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Counterfeit Boyfriend

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Counterfeit Boyfriend

 

‘Stephen, that isn’t how someone usually reacts to the news that one of their friends is in a committed relationship,’ Christine sighed down the phone.

Groping behind him for his armchair, Stephen sat down with a heavy thump.

‘Christine…’

‘Oh no, just because you’re upset your smoke screen is taken, you can’t go pulling the guilt trip on me. Just come to the event on your own, put your big boy pants on. Nic isn’t going to let your history stop him, so why should you?’

Stephen clenched and unclenched his fist, glaring a hole into the Sanctum floor. The very idea of seeing Nic’s smug face, his condescending sigh.

Oh, Stephen…you still have commitment issues? Still think love is a myth?

He’d been invited again by the American Neurological Association to give the talk he was meant to give three years ago, and he didn’t want to go alone, didn’t want to give Nic the satisfaction that Stephen Strange was still single.

That was where Christine had come in, his gorgeous on again off again girlfriend, who years ago had been happy to sooth his ego and accompany him to these things because they were friends and she knew his lack of success in relationships did, in fact, bother him.

Stephen had let go of most of his past hang-ups, he’d evolved from his arrogance, his egotistical need to be better than everyone else. Why couldn’t he just go by himself? Why did he even feel the need to go? At that very moment, Stephen wondered if he’d changed at all.

‘Hello? Doctor Wizard?’ A deep, booming voice floated up the stairs.

Fantastic. Just what he needed.

‘Who’s that?’ Christine asked.

‘My boyfriend,’ Stephen said without thinking, panicking.

‘Boyfriend? Then why are you giving me a hard time-’

‘If you’d let me finish my sentence earlier then you would have known I wasn’t giving you a hard time, I was merely surprised to hear you were in a relationship, and happy for you of course,’ Stephen lied smoothly, lifting his hand to give Tony a small wave.

‘Oh, sorry, I’ll go wait in the library,’ Tony whispered, smiling as the Cloak zoomed out to greet him. ‘Yeah, yeah, come on, let’s give your master a bit of privacy.’

‘Oh my God, Stephen… was that?’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re dating Tony Stark and you didn’t think to tell me before now?’

‘You’re only just telling me of your relationship now,’ Stephen spoke through gritted teeth, leaning his head back against the sofa, falling deeper into the tangled web of lies he’d begun weaving.

‘You’ve got to be bringing him to the party!’ Christine squealed.

Stephen brought his hand up to his face, rubbing over it. ‘Sure,’ he hissed out. ‘Why wouldn’t I.’

Bringing the call to an end with more reassurances that he would be bringing Iron Man, Stephen flung his phone onto the couch opposite, his head sinking into his trembling hands, pulling at his hair.

What did he do?

Have you really sunk so low that you’re lying to people and creating fake boyfriends?

He wasn’t even part of the medical world anymore, he’d assumed people had learnt of his new calling and had conveniently forgotten about him. Stephen would be lying though if he said a small part of him didn’t miss that life, not the parties and the fame, but conversing with people about medicine, acquiring new knowledge.

Stephen was flattered that the association had sought him out again. He had students that could challenge him on magic, pupils that were a joy to teach, who he could watch grow into amazing sorcerers. This was different though. A long-disregarded part of himself.

Could he somehow convince Tony to come with him, to pretend? They’d been friends since their encounter with Thanos, close friends, Stephen would dare to say. However, it was quite an ask, pretending to be romantically involved, especially since Tony had never shown any indication he was interested in men.

Getting to his feet, he paced in a circle for a few moments, before seeking out the billionaire. He was in the library like he said he would be, conversing with the Cloak.

Stephen held back for a few seconds, filled with affection as he watched the two interact. While he and Christine had remained firm friends, one of the few that knew about his new life she wasn’t involved like Tony was, didn’t share the understanding the two men held about being heroes.

Tony Stark was a welcomed, treasured friend and it made his stomach churn to have to ask him such a thing.

‘That’s what I said. God, you make more sense than Steve and he’s supposed to be enhanced. You want to come be an Avenger? Take over his job?’

‘Can you stop trying to steal my  Cloak,’ Stephen asked, smiling as it rushed over and settled over his shoulders, almost in reassurance.

‘I suppose you could come too if you must, a little bit of bibbidi-bobbidi-boo can’t hurt.’

Stephen rolled his eyes, immune now to any wisecracks Tony made about his magic, plucking the book from calloused fingers.

‘So, I might have been out the dating game a while Doc, but don’t you usually wine and dine your prospective partner before you declare them your boyfriend on the phone to others? I’ll have you know I’m pretty hard to impress.’

Shit.

‘Don’t give me bullshit, Stark, you play the game but we both know full well your ideal date would be Chinese takeout and a beer while lounging around in your ridiculous comfy attire.’

‘Ooo, a little testy because I’m not putting out?’ Tony teased, folding his arms and cocking his hip.

‘Whatever, we both know you’d be hanging off me, begging for it,’ Stephen scoffed.

‘That’s it, you’re sleeping on the couch tonight, sweetheart.’

Stephen chuckled, glancing down at the smaller man after he’d returned the book. Tony was waiting for an explanation and he couldn’t think of a positive way to phrase his request.

‘There’s a party…’ Tony prompted.

‘Why are you even here?’

‘Ah, ah we’ll get to that in a minute, don’t leave me hanging here, Doc.’

Stephen shifted from one foot to another, the Cloak ruffling against his back in support.

‘The night of my accident…remember I told you I was going to a-’

‘You were going to speak for the American Neurological Association,’ Tony interrupted.

‘It’s foolish, that time of my life is over and I-’

‘Wait, wait, they’ve asked you to come speak again?’

‘Stop interrupting!’ Stephen snapped.

Tony waited, knowing not to take Stephen’s bursts of anger seriously.

When Stephen remained silent, he spoke again, soft and hesitant.

‘You might a wizard now, but that time was still important, it’s not silly of you to want to go, to be proud they asked you. It’s a huge deal.’

‘Tony, look at me. While you know what it is I do and while I do not seek recognition for my feats as Master of the Mystic Arts, I know how I appear to others. A charlatan, a crazed cult member.’

‘Now since when did you care what people thought of you? I’m constantly telling you that you look like an idiot with the robes on and it hasn’t stopped you wearing them. Although, I suggest you don’t wear them to the event, people will laugh. Now, stop the bullshit and tell me the reason.’

‘One of the doctors going, he’s my ex, our relationship was intense, and it didn’t end well. We’re friends, of a sort and we get on well enough, but I don’t wish to appear-’

‘I get it,’ Tony ignored the Cloak reaching out to smack him on the arm in response for interrupting, again. ‘You want to look as successful as possible.’

It’s not all about you.

‘Stop it,’ Tony put his hand on his shoulder.

‘I didn’t say anything.’

‘You don’t need to, you’ve got that look on your face, the one you have when you’re repeating the “it’s not all about you,” mantra your guru left you.’

Fingers dug into his shoulder, shaking him a little.

‘Stephen, none of us want our ex to see us as anything than at our very best, the whole, fuck you look how great I’m doing. I get it.’ Tony’s voice trailed off, misery clinging to his words and it was his turn to shuffle his feet.

Stephen knew Tony still carried guilt about his failed relationship with Pepper, his hurt when she’d begun dating again still hadn’t faded.

‘It’s not arrogance for you to want them to see you’re doing well, that you can sustain a healthy relationship like a normal human being.’

Tony was reliving his own breakup, the words Pepper had left him with, not unlike those Nic had left him to consider.

‘Alright, when are we going then?’ Tony snagged his glasses from his pocket, putting them on.

While they were close, and Stephen had supported Tony through his break up with his fiancée, Stephen’s love life had never been discussed by them. He was expecting more of a reaction to Tony finding out about his…preferences.

‘What?’ Stephen spluttered.

‘To the party with all the cute doctors? When are we going? FRIDAY can you pull up my calendar?’

‘You don’t care that I’m bi?’

‘Er…no?’ Tony looked confused at that. ‘Gay, straight, bi, people are people, Doc. Besides, it’d be a bit hypocritical me being judgemental considering what I got up to back in the day.’ Tony waggled his eyebrows.

‘Why are you agreeing to this?’

‘Because that’s what friends do, they help each other. Besides, you’re gonna owe me big time.’ Tony winked.

‘It’s on the twenty-first,’ Stephen told him, hardly daring to believe.

‘Well, would you look at that, I happen to be free that exact day,’ Tony smiled, his eyes illuminated from the hologram FRIDAY was projecting.

‘You are not, there’s a little tab on that date that says otherwise.’

‘Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing that can’t be moved.’ Tony flicked his wrist and said day was free of tabs.

‘Tony I…thank you.’

‘No problem, I need to get going, Steve wants me back for some asinine meeting or other. Drop us a text with the details of the party, and a date to meet up beforehand.’

‘Why?’

‘It’s going to look a bit strange if we show up to the party without a backstory, Doc, how long we’ve been dating, how we met, etcetera-’

‘Alright!’ Stephen barked, fingers coming up to rub between his eyes, warding off the headache forming from Tony’s rambling. ‘Did you actually have a reason for coming here in the first place?’

‘Oh, right!’ Tony reached into this pocket and pulled out a metallic looking cube, etched with what appeared to be ancient wind symbols. Extending his hand, he waited for Stephen to grab it, glad to be rid of it.

‘That thing gave me and the Avengers a hard time against the last crazy bad guy we fought against. FRIDAY has scanned it and she can’t work out why it does what it does, but what she did pick on was some magical components. So, voila! Enjoy!’

‘I hardly class disassembling magical relics enjoyment, Tony.’

‘Better you than me, Doc. Looking forward to the party!’ He flung over his shoulder as he began walking away.

‘Ah, yes, the cute doctors,’ Stephen mumbled, turning the cube over in his hands, peering at it.

‘I’m already going with the cutest one!’ Tony called with a laugh.

 

***

 

‘Shouldn’t I have a handout or something? A folder? PowerPoint presentation?’ Tony crossed his legs, leaning back into Stephen’s armchair.

‘You don’t need to remember that much, I’m sure even you can recall a few points without having to take a quiz.’

‘We really need to work on your sweet talk, Doc, although I have to say, the sass would probably work for me.’ Tony laughed. ‘How long have we been dating for?’

‘I’m going to say it’s best if our relationship is still in the early stages, that way if one of us is incorrect with our dates it isn’t an indication of trouble in our relationship.’

‘A few weeks? Months?

‘Let’s say two months.’ Stephen nodded to himself.

‘How we met is easy enough, I’m an Avenger you’re a wizard, we just tell people it was love at first sight, our eyes locked across the battlefield, post-fight adrenaline, that sort of thing.’

‘Yeah…except the Sorcerers are still secret to the known world and I’d like to keep it that way.’

Neither of them needed to speak about the Accords. The troubles of the Avengers, how long it’d taken for them to become a team again.

Tony drummed his fingers on his knees.

‘It is not out of the realms of possibility we met through an event such as the one we’re about to attend. I was top of the neurosurgeon field, Stark Industries have raised money for medical donations and equipment, we could have met before my accident.’

‘If that’s what you’re comfortable with Doc, and it’s vague enough that if we mess up the details it doesn’t matter. We met years ago and recently got back into contact regarding my quest for knowledge on brain impulses. I didn’t realise you weren’t practising any longer and we got talking and we hit it off.’

Fingers continued dancing along Tony’s knee. ‘What are you going to tell people about what you’ve been doing since the accident. You’ve been off the grid for a while, people are going to want to know.’

Stephen hadn’t considered that.

‘What if…’ Tony leant forward, elbows on his knees, the corner of his bottom lip caught by his teeth. It was what Tony did when he was anxious and Stephen worried that asking Tony to pretend was making him nervous.

‘I offered you a job after we reacquainted ourselves? Stark Industries always needs researchers, and while you can’t practise, your insight on neuroscience would have been invaluable.’

‘That’s actually…a pretty good idea. Why were you so nervous about asking me?’

‘I wasn’t sure if dating the boss was something you’d be up for, I don’t want anything about our relationship to reflect badly on you at the event.’

Stephen was touched.

‘Don’t worry about it, Nic knows me, if there’s something I want, I peruse it, relentlessly.’

‘Is that so?’ Tony’s lips twisted in a wry smile as he leant back into the chair. ‘What happened between you two?

‘I was more focused on my career than I was on being a decent boyfriend. He wanted something serious and I did not. He believes I have commitment issues, that I think love is foolish.’

‘Do you?’ Tony’s voice was kind, understanding. He wasn’t judging or being condescending, simply asking.

‘I’ve never found anyone I’ve wanted to commit to, or worth pursuing. Perhaps my standards are high, or I’m being an arrogant dickhead as Nic was so fond of calling me, but I’m waiting for the cliché fireworks, that moment of clarity as it were.’

‘Yeah, I get it, when you know, you know, it’s simple as that really. What do I call you then? Are you my boyfriend? Partner?’

Stephen reeled a little at the sudden shift in conversation, frowning over Tony’s words.

‘After two months? I’m not sure, is significant other too soon?’

‘I’m the worst person to ask about relationships, Doc. Can I be your squeeze?’ Tony failed to keep a straight face.

‘I’d rather there was some importance to our imaginary relationship.’

‘Can I be your wooer?’

‘What are you courting me now? I think suitor would be a better term,’ Stephen chuckled.

‘That make you some kinda damsel now then? Gosh darn it I hope Lord Stark takes pity on me and accepts my favour.’ Tony pouted, fluttering his eyelashes.

‘Careful now, beloved, you keep on like that and I’ll find another admirer to woo me.’

‘Not like that’d be hard, would it now, Stephen?’ Just like that, all the teasing was gone from Tony’s demeanour, brown eyes sparkling with affection as he gazed at Stephen.

‘Harder than you think, Tony,’ Stephen admitted.

They gazed at each other for a few moments, lost in thoughts before Tony stood, snagging his jacket from the back of the chair.

‘I’ll meet you here at seven then, you got something to wear?’ Tony held his hand out to the Cloak to shake its edge, their farewell handshake as he waited for Stephen’s answer.

‘I’ll find something.’

‘Do you need help?’ Tony phrased the words delicately. They’d fought about it before, Stephen refusing financial help for the Sanctum, Tony’s insistence that he always pay for their food, their drinks.

‘Thank you, but no, I do have some things left over from the old days.’

‘Alright then, sweetie pie, I’ll see you in a few days. Dream of me, kay?’

‘Gosh darn it my boyfriend is so dreamy,’ Stephen drawled, pushing the laughing man from the room.

 

***

 

Stephen tugged down the sleeve of his shirt, using magic to help him with the cufflinks, nodding his thanks to the Cloak as it helped him on with his tuxedo jacket. He heard calls down in the entry hall, and after giving himself another check in the mirror, he set off to meet his date.

His date.

Just thinking the words made a fizzle of anticipation spark in his gut. It’d been a long time since he’d been out in a romantic context, and while it was a charade, it still felt pleasant.

As he told Tony before, he’d never experienced the fabled butterflies in the stomach, the world slowing around him, any of that romantic cliché crap that usually sprang from first encounters.

Looking at Tony waiting for him…

The imaginary butterflies flew into him, winding him, making the world stop on its axis.

He crept up on his date, watching him pace, categorising him from every angle. Stephen had known Tony was attractive, heck he was renowned as one of the most eligible bachelors before he’d even become Iron Man, yet he’d never let his mind wander down that path, had never even stopped to consider the possibility.

The man was pacing in a circle, his hands in his pockets as he whistled. His tuxedo clung to him, a shimmering ink, highlighting his muscled arms and broad back, strong legs and mouth-watering pert ass.

Being honest with himself and what he knew of Tony, Stephen was half-expecting a gaudy coloured waistcoat, but Tony was the epitome of sophistication, a crisp white shirt the colour of fresh snow, and a black waistcoat. Nothing garish.

Sleek, sophisticated, phenomenal.

Screw the event, Stephen wanted to see what was underneath the suit.

‘Hey! Wow, almost didn’t recognise you without the mystic garb, Doc.’ Tony spotted him, exhaling a low wolf whistle.

‘Acceptable?’ Stephen teased, holding his arms out and turning in a slow circle.

‘I never knew your legs were that long…’ Tony muttered. ‘Damn Stephen, you look fucking hot.’

Stephen felt himself doing something he hadn’t done in years.

He blushed.

They’d teased before. This felt different. This was closer to genuine flirting.

‘Same to you, Stark, delectable as always,’ he flattered, a sincere smile crossing his lips as he watched Tony duck his head to hide his own blush. ‘Shall we get going?’

Tony came to stand beside him and Stephen breathed deep, inhaling Tony’s cologne of sharp earthy oakmoss, lush rich sandalwood. It wrapped itself around Stephen, saturating his skin with the very essence of Tony Stark. A hand slipped into his own, lifting trembling fingers.

‘I’m all yours, Stephen Strange,’ Tony whispered, every word oozing sensuality. His breath hitched as Tony brought his hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to his scarred knuckles.

 

***

 

An awed hush fell over the room when the two of them arrived, Stephen saw all the glances, the nudges to companions, phones coming out to snap a picture of Iron Man. Tony seemed unaffected by the whole thing, not even seeming to notice, used to it.

The hall was huge, the floor a shimmering alabaster marble, reflecting the light from the overhead intricate chandeliers. Stephen took a moment to take in the décor, the warmth of the walls painted the yellow side of vanilla, the flower decorations in their stands along the edges of the hall and on the bar. White calla lilies and white snapdragons blended with lemon orchids.

A quartet of musicians played in the corner of the room, melancholy notes of the violinist weaving through the assembled crowds, the lower timbre of the cello chasing after it.

‘Stephen!’

They jumped as Christine rushed over, looking dazzling in a navy-blue dress clinging to her curves and beautifully styled wavy hair brushing against her shoulders. Stephen chanced a look at Tony, knowing full well Christine was striking, but Tony’s gaze didn’t stray from her face, the skin around his eyes crinkling as he smiled.

‘Christine Palmer I presume?’ Tony asked, taking her hand and kissing the back of it.

‘Pleased to meet you, I’ve heard all about you, it’s not often I meet Stephen’s friends, human ones that is,’ Tony finished under his breath.

‘Oh no, the pleasure’s all mine, Mr Stark,’ Christine gushed

‘Tony, please.’

‘Can I offer you all a drink?’ A server came over, champagne flutes balancing on a metal tray.

Christine and Stephen took one, muttering their thanks, but Tony hesitated, backing away.

‘Oh, right,’ Stephen remembered, picking up an extra one and nodding to the server. ‘Here you are,’ he offered it to Tony, smirking at the relief on his face.

‘Thanks, Doc. Are you here alone, Christine?’

‘No, my partner is over at the bar, I’ll go get him in a second, but I was dying to meet the man who snagged Stephen Strange’s heart, many have tried,’ Christine winked, laughing at Stephen’s splutters.

‘Have they now?’ Tony flicked his finger between the two of them. ‘You guys were an item once?’

Damn that clever brain of Tony’s.

‘We’ve dated in the past yes,’ Stephen admitted.

‘Damn, Strange, just how many exes am I going to meet tonight? How come it didn’t work out? You’re both good-looking, successful doctors and you know about Stephen’s new job, sounds perfect if you ask me.’

Stephen glanced at the man beside him. Tony sounded…jealous.

‘Stephen doesn’t do commitment,’ Christine teased, drinking from her champagne, ‘besides, we’re much better as friends.’

Stephen felt a sharp jab to his chest at that, settling in a hard lump in his throat that was hard to swallow around. He knew she was teasing, but it was another reminder why he was here pretending with Tony in the first place.

‘All the better for me then,’ Tony grabbed his hand, running his thumb over the inside of his wrist. ‘Guess you just needed a douchebag like me, huh?’

Stephen snorted into his glass at that, liking the feel of Tony’s smaller hand in his.

‘I guess so.’

‘If you’ll excuse us, my dear, I’m dying to meet this Nicodemus West and show off.’

‘Oh, of course, see you both later, don’t give him too hard a time,’ Christine laughed, leaving them to make their way through the crowds.

‘I didn’t need rescuing. I told you, everyone shares the same views of my commitment phobia that Nic does, even I do,’ Stephen muttered, allowing Tony to tug him along.

‘I didn’t say you did, I told the truth, I want to meet this idiot of an ex of yours, come on.’

 

***

 

Tony Stark was like a peacock, content to strut beside Stephen, knowing full well its plumage was gorgeous, only to unfurl its tail and dazzle when called for, to shock and to impress.

Stephen certainly was.

He charmed everyone, doctors, beneficiaries even the waiting staff. Everyone flocked to them, and even though most of the attention was on Tony, he knew when to take a step back, to let Stephen take centre stage, when to add a witty retort to keep them hooked on Stephen’s words.

Nic hadn’t come to speak with them yet, but Stephen could feel his gaze upon them, the shock, the disbelief. He’d go over and introduce them when the time was right, but for now, he was enjoying Tony’s company.

He knew it was all a farce, an illusion spun only for this one night, but as they stood together, listening to the discussions of others, Stephen let the back of his hand brush against Tony’s, smiling as he felt the warm hand clasp his own and squeeze just once.

When there was a lull in the conversations, they moved to one of the walls of the room, drinks in hand.

‘You doing alright, Doc?’ Tony asked, leaning against the wall, gaze scanning the room as he sipped from his drink.

‘Funny, I was just about to ask you the same question. I imagine it must be tedious, sucking up to all these people, pretending to be interested in what they’re saying.’

Tony shrugged, his gaze coming back to rest on Stephen.

‘A part of Iron Man’s training? The Avengers need to know how to portray themselves to the masses?’

‘Hardly, it’s SHIELD’s job to manage that PA nightmare.’

Stephen chuckled, drinking his drink, watching as Tony spoke.

‘Still, you handle yourself remarkably well.’

‘Course I do, I used to have charity events, product launches. My father might not have been good for many things, but I was taught never to embarrass the Stark name.’ Tony placed his empty glass on the tray of a passing server.

They stood in companionable silence for a while, people watching.

‘Do you miss it?’ Tony asked, his voice a bare murmur.

‘You mean this?’

Tony nodded once, his intense gaze fixed on Stephen.

Stephen thought about the answer.

‘On occasion, my life as a sorcerer has brought the fulfilment I was missing in life. I have a purpose, I’m…content. Yet, I spent much of my life training to be a surgeon, years dedicated to it. It’s not a regret exactly…’

‘I think I understand.’

‘Do you miss it?’

‘Not in the slightest. I’ve always hated things like these, but I knew my duty, the expectations.’ Tony’s gaze slid away, looking off into the middle distance. Stephen recognised the expression, the way he was holding back pain.

‘Tony, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise coming-’

‘No, don’t, it’s not a hardship coming. It’s just…’ Tony paused as he thought about his words. ‘It was a lifetime ago, times I’d rather not remember. I moved away from all the social events because I couldn’t stand the pressure, the persona of Tony Stark. I feel as though I’ve finally shed away that arrogant bastard, second chances and all that. Things like this remind me of what a shitty person I was.’

‘Was is the key word there, douchebag.’

‘Now, is that any way to talk to your beau?’

They shared a laugh over that, returning to people watching. He understood what Tony had said, events like this were the pinnacle of his social calendar back in the day. Stephen loved the glitz, the glam and the fame.

The attention.

Now, all he craved was to be back in the Sanctum, learning all he could about magic, training with his students, his occasional evening with Tony in his lab.

‘I miss having someone in my life,’ Stephen admitted quietly. ‘Even though I don’t think I’ve ever had a real relationship, it’s something I want.’ It was a fact he hadn’t realised until tonight, a fact that he’d been hiding from even himself.

‘I’m with you there, Doc.’

‘There you are!’ A hand clapped his shoulder, jolting Stephen from the intimate bubble the two of them were in. Tony took a step back, his smiling mask back in place.

The president of the Neurological Association stood beaming at the pair of them, waiting for Stephen.

‘Apologies, have I been keeping my boyfriend from his duties?’ Tony purred the word boyfriend in a low tone only meant for Stephen’s ear.

‘Mr Stark, what an honour it is to have you here. I cannot offer you thanks enough for all the generosity the Maria Stark Foundation has given us over the years.’

‘No thanks needed, it’s our pleasure to encourage pioneers of the medical world.’ Tony took the offered hand and shook it. ‘But I believe it’s my rather brilliant other half that we’re all here to see.’ Tony deflected the attention from himself once again, taking the smallest step back.

‘I’ll be there in a moment,’ Stephen told the president, taking Tony’s arm and moving him further down the wall.

‘You never cease to amaze me, Tony Stark,’ he leant down to whisper in his ear.

Tony frowned, adorable in his confusion as he glanced up at Stephen.

‘For all you speak of being egotistical you really are kind.’

He brought his hand up, cupping Tony’s jaw and rubbing his thumb over Tony’s cheekbone. Stephen meant the words, Tony could have effortlessly made the evening about him, everyone was flocking to him after all, yet he continuously sang Stephen’s phrases, refusing to steal Stephen’s limelight.

‘That’s what you do when you love someone, Doc.’ Tony’s head tilted into the touch.

 

 ***

 

While giving his speech, Stephen kept his gaze locked with Tony’s, those vivid cocoa eyes never straying, applauding when needed, biting the corner of his lip in thought as he watched him.

Stephen had seen that look before when they’d been working late nights figuring out magical relics together or when the man was deciphering code. Tony was trying to figure Stephen out. His eyes lit up in realisation, lips curving behind his champagne flute.

Despite being in the middle of his speech, the gazes of everyone in the room on him, Stephen’s speech faltered at the look of resolve and intent dancing in those eyes.

What was Tony up to?

Stephen watched as Tony became distracted by something, his hand patting down his pockets, pulling out his phone. He frowned down at it, but placed it back, waiting for Stephen to finish.

When Stephen stepped off the stage amidst applause, he looked for Tony, but the man was gone. Looking around, stopping occasionally to shake hands or share a few words, Stephen finally spotted him on the edge of the crowds, running a hand through his hair as he spoke on the phone.

It either had to be work related or Avengers, Stephen only saw that expression when Tony was exasperated. He made his way over to the bar, ordering a drink and waiting for Tony to come find him.

‘I’ll admit, I thought you were pulling my leg when you told me Tony Stark was your boyfriend. You’d have rung me straight with the news, dangling it over my head like the cat who’d got the cream. Christine, I’m dating New York’s most eligible bachelor, I’m dating a superhero.’ Christine leant against the bar, plucking Stephen’s drink from him.

Sighing, he ordered another, taking a sip before answering.

‘And what changed your mind?’

‘I saw how he was with you. Tell me your secrets, Strange. How the hell did you make Tony Stark smitten with you?’ she demanded with a pout.

‘Don’t let your boyfriend hear you talk like that,’ Stephen joked. ‘Why’d you say smitten?’ He asked after a pause.

‘Oh please… Stephen, don’t rub it in, anyone with half a brain can see Stark’s completely enamoured by you, his gaze hasn’t left you all evening, and I’ve overheard a few of the girls taking bets if they can tempt him away from you. Seems his playboy reputation proceeds him, I heard he’s great in the sack,’ Christine fished.

‘That he is,’ Stephen answered, ignoring the jolt of heat it sent down to his groin.

‘I guess it makes sense, both of you being superheroes and all, you’d need someone like that to truly understand you, someone just as arrogant, as confident to stand up to you. You guys really are a perfect match.’

‘Hey, I’ve changed, I have a softer side you know.’

As does Tony. His brain unhelpfully added, filling his brain with images of the man injured and leaning on him for help, long nights talking about their demons, shared pain about their nightmares their failures.

They understood each other as friends, it wasn’t too far a stretch to imagine they’d be compatible as lovers.

‘Just as arrogant to stand up to me, huh,’ Stephen huffed into his glass. ‘That he is.’

‘Speaking of which, I think he might need rescuing,’ Christine gestured with the edge of her clutch bag.

‘Tony knows how to handle himself,’ Stephen dismissed.

‘You’re more confident then I could be, I wouldn’t want my ex talking to my current boyfriend alone,’ Christine shuddered.

‘He’s with Nic?’ Stephen stretched up on his tiptoes to see over the heads of guests, panic twisting in his gut as he saw Nic leading Tony away.

‘Go on, I’ll hold your drink,’ Christine shooed him away.

Stephen carefully navigated his way through the crowds, avoiding eye contact with anyone, keeping his gaze on the pair migrating to the edge of room. Knowing he couldn’t just storm over there and insert himself into the conversation, Stephen took a leaf out of Tony’s book, leaning against the wall and pulling his phone out.

Turning it on mute, he held it to his ear, flicking magic towards Nic and Tony so he could eavesdrop, frowning as he pretended to listen to his phone.

‘Look, it’s just us, you don’t need to pretend. You can’t really expect me to believe you’re dating Stephen,’ Nic’s voice was thick with disbelief, trying to conceal it in humour. His blood ran cold, it’d be too easy for Tony to tell him the truth.

‘I’m sorry? Why is that difficult to understand?’ Tony’s tone remained pleasant, but Stephen recognised the undercurrent of steel.

‘Mr Stark. It isn’t a highly kept secret that you suffer from PTSD and night terrors and I know that Stephen isn’t practising medicine publicly any longer. It isn’t out of the realms of possibility that you would have sought him out for help privately with your symptoms. I am concerned that he might have coerced you here tonight.’

Ah yes. It was public knowledge after that press leak a few months back, and while they had discussed Tony’s issues, it made Stephen flush cold with disgust. The old Stephen wouldn’t have hesitated to use Tony Stark as a leg up over the social elites, to get funding for his research.

‘I thank you for your concern, but I am here of my own free will. I’m guessing since you felt the need to drag me away from the event that you would be Nicodemus West? Stephen’s ex?’

‘That I am, pleased to meet you.’

They shook hands and Stephen felt the urge to go over and confront them grow.

‘Tell me, West, how could you ever let such a man like Stephen Strange go?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘It just seems a little… idiotic to me.’ Stephen could hear the grin in his voice. ‘You’re a doctor, right? Well educated? You must know the struggle to find someone as half as intelligent as Stephen, and that’s saying something because I’m a genius and not many can keep up with me.’

Stephen chuckled, and here Nic thought he was arrogant.

‘Stephen is a gifted individual and while it might be presumptuous of me to say, I feel my years of knowing Stephen in both an intimate and professional capacity has given me a better understanding of his character then a…what was it, two-month relationship?’

‘Two magical months yes.’

He rolled his eyes at that.

‘While his confidence seems charming, and he himself is very charismatic, he is a conceited son of a bitch who cannot commit to others.’

Despite his initial annoyance of Nic speaking to Tony about him, he did feel a shred of pity for that man at that. He had cared about him while they were together, and Stephen knew he hadn’t treated the man right, more interested in his career than his boyfriend’s wellbeing.

Nic was more than entitled to feel hurt and bitter about the way he’d been treated.

‘You’re right,’ Tony chuckled. ‘He is a conceited son of a bitch.’ Stephen placed his phone back in his pocket at that, wanting to leave. He hadn’t changed, dragging Tony to this just so he didn’t have to come alone, so he didn’t have to face Nic’s judgement. Even Tony thought ill of him. 

He lifted his hand to get rid of the spell, not wanting to hear the rest of Tony’s scathing remarks, feeling foolish he’d felt anything for his friend.

‘But here is where we differ, Doc.’ Unlike the nickname he used for Stephen, Doc was spat with venom.

Stephen was immobilised, his hand lingering in mid-air.

‘You don’t know him better than me. He is arrogant, rightly so. He’s a commanding person, a magnificent one, I know, I’ve stood beside him when the world was coming to an end. I don’t know what he was like when you dated him, but the person I love is selfless, charming, thoughtful and generous.’

Stephen knew Tony was pretending, that they weren’t together, but hearing him say he loved him made it feel like he’d screamed the words out for all to hear.

‘Not wanting to commit? He’s here with me, isn’t he? Tony Stark, the man who…what was it you said? Oh yes, who suffers from PTSD and night terrors, great respect for a patient there, Doc, thank you. We all know I’m one of the biggest fuck ups the world has ever seen, so if he can stick by my side then that says a lot about his character.’

Nic spluttered, trying to save face.

Stephen returned to the bar and ordered another drink, leaving a ten-dollar bill down as payment and tip.

‘If you couldn’t see the potential when you were dating him, then your loss is my gain.’

‘There you are, I’ve been looking for you,’ Stephen purred, offering the scotch to Tony, pressing a kiss to his temple before turning to contemplate Nic. ‘Nic,’ he greeted ‘hope I’m not interrupting anything?’

‘No, it seems you’ve got even the great Tony Stark eating from the palm of your hand.’ Nic scowled.

‘Not a terribly hard thing to do when you’re as gorgeous as my lover. Great speech by the way,’ Tony grinned, holding his glass up in thanks, showing no surprise Stephen remembered the brand of scotch he liked.

‘Sweet lie, you didn’t understand half of it,’ Stephen chuckled, not minding that Tony leant into him, wrapping his arm around his shoulders.

‘Course I didn’t, but I just let your voice wash over me, just as good. So, this is your ex? The moron who thinks you can’t commit?’

Stephen knew how ruthless Tony could be, his cruelty towards people who harmed or insulted those he cared about. What Stephen hadn’t been aware of, however, was that he was included in that list.

Nic’s eyes went wide, unused to someone talking so frank.

‘Yes, Tony Stark this is Nicodemus West, Nic this is my partner Tony Stark.’

‘We’ve just been talking. I must say, Stephen, I am surprised to find you’ve lowered your standards to be dating Tony Stark.’

‘Lowered my standards?’ Stephen dug his fingers into Tony’s lower back, trying to calm him after watching the smaller man’s jaw set in anger.

‘After what happened in New York in twenty twelve, your scathing remarks towards Iron Man and the Avengers, I’m surprised you were able to overcome that and date him.’

‘Nic,’ Stephen growled in warning, feeling Tony flinch at the mention of the Chitauri invasion.

‘It’s alright. I understand that from a civilian’s point of view, we might have seemed reckless in the way we handled it.’

‘That’s putting it mildly,’ Nic continued to scour salt into the open wound he’d found. ‘What was it you said, Stephen? That the Avengers should have been swallowed by that portal along with the aliens? That Iron Man deserved whatever trauma he went through so he could feel what our patients were going through?’

‘That’s enough!’ Stephen barked, stepping in front of Tony as though to shield him from Nic’s words.

The people around them hushed, drawing back to look at them, forming a loose circle.

‘Stephen, baby, it’s alright.’ Tony grabbed the back of his jacket.

‘It’s not alright,’ Stephen whirled around, gazing into troubled brown eyes. ‘I was an idiot back then, and I didn’t understand what it was to go through the things you went through, the things heroes have to go through. I was a cocky ass, only seeing what I wanted to see, trapped in my own ridiculous little world.’

He brought his head down, lowering his voice so only Tony could hear.

‘If I could take your fear from that day from you, the nightmares, the trauma, I would, in a heartbeat.’ He placed his hand on Tony’s face, begging the man to believe him.

Tony turned his head to press a kiss into his palm, nodding his understanding.

‘I spoke in anger back then, anger and frustration that the ER was filling with patients faster than I could fix them.’ Stephen’s voice rose to a normal volume.

‘Stephen, I understand, you were completely different then.’

‘Yes, yes I was.’ Stephen turned to face Nic, holding Tony’s hand in his own again. ‘Nic, I owe you an apology for how I treated you in our relationship. I was a proud, ignorant fool who never thanked you for helping me when I was injured, never treating you with the respect and care you deserved. I am sorry, truly.’

Stephen closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

‘But so help me God, you try and bring Tony down to hurt me, or lash out verbally again I-’

‘Alright, Stephen, I think the doctor gets it. Nice to meet you and all, but I think it’s for the best if we part ways. No ill feelings, okay?’ Tony let go of Stephen’s hand to offer it out to Nic, who shook it, flabbergasted at how Stephen had spoken.

Tony dragged him outside, the frigid night air stinging Stephen’s face, tiny pinpricks cooling his rage.

‘Hey, come on Stephen, you alright?’ There was a clink of glass as Tony set his glass down on the floor.

‘I’m sorry about that.’

‘Not the first time I’ve encountered jealousy over someone I’m seeing, Doc, don’t worry about it.’

‘Tony, I-’

‘Stephen stop, I get it. The way the Avengers acted back then, we were reckless, but we don’t need to get into it, otherwise I’m gonna have to start paying you as my therapist.’

‘But to just brazenly-’

‘He’s lashing out, God the things I said about Pepper’s new guy. It hurts when you loved someone and they make it work with a guy that isn’t you. You keep thinking to yourself, why couldn’t I make it work, why wasn’t I enough? Dr West experienced that just now.’

‘Tony, you weren’t the reason it didn’t work with Pepper.’

‘That’s besides the point, the point is, don’t get mad on my behalf, I can handle it.’

‘I can’t help it,’ Stephen spat out, crossing his arms over his chest.

‘Getting overprotective of your suitor there?’ Tony teased, picking up his glass, not noticing the way Stephen watched his throat flexed as he swallowed.

‘Can’t let anyone take my intended away now, especially as I’ve found a name I like you calling me.’

‘Beloved? Beau? If you say squeeze you’re definitely sleeping on the couch.’

‘I think I rather enjoyed being referred to as your lover.’

‘That so?’ Tony responded without missing a beat.

The words were on the tip of his tongue, an idea half-formed.

‘Tony?’ He began, drawing the other man closer by a hand on his hip.

‘It might be presumptuous of me, and I’ll admit that I’m a fool for not noticing what I had in front of me sooner, but do you think you could consider-’

‘Mr Stark?’

Looking at the intruder, Stephen found himself moving instinctively in front of Tony as Nic joined them outside.

‘I wanted to apologise for my words. All of them,’ he added meaningfully. ‘You’ve changed, Stephen. I’m glad to see that you found someone you can be happy with.’ Nic smiled, a small honest one.

‘I think…I just needed to find the right person.’

 

***

 

‘Doesn’t it bother you?’ Christine whispered, sliding up to him, and jabbing him in the side with an elbow.

Stephen tilted his head down a little to answer her, not taking his eyes off from where some of the women were swarming around Tony, giggling and flirting with him. The billionaire lapped it up, reverting to the charming playboy persona.

‘The flocking mindless girls trying to get into my boyfriend’s pants?’ Stephen asked.

Stephen watched the antics with an amused glance, smiling every time Tony’s gaze caught his.

‘No, because it’s an act he puts on, when Tony truly smiles, like when I introduced you as a friend, his smile reaches his eyes, the skin crinkles around them.’

‘Wow, I never thought I’d see the day,’ Christine breathed out, her cheeks flushed prettily with alcohol.

‘What day?’

‘Doctor Stephen Strange, in love.’

‘Who’s in love now?’ Tony returned to them.

‘Christine!’ Stephen blurted, panic rising in him.

‘And who wouldn’t be, she’s gorgeous.’ Tony winked at her. ‘I still don’t understand how you let this one go, Doc.’

‘Because Stephen hasn’t ever looked at anyone the way he does you, Tony,’ Christine, dear sweet Christine was quick to reassure. She had also inadvertently thrown him straight into the deep end of the proverbial pool.

The women flocked back to them, saving Stephen, and he breathed a sigh of relief, glaring over at Christine who merely shot him a, you’re welcome, look. They were trying to get Tony to dance with them, ignoring his pleas that he only wanted to dance with his boyfriend.

‘You’re dating, Strange?’ One of them had the gall to look over Tony’s shoulder at Stephen. ‘I don’t believe it.’

‘Come on, Stephen, stop making eyes at him and kiss him!’ Christine teased, the alcohol making her daring.

‘PDA’s aren’t really my thing.’ While Tony had been amiable to playing pretended for the evening, not minding holding hands, or the arm around his waist, but that was a far stretch from touching to kissing.

‘I thought relationships weren’t really your thing,’ a woman heckled.

Stephen met the gaze of everyone watching, all of them looking at him with scorn. He knew what they all thought, what Nic would have told them. He began to back away, not wanting Tony to bear the brunt of their judgement, when a touch on his chest made him stop.

Tony was right in front of him.

Before he had a chance to process what was happening, Tony was leaning up on his tiptoes, his lips pressed against Stephen’s. It was closed mouth, tender, but Stephen could feel the plush softness of his full bottom lip, stained with the champagne he’d been drinking.

It only lasted a few seconds among whoops and catcalls, and Stephen felt disorientated as Tony pulled away.

No.

That wouldn’t do.

Stephen’s hands shot down, cupping Tony’s face, his fingers caressing Tony’s nape. He simply held him for a few moments, the warmth of his skin seeping into his palms. When he leant down, he watched, transfixed as Tony’s eyelids fluttered shut.

The room, the glitter and the people watching melted away as Stephen touched their lips together. His stomach lurched in delicious anticipation as Tony tentatively parted his mouth. Ever the opportunist, Stephen darted his tongue in, swearing he could feel the bubbles from Tony’s champagne fizz on his tongue as the smaller man grazed it slickly against his own.

A hand rested on his chest, nails starting to dig in through his suit as Tony responded in earnest.

Why hadn’t he done this before?

An embarrassed cough made Tony startle, pulling away from Stephen. Stephen let him go, his gaze still focused only on Tony, the rest of the world hazy around him. He dropped one of his hands, but kept the other on Tony’s back, between his shoulder blades. Tony didn’t seem to mind even if his cheeks blushed, leaning back into the touch.

‘Well, I’ll be damned, Stephen Strange,’ Christine fanned herself.

 

***

 

Returning to the Sanctum, Tony loosened his bowtie, slumping back into an armchair, melting against it. Shutting the portal behind him, Stephen watched, gazing at the tendons in Tony’s neck, the hint of skin in the v of his open shirt, smooth and blemish free.

‘Can I get you a drink? Water, Coffee?’

‘Water, would be great, thank you.’ Tony didn’t open his eyes, half asleep already.

Leaving him where he was, Stephen went into the Sanctum kitchen, leaving his tuxedo jacket on one of the chairs, taking off his bowtie and unbuttoning his collar. In the time it’d take for him to fill a glass with water, he’d made a decision.

Tony hadn’t moved from where he’d left him, but he was looking at his phone with a scowl as his thumb swiped over the screen.

‘Everything alright?’ Stephen asked, handing him the glass.

‘Yeah, sorry, just difficulties with work.’ Tony was quick to answer but the troubled expression didn’t leave his face.

‘That’s the second time tonight. Do you need to leave?’ Stephen asked, his words feeling heavy in the air between them. He hadn’t meant them to, but his tone almost sounded needy, desperate.

Tony looked up, his face illumined by the phone, his gaze affectionate. Stephen’s felt elation spread through him as Tony switched it off, touched by the gesture.

‘You’ve got my full attention.’

‘I don’t think I’ve thanked you properly for tonight,’ Stephen let his voice drop a few octaves, smirking as Tony’s fingers tightened on his pant leg. His throat bobbed in a thick swallow and he hid his nerves by drinking the water Stephen had brought him.

‘Nothing to thank me for, I had fun. I haven’t been to a party in a while.’

‘I thought you hated them?’

‘I do, despise them in fact, but it was nice seeing you in a different context than here. Christine was nice.’ Tony wasn’t going to let that go, his eyes narrowed as he waited for Stephen’s reaction.

‘I’m not interested in Christine in a romantic way.’

‘Why? As I said, she’s gorgeous, you’ve got past.’

‘She’s with someone.’ Stephen cocked his hip, folding his arms as he looked down at Tony.

‘So? All’s fair in love and war, Doc. You should fight for what you want.’

‘Oh, I intend to,’ Stephen whispered, falling to his knees and placing his palms on Tony’s legs.

Tony’s eyes went comically wide, and it made a part of Stephen ache to see the disbelief in them. Tony Stark, one of the most sort after men didn’t believe...couldn’t believe that Stephen would want him. Stephen recalled the words he’d eavesdropped.

We all know I’m one of the biggest fuck ups the world has ever seen, so if he can stick by my side then that says a lot about his character.

‘You went far beyond what I asked for tonight, Tony.’

Tony closed his eyes, and Stephen knew he was denying himself the hope he had felt.

‘Don’t be silly.’

‘You didn’t have to kiss me.’ He squeezed Tony’s legs.

‘You were upset and trust me, it wasn’t difficult kissing you,’

Stephen’s thumbs inched up the inseam of Tony’s pants.

‘What are you…’

‘Have you heard the expression that I was blind to what was right in front of me?’

Stephen surged up as Tony reached down, their mouths meeting in a frantic, messy kiss. Tony’s hands fisted in his hair, trying to tug Stephen onto his lap, but Stephen remained on the floor, his own hands pressed against Tony’s chest, feeling the heat radiating from his shirt covered skin.

When Stephen licked his tongue into Tony’s mouth, he crumbled at the needy whine Tony emitted, needing the man now, consequences damned. He heard himself making a deep, almost possessive rumble in return, leaning up into Tony’s space, dragging his hands down Tony’s shirt, sweeping down to his hips.

They broke off the kiss, panting against each other’s mouth. Stephen let his fingers linger over the swell in Tony’s pants, primal desire consuming him, his greed for Tony making him feverish.

Infected with Stephen’s carnal desires, Tony struck, catching Stephen’s lower lip in his mouth, biting it, rubbing his tongue over it to sooth the sting. ‘Take me to your room?’ Tony whispered against his mouth, still sweetly hesitant.

Fumbling in his pockets, Stephen pulled out his sling ring, opening a portal and pulling Tony to his feet, taking another moment to kiss him.

‘There’s nothing I want more, I promise you. It’s all I’ve been able to think about all night.’

A slow, sensual smile graced Tony’s lips as he stepped through the portal, looking back over his shoulder as he went. Stephen sauntered in after, shedding his shirt as he went, gaze on Tony the entire time.

He stepped up behind him, tilting Tony’s head to kiss the side of his neck as his hands stroked around Tony’s middle, languidly undoing the shirt buttons, index finger teasing over Tony’s sternum and then tracing his navel.

Tony moaned, low and deep in his throat, his head rolling to the side allowing Stephen better access.

Stephen knew he should have been plagued with thoughts, with fears about ruining their friendship, that it wasn’t worth throwing away everything they’d built for one night of passion, but all he could think of was the man before him, the hands coming up to tug at his hair, ruthless in his demand for more attention to his neck.

It might have taken a pretence to open his eyes, but Stephen hadn’t been pretending tonight when he told Tony he liked being called his lover. It wasn’t pretend when Stephen felt protective of Tony. It wasn’t pretend when he’d told Tony he wished he could take all his pain, his nightmares away.

It was all real.

He slipped the shirt from Tony’s shoulders, mouth trailing after the cotton, leaving goose bumps in his wake. Stephen took a step back, allowing the shirt to pool on the floor, sweeping his hands over Tony’s shoulder blades, the bumps of his spine.

Stephen had been with people over the years, attractive ones to bolster his own reputation, but none in peak physical condition like Tony. He could see the dedication, feel the strength under his fingertips, the commitment Tony had undergone, knowing that he might one day he might have nothing but his body and his physical strength to save people.

It set Tony apart from his lovers, every scar a testament to the sacrifices he’d borne, Stephen’s fingers brushed against a jagged scar on Tony’s lower back, the exit wound of where Thanos had stabbed him. 

Stephen turned Tony round to face him, the glow of his reactor bathing them both in azure light. Tony brought his own hands up, the pads of his fingers dragging over Stephen’s own scars, his pectorals, the dusting of hair on his stomach.

Tony exhaled once, a sharp, pained sound, before his hand wrapped around the back of Stephen’s neck, dragging him down into a kiss, bringing their naked torsos together. Kissing Tony was a potent experience. He wasn’t passive like many of his past lovers, he fought Stephen for dominance, insisting Stephen meet his passion.

Stephen adored it, the idea that Tony was just as desperate, the need to consume the other affecting both of them.

Gripping protruding hips, he rolled his own into Tony’s stomach, digging his erection into the muscled skin, wishing he could feel Tony’s hardness in return. Ending the kiss with a gasp, Tony dragged one of Stephen’s hand to the front of his pants.

Tracing the outline of Tony’s cock, his mind went blank at the thought of Tony being hard for him. Walking the smaller man back to the bed, he carefully pushed him down, hand fumbling with Tony’s fly, getting distracted by the way Tony leant up to mouth at his chest, tongue rasping over a nipple.

‘I’ve been fixated on this all evening,’ Stephen whispered, reverence in his tone as he slipped his hand under Tony’s boxers, stroking across heated flesh, teasing strokes followed by long drawn out ones.

‘And you don’t think I’ve been fixated on you, ah-’ Tony abruptly went silent as Stephen slid down Tony’s body, ripping his clothes down to his thighs to free his erection, tongue eager as he swiped it through precome. Hands tangled in Stephen’s hair as he sucked lightly at the head, moaning at the taste.

He took his time to memorise the feel of Tony, the salty tang, the weight against his tongue, the scalding flesh branding Stephen’s mouth. His own erection was throbbing, begging for some friction, matched by the pain starting to creep into Stephen’s knees as he knelt on the floor.

Stephen’s gaze flicked up, taking in the shifting hips, the laboured breathing, his pleasure soaring at the sight, his mouth becoming clumsy instead of the elegant slides he’d just been treating Tony to.

‘Tell me,’ he tore away long enough to demand.

‘Tell you what?’ Tony groaned.

‘What you fixated on.’

‘Fuck,’ Tony jolted as Stephen increased his suction, his hand stroking the velvet softness of his balls. ‘I wanted to drag you away from all those people, you looked so fucking good dressed up,’ Tony gasped out, fingers tightening in Stephen’s hair as he moaned around his cock.

‘Wanted to find an empty room and push you down. Kiss you senseless, make you beg-’ Tony writhed as Stephen dipped his tongue into his slit.

Urgent tapping on the side of his head made him stop, gazing at Tony’s flushed face.

‘You want to know what I fixated on the most?’ Tony’s voice was rough, seductive.

‘Yes,’ Stephen asked, wrapping his fingers around the spit-slick erection.

‘You stood up for me.’

Stephen stopped, looking up into shy brown eyes.

‘What?’

‘You defended me, without even thinking about it, you were angry on my behalf,’ Tony whispered.

Stephen pushed himself up onto his hands, leaning over Tony’s body, their faces close.

‘Of course I did, Tony.’

When they kissed this time, it was akin to the first one they shared, fond, loving, no tongues just a gentle glide of lips against the others.

Tony rolled them over, kicking off his shoes and clothes. Stephen allowed it, relishing the feel of Tony’s body on top of his, the weight and the warmth. He hissed a little when the cold metal of the reactor caught his skin, smiling when Tony reached between them and unclipped it without prompting, placing it on the bed beside them.

Stephen struggled to keep himself still as confident fingers undid his fly, dragging the zip down with excruciating deliberate slowness, the sound loud and obscene despite Stephen’s heavy breathing.

‘Tony,’ he pleaded, the words leaving him as Tony nuzzled his nose against the base of his cock, inhaling deeply.

‘I realised you wanted me when you gave your speech.’ Tony told him. ‘Your eyes were burning holes into me.’

He peeled Stephen’s boxers from his body, his nails teasing his skin as he went. When he was naked, Tony straddled Stephen’s hips, urging him into a sitting position, bringing them face to face with Tony in his lap.

‘Have to say, I never thought tonight would end up like this,’ Tony breathed into his ear, taking the lobe into his mouth, stroking with his tongue. Stephen’s hands settled on the gorgeous, muscled ass, squeezing and encouraging Tony to rut against him, their cocks rubbing together.

‘Neither did I, but it’s not exactly a hardship having you naked across my lap, sweetheart.’

Tony’s entire body shuddered at that, nails digging into Stephen’s shoulders.

Stephen stopped what he was doing for a moment, wondering. He flexed his hands experimentally on Tony’s toned behind and while the man clearly enjoyed it, it wasn’t the response Stephen was looking for.

‘Do you want to ride me? Or shall I take you on all fours?’

Tony moaned, nodding frantically, grinding his hips down, catching Stephen’s cock between his ass cheeks, making them both buck uncontrollably.

While it was obvious Tony liked Stephen’s voice, it wasn’t the reaction Stephen hoped for.

With a start and a rush of absurd fondness for the man squirming on his lap, Stephen realised what it was.

‘You look fucking gorgeous, sweetheart.’

Tony cried out, swept along in his arousal, engulfed by it. It wasn’t just the endearment he was reacting too, it was the praise, the adoration in Stephen’s voice. It made Stephen want to weep, to bundle Tony up in his arms to whisper praise against his skin with his mouth until they seeped into his very being.

With trembling fingers, he reached back to Tony’s rim, but Tony slapped his fingers away.

‘No, it’ll hurt,’ he gasped out.

Stephen tilted his head, confused. ‘I’ll be careful, I’ll make it pleasurable for you, you can trust me.’

‘No, for you… hands,’ Tony muttered. ‘You got any lube?’

‘Yeah, gimme a sec.’ Intrigued, Stephen waved open a portal to his bedside table, plucking out what he needed. His eyebrow rose as Tony discarded the condom, picking up the lube. It was little things like that which made Stephen’s heart swell. Tony knew without asking, trusted that Stephen was clean, and Stephen didn’t need to ask either.

He would be on the bottom if that’s what Tony wanted, but if he was reading the man’s reactions right and if he was honest with himself, he wanted to take Tony, to watch the man succumb to bliss as he thrust into him.

Watching Tony coat his fingers, Stephen shoved his disappointment away, moving back to let Tony slip from him.

‘Ah, no you don’t, Doc. Stay where you are.’ Tony kissed his jaw, reaching back behind himself, huffing a laugh at Stephen’s gaping mouth as he prepared himself.

‘That’s got to be the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,’ he gasped against Tony’s mouth, swallowing Tony’s whimpers as the man prepared himself. ‘Fucking hell, sweetheart, that’s it, stretch yourself for me.’

Sharp pain at the back of his head made him wince, Tony tugging him back by the hair to mash their mouths together, attempting to kiss but instead running his tongue over Stephen’s lips, gasping, desperate.

Stephen felt a hand fumbling for his cock, Tony attempting to line him up, and despite his fervour filled haze, he held Tony still.

‘Wait, make sure you’re ready, don’t rush it.’ Stephen injected a stern tone to his voice, knowing Tony was rushing things.

‘Don’t wanna wait any more, been waiting for you forever,’ Tony growled, trying to shake Stephen’s grip.

‘Slow down and make sure you’re ready or you’ll get nothing,’ Stephen threatened, bringing his own fingers to Tony’s rim, encouraging Tony to begin again. ‘I’ll wait… as long as it takes, Tony.’

Moving his index finger alongside Tony’s, he helped massage the tight walls into relaxation, distracting Tony with bites to his throat, his other hand sliding across Tony’s chest, thumbing his nipples into stiff pebbles. It tore at Stephen’s self-restraint, the captivating creature writing in his lap, enflaming Stephen’s lust, his cock excruciating.

‘Now baby, now,’ Tony begged.

Patting across the bed, Stephen found the lube, pouring a generous amount onto himself, and added more to his finger, making sure Tony was thoroughly coated and adequately prepared.

Despite preparations, Tony’s face still screwed in blissful agony as Stephen entered his body, his eyes glimmering with tears. When Stephen went to stop, he shook his head, insisting Stephen continue.

Shifting up, Stephen brought Tony down for a kiss, his other hand rubbing against Tony’s lower back in soothing circles, encouraging him to relax.

‘That’s it, sweetheart, God, your body feels perfect, can you feel what you’re doing to me?’ Stephen drew one of Tony’s hands to his chest, entwining their fingers to press over his thundering heart.

‘All from you, Tony.’

‘Stephen,’ Tony whined, pressing their foreheads together.

‘You’re alright, I’ve got you, take it slow and stop if you need to.’

Tony’s inner muscles clung to his cock in a sweltering agony, his body almost tearing Stephen’s orgasm from him as he gingerly accepted Stephen’s cock. Stephen couldn’t take his gaze off Tony, the tears dampening his lashes, the begging lilt to his voice as he chanted Stephan’s name, coaxing his body down.

When he was finally seated, Stephen held him still, long arms wrapped around his back, holding Tony to his chest, cradling his head into Stephen’s neck.

‘You’re amazing,’ Stephen whispered into his ear, kissing the skin just below it. He felt Tony’s legs moving on the bed, bracing himself with his knees as he lifted himself up and brought himself back down, careful, deliberate, adjusting himself. Stephen remained motionless, allowing Tony to get comfortable, for the pain to subside into pleasure, continuing his gentle strokes across Tony’s skin.

He’d never felt like this before, and he understood with a small gasp this was it. This was what Stephen had been searching for, the fabled fireworks, the moment of clarity. He nuzzled his nose into Tony’s neck, overwhelmed by their closeness. Encouraging Tony down for a kiss, he poured all his feelings into it, wishing it was enough, that Tony could begin to feel a least a small part of how he felt.

How hopelessly in love he was.

Tony tilted his pelvis, searching for something, his body ripping away from Stephen’s in a sinful curve as he found it.

‘There!’ he called out, body trembling as he slammed himself down over and over on Stephen’s cock, lost to sensations.

As with his kissing, Tony wasn’t submissive, he was aggressive, chasing his pleasure and dragging Stephen alongside him, biting at his mouth, placing Stephen’s trembling hands on his body in a plea for him to touch, insisting Stephen be an active participant in the pleasure, despite him wanting to take a backseat and simply watch the magnificence that was Tony.

‘Stephen?’ Tony stopped, sweaty bangs falling into his eyes, a crimson flush staining his neck and chest. ‘Fuck me damn it!’ he snapped, raking his nails down Stephen’s chest making him hiss.

‘What do you think I’m doing?’ Stephen growled in return, sucking a deep bruise into Tony’s collarbone.

Tony hissed in annoyance, getting off Stephen’s lap

Stephen’s cry of bewilderment was cut short as Tony turned, presenting Stephen with his back as he fell onto all fours, a tempting, delectable display.

He practically scrambled to his knees, draping himself over Tony’s back, rubbing his cock against that luscious backside.

‘You weren’t feeling me enough, sweetheart?’ Stephen murmured, thrusting back into Tony with a sharp snap of hips. ‘Oh yes, this is much better.’ The change in position allowed him to go deeper, to control the angle of his thrusts.

He purposefully missed Tony’s prostate, only hitting in one every six thrusts or so, driving the smaller man to insanity, his begging kicking up a notch. Stephen noticed one of his hands straying down, and he caught it with magic, binding him to the bed, securing the other beside it.

Stephen hesitated for a moment, uncertain if this new position would be accepted by Tony. It forced his chest down on the bed, ass in the air, in a lewd, submissive display. Careful, he tested the waters.

‘Do you like that? Surrendering to me?’

A muffled groan and clenching around his cock reassured Stephen.

‘You’re all mine Tony Stark, you’ll get your pleasure from me, do you understand?’

A whimper was all he got in response.

Stephen stilled, kissing the back of Tony’s neck, biting at the skin.

‘Do you understand?’

‘Yes,’ Tony whispered.

‘I’ll take care of you, sweetheart,’ Stephen reassured, increasing the strength of his thrusts, hitting that sweet spot inside his lover, fighting his own climax, delaying the inevitable as Tony’s cries grew louder, his head arching back to look up at the ceiling.

‘I reckon I could make you come like this. Untouched, bound for me, taking pleasure as I see fit.’ Stephen released one of Tony’s hips to run a hand down Tony’s spine, feeling the skin quiver under his touch. He was pulling against the magical binds, grinding back into Stephen’s thrusts, trying to find his climax.

‘Stephen,’ he growled, clenching around Stephen causing a choked sound to escape. He stopped, pressing his forehead to Tony’s back.

‘I don’t want this to end,’ Stephen whispered, partly referring to wanting to drag out Tony’s sweet agony and partly to their intimacy.

What if Tony saw this as a onetime thing?

Unable to bring his hands down, Tony hooked one ankle over Stephen’s leg, rubbing in reassurance.

Taking pity on the man, Stephen resumed his thrusts, wrapping his hand around Tony’s erection, stroking in time, twisting his fingers over the leaking head. It was seconds from there, Tony coming with a low scream, Stephen tumbling straight after, flinging his own head back as he came, shouting Tony’s name.

Waving his fingers, Tony was released, and Stephen brought them both to their sides, still locked within Tony’s body, holding him as they trembled through the aftershocks of their climax. Catching his breath, he eased out of Tony slowly, peppering kisses down his neck as he did. Tony’s hand came up from where it was limp on the bed, snagging Stephen’s and holding it close to his stomach.

‘Amazing,’ Tony muttered, his voice thick with exhaustion.

‘We should have done that months ago,’ Stephen agreed, breathing the scent of the man, his sweat, the cologne, the lingering scent of motor oil from tinkering from his cars, all uniquely Tony.

Tony squirmed after a few minutes of resting, clearly uncomfortable. Regretfully Stephen released him from his hold, getting up to go to the bathroom. Coming back with a damp towel, he cleaned Tony up, feeling nothing but tenderness as Tony sleepily blinked at him.

Pulling off the dirty sheet, he tossed it on the floor, lifting Tony up from the bed for a moment so he could magic a clean one on. Setting him back down, he wrapped Tony in the covers and got in beside him with a yawn. Stephen didn’t hesitate to draw Tony in for a hug, the smaller man going willingly, pillowing his head on Stephen’s chest and tangling their legs together.

Stephen was happy.

Ecstatically so. Tony filled a void in his life he’d be carefully ignoring. The billionaire had been unaware he’d been filling it for months now, and even Stephen had been blind to just how content Tony made him.

Stephen could feel the sweep of Tony’s eyelashes against his chest. He smiled as he felt the length between each blink increase, the tiny twitches in Tony’s hand indicating the man was close to the clutches of sleep. He brought his hand up to Tony’s hair, weaving his fingers into the thick strands, cradling his head close.

‘I should get going,’ Tony mumbled, heaving himself up to into a sitting position, allowing Stephen to shamelessly gaze at the broad back.

‘You don’t need to rush off,’ Stephen murmured, skimming a hand over Tony’s ribs.

‘I know, but I’ve got to get going,’ Tony yawned, turning to take the sting out of his words by pressing a peck on Stephen’s lips.

‘Are you free tomorrow?’ Stephen asked, tugging Tony down to lay against him again. Tony’s gaze wouldn’t meet his, his throat clenching in a swallow.

‘Tomorrow isn’t any good for me, Doc.’ Tony slapped his reactor back on his chest, wriggling out of Stephen’s arms and from the bed, searching for his clothes.

Stephen squashed down the concern, the tiny itch of panic that crept into his voice.

‘Well then, how about the day after that?’ He tried to inject as much nonchalance into his voice as possible, but he knew the signs of someone trying to escape after a one-night stand, of not wanting things to be awkward.

‘I can’t,’ Tony sounded pained as he finished doing up his shirt.

Stephen recognised that tone. The annoyance of someone being clingy and emotional, the frustration that they didn’t realise that this was a one-time thing. He’d used it plenty of times in the past.

Dressed, Tony leant down on the bed, his hand sweeping away hair that had fallen on Stephen’s forehead, pressing a chaste kiss to his lips.

‘I really need to go. I’ll call you when things get less crazy.’

‘Never pegged you for a coward, Stark,’ Stephen spat as Tony got to the doorway.

The man stood still, hand on the frame.

‘Run that past me again?’

‘I’ll call you? Really? I’m an adult, you don’t need to pretend this was anything more than just sex.’

‘Sex?’ Tony’s head turned a fraction to the side, echoing his words. ‘Stephen this wasn’t-’

‘I don’t need the lines you normally feed your conquests, the guilt for overstepping the bounds of friendship. Don’t misunderstand imaginary for reality, this was nothing more than an unexpected bonus of a great night, don’t make it into a big deal, Christine never did.’

It was hurt that made him lash out, hurt that he had dared to think Tony might be different, that this might have been different. He’d put his heart on the line, possibly for the first time ever and Tony didn’t want it.

Stephen’s brain went over the night, unable to recall any love confessions from Tony, any admittances that Tony wanted him in a romantic capacity. Tony Stark was renowned for sleeping around, and as he had said, Stephen had stood up for him, praised him, this might have been nothing more than an ego-boosting fuck.

The sound of his doorframe creaking under pressure made him glance up, his heart clenching in terror when he saw Tony’s eyes squeezed in pain.

Wait a minute.

‘You know damn well this wasn’t what this was. I told you as much.’

That’s what you do when you love someone, Doc.

‘I know you overheard my conversation with Nic, that you heard what I said.’

The person I love is selfless, charming, thoughtful and generous.

‘Tony…I-’

‘They’re right aren’t they,’ Tony turned, giving Stephen his full attention. ‘You really are an arrogant dick. Stephen Strange, the man scared of love and commitment, destroying it when it’s freely offered.’

Tony was gone before he launched himself from the bed.

 

***

 

Stephen looked down at the papers in disbelief, shame curdling his stomach. He knew Tony had pushed back something when he agreed to accompany him, had seen it on FRIDAY’s holographic calendar and he’d been so swept up in the disbelief Tony had agreed to go with him that he’d just…ignored it.

He’d been over and over that night in his head, for many different reasons. Now, when he recalled the details, he paid particular attention to the memories of Tony checking his phone, his concerned frown, his admittance that there were difficulties at work.

What Tony hadn’t told him was that he’d blown off an important meeting, which the tabloids had been all too happy to jump on, speculating he was lapsing back to his playboy ways, that he was offending Fujikawa Industries deliberately. A few reports begrudgingly admitted that it appeared Stark was attempting to make amends by spending time in Tokyo, attending events there, flashing the Stark face.

I’ve always hated things like these, but I knew my duty, the expectations.

He’d voluntarily taken on some more public events, despite admitting to Stephen he hated them.

Stephen knew first hand just how distracted Tony could be if he had things on his mind. If he’d been trying to think of a way to save face for being late, a way to appease the CEO of Fujikawa Industries, then he wouldn’t have been listening to Stephen as he got dressed after sex.

Tony wasn’t trying to escape, wasn’t being awkward because he wanted to leave. He genuinely had to go to make it on time, which he hadn’t done because they’d been together in bed for a few hours.

Stephen felt…awful, for lack of a stronger word.

He was also furious Tony hadn’t told him.

Tony wouldn’t take his calls, wouldn’t respond to his messages.

Stephen didn’t know how to fix it, he’d messed up… big time. Anytime he recalled the last words he said to Tony he felt ashamed, nausea scalding the back of his throat. He’s told Tony the night had meant nothing, that he was interchangeable with Christine.

Stephen was a bastard.

A few times he flared the beginnings of a portal, wanting to see Tony, yet fear held him back. Stephen didn’t want to make things worse with Tony’s work, didn’t want Tony to reject him.

After two weeks of moping, Stephen picked up his phone.

‘Hello? Stephen?’

‘Hey, Christine,’ Stephen mumbled out, sitting in the exact same place he had when the lies began.

‘What’s wrong?’ Christine’s voice was gentle, concerned.

‘I fucked up… of course I did. The first person I loved and I…’ Stephen moved the phone from his ear and placing his face in his palm, heat prickling his eyes.

‘Stephen? Honey? What happened, do you want to meet? I can be with you in thirty minutes, where are you?’

‘No, no Christine, I just needed to talk to someone, to ask for help. I lied to you.’

‘About dating Tony?’ He could hear a door shut in the background, shuffling as Christine made herself comfortable on her chair.

‘Yeah,’ Stephen croaked, moving his hand off his lap as the Cloak floated over, settling over his knees.

‘Did he reject you when you told him how you feel?’

‘No.’ In stumbling sentences he told her everything, what he’d overheard Tony telling Nic, their night together, what he’d said in parting, Tony’s pain.

‘Oh, Stephen,’ Christine murmured sadly.

‘How do I fix it?’ Stephen pleaded. ‘Tony’s right, I destroyed it before it’d even began.’

‘Stephen, I saw how Tony was watching you that night, how you both acted together. He wasn’t pretending.’

‘He’s not answering my calls, my messages.’

‘Well, I wouldn’t either, Stephen, he’s had his heart broken, I know he might be a playboy-’

‘That isn’t who Tony is any more,’ Stephen was quick to interrupt, the need to defend Tony rising in a furious swell in his chest. ‘He hasn’t been with anyone since…’

Stephen’s voice trailed off in realisation. He’d broken Tony’s heart. The fragile thing which had only just been put back together after Pepper had left.

What the hell was he doing sitting here moping?

‘What are you thinking, Strange?’ Christine picked up on his mood change from his silence.

‘That I need to speak with him, now.’

‘Go for it, Stephen. Fight for him, you’re not out for the count yet. I’ve never seen you as comfortable, as happy as you were last night with Tony, don’t let him slip away.’

‘I don’t intend to, thank you, Christine.’

Ending the call, he ran his hand over the Cloak. ‘I need to project my astral form to Tony, check where he is before I portal to see him. Wake me if anything happens?’ Stephen asked.

The Cloak nodded its collar, settling over his body as he lay down.

Stephen only spared his body a quick backward glance as he focused on Tony, concentrating on the images his mind brought up of the man, his touch, his scent, the feelings he evoked in Stephen.

There.

Launching his astral body forward, he founds himself in a grey meeting room with a large table, seating dozens of important looking people, clad in suits, listening to a PowerPoint presentation.

Tony was seated near the end of the table furthest from the speaker, and while he appeared to be listening intently, Stephen could see his gaze darting over the faces in the room, lost in his own thoughts. Drifting over, guilt seized him as he saw red bloodshot eyes and dark smudges underneath.

He was devasted.

Stephen floated over, watching as Tony looked down at something in his lap. Frowning, Stephen moved around, wanting to see what it was. Tony’s phone was on his lap, the screen currently blank, but Stephen only needed to wait a few minutes before Tony’s attention was on it again.

Their message thread.

Tony was rereading through his messages. Worse yet there was a written unsent message on Tony’s end, written only a few hours after he’d left the Sanctum.

Was all of it just pretend?

He hadn’t sent it yet.

Stephen let his incorporeal hand rest on Tony’s for a moment, snatching it back as Tony startled, head flying up.

‘Mr Stark? Is everything alright?’ The woman giving the presentation asked.

‘I’m sorry, I dropped my pen, please continue.’

Tony’s voice sounded hoarse and it made Stephen ache to know he was the cause of it. He knew he couldn’t portal into the meeting, and Tony would ignore any message he sent. Torn, he remained by Tony’s side the rest of the meeting, wishing his presence could offer Tony some comfort.

When finished, he floated after Tony, watching the man interact with board members, wondering once again how he’d been so idiotic not to notice he had feelings for the man. Tony gave everyone he spoke with his undivided attention, not speaking down to them, be it board member, colleague or secretary.

And here he thought Stephen was generous and thoughtful.

Tony’s phone rang, and he ripped it out of his pocket with such hope that Stephen emitted a small pained noise as Tony’s voice crumpled when he saw the caller ID. Making his excuses, Tony ducked into an empty office room.

‘Hey, Pep. Yeah, I know, no I’m doing fine. I think we’ll be done today, and I’ll be flying back tonight.’

Tony closed his eyes as he listened.

Stephen drifted around the room, glancing at the paintings on the walls, the view of Tokyo outside the window, keeping one ear on the conversation as he burnt the sight of the oriental skyline to memory.

‘I know, I know, I told you it was important I went to the Neurological Association event. Yes, I know, it wasn’t my intention to piss them off.’

He turned away, watching Tony rip the tie from his neck, rolling his head to loosen the tension.

‘Yeah, I should have told Stephen… I didn’t want him to worry.’

Stephen moved closer. Tony didn’t know he was here and even with the freedom it allowed him with his speech, Tony wasn’t bad mouthing Stephen, or speaking about him in anger.

‘Because he wouldn’t have let me go with him, Pepper, and I couldn’t let him go alone.’

Tony chuckled, a dark sound devoid of humour.

‘Yeah, I do love him…I’m an idiot. I’ll be back at the Avengers compound at six tonight, I’m exhausted but I’ll be able to look over any urgent files you have. Yeah yeah, but I’ve gotta bust my hump to make it up to them.’

Stephen could hear the concern on the other end.

‘No…it was worth it. Yup, see you.’

Stephen wrenched himself back to his physical body.

‘After all these years, I really am an arrogant dickhead,’ Stephen told the Cloak, who nodded its agreement. ‘I couldn’t talk to him, he’s still busy and I couldn’t just…drop in on him.’

The Cloak flew off and Stephen could hear it rummaging around the kitchen, before it flew back, brandishing a flyer.

‘That might not be such a good idea,’ Stephen breathed out. The Cloak bunched itself up in anger, its corner tapping the flyer viciously.

‘Alright.’

 

***

 

He checked Tony was alone for the evening with strategic portals before opening one into his lab.

‘Fuck off, Strange,’ Tony didn’t even look up from what he was doing.

‘Give me a chance,’ Stephen began, ducking as Tony chucked something at him.

‘I said go away.’

‘Not until you listen to me. You rushed off before I could defend myself.’

‘Strange, I’m exhausted. I’ve got to read these reports before I can sleep, whatever it is you have to say to me it can wait.’

‘You didn’t tell me you were blowing off an important meeting.’ Stephen blurted, wincing as Tony’s hands balled into fists, pushing away his tablet in anger.

‘That doesn’t concern you,’ he snapped.

‘It does when you’ve had to make up for it. If you had told me I wouldn’t have thought I was just a one-night stand.’

 ‘Excuse me?’ Tony whirled around in his stool, crossing his arms over his chest. ‘You were the one who told me it was just sex.’

‘Because I’m a bastard. The first time I have meaningful intercourse with someone I care deeply about, and I became fearful of my vulnerability.’

‘Intercourse… honestly, speak like a normal person.

‘None of it was pretend, it might have started off like that, but I was an idiot for not noticing what was in front of me, of how I felt, I didn’t realise.’

Daring, Stephen took a few steps forward, watching Tony carefully in case the man indicated his discomfort. Brown eyes watched him walk over, narrowed slightly in concern, almost waiting for bad news. When Stephen stood in front of him, he widened his legs, allowing Stephen to come closer.

Stephen did one better, kneeling so they were eye level. He brought his hands up to Tony’s face, pressing their foreheads together, before leaving a lingering kiss there.

‘I’m sorry,’ he murmured against Tony’s skin. ‘You’ve always been important to me, as a friend, as a confident and a fellow defender of our home. You’re important to me, Tony.’

Tentative hands rested against his back, clutching at his tunic. ‘I’m sorry too, I should have…explained myself better. I’m not always good at communicating things, but I thought I had when we had intercourse. I told you I’d wanted you forever, didn’t I?’ Tony pulled back a little.

‘I misunderstood your meaning, I thought you referring to a sexual want, not me.’

‘Ah, I’m normally more direct about the things I want, guess I didn’t want to ruin whatever we had.’ Tony didn’t need to speak the unspoken,  like always, it was evident in the way he held himself, his slumped posture.

‘Come upstairs in five minutes,’ he whispered into Tony’s ear.

‘Why?’

‘Trust me, finish what you’re doing and come to the living room.

Feeling relieved Tony didn’t fight him, Stephen opened a portal directly to the living area Tony had attached to the lab, private so the other Avengers wouldn’t disturb them. He’d just finished pulling the food out of bags and placing it on the coffee table when Tony entered the room.

‘Wait a minute,’ he waved his hand and Tony was out of his shirt and tie and dressed in his worn pyjamas.

‘Well, that’s handy,’ Tony ran his hands over the clothing, testing it was real.

‘I got you the noodles you like,’ Stephen tempted, smiling as Tony’s head snapped up.

‘With extra-’

‘With extra hot sauce.’

‘And a-’

‘And a side of spring rolls.’

A small, shy smile graced Tony’s lips as he came and sat next to Stephen crossed legged on the floor.

‘Oh, and one other thing.’ Stephen opened another portal, stretching his arm in and pulling out a beer, holding it out to Tony.

‘My ideal date,’ Tony laughed, pleased Stephen had remembered.

‘The Cloak helped. I’m surprised you really were just five minutes,’ Stephen teased, pulling his own carton towards him.

‘Yeah well, you asked, Doc.’

They ate their Chinese takeout in silence, neither looking at the other, both uncertain.

‘Well, this feels as awkward as a first date.’

‘S’more awkward now,’ Stephen spoke around the food in his mouth.

‘I missed talking to you,’ Tony admitted, placing his food down and hunching his shoulders.

‘Me too, the Sanctum’s quiet without you popping up unexpectedly. Tony?’

‘Hmm?’

‘How long have you felt the way you do?’

Tony chewed his lip in thought, pulling his food back towards him and stabbing at it with his fork.

‘I’m not sure, sometime after Pepper, maybe when you came that night, the one where I had the bad nightmare. Remember?’

‘Oh, when I sat up with you?’ Stephen could remember, it’d been a few months after Pepper had left and although Tony had been better with his mental state, he’d rung Stephen in the middle of night in a full-blown panic attack.

It felt like a lifetime ago.

‘Yeah, I realised around then. I was terrified, and you were the first person I thought of.’

‘Tony, that was months ago.’

Tony hid his wince well, but Stephen knew Tony’s tells. He placed his hand on Tony’s knee, rubbing his thumb over it in comfort.

‘I’m not angry, just surprised you kept it secret.’

‘You didn’t give me any reason to believe this was anything other than friends. I don’t have many of those, real ones I mean. I wasn’t willing to give it up.’ Tony didn’t move, but he was staring at the hand on his leg.

‘I feel like I should say sorry all over again, my obtuseness has been hurting you all this time.’

‘Not at all, as I said, I was happy with what I had.’

They carried on eating, still not looking at each other.

‘At the event, I was watching you and while I didn’t experience a sudden jolt or eruption of clarity, I knew what I felt for you, what I had been feeling for you,’ Stephen began.

‘I thought you were waiting for the…what did you say…oh yeah, cliché fireworks.’

‘Oh, trust me, I felt those, and I’m gonna steal the worst cliché and tell you I’ve never felt like that before, the intimacy I felt with you that night.’

Stephen reached out and plucked Tony’s empty carton from him, placing them both on the floor.

‘Come on, bed.’

‘But-’

‘Tony, you’re exhausted, let me be a good boyfriend and take you to bed.’

‘Boyfriend?’ Tony spluttered.

‘I think we’ve been through them all now. While I like lover, I think boyfriend suits you best.’

‘Your arrogance really knows no bounds,’ Tony shook his head, taking the offered hand allowing Stephen to help him stand. ‘Come on then, intended. Although, I think squeeze is growing on-’

Stephen rested his finger on Tony’s lips, halting him mid-ramble.

‘I love you, Tony Stark. Sorry for being such a blind idiot.’

‘I won’t hold it against you, Doc. Now stop talking and kiss your beloved.’

 

The End

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