steady rhythm that works for them both. Right now, he feels like that could go all day.

“You’re so beautiful,” Steve praises. He loves how flushed Tony is, pupils blown wide when he manages to keep them opened, and the pink of his lips and how he keeps licking them. Steve kisses a cheek, his neck, bites his earlobe which makes Tony shudder. “I can’t believe you’re mine.”

“Fuck!” Tony hisses, and he’s trying to get a hand between them, that Steve bats away. He wants to be the one to make Tony go over the edge, it’s the least he can do.

“You close Sweetheart?” he asks. Tony probably can’t come from getting fucked alone like Steve can. Most men need a little more.

“Yes! Please, Steve, please,” he begs. He’s been holding on for a long time now, and Steve wants to give him whatever he wants.

A slight shift in position, to hold his weight on his left forearm, frees Steve’s right hand, which he closes around Tony’s dick. He’s so hard, thoroughly wet with his own pre-come, and touching him makes Tony jerk and shout.

“Ah, Jesus! Yes! Fuckfuckfuck!” Tony is squirming in his hold, trying to fuck up into Steve’s fist.

“That’s it, here you go,” Steve croons, jerking him firmly. Tony is all but holding his breath even though his mouth is open, eyes wide with wonder fixed on Steve. “Let go, Baby,” he coerces.

Maybe it’s the demand, that he hit a sweet spot inside or because Steve’s thumb catches on the ridge of Tony’s cockhead just right, but Tony finally comes. He seizes up with a sharp gasp, immobile for a moment, then shoots his load with so much force it reaches his collarbone. Spectacular visuals aside, Tony is gorgeous when in bliss and the way he clamps and flutters around Steve’s cock feels amazing. He keeps fucking him - gentler now - as Tony shudders through several aftershocks, trying to wring as much pleasure out of him as he can. He slows down when Tony seems to have come back to his senses, peppering little kisses on his cheek, neck, the corner of his mouth.

“So beautiful, Sweetheart, I’m so lucky.”

Tony huffs in amusement. “You’ve got that reversed, Lovebug. Jesus, I don’t remember coming this hard, ever.”

“Good,” Steve says, very pleased.

He’s not that far from a third time, but he doesn’t want to push his luck. Tony’s got to be very sensitive at the moment; he’ll pull out and take care of his hard-on in a minute, or just wait it out. Right now he’s enjoying being enveloped by the man he loves, who is boneless in his arms. Tony’s nuzzling against his cheek like an affectionate cat and playing with his hair again and Steve closes his eyes, savoring every second.

“What are you waiting for, Tiger?” Tony murmurs after several minutes, undulating his pelvis and squeezing inside.

Surprised, Steve gasps and reflexively moves in counterpoint. He’d almost forgotten his arousal, though his erection hadn’t waned.

“I’m fine, it’s okay,” Steve says. “It’ll pass.” If Tony stops squirming that is.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Tony asks, hands gliding down Steve’s back until he reaches his ass and squeezes.

Oh God, that’s definitely not helping him to calm down. The opposite, really, and totally deliberate as Tony starts to rhythmically bear down, enticing.

“Allez, Chéri,” he cajoles. “Un autre, juste pour moi.”

Using French is utterly unfair. As was the Italian, in fact. Desire is making itself star front and center again and Steve now itches to move.

“Are you sure?” he asks, straightening his arms to look down at Tony. “A hand would be-“

“Certain,” Tony interrupts. He seems perfectly happy at the idea, even hungry for it. “Give it to me.”

“Okay, okay,” Steve relents, starting to thrust again.

He dips down to kiss Tony and chases the pleasure building up in his core once more. Not thinking much, just focusing on how good he feels, how well Tony and him fit together, how lucky he is to finally be with the man he loves so much. Tony is murmuring sweet nothings in his ear, probably more outrageous endearments, but Steve’s too taken by the crescendo of sensation ramping up and up inside for them to register. He lets it crests naturally before he tumbles down in a crash of white hot bliss, the release overtaking his whole being for a short eternity that tastes like perfection.

Until his shoulder protests, that is, and it takes a second for Steve’s sex-stupid brain to understand that he’s squishing Tony to the bed, arms having given up somewhere. He immediately lists to the side to ease the pressure, relieved when the pain lowers quickly.

“Sorry,” Steve apologizes.

“Believe me, there’s nothing to forgive,” Tony purrs. “You’re a wonder, Cupcake.”

“You okay?” Steve asks, pulling out slowly, and settling by his side.

Tony stretches, uninjured hand over his head. Yeah, he totally reminds Steve of a big cat, strong and beautiful. “I am marvelous,” he says with a wink.

It’s impossible not to grin back at the high praise. What’s even better is that he can reach out and bring Tony into soft kisses again. To Steve’s vague disgust - he can’t muster the energy to really get annoyed about it, he’s feeling too good- Tony cleans them up quickly with the corner of a sheet then curls up, head on Steve’s chest. His heart is so full, Steve’s all but bursting with love and he’s pretty sure he’s still smiling when he drifts off to sleep.

 

***

 

"-ry Sirs-"

There's too much going on all at once when Tony wakes up, because not only is JARVIS speaking up, but he also falls off his pillow. The jarring shock is another nasty surprise, especially when his shoulder flares hot with pain, taking his breath away.

"Ow!" he protests, tears springing to his eyes. "Fuck!"

"Oh, oh no, oh god, I'm so sorry!" Steve's big hand makes fleeting contact right where it hurts, but he pulls off immediately when Tony flinches back in reflex. Which is not a good idea, as it hurts more. "Oh, Jesus, don't move okay? You should have taken pain killers last night, I can't believe I didn't-"

"Shhh, shhh," Tony interrupts, reaching out to Steve who is looking at him with huge, guilty eyes. "I was on the best pain killer that exists when I went to sleep, Diletto. Didn't think of it either."

He takes a moment to take Steve in and yeah, a bed-headed Captain America is just too cute for words. "C'mere," he demands, because the distance between them - maybe eight inches - is way too much.

"I am the one who must apologize," JARVIS says as Tony gets his first kiss of the many he hopes for today. Steve is so careful with it, too, it's very sweet. "I did not factor that Captain Rogers would wake with a start."

"Drawback of having to be battle ready," Steve says, delicately caressing Tony's neck and the edge of the injury. "I'm sorry I hurt you again, Sweetheart."

"You know what? I'm bored with all the apologies, let's stop that." There are way more interesting things to do right now than to feel bad about what is out of their control. It's only because he knows JARVIS never wakes him unless needed that he asks his next question; he'd be more than happy to keep on kissing Steve instead. "I suppose you had a good reason to speak up, J?"

"Yes, Sir. Doctor Foster is requesting the Avengers assemble to discuss a solution to the curse."

That makes Tony perk up right up, and not just the part of his anatomy overjoyed to have a naked Steve in his bed. "She found a way to break it?"

"I do not have that information."

"Okay, then, let's go find out," Steve says, getting out of bed.

"Noooooo," Tony says plaintively, reaching out. That's not fair at all.

Steve laughs and grabs his hands, but instead of climbing back in the bed he gently tugs. "Let's take a quick shower, see what Jane has to say."

Tony sighs overdramatically but gets caught in a very real yawn. "If we really have to."

He was very comfortable in his bed with a Steve. But having access to a wet Super Soldier in the shower - again, this is great - sweetens the deal of having to be up immensely. It’s like being allowed the privilege to see and touch a masterpiece and Tony can't resist it. He lets his hands wander to the glorious erection on display, and is delighted once more at how responsive Steve is. He's obviously very sensitive, making broken little sounds as soon as he's touched. It's beautiful, extremely erotic and Tony loves it so much that he goes easy to make the handjob last longer. Judging by the way Steve acted the night before, he's embarrassed when he comes fast, which is a damn shame.

They are supposed to be getting ready, so Tony doesn't drag it out either. In an appropriate amount of time in his opinion - heck Steve's got a hand on him too and Tony is definitely close himself - he brings Steve off. Once more, Steve clings and hides his face in Tony's neck while the water sluices the evidence of his release down the drain.

"Your hands, Tony, God," Steve sighs.

"Feeling good, Cherry Pie?" That's what is important, after all. "I'd give a lot to be sensitive like you."

"What?" Steve leans back to look at Tony with skepticism. "You can't possibly mean that."

Yeah, definitely embarrassed.

"Able to have multiple orgasms? You bet I mean that. Steve, you barely go soft in between. I don't remember the last time I wrung out two in one night."

"Something to try for, then," Steve says, relaxing and trailing kisses along Tony's jaw. "I- I'm glad you don't mind. I find it annoying, that's all."

"We can work on it, Buttercup," Tony says, already contemplating cock rings and conditioning.

Steve laughs. "You're hungry, aren't you?"

Thinking back, Tony realizes he's been using several food-based pet names this morning and he hadn't even noticed.

"Maybe." Good sex always awakened his appetite. Speaking of, Steve has resumed jerking off Tony and he’s got to give it to the man, Steve's a fast learner. He has definitely caught on to what makes Tony weak in the knees. "Yeah, just like that," he praises at a clever twist over the head of his dick. It takes only a couple more pulls and Tony comes in his hand, the burst of pleasure making him warm all over. God, that's so good. He has missed having regular orgasms.

He must have said it out loud because Steve laughs. "I'll be happy to provide."

"Good plan." Excellent one, even.

Tony's so relaxed at the moment that he lets himself be moved this way and that while Steve washes them up, his head on Steve's shoulder.

"Don't fall asleep standing up!" Steve chides, though he sounds terribly fond.

"Maybe. Maybe not," Tony mumbles. He doesn't protest when Steve picks him up - he knew it would be a thing - and takes him out of the shower. He gets dried off, and Steve even helps him dress, afterwards. Must have gone digging in his dresser for sweats and a comfortable top.

Tony wishes he could go back to bed and bring Steve with him, but no, they are going to the common space instead. He sighs dejectedly but follows, counting on Steve for guidance. Right now that means shuffling behind him, with a hand fisted in the fabric of Steve's t-shirt so he doesn't stray too far. Huh, look at that, it's his Aerosmith 'Done With Mirrors Tour' shirt. It wants to burst at the seams on Steve's solid frame, which would be a heroic way to go.

Steve, being a good man, is on the path for the coffee maker, so Tony doesn't see why he'd let go of said shirt.

"Good morning," Steve says as he enters the kitchen. Tony will let him do the awake stuff like greetings of teammates, it's more efficient. It doesn't escape Tony's notice that it's said quite cheerfully, and he'll ask JARVIS to show him Steve's face later. Is he bashful? Impassive? Smug?

A chorus of 'morning' answer him, so they must be among the last to join the impromptu meeting.

"Look at that," Clint says, teasing. "It seems you've acquired a zombie, Cap."

Tony bumps into Steve's back when he stops at the counter. It's a good place to rest while he waits for his necessary dose of caffeine, so he stays there, forehead against Steve's neck. He raises up his middle finger toward Clint's voice, though.

"Yep," Steve says, quickly squeezing Tony's other arm when he winds it around Steve's waist.

 

 

"It's about time," Clint replies while both Nat and Bruce say "Good" and Thor adds his own "Congratulations!".

"Oh no!" That's Jane. "Did I ruin your first morning together?"

"Yes," Tony says while Steve goes with a too generous "I wouldn't say ruined…"

"You owe me, Foster," Tony adds. It has no bite because Steve is turning around to place a hot cup of coffee in his hands, paired with a kiss on the cheek. Steve's own cheeks are deliciously pink, but his eyes are dancing with happiness and his smile is heart-melting. "Thank you, Pumpkin."

"My pleasure."

"Oh, great. You guys will be disgustingly adorable right in our face like that now?" Clint asks.

"Yes," Tony says, kissing Steve's lips before starting his coffee. It's unsurprisingly perfect and grabs most of his attention immediately. Mmmm. Coffee.

"JARVIS said you called the meeting Jane? Did you find a cure?" Steve asks.

Oh, right. There's that damn curse to break. He'd like for Steve to stop looking guilty every time Tony jars his shoulder, especially since it's often by accident.

"Unfortunately not. But I think we can convince Amora to lift it if we could just talk to her."

"That's what we're going for? Trying to reason with the crazy witch?" Tony asks, back to annoyed. He got out of a perfectly good bed with a very naked Steve for this.

"I suppose it's worth a shot," Steve says.

"How do we find her?" Clint asks. "No one has seen her since Times Square, and we looked."

"I will ask Heimdall for his help."

Tony stares, speechless for a second. It's Bruce who speaks up in his place to say what everyone is thinking.

"Asking Heimdall was an option this whole time?"

Thor shrugs. "Yes, though it was common courtesy to do our own research first."

"Tony, it's fine," Steve murmurs against Tony's ear. It stops a building rant about how they've lost weeks when apparently there was a simple solution. "Nothing to do about it now."

Which is true but still frustrating. Tony drains his cup of coffee instead of grumbling and accepts a muffin from Steve.

"How do you want to do this?" Natasha demands. "Ask Heimdall to tell us her whereabouts, or get Amora to come to us?"

"She ought to be more disposed to lift the curse if we don't corner her," Jane says. "I suggest we pass on the message to meet us in a location of her choosing."

"And what if she accepts, but it's a trap for Thor?" Steve asks.

"Or for you, Jane?" Tony adds. He’d never understood the curse's goal, to be honest.

She huffs, crossing her arms. "I won't hide all of my life because the ex is crazy. I know I can make her see sense."

"My Jane is very persuasive," Thor acquiesces.

"We'll see where she suggests meeting, if she even accepts," Steve says. "Thor?"

Thor smiles and nods. "I'll seek Heimdall immediately," he declares, starting to twirl his hammer.

"Hey, no, you do that on the roof, Thor!" Tony protests. He doesn't want to renovate this floor again, not after redoing everything after the paintball war just two months ago.

"Will do!"

--

It turns out that Amora agrees to meet them that very afternoon, in Central Park. Heimdall-comm is damn efficient, for sure.

Upside: they'll know quickly if she's agreeable enough to resolve the situation.

Downside: he and Steve are too busy planning with the Team and then unfortunately getting into an argument with each other to have sex again before the rendez-vous.

"We are not sitting this one out, Steve," Tony insists. He knew it, was convinced Steve would be pig-headed about this.

"You're already injured-"

"Gah!" Tony exclaims and might move his arm a bit too much in frustration. It compounds his annoyance when Steve makes a 'look-how-you-are-proving-my-point-right-now' face. "I will be fine," he insists. "You cannot stop doing your job just to spare me a few bruises."

"Is it so bad that I don't want you to be hurt because of me?" Steve asks, jaw clenched.

"And what, put other people in danger in the process? Yes, sorry, I think it's a bad decision. This is why I didn't want to tell you, damn it, I knew you'd do that. I was fine for two weeks!"

"You're black and blue all over!" Steve exclaims.

"Yeah and your fucking shoulder hurts because of me, and will for a while. So what? Look, we are going there to talk, right? We just need to be careful."

"Nat knows. That we are bonded."

"She won't rat us out to Fury," Tony says with confidence. SHIELD's rule not to fight if bonded is shit anyway. "And even if she told him, so what? And frankly, the way I reacted to the finger thing, in front of everyone? Pretty sure he knows. Or suspects it, anyway. Come on, Babe, let's just agree on no unnecessary risks, all right?"

Steve expels air through his nose, arms firmly crossed over his chest. He looks delicious even pissed off and frustrated (it's a curse in itself). "Will you? Avoid unnecessary risks? Really?"

"Cross my heart," Tony says. He even seals the promise by walking to Steve and kissing his cheek.

Immediately Steve takes him in his arms and sighs while Tony snuggles in. "Okay. I understand what you are saying. But that doesn't mean I have to like it."

"I know."

"Let's get ready, then."

Time to suit up and hope for the best.

--

New Yorkers are not impressed when they’re told they can't go in the North Meadow for the afternoon. Thankfully it's SHIELD's job to keep the grounds clear while the Avengers meet up with Amora. Or wait for her, at the moment, standing in a loose half circle around Thor and Jane. Steve stays right by Tony's side, even though he's armored, which is eye-roll inducing but sweet nonetheless.

"Do you think she stood us up?" Tony asks.

"She will come, I am certain," Thor says. He doesn't look worried at all.

"I gave my word to the Watcher of Worlds, did I not?" Amora says, of course timing her entrance in a very Asgardian fashion.

Tony will never, ever get used to sorcerers that appear out of thin air. She's dressed in green like the first time, a mix of dark leather in the bodice and flowing gauze for the skirt and sleeves. Amora is beautiful, but then again Tony has seen no one from Asgard lacking much in the looks department. She does not seem to be in a good mood, though, mouth pinched and face cold.

"You did and I thank you," Thor says.

"Yes, thank you. I know we can resolve this," Jane adds.

Amora tips her chin up and almost sneers. "My point still stands. Thor needs to come home."

"Where I spend my time is my decision to make," Thor says. "Using your powers to affect innocent people crosses a line."

It happens that Tony is looking at Thor so he clearly sees when Jane grips her boyfriend's hair and yanks, hard.

"Ouch!" Thor protests, looking down at Jane with big betrayed eyes.

Jane gently pats his arm in apology - hand then going to rub at her own head - but she's looking at Amora.

"You didn't even flinch. Admit it, you don't feel Thor's pain, and I know he doesn't feel yours," Jane argues. "I don't doubt that you have loved each other before, but not anymore. Let it go. Let him go. Think of yourself."

The Enchantress cries out in frustration, going from scowling to outraged in the blink of an eye. She is bristling with power, her long blond hair making a halo around her head, sparks dancing between her fingers.

Clint, who agreed to be backup from a distance with his Thor-proofed tranquilizer darts, pipes up. "Yikes. Do I do it this time?"

"Wait," Steve orders, but he's tense by Tony's side.

"Amora, please," Thor says, tone gentle. "Don't sour what we had."

Everyone holds their breath and after an instant Amora's face falls. There is genuine sorrow in her expression as far as Tony can judge. Did Jane and Thor get their point across? The static around her abates, which is reassuring, and as it happened in Times Square, Amora raises her hands up above her head. The Avengers all stay immobile even if Tony's sure everyone is dreading that Amora might make it worse. It's also their best chance to get rid of the curse, so as much as he hates it, they must rely on Amora's conscience. After a long second where she stares at Thor, Amora balls up her fists to hit them against each other. There is no pink shock wave this time, but Tony feels a chill go down his spine like two weeks ago.

There are no parting words, no more pleading for Thor to go back to Asgard and stop wasting his time on Earth. Amora brings down her arms and the air shimmers as she disappears. Who knows, maybe she wasn't even physically there at all, and only projected her image near them.

Tony is pretty sure that Amora lifted the curse, but being one of the foremost scientific minds of his time, he has an obligation to test it immediately.

"Hey, Handsome," he calls out after raising the armor's face-plate.

Steve turns to look up at him and Tony leans down slightly to kiss him. It's brief but firm, and he ends it by biting Steve's lower lip sharply. He doesn't feel a phantom sting at all.

"Curse lifted," he announces, and smiles when Steve rolls his eyes but grins right back.

"Well done everyone," Steve says, but he can't seem to stop looking at Tony. There is so much affection and love in his expression that Tony wonders how he could have missed it before. They really were idiots. "Let's go home," Steve adds. "This intervention doesn't warrant an immediate debrief."

Tony, being not-so-secretly twelve years old, almost makes a comment about how he is not against another kind of 'de-briefing', the sexy kind, but Steve shuts him up. With his mouth, which is awesome. It's enough to convince him to go home right now.

"Okay, fine. Let's go."

Not waiting for permission, he closes his helmet and grabs Steve's middle, launching them in the air towards the tower. Steve's delighted laugh is music to his ears.

 

The End

 

Epilogue:

 

There are days, after they've fought the bad guys long and hard, when Steve misses the curse. Not the part where him getting hurt could impact Tony, of course not, but Steve wishes he could know without fail if Tony is injured and how badly. It's not fair to say that Tony deliberately hides things from him - he's being honest most days - but he has absolutely no regard for his well being. And a remarkable pain tolerance. When Tony had said "eh, heart surgery without anesthetic in a cave was worse" after breaking an arm, while doing a casual shrug, it had almost broken Steve's heart.

But Steve has an ally in JARVIS. The AI monitors Tony closely, all the time, and informs Steve if there's something serious. It's an important show of trust that Tony has allowed it, and Steve has vowed in return that he'd let Tony determine his limits. Tony tries, most days, but he has a tendency to go for the sacrifice play. Since his selflessness is one of the reasons that Steve fell in love with him, he's working on accepting that.

Their love story isn't just smooth sailing: they argue often, but never go to bed mad. They laugh a lot, too, and Steve is happier than he thought he could ever be (he likes to think it's the same for Tony).

Oh and Tony continues being creative with the pet names, to everyone's amusement (even Fury's, though he won't admit it). It was a given that Tony would repeat himself at one point, which happens first when he calls Steve "my love" in the kitchen one morning, pre-coffee. He'd whispered it a few days prior, while gently kissing Steve's overwhelmed tears following the tenth time he'd come, in a day of mind-blowing marathon sex.

Frankly, "my love" might be Steve's favorite endearment of all.

He starts using it too.

 

.