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“Wait a minute. Rewind. Whatdaya mean 'you wouldn't know'? Steve, don't tell me-”

Steve blushes and concentrates on decimating his eggs.

“Oh, Steve. What on earth are we going to do with you?

It is morning. For Tony it's the morning after some truly spectacular sex and he, as usual, hasn't been able to keep his big mouth shut and now there's one very embarrassed, very virgin Captain America sitting in the kitchen of the Avengers Tower. The only sleep Tony has gotten tonight is the nap he'd gotten in the limo after the party, but he's suddenly wide awake. God, how is this man real.

“Okay, lemme guess. First you were too scrawny and shy for the girls' liking, then you were thrown into a war and besides, knowing you, you wouldn't have taken the opportunity if it had presented itself on a silver platter, because you're just not the kind of guy who'd want the girl to put out without at least half-a-dozen dates and as I said, there was a damn war going on. Am I right.”

“Something like that.” Steve says, but there's something in his eyes, or rather, how he still won't meet Tony's eyes.

“No, it wasn't just that. There was something more. You can tell me, Steve, I've told you everything about all the stupid things I've done, so you know I'm not going to be offended or disgusted or whatever if you, I don't know, like the girl to put on high heels and walk all over your naked body. But, um, please don't tell me you're into scat or something. Are you a furry? I won't laugh, I can even get you a costume, what's your spirit animal, Steve?”

Steve just stares at him.

“I... I don't know even know what that means. I'm not sure I want to know.”

“You're stalling. Steve, why are you still a virgin?”

Steve, beet red, covers his face in his hands.

“It would have gotten me thrown out of the army. At best.”

Oh. Oh.

Tony puts his coffee down, gets up. Walks around the table, puts his hands on Steve's broad shoulders.

“And you were their golden Captain America, of course you couldn't risk that. And you tried to not want it, you tried to make it go away, but it just... didn't.” Tony speaks directly in Steve's ear and his voice comes out lower and huskier than intended. He can hear Steve's breath become irregular, his own breath ghosting on Steve's skin, making him shudder and without his permission Tony's hands start kneading Steve's tense shoulders, his nails scraping lightly down Steve's neck.

“And every night you would lie awake among all these soldiers that were your comrades, your responsibility, but you couldn't help wanting... more. And it made you feel so dirty, so horrible and you were so, so ashamed.

Steve's breath is shallow and fast, as he had just run mile after mile after mile and his voice is a hoarse whisper as he says, “Yes.”

“And now you're here, in the future and everything is unfamiliar and strange and seemingly endless with possibilities, but you're still Captain America and you still wouldn't dare to taint that image. But the temptation, Steve, the temptation is still there and now it's within your reach and it's driving you crazy.”

Steve's breath is loud and hoarse and he's trembling under the steady caress of Tony's hands. His head falls back to rest against Tony's stomach and now Tony can see his face clearly. Steve's eyes are half-closed and unseeing, his mouth is slack. His cheeks are adorably pink. And that right there between his large, magnificent thighs is definitely an erection.

That's all the permission Tony needs.

*

From there it doesn't take much to get Steve up from the chair, out of the kitchen, up to Tony's bedroom and into his bed. A few well-applied touches under his shirt, a scrape of nails down Steve's spine, a tug on his hand to get him to follow.

They don't speak on the way, they don't speak as Tony undresses Steve, his movements slow and sure, applying gentle caresses everywhere he touches. And then Steve is lying there, naked and golden on Tony's unmade bed, flushed and panting, still with that shell-shocked look on his face, but with an undercurrent of wonder, like he's just gotten thrown into his own private jerk-off fantasy.

He looks good enough to eat and Tony can barely wait; there's so many things he's going to show Steve, so many many things he wants to do.

He slowly strips out of his own clothing, soft silk pajamas he's barely worn for an hour and isn't he lucky, getting to screw two gorgeous blondes in less than twelve hours.

Steve's eyes tracks his every movement as his clothes is thrown to the floor and Tony purposely puts on a little show, not much, just slowing down even more and sending Steve a small, intimate smile he knows to be positively lewd, a smile full of promises of lots and lots of good things to come. Steve visibly swallows.

Tony returns to the bed, crawls on all fours up Steve's legs. When he bypasses Steve's crotch (and his very nice erection that looks so hard it must be painful) Steve looks both relived and disappointed. Tony hides a smile and starts nibbling on his stomach, rubbing his goatee against the soft skin. Steve groans, a sound that's just delightfuland warm sparks of lust and affection fill Tony's stomach and travel down to his own erection with the speed of light. He's going to take such good care of Steve; he won't know what hit him.

After a detour to Steve's nipples and throat that has him whining and thrashing, Tony licks and bites lower and lower until he reaches the head of Steve's cock and licks the skin around it, not actually touching, making Steve groan loudly. Tony can't help but look up and wink at Steve, unable to keep his grin to himself. Steve lets out a small laugh, his head falling back against the pillows, and one of his hands resting on Tony's shoulder. Tony finally gives Steve's cock some attention, slow, broad licks, using both sides of his tongue, letting Steve feel the different textures.

Steve bucks hard enough to almost break the bed, his head thrown back, his inhibitions already out the window and replaced with pure lust and Tony takes a moment to appreciate just how responsive Steve is. But then, the poor guy has been waiting for something like this for a very, very long time. Tony isn't cruel enough to make him wait much longer.

He takes Steve in, all of it at once (and there's a lot of it) and applies all of his not inconsiderable amount of focus on making this as good as he knows how to. Which is, well... Tony is not a man known for false modesty and besides, judging from Steve's thrashing and moaning, it is very, very good. His mouth is soon filled with saliva, running down Steve's cock (uncircumcised, smooth and thick and Tony can't wait to get it inside him) and he grips it with the hand he's not holding himself up with, starting a firm, slow rhythm, mirrored with the movement of his head, up and down, up and down, his tongue moving in little swirls around the head of Steve's cock.

Steve, who has an arm thrown over his eyes and is panting like a racehorse doing its best to win the Kentucky Derby. He is obviously holding himself still, not giving in to just bucking and fucking Tony's mouth. So, Steve still has a bit of restrain left. Time to change that.

Tony sits up, without stopping jerking Steve off, but he still makes a plaintive noise, looking at Tony like he just killed a puppy. Tony just smiles reassuringly at him and fumbles for the tube of lube he knows to be somewhere in his night-stand. He finds it, holds it between his teeth to screw the cap off one-handed, pours lube generously over Steve's cock, the hand-job suddenly going much, much smoother. Steve's reaction is instantaneous; he bucks and actually yells. Not loudly, okay more like a very loud, very drawn-out moan, but Tony is totally going to put it down as a yell.

He bends over Steve's cock again, positioning himself different this time, kneeling between Steve's legs, so he can use one hand to continue the combined sucking and stroking and still have a hand free to start fingering.

*

He's two fingers deep in Steve, who hasn't made a single complain about said fingers in his ass, who is bucking and trembling and panting like a pornstar, when Tony's jaw starts to get sore (he's out of practice; a fact he plans to change in the immediate future) and he finally starts thinking about logistics. How would Steve want this? God knows the man wouldn't just tell him, even if Tony wanted to break their silence to ask (which he won't. There's something incredibly erotic about this slow, silent fucking. Okay, almost-fucking. But, getting there. So getting there and how is this his life? Tony is already a billionaire superhero and now he's about to actually about to pop the cherry on Captain fucking America. How is this his life).

Tony goes with the hypothesis that since it's Steve's first time (Captain fucking America's fucking first time, god ), the best thing would be doing all the work for him, just letting Steve lie back and enjoy. Also, if Steve really has years of dirty fantasies about sex like this, as his reaction to Tony's little spiel in the kitchen seems to indicate, he would want the things that actually makes gay sex, well, gay . Being jerked off by large, strong hands. Having another man's dick in his ass.

Being taken.

Also, it's Steve . If he had problems with where Tony is going with this, he would have stopped him by now. The good captain may be a virgin, but Tony's seen him give as good as he gets with Clint's teasing and Tony's own heckling enough times to know that Steve is more than capable of reinforcing his own boundaries. Steve will stand up to Fury and fawning women alike, impeccable polite and with a will of iron and it has never stopped impressing Tony and well, turning him on. He can admit as much now, if only to himself.

Tony stops his sucking, which Steve doesn't seem to register because thought is turning into action and Tony is adding another finger and starts gently scissoring them, alternating loosening him and massaging that special spot. God , Steve is wonderful at this, so beautiful in his pleasure, Tony can't wait much longer, he is so, so hard, he can't remember the last time he wanted someone this much. Then it becomes obvious that yes, he just found Steve's sweet spot and this time there is no doubt that the noise Steve makes is a yell. Tony grins and continues, just to look at Steve, who is clenching the sheets and arching and writhing, as if he is put through the sweetest tortures. Which he totally is and Tony had promised himself not to let Steve wait any longer than necessary.

Tony pulls out, quickly getting rid of the gunk on his fingers on the sheets (they're going to be ruined anyway. Yes, certain aspects of gay sex is filthy and in Tony's mind that just makes it more real. There's nothing sweet or pretty about getting another man's shit on your fingers and that's just the way it is. Accept it or get out) and Steve groans in frustration as Tony quickly lubes up his cock and pushes into Steve in one, sweet movement. Tony knows instinctively that Steve can take it, both the pace and the barebacking and God, the things Tony could do to this man. For now, he has to stop and just breath for a moment, otherwise this is going to be over very, very soon. He just lies there on top of Steve and lets the sensations wash over him, run through him like electricity, pleasure so deep it takes his breath away (and Steve seems to be having the same reaction, lying there stunned and open-mouthed, starring at Toy with awe) before he gets his hands under himself, lifting up to start thrusting shallowly, small, sweet rolls of his hips and if he thought just being in Steve was good-

Tony is too swallowed in pleasure to be embarrassed about the noises he himself is making and it seems to be his noises that finally draws Steve into action. He starts running his hands over Tony's shoulders, his back, light scrapes of nails that sends fire through Tony and there's nothing hesitant about his touch, not even when he lowers his hands to settle on Tony's butt cheeks.

Steve is squeezing Tony's butt when he suddenly seems to get an epiphany and he starts rolling his own hips in time to move against Tony's thrust (judging from the downright reverent look on his face, it's a quite a good epiphany), meeting them with an increasing amount of force and Tony is once again reminded that this is Steve , super soldier and tactical expert, because Steve bends his legs, planting his feet firmly on the bed and tilting his hips a little, making Tony go deeper still and then Steve grips Tony's hips tightly, moving them up down, helping Tony keep the pace and as much as he wanted Steve's first time to be long and drawn out, there's no way he's going to being able to keep the slow pace and Steve seems totally fine with this, he's gripping Tony's hips with an intense look of concentration, moving them up and down, practically fucking himself on Tony, god , that's hot and they're going faster and faster and-

They don't last long after that. Tony sacrifices his balance in order to grab Steve's still slick cock and pulls frantically while really putting his leg muscles into it and soon Steve makes the most wonderful sound, long and deep and comes and Tony swears right there and then that he's going to make Steve make that sound a lot more. Steve is still moving Tony's hips almost brutally up and down and Tony comes almost simultaneously, the world disappearing for a moment as he spills into Steve.

*

When Tony wakes up, it is past midday. Steve is still there. Tony has a hazy memory about falling asleep surrounded by strong arms, but during their nap he has rolled away and there's now about a foot of space between them.

Steve is still sleeping, a bit mussed and looking without a care in the world. It's a good look on him. Tony could roll over, remove that foot of space and repeat the success, wake him up with a blow job, slide into him again as easy as anything, they hadn't exactly bothered with much of a clean-up, both being too worn-out and sated and Steve would still be slick, warm, welcoming...

Tony gets up and heads for the workshop.

*

He stays in the shop for the rest of the day, enjoying the extra burst of productivity and creativity a good nights sleep and lots and lots of sex always brings out in him. When he finally leaves the shop (or rather, is dragged out by Natasha, who is all 'god, Tony, have you even showered today?' Which he totally has. The workshop's (very, very secret) panic-room is fully equipped with both a shower and a place to sleep and lots of weapons and food. And lube and condoms. There is, after all, no such things as being too prepared for all eventualities), it is to find most of the team gathered in the kitchen and Tony has a very disconcerting moment where he's sure that they're all here to kick his ass and defend Steve's honor. Not lessened by the fact that Steve himself is notably absent (Bruce too, but that is to be expected. He is even harder to drag out of his lab than Tony and his sulking is much worse and by now they mostly just let him be. Everybody is more happy that way).

But of course that's just sex having melted his brain, or maybe the fumes he's been working in for the last five hours, because Thor sees him and says in his usual very happy, very loud tone, “Tony! You have returned to the land of the living!” and whoever have taught Thor about irony, Tony is going to hunt them down and hurt them . “Please join us in the watching of the retelling of your peoples glorious battles!” Thor continues and looks at Natasha for confirmation, “This 'Terminator', he was a mighty warrior, was he not?"

“Yes, he was.” Natasha answers kindly, as one would talk to a child who has not yet discovered the truth about Santa Claus.

“And you, Stark,” Clint says from the table and points at Tony with one of the arrows he's inspecting, “are not allowed to say one word about whether or not the tech is actually plausible.”

Tony holds his hands up in surrender. He has by now learned better than come between Clint and his action movies.

Clint takes a deeper look at Tony and starts to scowl. “Actually, Stark, don't speak at all. I know that look and I don't want to know , not who or how or when or where and especially not how many times.”

Tony is about to protest, loudly, but Natasha sends one of her Looks and, okay, maybe not.

“It's not nice to talk about your partners, Tony.” She says in that aloof tone of hers, “and you make Steve embarrassed.”

“Yeah, but Steve isn't here, so...” Tony says and ducks the arrowhead Clint throws after him. Thor booms with laughter. “Where is Steve?” Tony says in carefully faked confusion.

“Said something about going for a run,” Clint answers, focus returning to his arrows.

“That's strange. Don't you think it's strange, Natasha dear? I think it's strange.”

“And pray tell, Tony darling, why do you think it's strange?” Tony hides a smile. After Natasha started warming up to him, she's becoming increasingly more fun to be around, taking his antics and ever-flirting ways in strides – which of course only encourages Tony to up the ante. Expect, right now he kind of has more important things on his mind than their games, like, finding out why Steve has left. Having scared him away would suck.

“Well, he is the one who keeps insisting that movie-nights are good for team-building and thus, mandatory. And it is nine in the evening. Who goes for a run at nine in the evening. Robots, that's who. Have we checked that Steve hasn't been replaced by an evil robot recently?”

“Yes, we have. And speaking of robots, Mr. Stark,” Natasha says and steers him in the direction of the entertainment room. “we have a movie or three to watch. I'll even pet your hair, if you want.”

Tony wants.

*

When Steve gets back, terminators are blowing up left and right and Tony is more than half asleep, his head in Natasha's lap. He returns to awareness long enough to register that, yes, it is S teve who sits down next to him and lift his feet and places them in his lap. In Tony's book, that doesn't usually equals being scared away, so Tony lets himself become limp and relaxed again. Natasha is still petting his hair and that is li ke kryptonite .

“He's asleep?” Steven asks fondly.

“Yes, one touch to his hair and he's out like a light.” Natasha sounds just as fond and isn't it nice to know what his team mates really think about him, god, they sound like he's some kind of kitten.

Then Steve pulls Tony's socks off and starting to massages one of his feet and god, that man's hands are magic an d Tony has to fight the urge to just stretch out and purr .

“I know,” Steve says absentmindedly and Tony is assaulted by a sudden sense memory so strong it takes his breath away – Steve in his bed, just after, running his fingers through Tony's hair, smiling fondly down at him as Tony disappears down in unconsciousness, lulled asleep by those hands in his hair, that smile.

Steve is still talking.

“...good thing the super villains doesn't know about Iron Man's Achilles heel: having his hair petted.”

Natasha laughs quietly at that, but it's still enough that Clint and Thor, sitting raptured by robots and explosions in the other couch, leaning forward against the screen, elbows on their knees like little boys, both turns their heads and shushes at them.

*

When Tony wakes up for real, he and Steve are the only ones left in the room, the screen turned off and it's too dark for Tony to see his expression, but Steve's hands are still on Tony's feet.

He must have made a sound, or just changed his breathing enough to alert Steve that he is awake, because Steve lifts his feet out of the way and gets up. Tony tries not to be disappointed.

That is, until Steve wordlessly picks him up, as easy picking up a baby, god , the man is strong, Tony is always surprised anew every time he experiences it, though getting picked up and manhandled into having his legs around Steve's waist and his arms around Steve's neck, Steve's big hands supporting his butt, holding him so they're crotch to crotch, that is a wholly new and interesting experience. Steve is rock-hard against Tony and how long has he been sitting there, just waiting for Tony to wake up?

Then Steve carries Tony off to his bedroom, already scraping his teeth over Tony's throat and he stops thinking.

*

They still haven't kissed. This thought flutters through Tony's mind as he lies on his bed, relaxed into a puddle of goo, Steve's fingers in his ass, hands tied over his head with two of his own three-hundred dollars handmade silk ties (so, so worth it). This morning it hadn't been weird at all; Tony was in charge and he had better things to do with his time. But right now it is very much Steve who is in charge and he- Well, he seems like he'd be the kissing type.

Not that Tony's complaining. He is far, far too comfortable to be complaining, almost so comfortable that he could be on his way to sleep again, not that Steve is boring, god no, but after he had tied Tony up on his stomach (having figured out that this is the only way he'd ever make Tony lie still this long and isn't Steve a quick student, he has probably spent most of the day thinking about this, planning it all out in his head, he's such a good boy), he had continued to give Tony a very, very throughout massage (silicone based lube is good for so many things , T ony should buy stocks, will be buying stocks), kneading away with his strong, warm hands, moving from Tony's neck down his back, down his arms, legs, feet, up his legs again and then, finally , his buttocks and god, Steve's hands are magic and that's when things had started to get very hazy.

When Steve finally slides a pillow under Tony's hips and slides in, so slowly and carefully, as if Tony is something precious and fragile, to be cherished and protected, Tony's thoughts has left the building and all there is left are moans and gasps and bliss. Steve is supporting himself just enough that his weight isn't crushing Tony and the feeling of his warm, solid body on top of him makes Tony feel safe and grounded. His thrusts are deep and slow and careful, quickly finding Tony's prostate and then keep going and going and going. He's coated Tony's cock in lube, but otherwise hasn't touch it, isn't touching it now, but the pillow under his hips is silk ( so buying more of them, too) and the friction is exquisite .

It isn't long before Tony has lost all sense of time, but he does know this is probably the longest fuck in his life so far. Steve's restraint is admirable, just continuing with his deep, slow thrusts, his hands moving to settle firmly around Tony's hips, keeping him down and unmoving, not allowing him to finish that climb towards climax, but keeping him on a steady level of ecstasy, brain-melting and maddening. Tony is too relaxed to get impatient, he just lies there and lets Steve take care of him, soaks in Steve's attention like a man who's been wandering the desert all of his life and finally sees an oasis for the very first time.

And even when Tony is keening and shaking and oh so close to begging, even if that would mean breaking their silence, their unspoken agreement that without words this thing is uncomplicated and without consequences, that the lack of words forces them to figure out for themselves what the other likes, through touches and observations, forces them to be verbal in other ways, through their almost primal sounds, through the movement of their bodies, even then Steve keeps the slow, sweet pace he has set for them.

But then, there is no rush. They have the whole night stretching out in front of them, with the promise of much more pleasure to come.

Much, much later, when Tony is drenched in sweat and silent besides little involuntary grunts - too blissed out and too hoarse from panting to even moan, Steve finally seems to have reached his limit. He is flushed and shiny with sweat (the smells in the room are heavy and heady, smells of sex and lust and they are wonderful ) and panting (but compared to this morning, he is almost disquietingly silent) and finally, finally he gets up on his knees, lifts Tony's hips up and starts increasing the rhythm and soon he's slamming home.

Turns out Tony does have some voice left in him; this time it's him who yells and yells and yells.

*

Tony wakes up slowly, the warm sunlight on his naked back telling him that it is a good deal sooner than he usually gets up. He sits up and looks around.

Steve is gone.

He meets him in the kitchen, Steve just having returned for a run, barely sweating, but the sight of that bit of moisture on his face and neck is a vivid reminder of last night and sends a sharp thrill of lust through Tony, pooling in his stomach and quickly going lower and he needs to sit down now . As his butt hits the seat of the chair, there's a pleasant ache that does nothing to ease the sudden tightness of his pants.

He halfway expects Steve to greet him with a kiss or something, but Steve just smiles from his place at the counter where he is preparing his breakfast, just says good morning as if nothing unusual had happened between them. Even his smile is his customary sunny one, nothing new or intimate about it, not like the way he had looked at Tony last night when he cleaned him up, slowly and reverently washing his whole body with a warm towel to get all the stickiness from the massage and the sex off him, Tony already falling asleep.

This is good. This is how fuck buddies are supposed to be.

Granted, he hadn't expected Steve to grasp that concept so easily, but then, he's grasped the concepts of sex more than easily, so why not? It's not like Tony had planned it otherwise when he got him into bed - god, was it only twenty-four hours ago?

Steve sets a cup of coffee in front of him, doctored just the way he likes it, strong and black and hot as hell.

“You need to be awake, Tony, we have that meeting with Fury and the others in half an hour. Mission planning, remember?”

Tony grunts something into his coffee, drinking greedily. God , it's good.

*

Tony is grounded.

Fury, that Machiavellian, dominating, anal-retentive bastard has fucking grounded him .

“Pray tell me why,” Tony asks.

“For the last three weeks you haven't shown your face outside the tower, expect for the missions and for going clubbing. Now that you're an Avenger I don't want you ruining your public image. Get out there, start a charity, kiss some babies, I don't care, just get out of my sight. And you're still on the Stark Industries board, you have meetings to attend,” Fury answers.

“Since when are you my secretary?” Tony asks, “Why in the world are you bothering me about meetings?

“Since Potts got my private number,” Fury answers. “That woman is a menace.”

(Clint is openly snickering and Natasha is wearing her best blank face, but Tony has gotten pretty good at deciphering her wide rank of blank faces and this one is definitely not the usual 'god, these men ' but the one that means 'I'm laughing at you on the inside and you deserve it'. Tony is so not getting them Christmas presents this year.)

And according to Fury, the fucker, they don't even need Tony on this mission. They do need heavy hitters, but they have War Machine, Steve and Thor. That should be more than enough to obliterate some Ten Rings morons in a cave - and Tony knows very well that this is the real reason why Fury won't let him go. In the face of The Ten Rings Tony is not exactly known for being calm and reasonable.

They leave immediately. Steve does not look back.

*

It's been five days for a mission that was suppose to take only one day, two at most. Tony spends those two days being a good little minion for Fury and 1) attends that brain-numbing board meeting, where he first tries to listen to everybody while not-so-covertly drawing new Iron Man designs on his papers and then, in self-defense against death by boredom, wrings the board into submission and efficiency and thus escaping the meeting two hours early (the Avengers are his main priority now and anything that steals time from that is, at best a waste of his time, at worst a dangerous distraction and why can't Fury see that), 2) going to a charity auction (where he buys an Elvis wine rack covered in rhinestones, just for the look on Pepper's face), 3) visits a children's hospital (which Tony leaves to immediately starts a campaign to convince Pepper to start a new division in Stark Industries, a research department in order to cure cancer for good because if Tony never has to see another bald child in his life it will be too soon) and then the two days are gone and Steve (and the others, don't forget the others, Tony) still haven't returned and Fury, the absolute fucker, is stonewalling him and Tony is faced with the choice between throwing a 'bitch fit', as Rhodey calls it and demand answers, hacking SHIELDS computers (again) or just ignoring the situation and bury himself in his workshop.

It shouldn't be a difficult choice.

It is.

*

Tony hasn't left the the workshop for roughly eighty hours, hasn't slept for... Well, long enough that he has lost count and lies under- okay, so he's not quite sure what it's going to end up like, but it has a lot of arms, legs like a spider (if a spider was the size of a horse), several cameras and sensors and just to fuck with Clint it shoots arrows with an accuracy better than him on short distance and a steady ground (Tony is still working on the accuracy when the machine is in motion) and oh, it's painted purple because Tony is never going to stop teasing Clint about that first draft of his costume which never saw the light of day, but the plans had still been in the computers and well, you can't fault Tony for his curiosity (also SHIELD really needs some better IT security), when a pair of strong arm pulls him out from under the machine, lifts him up and carries him away. Had it been anyone else bodily separating him from his work like this, Tony wouldn't have hesitated in doing something painful with the wrench he's holding, but he immediately recognizes the feel of the reinforced fabric he himself invented, the heat and smell of the other body and that strength in those arms. Steve has come home and Tony could care less about the Clint Basher.

Steve carries him (bridal style, but fuck that, Steve is uninjured and here and already licking and biting Tony's throat and just for that alone Tony can cut him some slack) towards the other end of the workshop where Tony has hung a large mirror (nobody has ever accused Tony of not being vain and well, the armor looks too good to not admire properly) and Tony so likes the way he thinks.

Steve hasn't said a word yet and by know Tony recognizes this kind of silence between them and his cock is already hard with anticipation. It's been more than a week and Tony has easily wanked of at least twice as many times thinking of Steve and his magic hands, Steve's cock gliding smoothly and slowly in and out of him and maybe, just maybe, the way Steve had looked at him when he thought Tony was too sex-sedated to notice.

Steve has clearly gone straight from the landing pad on top of the tower; his uniform is a bit worse for wear (except for the cowl he is still wearing all of his uniform and god, how is this Tony's life?), smelling of gunpowder and, well, as if Steve hasn't taken said uniform off for the duration of the mission, which he probably hasn't and there is earth and dust and a bit of blood in Steve's hair and his face is dirty and glistening with old sweat.

He looks wonderful .

Then he reaches the mirror and Tony only has an all too short glimpse of himself in Steve's arms before Steve reaches for the hidden panel next to the mirror and starts punching the code in.

How the fuck does he even know about that?

The mirror slides aside (because there's nothing wrong with the classics) and Steve enters the antechamber to Tony's panic-room. In front of them is the solid steel door to the panic-room itself, behind them is the two-way mirror and Steve is already undressing Tony, his movements fast and impatient, or rather, just opening Tony's belt and pulling his jeans of only one of his legs (who needs underwear?); that's seems to be all the undressing Steve has patience for right now and if Tony thought that he'd missed the sex they had had, well, apparently he has nothing on Steve.

He turns Tony around so he's mashed against the glass, Tony's hands scrambling to find support on the smooth surface and kicks his legs apart. Then he goes straight for Tony's hard dick, thank god and starts jerking it with a rhythm so fast and unyielding that it's almost brutal, but Steve has somehow already lubed up his hand up and it is glorious . Tony bites his lip to keep the sounds in, but then Steve bites his neck, hard and pushes two larger fingers in and it's a lost cause.

That's when Rhodey and Clint enters the workshop.

*

Tony has never been more glad that besides being pullet proof, he also designed the two-way mirror to be sound proof.

Rhodey goes straight for the robot arms and starts to get out of his suit (looks battered. Needs upgrading. Probably best to start from to scratch, get rid of all the Hammer shit for sure) and Clint (who had been in the middle of a rant about... Archers in the OL and performance enhancement drugs? It's not like Tony cares right now and why oh why did he install speakers here?), stop s in his tracks, speechless and horrified by the Clint Basher. He approaches it slowly, weary and suspicious, as he should be (but also looking very much murderous, mission accomplished) and takes out his own bow as he gets closer.

That is not going to end well. The Clint Basher will eventually be programmed to identify enemy combatant from a wide range of parameters, but. At the moment the only one it's programmed to recognize is, well, Clint . Duh. And while it isn't set to use lethal force, its crowd control mode is preeety effective.

Tony almost feel sorry for Clint. Almost.

Steve has obviously noticed his distraction and removes his fingers in Tony's ass and gives him a hard, wet smack to the buttocks that, to Tony's own surprise, makes him moan loudly. And then Steve makes an executive decision and starts pushing into Tony, barely pausing to let Tony adjust, but he's still jerking Tony off, the pleasure effectively distracting Tony from the discomfort. He's wanking Tony frantically and the pace he sets gliding in and out ( all the way out and slamming in again, hitting perfectly every time, oh fuck ) is fast and unrelenting and he's panting loudly and while there's been plenty of passion up till now, this frenzied urgency is something new and different; this time it's clearly Steve's who's been wandering the desert, longing for water.

*

Steve finishes first, collapsing against Tony's back, resting his forehead on Tony's shoulder and making his knee's buckle with the effort of supporting all of his weight. Steve stays there for a moment, his panting becoming slower and when it resembles something like a normal, steady breath, he turns Tony around again and sinks to his knees.

And boy , has Steve been doing his research.

Steve blows him with the same unrelenting pace and energy as he fucked him with and Tony is immediately bucking and crying out, his breath hoarse and shallow, he is so close and then Steve gives him back his fingers, three of them and coated in lube anew and he fucks him as fast and hard as he had done with is dick and then he starts to bend them, finding Tony's prostate immediately and just milking it and-

The world disappears in a burst of ecstasy that just goes on and on and on.

When Tony's brain starts coming online again, Steve is carrying him into the panic-room (in the bridal position again , what's up with that?) and puts Tony to bed, (and how the fuck does he also have the codes to the panic-room itself?), undressing and tucking him in and there's that look again. Tony falls asleep to the sound of Steve taking a shower, sleeping long and dreamless.

When Tony wakes up again he is alone, the workshop is empty, the Clint Basher a smoking mess on the floor.

*

“You missed the debriefing,” Fury practically growl at him when Tony finally emerges form his workshop.

“I wasn't on the mission,” Tony answers tartly. “I'm sure you managed just fine.”

“And you missed a meeting yesterday,” Fury continues, talking over Tony as if he hasn't said a word. “Potts called me. Again.”

Tony opens his mouth to say something about that he of all people very well knows what having Pepper on your back feels like, thank you very much, but Fury suddenly has an unusual, almost soft look on his face as he studies Tony.

“Stark. If you're on your way to another angsty meltdown, I need to know about it.”

Tony stares at him, speechless. He has a flashback to Steve's beautiful lips around his dick, Steve looking up at Tony mischievously from under his lashes, absolute smugly as he demonstrates to Tony that he has no gag reflex at all and Tony has to fight to keep a goofy grin off his face as he says to Fury, “No, I'm good. I'm positively peachy .”

*

Tony gets a bit of a surprise when he, after his little chat with Fury, enters the kitchen (by now Tony's stomach is definitely makings its presence and empty state known; such a slave-driver) and sees that it's dark outside. It was around midday when Steve pounced him in the workshop and now it's half past ten at night. He slept for at least eight hours straight.

Tony is in the middle of eating his way through a gigantic stack of sandwiches while clicking away on his laptop and having a phone conference with Pepper (mostly a peace negotiation about the meetings he has blown off, but he can't help but congratulating her on making Fury twitch. Keep up the good work, Peps!) when Rhodey blows in, clearly in a huff about something.

Tony will bet money that the 'something' is directly or indirectly related to himself. It usually is.

“Where have you been all day, Tony?” Rhodey says in that annoyed way of his (it's somewhere a bit further on the scale than the exasperated 'god, Tony', familiar and as old as their friendship, but still a far way from the 'Tony, for fuck's sake, why?' that is newer and... worse). “We couldn't find you,” Rhodey continues, “you didn't answer your cell-”

“Call you back, Pepper,” Tony says into his phone, “I'm about to get yelled at by Rhodey.”

He can get in line, Tony, I still haven't forgiven you for that wine rack, you put the horror up in our conference room-”

“Bye Pepper, love you too.” Tony says, closes his phone with a snap and turning his attention back to Rhodey.

“Pepper says hello. You were saying?”

“I was saying that we couldn't find you and JARVIS wouldn't locate you for us.” Rhodey says, scowling at him.

“Well, JARVIS does like me best.” Tony says, taking a sip of his coffee, “If it makes you feel better, I have some specs for a new version of you suit I want you to look at. I'm starting from scratch this time, I need new scans of you and a list of what new weapons you'd like. ”

“That sounds great, Tony,” Rhodey says, sitting down across for him, “but actually there was something I wanted to talk you about – its about Cap.”

And there is the return of that feeling of 'Uh oh, I'm about to get lynched for sexing up Captain America without taking him out to dinner first', but with an undercurrent of real worry. It's been eight hours; all kinds of things can happen to Steve in eight hours.

But for now Tony does his best to look like he's suddenly listening for real (which he is), closing the lid on his laptop and looking attentively at Rhodey, trying not to over-act.

Rule Number One: don't give yourself away before you know for sure that your game is up.

“Is it just me or is Steve acting... weird?” Rhodey says, frowning.

Tony raises an eyebrow at him.

“It's just, on the mission-”

“Yeah, how did that go by the way?” Tony ask, he can't help but interrupt. He never can.

“It went fine, despite the delay, as you would have known if you had been to the debriefing. But well, Cap. He was just... restless. He's usually a hundred percent in the game, but this time it seemed as if he just wanted to get home as soon as possible.”

Tony raises his other eyebrow. Rhodey takes a deep breath, clearly getting to the hard part.

“Well, it just seemed as if he had someone he wanted to get home to as soon as possible. Do you know if Cap's gotten a girl he's serious about? Because that would be pretty huge.” And okay, for Rhodey, who tries so very hard to be the picture of professionalism (so very hard when you have to work with Tony and does Tony enjoy that, oh yes he does), that would be the hard part: feeling that you had to gossip about your team leader.

“If Cap had gotten himself a 'dame',” Tony answers in what he hopes is an amused tone, “he wouldn't be keeping quiet about it; he'd be out buying engagement rings. He's an old fashion guy.”

And Tony does not have a weird feeling of bitterness about that for no reason at all, no he doesn't.

Not at all

Rhodey looks like he's about to say something else, but he never gets the chance, because that's when Clint comes running into the kitchen, the Clint Basher mark II hot on his heels. Tony has scaled it down to dog size, reinforced it' joints and chassis, prioritized its stun rods over weapons that could be lethal and re-written its code to more effective interaction with its surroundings and thus, more effective for hunting down people.

Its still painted purple.

Clint is still its primary target.

Rhodey makes a choked noise and Tony opens his laptop again as Clint frantically runs around the table, trying to get it between himself and the robot, yelling at Tony.

I'm going to kill you, Stark, kill you dead.”

The Basher growls at him in a deep electronic voice, snapping its grab-arms at him like an angry crab and jumps over the table, landing right next to Clint, who backs away, fumbling for a bow that isn't there. The Basher shows off its stun rods, crackling with electricity and Clint yells something about Tony being a crazy son of a bitch and kicks the Basher, connecting hard. That seems to do the trick; the Basher falls over, makes a sad little noise and lies still, its lights going out. Clint turns around, smiling triumphantly and clearly about to say something gloating to Tony.

That's when the Basher makes a sound like it's rebooting, its lights tuning on again and then it splits into two, each new unit the size of a large cat, effectively surrounding Clint, clacking their claws and sparkling their stun rods at him.

Tony continues to calmly drink his coffee, clicking away on his laptop (he can get always the tapes from JARVIS later).

Then the Bashers catches Clint, one of them trips him with its strong legs and the other seizes this opening to take up residence on his chest.

“Tony, stop them!” Rhodey says, he's standing up and clearly agitated, but also very vary about doing something that will get him in close contact with the robots. As he should be.

The Basher on Clint's chest moves forward, one of its arms nearing Clint's face, growling ominously. Clint tries to move further back, but he's against the wall and there's no escape.

The Basher makes contact.

It pokes Clint gently on the forehead, saying in a very different, almost cutesy voice (maybe slightly inspired by the robot voices in Portal; there is no such thing as playing that game too much and one day Tony is totally going to make a portal gun of his very own) and says, “Tag. You're it.

Both robots giggles in their new, high voices and scatters away, one of them climbing up the wall and taking the ceiling route, the other one jumping back over the table, making Rhodey duck and squeak (which he is so going to deny later).

Which leaves Clint lying on the floor, panting fast.

“What the fuck, Stark.” He says in a stunned voice.

“Oh, you're the review group for my new crowd controllers. Did I forget to tell you that?” Tony says in his best sincere voice, “I'm most sincerely sorry about that, won't happen again. Really.”

Clint jumps up, obviously with every intent of chocking Tony to death with his bare hands, but Tony is saved from this grave fate by Fury's voice suddenly booming out of the Tower's intercom.

“Enough with the games, boys.” he says, “We have a situation.”

*

It's late at night, or rather, early in the morning, when they finally gets back to Avenger's Tower. The fight with this month's batch of Doombots had dragged out and their return trip had been slowed down by both him and Thor being worse for wear. Tony is so going to design that jet soon.

The Doombots had sadly finally learned something new and had relentlessly targeted his repulsors and his major joints, succeeding in fusing most of them together before being taken down, almost rendering Tony immobile. It takes JARVIS, assisted by Rhodey (who escaped sharing the same fate as Tony by keeping his distance and using his larger guns to doing damage from afar) and a carefully handled small circular saw an hour and a half longer than usual to get out him out of the suit (which goes straight to recycling and for fucks sake, Tony had just upgraded it) and then it's off to the infirmary for Tony, getting his cuts and bruises checked out (totally unnecessary, at most he has a small concussion from being slammed through a building, it's really nothing worth fussing over), so all in all it's very late before he finally can go off to bed.

Where he finds one Steve Rogers, sleeping peacefully.

Tony stops and stares. Steve is sleeping on his back, stretched out with one arm over his head, barely covered by the sheets. As far as Tony can tell, he's in his birthday suit.

That's... Unexpected.

Tony goes off to his bathroom to get ready to sleep. Then he returns to stand in front of the bed, arms crossed over his chest, staring some more. He's only dressed in his boxers (best to wear underwear on missions, Tony has learned the hard way and wasn't that fun) and he's starting to get cold, but he is still hesitating to just crawl into bed and Steve's arms. It would be... different. Bad different or good different, Tony doesn't really know, just. Different.

Then Steve turns his head and looks sleepily at Tony and lifts the sheet and taps the bed next to him invitingly, smiling slightly. When Tony still hesitates, his smile turns into something a bit lewd and very inviting and okay, if he puts it like that...

Tony's too tired and too worn out to participate in anything fancy, but Steve arranges Tony to lie on his side, face to face with him, chest to chest and starts running his hands over his side, his back, his arms and Tony is nearly asleep when Steve touches one of his nipples, squeezing slightly (and how in the world does he know that Tony's nipples are hot-wired straight to his dick?) and finally wraps one of his warm hands around his hardening cock, gently coaching it the last of the way. Tony makes a contended noise and sinks deeper into the bed, the last of his tensions finally leaving his body. Then he remembers that his mother at least tried to rise him a gentleman and wraps one of his own hands around Steve's rock-hard cock.

Steve groans in satisfaction and lets Tony continue like this for a minute, slow and steady, mirroring the rhythm Steve has set, before Steve reaches behind himself and finds the lube he's stashed there and smearing a generous amount over their cocks. Steve, the eternal boy-scout, always prepared.

The new wave of heightened pleasure makes Tony become wide awake and suddenly he's jerking Steve off faster and rougher (just like Steve had done in the panic-room earlier and that memory sends sparks of want running through him, as sudden and overwhelming as a tidal wave) and thrusting frantically into Steve's grip, needing an outlet for what had happened during the mission. There had been a moment of real fear when Tony realized that his suit would soon be no better than a metal sarcophagus and that he would be falling to his death (of course, then Thor had swept in and caught him while Bruce and Rhodey had taken out the main body of the Doombots, Steve, Clint and Natasha taking care of the stragglers. Being on a team could be really great sometimes), and now he just want to forget about it. Steve is perfect for that and Tony has a small pang of gratitude that he's here.

Steve makes a futile attempt to slow Tony down, running his free hand tenderly over Tony's back, his neck, ending up cupping his face. But Tony needs this and he can't help by making frustrated, almost whining sounds, thrusting into Steve hand more vigorously. Steve lets go of his dick, the bastard, and touches Tony's lower lip slowly and Tony sucks Steve's finger into his mouth and bites, not very gently because Steve stopped, swirling his tongue and that seems make to Steve get it. He groans and gives in, pinches one of Tony's nipples again, hard and bites his neck and puts his warm, wonderful hand back around Tony's cock, finally matching his speed to Tony's desperate thrusts and then all thought is gone and Tony is ambushed by his own orgasm, moaning loudly, almost not hearing Steve's own delicious sounds as he comes, though there's no missing his semen mixing with Tony's in the space between them.

That's going to be a bitch to clean up, Tony thinks and then he's asleep.

*

The debriefing the next morning is hell.

The others are fully awake and chirpy, the fuckers, still a bit high from yesterday's fight. Tony and Thor had been the only ones who'd taken any major hits and Thor, of course, is already back to his usual gleaming self, looking as if he'd just stepped out of a Men's Health photo-shoot (Which sadly isn't impossible and Tony is getting used to the daily beatings his ego is taking since he joined up with these people).

Steve opens the meeting, giving them his usual sincere pep talk, commending them on their better moves and Tony can usually compartmentalize pretty well, not letting it show when he meets someone and there is that flash of 'I remember you, I fucked you in a coat room once, that was pretty fun,' and then not dwell on it any more.

But this morning his gaze keeps sliding down to Steve's lips as Steve talks animatedly about tactics, his eyes alight and his hands moving expressly and generally just being plain adorable.

Maybe it is because Steve is acting so damn normal (which, it being Steve, translates into beautiful and awe-inspiring and yes, adorable) - he's in a good mood, but not overly giddy in that obvious 'I've just gotten laid and it was awesome'-way – he's not giving the slightest hint that just a couple of hours ago he had woken Tony up with those beautiful lips wrapped around his dick, continuing to fingering him into one of those drawn-out, mind-melting orgasms that Steve seems increasingly fond of giving him.

Steve had been golden and gorgeous in the morning sunlight, rubbing himself off on Tony's skin, to the sound of Tony's drawn-out moans and whimpers and afterward he had kissed Tony's body reverently, his stomach, his chest, his collarbones, his neck, under his ear – and Tony had halfway expected him to move to his face from there, his mouth – but Steve had sat up then, smiled to him and dragged him into the shower, where he had washed Tony very throughout, running his hands over every part of his body (almost as if to reassure himself that Tony was still here, alive and unharmed – but that is a ridiculous thought and Tony dismisses it immediately), and that had been good, very good, but Tony can't shake the feeling that-

Or maybe it's because Tony is still half-asleep and his defenses are way down, yes that must be it. That is it, Tony decides.

Tony is leaned back in his chair, balancing on its back legs, head resting on its back as he thinks, letting Steve's voice wash over him. Steve's voice is interesting, filled with understated humor when he's in a good mood as he is now, gruff and commanding when shit is going down. It's a really nice voice, deep and with a rhythm to it that would make any speech teacher proud – and this morning it's just a bit gravely, a bit hoarse and Tony is the only at this table who knows why...

“Stark,” Fury snarls at him, “pay attention!” and Tony almost knocks his chair over, sitting up sharply, which of course makes Clint snicker.

“I do not want your armor to be compromised like that again,” Fury continues, “and I want you to find a solution asap. Can you do that?”

“Actually I might have something.” Tony says unfazed, “It's a bit short-term maybe, but it should work for now, until I can find a way to make my armor resist that kind of heat the Doombots were toying with.”

Fury raises his eyebrows expectantly.

“Clint has graciously been assisting me in testing my new crowd controllers and he has offered me to take these tests to the next level-” Tony says in his most sincere voice.

Clint splutters and says, “Hey, wait a minute, Stark, I am not getting anywhere near you devil machines again, you can stuff that idea up your-”

“-and I'd like to put him and Natasha, if you'll be so kind, my darling, up against two of them in the gym, say, after this meeting? Okay, that's decided then, fabulous.”

Tony leans back in his chair, hands behind his head, trying not to smile too much. Then Steve meets his gaze across the table, eyes dancing with mirth and it's a lost cause; Tony can't help but let his smile transform into a full blow, goofy grin, a warm, almost happy feeling pooling his stomach.

It's going to be a good day.

*

It is afternoon. The call that a strange, very large, very hostile, mechanical thing had appeared in Central Park (and why it is always Central Park? Tony actually likes that place) had come in the middle of Round Two between Team Bashers mark III and Team Puny Humans (aka Natasha and Clint, so far 1-1, but Tony planned to change that as soon as they were done with this fucker) and they are still going at it, with no sign that the fight was going to end any time soon.

The robot (high endurance, bland design, no identifying features as to who's produced it, will have to take it apart to find out, if it remains intact enough to do so once the fight is over) doesn't have any kind of blast or projectile weapons, but that's the only bright thing about it. It is strong, it is fast and it still runs at them with the same level of energy as it had displayed in the beginning of the fight (and that was god-damn high) and save for Steve, they are all becoming increasingly worn out and battered, even Hulk, who has sadly met his match in size, strength and pure destruction.

Thor is out of commission with a broken arm.

They're in a vacant lot now, where construction of some Stark Industries building will start next week.
When they had arrived at Central Park, Thor, Rhodey and himself had quickly gotten in close, gotten wires attached and had lifted the robot up and carried it away from the city (and hadn't he felt clever then. Oh, the naivety). They had considered just dumping it in the sea, but besides the risk of pollution (Steve's argument), if it wasn't enough to shut down the damn thing, it would be hell to try to find a way to keep fighting it the middle of the sea. So Tony had asked JARVIS to find them a safe location and they'd dumped it here instead.

From an altitude of roughly one point five kilometers.

Which had created one hell of a crater and for a short minute they had all thought that would be that, but then the behemoth had risen, shaken off the dust and continued to throw whatever in reach after them. Which, as this was a construction site, there was plenty of. Trucks, forklifts, cement mixers, large quantities of building materials, the trailers and large mobile toilets intended for the workers and both Rhodey and Tony are in older model suits, which doesn't have as much maneuverability and much, much less fire power than the newest models that currently are lying in Tony's scrap yard.

And just to make matters worse, when the fight in the lot had barely started Thor had gotten too close and received that blow that would take him out of the fight for good. The robot caught him in mid-flight, threw him to the ground and then stomped on him with all its force. Hulk had jumped in and wrestled with the robot, while the others had gotten Thor to safety. He was alive (but only because of being a god) and had woken up quickly, but one of his arms was broken, his dominant hand. Tony knows he'll be healed as fast as you can say 'taking a trip home to Asgard and eating one of those fancy healing apples,' but that doesn't change the fact that they're becoming increasingly fucked.

The robot is too sturdy and powerful for Natasha and Clint to be of much use, even Steve is barely strong enough to keep up, his shield useless against it, and as mentioned, Tony and and Rhodey's suits are crap. Tony is so close to ask Rhodey to call in his military buddies with their fancy toys, even if they would never live it down, when Steve, who's been making his way up the robot with inhuman speed and agility, finally reaches the robot's head and starts smashing at its eyes with his shield – and gets hit straight on, swapped away by one of the robot's large hands like Tony would've swapped away a fly and thrown aside like a rag-doll and Tony finds himself yelling to Rhodey make the fucking call, get the fucking cavalry here, now, he's flying after Steve, even if what he should do is try to follow up on his work and take the damned robot out for good.

In the end, it is the Air Force that does that, while Steve is lying in Tony's metal arms, bleeding rapidly from under his cowl, not waking up.

*

Chapter Text

They have him on life support.

They keep him in an artificial coma after the surgery, until the swelling in his brain has gone down. The doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery, but Tony knows very well that without the super soldier serum, Steve would have been dead. Broken into a hundred pieces, smashed into pulp.

He can't seem to leave Steve's bedside, has this completely irrational, but very strong feeling that if he leaves for just the shortest time Steve will be gone when he returns.

After a couple of hours of Tony sitting there, just looking at Steve (he can't look away from Steve's bruised face and the bit of his shaved head that's visible under all the bandages), not even playing with his pocket computer, the others starts to give him strange looks. By the end of the day, when the nurses try to make him leave, someone calls in Pepper, but Tony can't even focus on her voice, can't take his eyes off Steve in that bed. I should have been faster, Tony thinks, over and over, the thought running around in his head like a small, desperate animal in a wheel in its cage, I should have been paying more attention. It should have been me.

The thing is, Steve could just have hung up his shield after he'd been defrosted. He didn't have to get involved in these conflicts again, he- he could finally have had a normal life, taking art classes, working with troubled youths, teaching teenage girls self-defense, settled down with a nice girl, become a father...

He doesn't deserve this.

In the end Pepper just sighs and leaves, has someone bring him a more comfortable chair, a blanket and some food that Tony doesn't touch.

He doesn't sleep that first night.

*

Tony must have dozed off, because surely he is dreaming, one of those dreams where you dream that you wake up and does normal things, only to wake up again, still lying in your bed.

Because Steve is croaking out his name in a weak, confused voice, blinking at him like he's not sure that Tony is really here.

Tony makes a strangled noise and sits up in his chair, his body stiff from sitting in the same position for far too long. Steve seems to have trouble focusing on him, frowning just a little, his eyes scanning over him, taking in his dirty clothing, his greasy hair, his stubble and pale, gaunt face (Tony knows very well how he looks. At his last, rushed trip to the bathroom he had avoided looking in the mirror at all).

“Oh Tony,” Steve says, in a soft, sad voice Tony hasn't heard before. “What have you done to yourself this time?”

“What I have- You've been in a coma for three days!” Tony says, moving so he can peer into Steve's face. His pupils look normal enough and he seem to becoming more and more lucid by the minute. “You almost died.” Tony's voice cracks at his last words, his throat closing up, a pressure building behind his eyes.

“You were scared for me?” Steve says in a hesitant voice.

“Yes.” Tony whispers and seemingly on his own violation his hand is reaching out, settling on Steve's cheek. Steve covers it with his own, larger hand, moves it to his mouth, kisses his knuckles, the back of his hand, his palm.

Tony makes a choked noise and stumbles forward.

The kiss is inevitable after that.

*

It doesn't take long before doctors and nurses are spilling into the room, all of them talking a mile a minute and being obviously relieved (which makes Tony painfully doubtful about their earlier positive prognosis for Steve's recovery) and this time Tony lets himself be ushered out without protest.

He gives Steve one last uncertain look over his shoulder as he exits the door. Steve is answering one of the doctors question, but he meets Tony's gaze across the room, his eyes unreadable.

Tony finds a shower somewhere in the hospital and bullies the staff into letting him use it. Or maybe they just take on look at him and decides he would be a bio-hazard otherwise.

Then he calls Pepper.

Who seems to think that he's the one who's suffered brain damage (Steve will be all right, Steve will be all right, he will, the doctors said so).

“Run that by me again, Tony. You want to do what?

“Peps, I'm not joking. Steve is awake now, he is going to be all right and I've been sitting here for three days and now I need to get out of here and do something that will take my mind off one of my team-mates almost dying. So give me something useful to do and do it quick, because this is a one-time offer.”

She is silent for a minute, probably pinching herself.

“Well, you can start with coming to the office, I'm sure we can find something for you. I'll send a car with some clothes for you.”

“Just don't make me attend more meetings, please.” Tony says in his best pleading voice, “I'll make photocopies, I'll fetch coffee - anything but that.”

“Don't worry, Tony. I'll be gentle.” Pepper says with a smile in her voice and hangs up. It's a long time since she's talked to him like that, but instead of lamenting that, it removes just a bit of the knot in his stomach.

*

He stays in the Stark Tower for the next two days, not answering Fury's calls (not that there are many, the man is very much transparent in his glee of having Tony out of his metaphorical hair for a while) and surprisingly succeeds in ignoring everything SHIELD-related.

He yells at people in the legal department (or really, 'scolds them very loudly', because yelling at your employees is unprofessional and that's Tony's version and he'll stick to it when Pepper inevitable yells at him about it – really yells at him, heeello double-standards).

He dives into their new line of green cars that Pepper has just announced to the board and comes up with half-a-dozen new designs and just as many ways to improve the engines and the effectivity of the energy consumption.

He even holds three 'welcome to Stark Industries'-meetings for their newest additions to the more practical departments, because those are the fun meetings; there's a tour and he gets to demonstrate the labs for them. There's nothing like giving the bright young things of tomorrow something to tell their grandchildren about and afterward he gives Pepper the lists, of who should be watched because they seemed competent and ambitious and of who should be watched because Tony fears for the company's safety if they aren't. Not because they are stupid, on the contrary – but Stark Industries tends to attract a certain kind of genius, the kind with big dreams, an ironclad belief that they can be accomplished and no regard for safety whatsoever.

Funnily enough, the amounts of applicants of this type have sky-rocked since Tony came public as Iron Man. He sees this as a good thing. Pepper, not so much.

Tony is sitting in his office (Pepper's office, really, but she's out doing important CEO things and he's graciously been allowed to hold the fort, so it's so his office) and yelling (scolding very loudly) at the same people from Legal as before and he is so engrossed in pointing out their incompetence for them, that he at first doesn't notice the secretary opening the large doors (Natasha's replacement, who's SHIELD too, of course and like Natasha, is totally unimpressed by Tony. Tony pays her back by not learning her name. He knows it's petty, but sometimes you've got to take your victories where you can), saying to whoever she is letting in (no appointment and besides, Tony had asked her not to be disturbed, typical SHIELD) 'Go on in, he's yours for the next thirty minutes. And congratulations on you fast recovery, Captain Rogers. We were all so worried when we heard you were in the hospital.”

Tony has this odd deer-in-the-headlight feeling as Steve thanks her and turns around to look at Tony. He's looking good, healthy, the bruises are gone from his face and the buzz-cut actually looks good on him, the surgical scars already fading. He's smiling to Tony, a small genuine smile that morphs into something just a bit predatory as soon as the secretary closes the door behind him and Tony knows he is starring, phone forgotten in his hand.

Steve walks towards him, no, positively saunters, hands in his pockets, that smile just getting more possessive and there it is again, their silence, heavy and full of intent, but for some reason, instead of filling Tony's head with needy lust as usual (and god, they have 'usual' now. When the fuck did that happen?), this time it just increases that deer-in-the-headlight thing Tony has going on.

Steve must be able to see this, because when he reaches Tony he leans on the desk and just... Studies him. Tony opens his mouth, he doesn't know what he's going to say, but this is suddenly weird and Tony has never been good at uncomfortable silences, at least not when he's the uncomfortable one.

But Steve reaches forward and puts a finger on his lips and it's a sign of how well they know each other, because Tony reads his face loud and clear; happiness mixed with a good deal of 'I'm going to take care of you now.'

And apparently he is, because then Steve straightens up, just to sinks to his knees in front of Tony.

*

Steve doesn't even bother to hide behind the desk as he makes quick work of Tony's pants, so shameless, anyone could walk in and see him getting Tony's dick out and licking it like a lollipop, oh god, which, combined with the fact that Tony is in one of his best business suits and that he still has Legal on speaker phone (ending that call now) - it all makes this so much more real; this is not some hidden away encounter, this is literally out in the open.

And no, it's not because Tony might have a small office kink. Not at all.

By now Tony has figured out that regarding sex, Steve apparently only has two settings; drawn-out bliss and bruising, teeth shattering fast and hard and oh, that day in the workshop, a thousand years ago, Tony's chest slamming against the mirror again and again, the arc reactor's loud clanks as it hits the glass, only covered by the noise of the robot arms getting Rhodey out of his suit and by Clint getting too close to the Clint Basher and activating it and the ensuing battle and Tony had bruises on his hips afterward from where Steve had held him as he fucked him and fingertip-marks on his thighs from where Steve had clutched him as he blew him, as he's about to blow him now-

-except that this is Slow & Careful Steve with that reverent look on his face, who is leaning back, stopping, no, and lifting him out of his chair, no no, Tony wants to stay in the boss chair, places him on his desk, pants around his ankles, the surface cold against his ass and Pepper is going to kill him if she finds out about this and Steve is nibbling at his thigh, starting at his knee, sucking bruises into his skin and then kissing them, his mouth moving closer and closer to his dick and okay, maybe the desk is a good idea, so much easier access for Steve-

-and that need is slamming into Tony full on now, returning with a vengeance and Steve puts his hand gently around Tony's dick and goes back to the licking, pokes out his tongue obscenely and swirls around the head, teasing Tony, drawing moans and gasps out of him and then Steve finally takes him fully into his mouth, slowly, so slowly, working Tony steadily, one hand around the shaft of his dick, the other resting on Tony's thigh for balance and Tony stuff his hand in his mouth, biting his knuckles hard to keep in the sounds, they're in his office, but Steve just removes it, catches his wrist, doesn't let it go, squeezes lightly, his grip iron and unyielding and Tony can't hold it in any more, his whimpers are replaced by words, all those words he hasn't said before, words that have been bottled up inside him and now spills out of him like a volcano erupting and just keeps on coming, he knows he couldn't shut his mouth if his life depended on it-

Steve, you're so good at this, don't stop, please don't ever stop, you don't what you are doing to me, it's so good, I was going to show you everything- god! I wanted – I wanted to see the your face when, fuck Steve, when I, oh, oh, when I did things to you that nobody, god, that nobody had ever done to you before, I wanted to learn you, oh Steve, that's so good, you don't don't need teaching, you're perfect, do that again, faster, faster, please, your mouth, your hands, they are magic, I love them, you take so good care of me, you and your crazy sex drive, oh god, who would have thought that, that Captain America- I'm coming, please don't stop, Steve.

And he does and does and does and afterward Steve rests his head against Tony's leg and pants loudly, beads of sweat on his flushed face, his lips obscenely red and swollen.

“Let me.” Tony says, his voice hoarse and breathless, “Let me-”

But Steve just stands up, brings Tony's clothes in order, smiling slightly, an obvious bulge in his jeans. Then he leans in and Tony can't help but opening his mouth, closing his eyes in anticipation – but Steve just kisses his cheek tenderly, his forehead, the tip of his noise and then he stands back smirking, clearly enjoying the way Tony watches him, his eyes half-closed, mouth hanging open in disbelief.

“See you tonight, Tony,” Steve says, his smile widening.

And then he leaves.

Tony doesn't get anything done the rest of the day.

*

He finds some wet-wipes in one of Pepper's drawers and carefully cleans the desk. Then he sinks down in the chair and stares at the ceiling.

Which is how Pepper finds him two hours later.

“Tony, what happened to being a responsible adult and doing something useful with you time for once and helping me run my company? Legal is furious, they- Tony, are you all right?”

Tony keeps staring at the ceiling.

“I'm fucking Steve.”

He didn't mean to say that. Oops.

“You what – Tony, are you drunk?”

“Or Steve is fucking me? We are fucking each other? What do you call that, Peps? I find myself lacking the right vocabulary here, help me out.”

“And I find myself missing the good old days when the most you get yourself into was- God Tony, Captain America? I wish you were drunk. I wish I was drunk.”

Pepper finally gets close enough to look at him. It's not a nice look. She sighs and moves to perch on the edge of the desk.

“I wouldn't sit there if I was there, Peps, I did try to clean it, but-”

“Tony! God! That's my desk!” Pepper says and jumps away as if said desk was on fire.

“I know! I'm really sorry!” Tony pauses, thinking that over. “No, actually, I'm not. Not at all.”

Pepper starts to massage her temples.

“Hey, what can I say, Steve is really... Bossy. Who'd thought? I certainly didn't. But, hey, I'm not complaining. At all.”

“Tony. Tony. Why are you telling me this? Is there a sex tape? What am I saying, of course there is a sex tape. Tony, who has it? You shouldn't have pissed off Legal, we are going to need them on this and we need to break the story first, get our own spin on it before the tabloids- Oh, damn it, I'd just gotten the board nice and complaisant, they're not going to like the stock drop-”

“Pepper, stop. There isn't any sex tape.” He frowns, rethinks that, comes up blank, sees Pepper's face and he can't help but making a sound that's certainly not a giggle and he finally sit up straight in the chair to look at her properly. “No, really. No one knows, except me and Steve and now, you.”

“Then why are you telling me this! I-”

“Peps, I need advice. Or at least someone to ramble at.”

She changes track astoundingly fast, as always, and crosses her arms, raises an eyebrow at him, so Pepper and he gets a sharp sting of regret, not at how things had played out between them, but that, despite their best intentions of remaining friends, they've drifted apart - between the Avengers and Stark Industries, they simply don't have enough time.

“Okay, yes, I know it's kind of tacky, asking for this sort advice from your- from your...”

Pepper tilts her head at him, raises her other eyebrow.

“Your... what?”

“...Your ex-secretary turned into your CEO turned into your girlfriend, who you love very much, but who you realized -and this was mutual, by the way- that you would kill each other because of- of tempers and mutual stubbornness and the inability to let go of the way you were used to treating each others, that the roles you'd been playing for each others for years was too integrated to-”

“You can stop now, Tony, it's all right.” Pepper says, her voice kind. “Well, no, but you can stop looking at me as if I'm about to plant a Jimmy Choo in your crotch.”

“...You aren't?”

“Not today, at least. And let's get out of here, if we're going to talk about this, we need privacy and food. And alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.”

*

It's a good deal later when poor Happy finally pours them into Avengers Tower. Clint, Natasha and Steve are playing cards in the kitchen (it's just the coziest room in the tower, the natural hub and it has a big, sturdy table that that can take most of what a certain boisterous thunder god can dish at it) and look up in disbelief as they enter. Not so much at Tony, it's not the first time they have seen him like this. But Pepper, on the other hand...

For her sake, Tony really hopes she doesn't have any morning meetings.

-I've got all my life to live, I've got all my love to give. And I'll survive! I will survive! Hey, hey!”

Pepper and him wail out Gloria Gaynor at the top of their lungs and while none of them might be nature's best singers and booze hasn't exactly made them any better, what they lack in skill they certainly make up for in enthusiasm, lots of it and Clint is pulling out his cellphone and pointing it at them, grinning broadly. Then there's the solo part, but when they tries to do a dance to do it justice, they somehow end up in a laughing, tangled mess on the floor (note to self: one shouldn't try to dip people when one is less than sober), Tony ending up on top with a very nice view.

“I'm going to leave them in your care now,” Happy is saying from the door. “Please look after them, miss Romanoff.” and then Tony stops paying attention, because, hey, very nice view.

“Hello Pepper.” He says with a smile.

“Hello Tony.” She says in a slurred voice and smiles back at him.

“Hello Peppers'-”

“Sorry Tony, you don't get to say hello to those any more.” Pepper says, but she's still smiling.

“But I miss breasts! Breasts are nice. Your breasts are very nice. But other things are nice too, if you get my drift and I think you do.”

Pepper snorts in annoyance; they've talked about that, a lot and while they've reached a form of truce, he still hasn't completely convinced her not to have him psych-evaluated. According to her, he's being self-destructive, which Tony objected to, vehemently, because Pepper has seen what self-destructive behavior looks like for Tony, up close and this is not it. There isn't enough property damage, for one thing.

“Come on, Peps, I've done stupider things than-” He says in a last ditch attempt.

“Yes, you have and that's why your amour now has an alcolock.”

At the table, Steve makes a choked sound.

Tony slides off Pepper in order not to squish her, her remembers her not liking that, getting comfortable on her shoulder instead. For the last many hours Pepper and him have been telling each other, well, emotional things, stuff they've been avoiding talking about for ever and ever, because it's just not something either of them do (and that might be one of the reasons they didn't work).

And now Tony can't seem to stop.

“If anybody was ever going to be my baby mama, it was going to be you.” he tells her sincerely and maybe, just maybe, a little sadly.

“Clint, turn that camera off now.” Tony hears Natasha hiss somewhere in the background.

Then there's a warm hand settling on his shoulder.

“Tony, I'm going to help you up now.” Steve says. “Think your stomach can handle that?”

Apparently it can, because then Tony is vertical again and Steve is right there, all warm and muscle-y and nice-smelling and Tony can't help but cuddle into his side. Just the teensiest, tiny bit.

“I was going to do... that thing... that you wanted to do. But... Yeah, I just don't think it's happening right now. Sorry.” he says into Steve's chest and Steve just smiles and pats him on the head. Tony leans into it and makes a contended noise.

On the floor Pepper is staring at the ceiling in concentration. “I don't feel so good,” she says in a small voice and Tony would go and help her up, but, yeah, maybe not the brightest idea right now, for the sake of both of them.

Instead it's Natasha who picks her up, bridal style, damn that woman is strong.

“I'm going to get her to bed now,” she says “Stark, we'll discuss this in the morning.”

“You smell really nice, Natasha.” Pepper says, leaning against her. “Your breasts are nice too.”

Which actually make Natasha's cheeks color and Tony almost wishes she hadn't confiscated Clint's phone. Judging by Clint's face, he feels the same way.

“Pepper is a good girl, she's going to cure cancer,” Tony says from where he's still leaning into Steve's chest, in a strange desire to defend her. From what, he isn't really sure. “If I'm good and keep out of the tabloids she'll start that research thing that I wanted her to start... Bald kids suck.”

He realizes that he might not be making that much sense right now, but Steve still looks down at him with a soft look and says, “That's very good of you, Tony. If anyone can succeed in that, it's going to be Pepper and you.”

And then he pets Tony's hair some more lets Tony cuddle further into him and Tony would cure all diseases in the world just to keep Steve petting his hair and looking at him like that.

*

SHIELD has stored the remains of the robot that almost killed Steve in one of its hangars and Tony has finally gotten access to it. Not that he couldn't just have given himself access, but he plans to take selected pieces of it back to the workshop and analyze them there and that's just easier if he just plays nice and cooperates for once.

The fragments are laid out in a careful grid-pattern, like a dead body after autopsy. It fills up the entire hangar and it takes Tony half an hour to walk around it, another two hours before he feels he at least has a general survey of the different parts.

This is going to take some time.

SHIELD are already in the process of scanning all the components and analyze the materials and Tony sets up shop in a corner of the of the hangar and starts working. There is a group of SHIELD scientist and engineers also working on this project and Tony immediately shanghais them into doing grunt-work. Which isn't going to win him any brownie-points, but Tony could care less. This thing almost killed Steve; they need to find the fucker who made it asap and other peoples' hurt pride are not going to stand in the way.

It's around eight hours later when Tony looks up and realizes he's the only left in the hangar and that he has a crick in the neck from sitting hunched looking into a microscope for the last hour (despite its size, the robot's containing a surprising amount of micro-technology; it's way too advanced for Tony's liking) and that he's no closer to getting even a hint about who the makers are (there is no way in hell this thing was created by one person. At least Tony ferociously hopes so).

He stretches and makes JARVIS send his work to the servers in his workshop and then he packs up the parts he's working on in a steel container that locks onto the back of the revised mark V he arrived in and then he heads home.

*

Tony's been in the workshop for a hour and a half and has his desk cluttered with killer-robot parts, when Steve's hands settles on his shoulders, startling him.

“I brought you dinner,” Steve says. “Or early breakfast.” He has a tray with him, Tony notices, sandwiches and orange juice and of course an apple and some carrot sticks. So Steve.

“Thanks, but no thanks. I'm kind of in the middle of something.”

“You still need to eat, Tony. I'll bet my shield you haven't eaten anything since breakfast.” Steve says and leans against the grill of the Stark 11 convertible, his arms crossed.

Tony looks away guiltily. He'd woken up sometime before midday and actually hadn't felt that bad. He has a hazy memory of joining Steve and Clint for a couple of more rounds (he doesn't remember which game they'd played, he's not sure he even knew in the first place and yet he'd still been the winner. Go brain!), while being coaxed by Steve to drink lots of water and eating whatever stuff Steve kept giving him, just to keep the alcohol company before he helped Tony off to bed.

He might have tried to start something, but Steve had stood firm and had just stroked his cheek, a motion ending with his fingers running through Tony's hair and the last thing Tony remembers is Steve's voice instructing JARVIS to keep an eye on him.

But he still hadn't felt good enough to take the chance with breakfast and well, then there had been work.

Steve snorts, but he's also smiling a little, like Tony's arguably self-destructive behavior is somehow endearing to him. “How stupid of me, of course you didn't even eat breakfast. Well, all the more reason for you to eat now.”

“As I said, I really don't have time-” Steve is stretching, his shirt gliding up a little and displaying a sliver of Steve's tanned stomach muscles and Tony momentarily forgets what he was saying.

“I'm sure I can make it worth your while.” Steve says as he reclines even further back on the hood of the car, leaning on his elbows, his eyes half-closed as he gives Tony a slow once-over.

Tony has never eaten so fast in his life.

*

“Not the desk, not the desk, don't you dare to throw that stuff on the floor-” Tony is wrapped around Steve, strong hands supporting his ass and he's being kissed furiously. Steve turns away from said desk and instead deposit Tony on the hood of Stark 11.

“Oh, I so like the way you think-” Tony says between kisses (warm, wet overwhelming kisses, filled with tongue and lots of small bites, god, Steve is a wonderful kisser, whoever has thaught him that, Tony is going to find them and thank them or maybe just kill them dead) and then Steve is opening his jeans, pulling them off, accompanied with Tony's socks, shoes and underwear and the metal of the car is cold against his ass and his mind flashes back to that time in the office and that, combined with Steve sinking to his knees and hooking Tony's legs around his neck, effectively shuts him up.

Steve's tongue in his ass shouldn't be a surprise after that, especially not after the way he's taken to sex like a fish in water, but Tony still makes an amazed sound when Steve makes the first tentative warm licks, just to be replaced by loud moans as Steve grows more bold and the licks turns into soft probing that sends sends those hot sparks of lust and bliss running through him. Soon Tony is keening and groaning and squirming and writhing, unable to keep still as Steve finally adds a well-lubed finger, two fingers and keeps licking around them.

And those fingers and that tongue just keeps going and going, reducing Tony to that incoherent mess Steve seems to love, almost sobbing with pleasure and Tony's last thought for a good while is lie back and relax, enjoy the ride, 'cos your driver this evening is Slow and Careful Steve and this is going to take a while.

Not that he minds. Oh no.

Then, as Tony becomes desperate enough to try to move in counterpoint to Steve's movements (made almost impossible by Steve's hand on his stomach, keeping him down), trying to fuck himself on his fingers and starts to reach for his dick, he is so close, Steve gets up (not showing the least sign of having stiff knees, the fucker), swats Tony's hand away from his poor, aching dick, no, just a few pulls and Tony would be done for, and grabs him around the waist and lifts him into the back-seat of the convertible.

"Don't touch yourself, Tony, " Steve says, as he opens his belt, "Nor until I say so. Be a good boy and wait for me."

Oh god.

Tony sits dazed and watches as Steve fishes the tube of lube out of his back pocket, holding it between his teeth as strips down, quickly and efficient and stands there in all his naked glory, his face flushed and dick jutting out from his body, pre-come glistening at the tip, running down the head. Steve coats his dick in lube, gives it a few unnecessary pulls, moaning and locking eyes with Tony, his gaze heated and desperate.

Then he joins Tony in the back-seat and grips him around the hips and arranges him to sit in his lap, Tony's legs wrapped around him, or rather, just holds him just above his lap, his dick poking at Tony's ass.

Oh god.

*

“Touch yourself Tony, jerk yourself off, I want to see you doing that for me, I've thought so much about it, just like that, keep going-”

Steve had taken his sweet time easing gently inside Tony, but that's long over and gone and now he's just going at it, using just enough of his strength to take completely control over Tony; he's is still gripping Tony's hips tightly and he's slamming him rapidly up and down on his dick, using him, hitting his prostate again and again, almost violently and Tony loves it. He loves how Steve's suddenly is displaying a talent for dirty talk, his untamed sex-drive, his seemingly endless appetite, for new things, for Tony, the way he just takes, like he's entitled to it...

But then, he knows that Tony will let him, he knows exactly how much Tony wants it.

Steve throws his head back and shouts, increases the pace even more, which Tony honestly hadn't thought possible, making thought impossible and after the long, slow, careful prelude he'd put Tony though on the hood of the car, Tony is surprising himself by having lasted this long and now Steve is kissing him again (made difficult by their movements, but not impossible; Steve has always been a very resourceful individual), something he's been doing a lot since they moved this inside the car, grounding Tony with his licking, with little nips that grows quickly into biting, at his jaw, his throat, his shoulder, like right now, Steve practically mauling the side of Tony's throat and then Steve draws his head back, opens his eyes, they've been closed in bliss for a good while now, just to look Tony in the eye as he tightens his hands on his hips so hard it almost hurts too much and comes like a train wreck, taking Tony with him.

But despite the force and intensity of his orgasm Tony can't just close his eyes and ride it out.

Because Steve had said his name as he came, a broken, desperate sound and now he's just sitting there, eyes closed, head thrown back, resting on the Audi's leather seat (Tony will probably have to get the car reupholstered if he ever wants to take it out in public again, but he's in half a mind about just leaving it like this; what's wrong with having a car just for fucking in?), exposing his sweat-covered throat and panting loudly, but his hands have fallen away from Tony's hips, he's not touching him besides where they're still joined cock-to-ass and there's a certain stillness to him, as if he's steeling himself against a punch he knows will hit him any minute now, a punch he's not even going to try to evade.

And Tony won't say he's not tempted to just take the easy way out, to make some cutting remark or just ignoring it and get out of the car as fast as possible, but then he would have to keep his distance from Steve for some time, he'd certainly have to stop fucking him and Tony had sort of planned to show up in Steve's bedroom this evening with some handcuffs an some chocolate-flavored lube (expect that this evening is long gone, disappeared in the internal parts of that damned robot. But hey, it's the thought that counts, right?)...

Besides, Tony really hates when Steve looks like this; when he's trying to make himself smaller, when he thinks he's made some social blunder and the fault is entirely his and the consequences will be devastating and unforgivable and hurt like hell and Tony's normal reaction is to find the person responsible for putting that look on Steve's face and hurt them.

So he leans forward (making Steve's still hard dick inside him move and sen little sparks of aftershock through him, oh), places one hand on the back of Steve's neck, the other around his waist and kisses him as deeply and slowly and sweetly as he knows how to, breaking away to whisper Steve, Steve, Steve. The blindingly happy smile Steve gives him afterward repels all doubt about this being the right decision and makes warmth pool in Tony's stomach, makes him smile back, resting his forehead against Steve's to hide it.

He thinks Steve knows anyway.

*

Steve carries Tony upstairs from the workshop afterward, holding him against his naked chest, cradling him, carefully not putting the hand supporting him straight on his ass and Tony must have dozed off in Steve's arms, because the next thing he knows, Steve is laying him down on his own bed and pulling the comforter over him and Tony's hand shoots out like a viper and grasps Steve's wrist and tugs, he's too far away to verbalize what he wants, but Steve seems to get it, he smiles and says, “I'll be back in a moment, Tony, just going to brush my teeth.” but Tony falls asleep before that, because the next thing he knows, the sky is turning pink and Steve is lying next to him, twitching in his sleep and making small, pitiful sounds.

Uh oh.

Tony wants to do something about that, but he knows better than just reach out and shake Steve – he himself almost clocked Pepper when she'd tried to wake him up from a bad dream (not his proudest moment, but he's pretty sure he'd been more mortified than Pepper. She'd been very matter-of-fact about the whole ordeal and it's just yet another reason why he loves her) and if Steve just has remotely the same reactions, this could end pretty bad.

So what he ends up doing is grabbing the water glass from his bedside table and flicking drops of water at Steve's face, which maybe isn't the most mature or empathic reaction, but it gets the job done. Steve comes awake with a jerk, breathing in deeply and just lying there staring up at the ceiling with unseeing eyes.

“Hey Steve. Sorry about the water, but I didn't want to risk death by super soldier PTSD.” And that miiight not have been the smartest thing to do, because Steve sits up and sends him his best steel glare, the one he usually saves for villains about to blow up orphanages. Okay, maybe not that bad, but still a long way from the warm looks he has Tony given lately. It's a sharp reminder of the first days on the team, before he and Steve both got their sticks out of their asses and become, well, bros.

And then Tony goes and makes it worse, because that's his special gift, just ask Pepper, and says, “You can talk about it if you want to, nothing shameful about having a bit of a cry in the middle of the night,” which just makes Steve draw up his legs protectively, arms wrapped around himself and turning away, but Tony did get a glimpse of his face and hell, it looks like Steve is about to start crying.

“Okay, you know what, this isn't working,” Tony says and Steve turns around so fast that he must've given himself whiplash, his eyes big and shocked.

“Steve, no, I just meant, I put my foot in my mouth there, but it's me, what else had you expected. And don't look at me like that, I'm not going to throw you out my bed just because of a bad dream, honestly, what are you thinking-” and he knows he's rambling, so he forcibly shuts his mouth and takes a deep, calming breath.

“-and I'm going to make it all better now, so could you please lie down on your stomach for me?” he says as grabs the lube from his bedside table (the tube is almost empty, good thing he has a spare, but better just get a super-sized bottle next time).

"I'm kind of not in the mood right now, Tony.” Steve says, but at least he sitting normally now, not huddling in on himself any more.

Tony just rolls his eyes, “I had guessed that, please give me some credit. I'm just returning the favor. ” He screws the cap off and smears lube generously on his palms and rubs them together as Steve lies down, clearly doubtful, but when Tony empties the rest of the tube on his back and sits on his ass and starts massaging him, he makes this surprised sigh, a sound Tony hasn't heard before and that he wouldn't mind hearing again and again.

“Good?” Tony asks after ten minutes of Steve slowly relaxing under his hands and being completely silent.

“Yes, it's very good, I- nobody has ever done this to me before.” and Tony just shakes his head sadly, thinking of his own staple of massage therapists. Only Steve.

He'd kind of looked forward to end the massage with a blow job or something, but after twenty minutes of him kneading Steve's back, he's sound asleep, his breath soft and even.

So Tony just dries the worst stickiness off him (with one of his own t-shirts fished up from the floor next to the bed, because there's no way Tony is getting up again) and throws an arm over Steve and goes back to sleep.

*

But Tony does get morning sex, so that's all right, gliding slowly in and of Steve, who practically has his knees up around Tony's shoulder (damn, he's agile, how did Tony get this lucky?), stroking his own cock, moaning endlessly, his eyes unseeing, face slack with pleasure and Tony can't stop kissing him, his cheeks, his jaw, his throat, his mouth and it's so good, it's perfect, Steve is perfect and Tony tells him so as he watches him come, fucking him through it and then he's gone himself and after that, they fall asleep in each other's arms, just wake to up for round two, aka Steve fucking him through the bed and he's looking happy, so happy and Tony would give anything to keep him looking like that.

It's a good morning.

When they finally leaves Tony's bedroom, it feels strangely like kissing goodbye and going off to work; Tony heads straight for the robot's hangar and Steve goes to do his crazy work-out routine. He gently reminds Tony about some SHIELD meeting, but they both knows that Tony isn't going to be there, that he'll be elbows deep in the robot's insides and that's all right.

It's all right.

*

He calls Pepper while he's in commute, swooshing over farmland and green fields (SHIELD has the robot stored in the middle of nowhere and in Tony's experience with killer robots, even if they're dismantled, that is A Very Good Thing), his suit flying like a dream, like pure freedom and he's enjoying the hell out of it; these days he's mostly flying to and from disasters and that's just not cool.

Pepper answers on the second ring, with a “This better be important, Tony, I've got a meeting in five.”

And the thing is, he haven't really thought this completely through, he just knows that he wants- he wants to do things for Steve, non-sexy things. It's all very confusing.

And when in doubt, call Pepper.

“Tony, you know that I'm not your secretary any more, right?” Pepper says, her voice not unkind. “That you in fact has a perfectly capable secretary who's feeling very much neglected because you never use her?”

“I do? Huh. The thing is, I need someone I can trust to tell me that I'm not being crazy. Am I being crazy?”

“I honestly don't know, Tony. So. You want to do something for Steve?” In the background he can hear her clicking away on her laptop, already working on his wishes, even if she doesn't even know what they are yet and he gets yet another pang of just missing her.

“Well. There is that green conference thing you've been pestering me about attending, that thinly veiled fund-raiser 'save-the rain forest'-thing?” Tony says in his best pitching voice, his vague ideas crystallizing into plans as he speaks, “and I was thinking that I would actually attend and that I'm bringing Steve.”

Pepper is silent for a long time at that.

“So, does that mean that you guys are actually dating now? Properly, officially dating? Because that would make my life so much easier, you know.”

Tony is silent.

“Well, as long as long as you know what you're doing.” Pepper says.

Tony remains silent.

“Oh god, Tony, please don't do this to me.” Pepper say and he can hear smacks her laptop closed in annoyance.

“Pepper, I have no idea what I'm doing, but I like it. I like it a lot.”

“Oh, Tony.” Peppers sighs, exasperated. “Maybe you should take that to mind, hm?”

“I didn't hear that, Pepper, come again?” Tony said, already distracted by the abstracts from the Yellowstone conference Jarvis is displaying on the HUB.

“Nothing, Tony. Nothing at all.” Pepper says and hangs up.

*


Steve arrives with food as Tony and his grunts are in the middle of testing if the robots circuits are completely fried (starting nice and small with a single foot), but Tony has no qualms about shutting it all down just so he can have dinner with Steve.

Steve flew in himself, in that helicopter he'd once expressed a wish about learning to fly, a throw-away comment buried in a totally unrelated conversation, but Tony had run with it, had bugged SHIED about it until they'd let Steve take the certificate and then he'd keep on bugging until they'd let Steve have a helicopter of his very own.

And Tony had succeeded in doing all this without Steve even knowing it was him. One of Tony's better schemes, if he has to says so himself and once they finally gets that jet, Tony is going to make damn sure that Steve can fly that too. There's a basic wrongness about Captain America being trapped on the ground, especially when someone like himself has free access to all of the sky and Tony won't have it.

The two of them eat sitting on a bit of grass outside the hangar, basking in the day's last sunshine and enjoys the quiet and when they're done with the food, Steve starts talking.

He tells Tony about his nightmare that night, about how it's a reoccurring one, about ice-cold water filling up his mouth, about being unable to breath, about panicking and trying to breath water, about choking and about the feeling of his lungs filling up, about the darkness and the cold slowly consuming him, about how he's afraid of water now, about how even the sight of pools on TV fills him with dread.

Tony is silent through it all, just leans up against Steve, rests his head on his shoulder, so Steve won't have to turn his face away to maintain that last bit of privacy and afterward he doesn't say anything. Instead he just puts an arm around Steve and holds on tight.

*

Tony is giving Steve the grand tour of the wreckage, talking a mile a minute about their discoveries so far, about how everything is working, tangenting off about his latest ideas for updating his armor, which leads into a small lecture about what's that damn jet is going to be like and his voice and hand movements are starting to become more than just slightly manic, when Steve gently puts a hand on his shoulder.

“Tony,” Steve says, “Please shut up. You’re trying to avoid any silence that could turn awkward; you're upset about something. You don't have to be, it's okay if my nightmares make you uncomfortable. Besides, you know I don't understand most of this stuff you're telling me.”

“Okay, yes, I am stalling, but it's got nothing to do with you nightmares,” Tony says, breathing out, trying to rid himself of his sudden anxiety, god, it's just a couple of days in a hotel, it's not like he's proposing or anything. “There is something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Yes?” Steve says neutrally, but Tony thinks he can see the faintest ghost of that expression from last night, that empty, frightened look when he though that Tony was about to- But that was just Steve being disoriented and upset because of that dream and anyway, best to get this over with, this is ridiculous.

So Tony tell Steve about the conference, about how it's being held near Yellowstone Park, which he knows Steve's never seen, about how he'd like to eat room service dessert off Steve's stomach, asking if this an idea that holds any appeal for Steve, just to watch a a slow smile, like a sunrise, spread on Steve's face, that smile that reassures Tony that he has yet again made the right decision.

“So let me get this straight,” Steve says, voice full of mischief, “You want me to come with you on a business trip, living on your dime, for your pleasure?” and Tony is about to say, well, yes, but that's not exactly how I'd put it, when Steve continues.

“Like a rent boy you'd picked off the street, to entertain you and then be thrown aside when you're done,” he says in a low, rough voice, his eyes locked with Tony's and Tony can feel his IQ dropping like a steel mallet to the brain as his head is suddenly filled with pure lust.

Off all the thing Tony hadn't thought he'd ever hear Captain freaking America say to him, telling him fantasies about being Tony's very own rent boy is waaay up on the list and how is this his life?

He's about to answer, something appropriate dirty, but that's when the robot, or at least parts of it, comes alive and goes straight for Tony, blasting its way through the rest of the debris, making a high whirring sound like an angry swarm of wasps, ready to sting you to death.

*

Later, Tony will blame the mental double whammy from 'Oh god Steve, take me now' to 'shit shit shit fucking robot coming to get me, sixty miles per hour and filled with bloody murder for the fact that he completely freezes up when said robot blasts towards him and he just stand there and that it's Steve who gets him out of the way, by kicking his legs out from under him, that it's Steve who throws himself in the way from that bloody robot which almost killed him once already and taking the bone-crushing impact meant for Tony (Tony has no doubt that he's the primary target; the robot (and for fuck's sake, it's the fucking foot, the one they ran tests on earlier, can't do anything right) had adjusted its course as it got closer, clearly aiming for Tony).

Luckily, besides the science grunts, SHIELD has also made sure that the hangar has lots and lots of security and as soon as the initial shock (that not even SHIELD-agents are free of) is over, the robot is effectively taken down, just as it's turning around, going for Tony a second time, by the fucking rocket launchers the numerous agents are carrying and from his place on the floor, elbowing his way towards Steve's prone form, Tony watches detachedly as the fucking foot is reduced to slags by flaming explosions that sends shock waves across the entire hanger and effectively bangs up the rest of the robot-pieces even more.

But Tony could care less about the fucking robot, about how valuable research materials have just been destroyed, he could care less about why the fuck this happened in the first place or why it choose to go after him, because Steve is just lying there and it's less than two weeks since Steve had major surgery done to his fucking head and even with the serum and its freaky healing powers, this is not good.

Tony reaches Steve and oh god, thank you, his eyes are already fluttering open, he's groaning and coming awake and the relief is overwhelming and brief, pushed aside by red-hot rage, rage like he hasn't felt it since the cave and even there it was quickly turned into escape plans, into the clear-headed, detached fight state he mostly enters when shit is going down.

But not this time.

He grips Steve's shoulders (his hands are trembling, god), yelling into his face, words refueled by a delayed adrenaline reaction, but shit, Tony is not stopping up and analyzing his fucking reasons right now.

What the fuck do you think you are doing, what gives you the right to be stupid and suicidal, that is my schtick, you could have fucking died, again, god, Steve, you are such an idiot, I have no idea what is going on in you moronic head, but you can't do things like that, why the fuck-”

And Steve just puts a finger over his lips and covers one of Tony's hands still on his shoulder with his own and Tony is going to remember this, probably for the rest of his life, Steve's face bruised and blood running from his mouth, the inexplicable sadness there, like his world is about to break and there's nothing he can do, the way his voice is thin and whispery, like he has trouble breathing, and so, so soft, filled with emotions that Tony refuses to identify, as he says to Tony, “You know why, Tony. You know why.”

And he lifts Tony hands to his mouth and kisses his knuckles, not breaking their eye contact, like that time in the hospital, just before their first kiss and all Tony can do is stare at him.

He clenches his jaw and looks away, shakes his hand free and gets up, so quickly that he becomes dizzy from not enough blood to the head, he turns around and he leaves.

Steve doesn't try to stop him. Does not call out after him.

Tony does not look back.

*

Tony flies straight to Stark Tower, barges into one of the lab slash workshop slash stress test areas, where everybody stops in their tracks and just stares at him.

He's still in his armor. He's still trembling, enough that the armor's internal stabilizers can barely keep him still. His repulsors are smoking from overtaxing.

He takes a deep breath, takes more, closes his eyes and tries to think about nothing, about schematics, about circuitry. When his shaking has subsided he let the armor disengage and pack itself away in its suitcase form.

“Hi.” he says, looking at the diagrams on the walls, not meeting anyone's eyes. “I'm finding myself with some unexpected free time. Anything you guys need a hand with?”

The chaos is, as expected, instantaneous.

*

Steve is not hurt, not seriously. Tony hacks SHIELD's network to find out, then he fucks out of there, only changing his status on the next meetings to 'non-compulsory.'

So it's more than just a couple of days before he sets foot in Avengers' Tower and that's just because Pepper, the traitor, calls Fury and rats him out, after she notices that both the productivity and the amounts of damage caused in Lab E had sky-rocket with about three-hundred percent (there are, as mentioned, a lot of brilliant, crazy and very, very unsafe people working in Stark Industries and Tony was having so much fun playing with them, until Pepper came and dragged him out. At least he got to laugh at the lab-geeks trying not to stare at her legs) and when asking him what the fuck he's doing, and only get is 'That trip. Cancel it' and of course she puts two and two together and gets lovers' quarrel and well, she can't stay out of these things, or maybe the opposite and she has self-preservation enough to not want a sulky Tony Stark on her premises and then Fury is swearing into his phone and sending a helicopter to pick up Tony, because he doesn't trust him to make it back to SHIELD on his own volition, and who the fuck knows, he's probably right.

So the first time he sees Steve in almost two weeks, it's at a pre-mission briefing that Tony gets frog-marched to straight from the helipad on the roof, still in his dirty work-clothes, oil-stains on his fingers and he had halfway expected Steve to look like a half-drowned kitten, but no, Steve is professional as usual, he even has that small smile thing going one, the one he shares with you like there's some secret that only you are sworn in on, but whenever that smile is directed at Tony it doesn't reach his eyes. And Tony tries to keep his promise to himself and ignore him completely, but that means that Tony is the one Fury sends suspicious looks, the one looking like a petulant teenager and god, that is just asking for the others to start getting curious, which is drama he does so not need right now.

It's not like Tony misses Steve. The sex was nice, more than nice, and it's Steve, so it was fun as well, with none of that undercurrent of worry whenever he fucks men, of 'will this be the one who outs me to the media, will this be the one it'll end badly with (exactly what 'end badly' is something he hasn't let himself consider in details, but men are as strong as him, stronger sometimes, and where with women it's him that's got to watch out for signals that could mean 'no' and respect that and do damage control, with men... yeah. Then there's the increased risk of STDs of the more nasty kind and all in all it's better not dwelt on.) He might miss having someone to have morning sex with, but he can find someone else for that easily enough if he wanted to, but yeah, while morning sex is nice and all, it does gets a little samey, a little bit too much routine.

He goes to some party. He smiles and flirts and maybe he gets a little drunk, so what, and maybe he picks up someone small and female and brunette, two of them, and makes out with them in the limo on his way back home, and it's good, it really is, but he has no intentions about actually taking them home, too much trouble and he takes care of business in the limo and then has them dropped of at a nice hotel, with instructions to the staff to let them stay free of all charges, because the girls had been very enthusiastic about kissing each other, everywhere, and then snuggling up together afterward and if they want to continue that, by all means, they should do so.

And he doesn't have anything to prove, not at all, but instead of returning to his penthouse, he goes to Avengers' Tower, stroll though the kitchen on the way to his bedroom, his hair a disaster, and his clothes in disarray, smelling of the girls mixing perfume, of alcohol, of sex.

It's nice to be able to be smug about having had sex again. Not having to hide it.

He does not look at Steve, who's having a arm-wrestling competition with Thor, with Clint yelling encouragements and insults and lewd comments at Tony, and Steve does not look at him.

*

There are bruises on Steve's knuckles and on his cheekbones. Tony does not stare. Clint asks what he is thinking, what the fuck did you do to yourself, Rogers, but his tone is light and amused, where Tony's would have been angry and accusing.

“Just sparred with Thor. Got a little enthusiastic.” Steve says with a disarming smile and Tony has a flash to the last time he saw Steve being enthusiastic, the noises he'd made.

That evening he goes to another party.

*

There's a mission. Despite Tony's absence the science grunts, combined with Natasha's awesome spy-skills, have finally figured out where that goddamn robot came from and now they're going after the motherfucker.

It's a tech wizard. Literally. And fuck, it can not be said enough, Tony fucking hates magic.

This time, they've come prepared and have the Air Force circling above their heads as they make a sudden attack on the wizard's tower. Yes, tower. What is wrong with this freak? And Tony has been analyzing the metals used in the robot and has come up with a kind of concentrated rust-inducing gas, that only works on that alloy the first robot was made of, so they're capable of taking most of the fucker's toys down this time. Besides, that robot was the only piece of that size the guy had, so they're good

And it's not so much a guy as it's a whole bunch of guys, the wizard, some mechanics, engineers, the lot. They have a fucking robot factory underground and if this wasn't so fucking inconvenient, Tony would maybe drool a little. Or at least wanting to take his good time exploring.

The question is of course, where did these guys get their funding? Tony's best guess is Doom, but who the fuck knows.

Taking the tech-guys down is easy. They don't have battle suits, they don't have training, they don't have a death wish.

The wizard is the same, besides the last thing on that list.

And in those situations, the hardest thing is preventing the self-proclaimed bad guy from commenting suicide-by-superhero and that's never fun.

Afterward they have to take down some of his human-sized robots that were built of different metal and weren't affected by the rust-gas, there's about a dozen of those, and that's pretty fun. There's a good hour and a half of blasting, throwing, kicking, dropping and maybe they do have a bit too much fun, any other conclusion is inevitable when one sees the god of thunder and Captain America playing soccer with a robot-head. And Tony can't help but smile at that, he's about to join in himself – and then he remembers.

“I think you can take it from here. I'm heading back to base. armor needs looking at.”

No one questions him as he leaves.

*

Going through the decontamination chamber, the glorified locker-room with a Geiger counter, is mandatory after every mission, and normally it's something done and over with in ten minutes tops, so when Tony sees the proximity lamp turn on inside the soundproof room next door where he's getting out of the armor (it's not the only robot-arms platform in the tower, there's more and more coming up all over the place, so Tony can get in and out of his heavier armors quicker when there's an emergency and Clint says they're sprouting up like mushrooms and well, now there's a Clint Basher mark IV following him around him twenty-four seven and playing laser tag with him, or rather, taser tag, so Tony so fucking wins) he really expects the locker rooms to be empty when he returns twenty minutes later.

But Steve is still here, looking just as shocked as Tony. He's halfway out of his uniform and Tony is in the black undergarment he wears under the armor, fire resistant and motion-capturing, sends the information to the armor so it moves almost simultaneously with Tony. Its all very nifty and also very... tight. There's a reason Clint calls it his 'cat suit' (fuck off Clint. Really).

He can't help but notice the way Steve looks at him.

The words are out of his mouth before he can think about it.

“Are you hurt?” and Steve looks away quickly, making a strangled sound, but he doesn't answer.

Tony moves closer, repeating his question and then he makes the mistake of touching Steve, just a finger to his neck to feel his pulse, but the damage is done.

When Steve slams him up against a wall, Tony's legs already wrapped around his waist, his nails making welts in Steve's naked back, it's entirely expected.

 

Chapter Text


When Tony's brain starts to come back online from the shock of post-orgasmic endorphins, he's been deposited back in the Iron Man-changing room, which, all things considered, is a kindness.

His catsuit is in utter ruin, it's literally torn apart and his thighs are shiny with lube and come running down from his stomach and trickling slowly out of his ass. He aches all over and sitting down is going to be so much fun for the next couple of days. There are bruises, hand-shaped ones on his hips and legs and arms, on his biceps, on his wrists and scrapes on his back from banging against the wall again and again. He knows Steve didn't set out to hurt him, but he'd clearly lost a bit more of his control than usual.

Tony can't remember the last time he had angry sex. A known billionaire playboy running around pissing off his bed partners, that's just asking for tell-all interviews and tabloid crucifixion.

And while Tony is sated enough and that ache deep inside him is the good kind of ache, the satisfied ache, he mostly just feels tired and a bit sad now. If he's honest with himself (and in his head Pepper is saying, god, Tony, really?) this rough, brittle passion is not what he's been jerking off to late at night for the last three weeks. He's tried to think of other things, other people, the girls in the limo double-teaming him, one of them riding him, the other sitting on his face and then one of the girls had a strap-on in her purse and had been very enthusiastic with it, because apparently that's what young, modern women brings with them to gala balls these days, who would have thought) and while that memory does carry him a good part of the way towards orgasm, it's always Steve when he comes, Steve spreading him out on the bed, tying him up and making him melt, petting his hair afterward, watching him as he fell asleep, smiling that smile Tony has come to think of as his.

He hadn't expected Steve to be willing to touch him with a ten foot pole ever again, (but it's been more than three weeks and apparently Steve has been on the withdrawal too), so he should probably just take what he's been given and put it all out of his mind. And go clubbing again as soon as his body is up to it.

Tony cleans up and dresses in whatever he has lying in his changing room (clothes from the workshop he's clearly worn before some mission and then just left on the floor. Just a tad on the nasty side, but they'll do. Even ratty jeans and a wife-beater with oil-stains and smelling of stale sweat are godsends in this situation) and braces himself for the debriefing.

*

When Tony finally slinks into the meeting room, the others are already seated and busy with intel and leads on the robot-sponsor and they don't notice him. Tony knows it would be a disaster of epic proportions to even try to to sit down right now, so he just leans against the wall next to the door, his arms crossed, watching them.

Natasha is doing Blank Face no. 3 at Fury, the one meaning 'I already know this and I'm just humoring you and waiting for you to shut up so we can get some real work done', Bruce is poking at a tablet and frowning, he's looking exhausted; he always is after having hulked out and there's several empty nutrition shakes in front of him, Clint and Thor are doing their version of post-battle pillow-talk; shooting the shit about the mission, sounding more like a couple of frat-boys after a party than two members of the world's best superhero-team. Steve is fiddling with his pen and looking distracted and Tony is so not thinking about why that would be, really, he is not, and that's when Steve looks up at him and blanches, which of course makes Fury finally notices him. He gives Tony an annoyed look, clearly by reflex, because then he double-takes at Tony and just... stares. The room is suddenly very quiet.

“Shit, Stark, did you get mauled by a tiger?” Clint says after a minute, with maybe just a bit of concern in his voice and Tony suddenly realizes that in this outfit most of the bruises on his torso are clearly visible and impossible to interpret as anything but what they are; souvenirs from some very rough sex.

Oops.

“Oh, that.” Tony says, in a flippant voice. “It's not important, just one of those kind of things, you know?”

“What kind of 'things', Tony?” Thor asks, voice already tight with anger, gripping Mjolnir hard, clearly ready to go do violence to anyone who'd dare lay a hand on one of his team mates and Tony need to put a stop to that line of thinking right now.

“Oh, stop looking at me like that.” He says, stretching out and smiling smugly. “As long as they don't get me for bestiality, I don't give a shit. Just make animal control take the thing away when I'm done with it.”

“Oh, for fuck's sake Stark, keep that stuff to yourself-” Clint starts, only to be interrupted by Tony, who has make an effort not to put his hands on his hips as he lays into Clint. Instead he just crosses his arms over his chest and tries no to sound too bitchy.

“You didn't have a problem last week, when I came in at shit o'clock in the morning from that club and gave way more TMI than I'm giving you now and it's the same damn thing.” Tony says, speaking fast. He's suddenly angry and he doesn't even know why. He takes a breath and says as matter-of-factly as he can, “It's just sex. Forget about it. I already have.”

That's when Steve gets up, so fast that his chair almost topples over. The others fall silent immediately and watch astonished as Steve stalks towards to him, radiating barely contained anger.

“You'll have to excuse us. I need to borrow Tony for a moment,” He says, voice tight as he steers Tony out of the room.

*

They're barely out in the hallway when Steve pushes Tony up against the wall.

“What the fuck, Steve,” Tony says, only to be cut off by Steve. He's angry, but it's not the same kind of sudden, red-hot primal anger as in the locker-room, it's more focused this time, more distilled, the kind of anger that has been simmering for a long, long time and it's all directed straight at Tony.

“Tony, just. Be quiet please.” Steve says and takes something out of the pocket of his jeans.

It's a jewelery box. Holy fuck.

“I was going to ask you nicely,” Steve says, opening the box and holding it out towards Tony, who can't help but trying to take a step back, but there's a wall in the way and he has a sudden memory of Clint, trapped against the kitchen wall, trying desperately to get away from the Clint Basher, “but since you can't stop being an ass...”

“...you're kidding, right?” Tony says. It's honestly the only thought in his head right now. Steve must be fucking kidding. But the content of that box, a single silvery ring in a simple, masculine design, says otherwise. God, that's not silver, that's Vibranium, Tony can recognize it anywhere, its metal from Steve's shield, holy fuck. His palms starts to sweat and he honestly feels faint. How the fuck is he going to get out of this one?

“I'm not kidding,” Steve says, closing the lid on the box again with a snap, never breaking eye-contact with Tony, “Every time you act like this is nothing, you hurt me and I won't have that any more. If this is what it takes to for you to get into you thick skull that that we are serious, that this could be so much more than what you're trying to limit it to, then that's what's we're going to do.”

Tony just gapes at him. He's experiencing one hell of a mental discrepancy - Steve is standing completely straight and imposing, towering a bit over Tony, his voice commanding, it's- it's his Captain America-voice, he's in full-on on Captain America-mode, full of that presence he never unleashes out of his uniform and Tony can never not find that hot and also, Steve is just incredibly sexy when he's angry and all his energy is focused on Tony and it all goes straight to Tony's dick – but on the hand Tony is starting to realize that Steve really does mean it and that's-

Holy fuck.

Tony is gaping like a fish out of water, unable to say anything, unable to think. His head is still filled with blind panic and Steve takes a step back, turns his face away, he's said his piece and now it's not Captain America in front of him any more, it's Steve; Steve who is human, vulnerable.

“Tell me what you are thinking, Tony,” Steve says, voice quieter and god, he's an open book and Tony doesn't know what to do with that, with what he sees in Steve's face. It's too much.

“I think,” Tony says, looking away from it all, voice barely more than a whisper, a hiss. His stomach is a tight knot of- of fear, god-damn it, sudden, deep fear that makes it hard to speak, hard to get the next words out, “I think we really don't have any more to talk about. We're done here.”

*

When Tony storms away from the corridor outside the meeting room, leaving Steve behind (and Tony will not look back, he will not, he will not – oh god, that look on Steve's face, it's that look, that look he had after his nightmare, when he thought Tony was about to throw him out of his bed, only so, so much worse and Tony is not fleeing, he is not), he almost collides with Rhodey in the doorway into the elevator. Oh, right, Rhodey had been on that mission-thingy, some good old-fashioned military-stuff, no suit required.

“Hey, hey Tony, what's up, where're you going?” Rhodey says, clasping his shoulder, stopping him effectively.

“Back to Malibu. I have a date with alcohol poisoning.” Tony answers, voice tight, looking straight ahead, he's not looking back, he's not, he's not.

“...well, I better come with you then.” Rhodey says and Tony feels his temper flare. He pushes Rhodey out of the way, moves into the elevator; Rhodey scrambles to keep up, barely gets in as the doors close and Tony hits the button to the basement.

“You don't have to 'better' do anything.” Tony says with a sneer in his voice. “If you want to, fine, but don't come babysit me out of some old sense of duty or misplaced guilt. I do not need your pity.”

“...I can see why you need to get drunk.” Rhodey says, staring at him. “We're taking the suits?”

“We're so taking the suits.”

*

“Wait, wait wait, you're doing what with Cap?”

“Was, Rhodey. Past tense. As in, not doing it any more.”

“Is that why we're here, getting drunk?”

“No, small setback aside, we stopped doing it some weeks ago. Today was just... There was this thing in the middle of the meeting...”

“I guess it's not easy working with your ex.”

“Especially when he goes around proposing to you.”

“...Wow. And I thought I was drunk enough for this. We need more alcohol.”

“That's funny. That's what Pepper said too.”

*

“I can honestly say I did not see that coming.”

“Me neither.”

“How long were you together?”

“We weren't together.”

“...Right. For how long were you having sex, then?”

“Eh. A month? No, around a month and a half.”

“Tony, when was the last time you had a relationship that lasted more than a month? That's longer than you and Pepper! And Cap, man. Can't imagine him being the 'just sex' kind of guy. I'm just saying, maybe you should have seen it coming.”

*

It's later. Tony has passed the 'oh, hey, alcohol, hello'-stage, he has passed the 'I can't feel me face, how funny'-stage, the 'oh god, I can't feel my faaace'-stage, the 'words, what words'-stage and by now he has sort of lost track of all the stages and that's... bad. Usually he can keep track of his own progress towards oblivion so he knows when to call Happy to get him the fuck out of wherever he's ended up and when to call Pepper to get his publicist out of bed at four in the morning and start doing damage control.

Speaking of Pepper...

Tony fumbles to pick up his phone, fights to hit the right button to kill that noise, god, when did he think 'Fight For Your Right' was a good idea for her ringing tone? Not right now, when the party is so much over, that's for certain.

“Tony. Where are you?” And wow, Tony has to think really hard about that one.

“...On the floor?”

Pepper is silent for a long time.

“Oh, don't be like that, it's all right, Rhodey's here with me. On the floor.” Tony can't help but giggle at that, “Rhodey has passed aaaall the stages and has passed out. On the floor. And I have not. I win!”

“Oh, Tony. Just... Just stay where you are, I'm flying in.”

*

When Pepper arrives much later in the evening, Rhodey is sleeping off the alcholol and Tony is playing basket in the yard, riding himself of the last of his hangover. He's in the prototype of an exoskeleton, a stripped-down version of the suit, no armor, no weapons and his opponent is Mark VII, the suit he uses when training with the others. Its only weapons is low-grade tasers and it's heavily padded on the outside. Or rather, he's playing against JARVIS, who's remote controlling the thing. And besides that Tony still is kind of groggy and queasy and that JARVIS is playing dirty, they're also using the occasion to test a new program, a learning IA. And it's working. And Tony is getting his ass kicked. When JARVIS tells him that Pepper is approaching it's a relief.

In the sudden quiet after the whirring sounds of the machines and their noisy play, he can her heels clacking as she gets closer, accompanied by the chickadees. She has taken off her jacket in the warm evening air and her cream-colored blouse and her skin are glowing in the light of the lanterns.

“You're ruining the yard.” is the first thing she says to him, looking around. Then she walks the rest of the way over to him and kisses his cheek. And puts her arms around him and hugs him tight.

Tony freezes, all he can think of is that he's sweating and disgusting and that Pepper is ruining her nice clothes.

“You're supposed to hug me back, Tony.”

Tony puts his hands gingerly on her back, awkward with his hands still incapsuled in machinery.

“Well, that's a start. Now put you head on my shoulder.” Pepper says, her words muffled against his neck.

Tony does, inhales her perfume, all the little Pepper-smells and then suddenly his hands are wrapped tightly around her and his face is buried in her silky-soft hair. Pepper holds tighter and starts rocking them gently.

“That's good, Tony. That's good.” Pepper says and she is sniffling and that's just. Tony hates making Pepper cry, especially when he doesn't know why. “You were rubbish at this when it was us, too.”

“Hugging?” He asks her, but all he gets is a 'oh, Tony', which isn't very helpful.

They remain in the yard for a long time, wrapped around each other. It's the longest Tony can remember touching anybody outside sex and hospitals.

*

They're sharing a chaise-long down at the pool, wrapped in blankets, not touching the white wine Tony had brought out on reflex.

Pepper hasn't said anything yet, hasn't yelled at him and she isn't acting all 'god, you're being such an idiot' either, she just holds him and lets him be, letting him know that if he wants to talk that's okay, but if he doesn't, that's okay too. It reminds him of that flight home from Monaco, years ago, when he had been dying and Pepper had looked at him with this small smile, like a Madonna who'd forgive you everything if you had the courage to tell her about it.

Tony hadn't.

He's not sure he has it now, either.

*

It takes more than just a couple of days for Pepper and Rhodey to finally convince Tony to rejoin the world of the living; there might have been threats to duck tape him and drive all the way back to New York with him hogtied in the trunk, but that's neither here nor there. What finally convinces him is that Pepper agrees to fend off Fury if he gets his ass off to Stark Tower and at least does some kind of work.

And so far it's a perfectly boring day – there's never-ending meetings and when there isn't any meetings, he's grounded in his (okay, Pepper's) office, just like old days. Only difference is that instead of being out doing scarily effective work-related things, Pepper has gone out to get herself a spa-treatment. Getting her feet eaten by small fish. Yikes, Tony had said. Loudly. But really, after what he's put her through the last couple of days, he doesn't begrudge her a little me-time. Or rather, girl-time, as Tony is pretty sure she's taken at least Natasha with her, possible Maria Hill and Bruce's girlfriend too and Tony's trying not to think too hard about that. The SHIELD-women are all scarily competent and should they choose to use their powers for evil, well, world domination would be getting off easy, for Tony. But he doesn't think he's pissed Pepper off that much. He hopes not.

And then his perfectly boring day is interrupted by the fire alarm going off.

Tony is calling up security; he needs to know asap if this is a fluke, an actual fire or a freak-show about to start and that's when Clint barges in (the secretary is still SHIELD, damn it), walks over to his desk and throws down the smoking remains of the the Clint Basher Mark V and stands back, glaring at Tony, arms crossed.

Tony is still holding the phone halfway up to his ear, the fire-alarm is still blaring and Clint just continues to glare at him.

“Uh, false alarm, Garry, code 507-F, authorization Anthony Edward Stark. Just got a visit from a fellow Avenger, codename Hawkeye. Yeah, I'll be all right, just a bit of business.”

He hangs up and in the sudden silence after the blaring of the fire alarm, looks Clint over more thoroughly.

“Not that I have any right to judge, but are you drunk, Barton?”

“Yes. You can be damn sure I am. There is no way in hell I am going to do this sober.” Clint says, only slurring his words a little. “But don't get your security up here, I am not that drunk. Though, if I had been, you'd deserve whatever 'that drunk'-me would do to you” Clint slaps his his palm with his fist, and yeah, Tony gets the picture.

“Now, you listen Stark, like you never listened before: I talked to Steve. Just take a minute and think about how bad this is, how much you've screwed up, for me to get involved in your drama, for me to talk about feelings.” Clint is silent for a moment, glaring at Tony and letting that sink in.

“How- how is he?” Tony asks before he can stop himself. Clint snorts.

“It's Steve, Stark. So stoic. But well. Steve. We talked. Or rather, I drank and he talked. About how since his girl back in the war, Peggy, there hasn't been anyone else. Don't make me say it, Stark. Feelings stuff. The words attraction, love and rings were involved, you should be able to fill out the blanks from there.

Tony reaches out and starts fiddling with the ruined Basher. It's been pierced with several of Clint's trick-arrows, his own design, the EMP-ones. And then it's been shot by a 9-mm. And kicked and stomped on. A crowbar may have been involved, too. But Tony could still fix it, rebuild it and make it work again, make it better.

Machines are so much easier.

Clint slams a palm down on the table directly in front of Tony's face, startling him and effectively recapturing his attention. Boy, is he angry now.

Tony is not usually scared by Clint. Bruce, hulked out and Tony out of his armor? Yes. Thor, when he's been riled up by Loki (and is Tony glad those two have a hesitating truce these days, oh yes, he is. Thanks to Steve. Always thanks to Steve) and is mad with rage and the very air is crackling around him? Yes. Natasha? Always.

Steve? When he's Captain America, full of righteous anger and using the full force of his strength, his charisma, his brilliance? No. Never then. But Steve, when he is looking like a sad, little lost boy, like he'd done when Tony had first met him and he'd thought no one was looking, or when he understands all too well what's going on in the world today and isn't jaded, just so, so sad, then Tony is scared, but not of Steve. Just for him.

But Clint? Clint is the annoying brother, or more like a cousin, someone who's safe to rile up and bully around, because you know they can take it and give it back with interests and because at the end of the day, they're stuck with you and will have your back.

The Clint in front of him? Is one scary fucker. Normal-Clint is snarky and nonchalant and focused and disciplined in the field. This Clint is sort of a primal thing, filled with justified rage, who has come to rip him into shreds for hurting one of his pack, his crazy carnie pseudo family. Clint doesn't have much of a family by blood; his family is by choice and circumstances and he will go through fire for them.

Tony can't say he blames him. He is also sort of regretting hanging up on security.

“Stark! Pay attention!” Clint is leaned forward aggressively, getting right in his face. Tony can smell the alcohol on his breath, cheap beer and expensive whiskey. Probably Tony's own.

“I'm going to give you a piece of advice: you need to forget what you think you want and think about what you need. Also think about if anything better than Cap will ever come along. After him anyone will disappointing you and you know it.” Clint stands back, scowling at Tony's stunned face.

“Oh, and by the way. Steve didn't say it out loud, but it was pretty clear that losing Peggy still hurt like hell. I will fuck you up if you make Steve hurt like that again. And when I'm done, guess what, the rest of the team will be in line. And then all of SHIELD. Actually, most of the Earth will. Even the villains. And in say, four hours, me and Thor will take Steve out and do our damn best to get him drunk and convince him what an utter ass you are and that he could do so much better. You have four hours, Stark. Think about it. Think really hard.”

Then Clint turns on his heal and leaves. Tony buries his head in his hands.

Attraction. Love. Rings.

That look on Steve's face when Tony left him the hallway, his slumped, defeated shoulders, his white-knuckled grip around the box with the ring.

On his desk, the Clint Basher continues to smoke gently.

*

Tony goes back to Malibu. He flies slow enough to enjoy the scenery and not piss off the air controls, so it’s early afternoon when he finally arrives.

He gets a drink, goes downstairs, puts the destroyed Basher on the workstation, cranks Black Sabbath up to eleven and gets to work

It takes three satisfyingly mindless hours before he resurfaces.

The Clint Basher Mark VIII now has small rocket launchers and can skate around on small ball-joints while shooting with perfect aim; it may be about to develop a personality and it can also brew the perfect cup of coffee, and Tony still has that itching under his skin. He contemplates having JARVIS find him a nice mountain range that needs demolition and taking the War Machine suit out for a spin.

He keeps shooting looks at the cars and then forcing himself to look away. There’s some things better not dwelt on and Steve taking him against the glass wall back in the New York workshop, on the hood of that car, in the car...

Tony closes his eyes and puts his head on the table. He does not think about Steve bringing him sandwiches and forcing him to eat, that one time he forcibly took his tablet from his hands and turned off the lights. If Steve wants to cuddle you, there is no escape. If Steve wants to pet him to sleep - well, he’s more than welcome.

Tony freezes up at that thought, wondering when things went from mindless mirror sex to, well, sandwiches and waking each other up from nightmares.

He still want to take Steve to Yellowstone park, he realizes. Not for some conference, just because he wants to. Because he wants to do nice things with Steve. To Steve, and isn’t that a nice thought. There’s so many things they haven’t tried yet, so many things they haven't tried enough. Tony wants to ride Steve again, he wants him stretched out in the sunlight, he wants to... eat ice-cream in bed and watch horrible movies and heckle them and abandon them in favor of eating ice-cream out of each others mouths, and other ridiculous things Tony has never done before, he can barely believe that he's actually thinking this, but...

He wants to do normal things with Steve, things you can do in public without getting arrested for indecent exposure.

Tony gets up, walks over to the display cases with the old suits. Mark I is a replica, but Tony has the remains of the original tucked away somewhere, too broken and damaged to be displayed.

He presses his hand to the surface of the replica's case, rests his head against the cool glass. He didn’t have to make new arc reactors for the display models, it was totally unnecessary, he could have given them blue LED lights and no one would have been able to tell the difference. But here they are, three miniature suns on display, ready for someone to come and take them. And someone did. But if Tony didn’t want that, he would have locked them away, never put them on display in the first place, for all the world to see and touch and steal.

“Cut the music, Jarvis.”

In the sudden silence, JARVIS’ voice is loud and clear.

“If I may make a suggestion, sir? In the two weeks Captain Rogers and you were most... physically active, your nutrition intake became somewhat normal, your sleep pattern improved greatly, and your blood pressure was lower than it has been in years. Also-”

A hologram appears in front of Tony. It’s him, splayed out over the hood of Stark 11, Steve’s head buried in his crotch, but that’s not what makes Tony stare: It’s the expression on his own face.

“If I may be so bold, sir, this does not exactly look like a hardship. Your body language here is the most relaxed I have observed yet under these circumstances and your audio output is approximately twice as high as usual.”

Tony is barely listening, still captivated by that look on his own face. It’s a look he has seen before - on Steve, when he has worn Tony completely out and thinks he isn’t looking.

“Jarvis,” he says, voice rough, “Call Pepper. I need to talk her.”

*

“Tony, for god’s sake, I’m about to get a massage, this better be important.”

“Um. I left the wheel. Sorry.”

“Tony, when you say you’re going to babysit the company, I expect you to babysit the company.

“Peps, I'm sorry, but I need to- I need to find Steve-”

“Oh thank god. I was just about to give the girls your nuts on a plate.”

“I don’t really want to know, but oh wait I do, because I'm a masochist – what did you plan to tell the girls?

“You don't remember everything you said when you were drunk, do you?”

“Maybe? Probably not? Should I be mortified?”

“Oh, I don't know. That depends. It was just stuff about how Steve sucks cock like a champ and that you love it when he fucks you within an inch of your life, but that it's even better when he goes so slow that you think you're going insane, but that you don't know what to do with the way he looks at you afterward, but that's still what you jerk off to when he's not there and that you've considered getting new toys that matches him in size, because after this you've become even more of a size queen...”

“…wow. You need a raise.”

“I do. Shall I continue?”

“There's more?”

“Oh yes.”

“I'll just go with mortified and strangely amused and then we'll never talk about it again?”

“Well, that depends. Be good. Or else.”

“...specifics, please.”

“Be good or you know exactly what my wedding speech will be about. Oh and, Tony, you won't find him at SHIELD.”

“No? Where, then?”

“Well, Barton was bluffing; he didn't take Steve drinking.” The countdown in the back of Tony's head that has been blinking on zero for hours now suddenly disappears and he lets go of the breath he didn't know he was holding in.

“I might have heard something about Steve expressing a wish to see Yellowstone Park. But you didn't hear it from me.”

*

Tony almost turns around three times on his way to Yellowstone, tail between his legs, fleeing back to the workshop and probably the whiskey, but Jarvis keeps him on course by mutinously engaging the autopilot and then showing a steady stream of clips from the surveillance cameras, of him coming home from that party that had ended up with those girls in the limo, of him bragging about it in the kitchen, a close-up of Steve's face, of his face as he demolishes a bunch of punching bags afterward and then wipes the floor with Thor. And of course, Tony leaving him in that fucking hallway, Steve's white-knuckled grip around the box with the ring, the way he hides his face from the camera, his shoulders hunched, defeated.

Tony never wanted to be the one hurting Steve. Had it been anyone else, they had been dust by now. And maybe his long-term planning and his impulse control need some work, because he clearly hadn't thought this through when he started this thing with Steve, hadn't thought about were they would end up – either Steve overly committed and the ensuing bad break, or Tony learning him everything he would ever need to know about sex and then letting him loose on the world, and as soon as that thought enters his mind, a bolt of rage flashes through Tony, sudden and spontaneous and then there's a flaming inferno underneath him, where before there was a small forest.

Tony forces himself to land and deal with the fire; luckily there's fire extinguishers in the suit now. Afterward he stays on the ground until his head is clear again.

All he had thought about back in the kitchen, ages ago, was the delicious blush appearing on Steve's cheeks as Tony spoke to him, spreading down his throat, under his shirt – and then when he had realized exactly what Steve was telling him, that Steve, Steve's first time suddenly were within Tony's reach – well, then Tony hadn't been thinking any more. At all.

“You appear distressed, sir. I am sorry that I upset you.”

“Thank you, Jarvis.” Tony says, sitting in the middle of a field, looking at the smoking remains of the forest. “But this... It's really not something you can help me with. I don't know what I'm doing any more. I shouldn't have started this; nothing good have come out of it. All I have done is hurt him.”

“If I may, sir.” Jarvis says and another set of images starts playing before Tony's eyes. The end of their tryst in the car; Steve's face as he comes, eyes locked with Tony's, saying his name like it's a prayer and the way he freezes afterward, knowing that he has crossed a boundary he wasn't even suppose to acknowledge. And then Tony leans forward and kisses him, slow and sweet and wipes that look off Steve's face and it's like the sun appearing on a cold winter day, so bright it hurts your eyes and Tony watches himself shy away from it, hiding his face in Steve's neck, he watches the way Steve folds his arms around him and holds tight, still smiling and kissing his head, and Tony remember the feeling of those warm, strong arms around him, how safe they'd made him feel.

Jarvis isn't done yet. He shows Tony images from later that night, when Tony had woken Steve up from a nightmare and how he'd started with stuffing his foot in his mouth, all the way to the knee and then some (and it's only now, with the images of his own face and body language right in front of him, that Tony can see what happened – how panicked he'd been seeing Steve so vulnerable and hurting and not knowing what to do), the way his words had ripped through Steve - but then he had apologized (sort of) and made Steve pliant and relaxed under his hands, made him fall asleep smiling a little.

“I believe that you actually made that situation better in the end, sir.”

The last image is of Steve's face lightening up like Christmas when Tony tells him about how he wants to take him to Yellowstone, and then the robot-foot is blasting towards them and-

“Stop, stop, Jarvis, I don't need see to any more, I remember the rest all too well.” And he does. He remembers thinking that this would stay with him for the rest of his days and so far it seems he was right and it's still too much.

Steve had known. He had known exactly what would happen if he told Tony why he needed so desperately to save him. He had known Tony wasn't ready for being confronted with those emotions. He'd known Tony's reaction would be to bolt, to run.

Steve had known and he'd told him anyway, because Tony had demanded an answer and Steve would never lie to him.

It's not Steve's fault that Tony can't stop lying to himself.

*

Tony is filthy and exhausted and freezing and he got caught in a downpour and his very nice Italian suit is completely ruined, his feet are aching and he doesn’t want to think about the state of his shoes. Why did he think it was a good idea to get properly dressed before he left the workshop? He'd be better off in his oil-stained work-clothes. Oh, right, vanity.

He hasn’t called ahead and the receptionist at the hotel just stares at him for a long minute and Tony is tempted to just walk away, fly back home to his own bed and try to track down Steve tomorrow, but he knows himself too well and yeah, that won't work. One moment of inertia is all it will take for his fragile resolve to crumble, he can't allow himself to stops now and give himself time to start second guessing, he will loose courage, he will run, he will go back to his little lonely life, he will lose his window, he will never make it right with Steve. Tony doesn't know how, but there is a window, he's sure of it, there has to be, maybe the planets are aligned right, maybe it's a momentum inside himself, but he has an opportunity here, he knows he does, and he knows it won't last forever.

Steve deserves better. Even if Tony has used his last chance, even if this finally was the last straw and Steve won't have anything to do with him any more (and Tony wouldn't blame him), then Tony at least still owes it to him to see him face to face, to end it properly if that’s how it has to be.

After all he has put Steve through, after Steve put himself out there, stood up to Tony and demanded an end to his bullshit, after Steve laid himself bare and made himself vulnerable by finally telling Tony what he wanted and Tony just threw it all back in his face – Steve deserves honesty. Steve deserves so many things Tony will never be able to give him, but honesty, well, at least he can try to give him that.

Tony has to do this now. He can’t give up yet.

“Just... Miss, just give me a room, any room. You do have dry-cleaner service, right? Then we’re good.” Tony puts down his credit card on the counter and slides it towards the girl and voila, that gets her out of her ‘Oh my god, Tony Stark just walked in, looking like a drowned hobo’-induced stupor, and suddenly he can have a room in half an hour.

He thanks her and goes to the bar, very intent on testing how much alcohol he can consume in that half an hour, and who knows, maybe they even serve some halfway decent food, he kind of hasn’t eaten since-

Steve is sitting at the bar.

He hasn’t seen Tony yet, his face is turned away from him, but Tony can recognize his body anywhere, the broadness of his shoulders, his posture. He also recognizes the leather jacket Steve is wearing; it’s one he himself made Steve buy in one of his many attempts to make Steve look less like he’s raided his grandpa’s closet.

Tony has that terrible impulse again, to turn around and run away. There’s a sudden bolt of fear, he starts sweating - I can’t do this, I don’t know how to do this, I can’t do this.

Then Steve turns around and looks at him, face blank and impassive and so tired-looking, his eyes dead and Tony often forgets that this side of Steve even exist, this hopelessness, this hurt.

It's so easy to think that Steve's strength never weakens, that his faith and his sense of duty will keep him going through anything the world can throw at him, but this is Steve too and Tony forgot. He has seen Steve with broken bones, dead on his feet from exhaustion and still giving the ones around him strength and encouragement, giving them exactly what they needed to keep going, showing them the face they need to see. But right now Steve isn't able to hide anything at all, isn’t even trying.

And it was Tony who did this.

All Tony wants to do is go over to him, put his arms around him, hold him, have Steve's arms tighten around him, banish that look from his face, Steve is not supposed to look so defeated, Tony can't bear it.

Tony takes a step towards Steve and stumbles, suddenly he notices that he is shaking - he's freezing. When did he start freezing? The short walk towards Steve is a daze, Tony has tunnel-vision, can't look away from Steve's face.

Steve stands up to greet him.

“What are you doing here, Tony?” he asks, with no emotions whatsoever.

“I came to find you,” Tony says and he had stuff planned he wanted to say, but it's gone now, Steve is here and Tony’s mind is wiped clear.

“You're soaking wet,” Steve observes and gently pushes Tony away from the bar, steers him towards the rooms. The touch makes Tony stiffen, he doesn't know if he's allowed to lean into it, so he just lets Steve guide him, stiff as a board.

“Yeah, they grounded me. The rangers,” he elaborates at Steve's raised eyebrows. “The suit was freaking out the bears. And I wanted to find you.”

“So the logical thing to do was to trek through the park on foot? In those shoes? You could have come back tomorrow with proper gear.”

“No, I couldn't, I... I would have lost my nerve if I'd went home now.”

“I'm surprised you came at all.” Steve says as he opens the door to his room, not bitter, just matter-of-fact, and that's worse, that’s so much worse.

He plants Tony on a chair and fetches a couple of towels from the bathroom and unceremoniously starts undressing Tony, his hands brisk and impersonal. Tony closes his eyes, concentrates on keeping his breath steady.

Then his hand shoots out without his permission, grips Steve's wrist, makes him stop unbuttoning Tony’s wet shirt.

“Steve, I came to talk to you. Jarvis talked some sense to me, showed me the errors of my ways. In technicolors. Steve, I...” Tony trails off, the words aren't there, he doesn't know how to do this.

The silence hangs heavy between them, Steve's face is impassive, waiting – then he seems to do a mental double take and asks:

“...Technicolors? Do you mean, literately showed you-”

“Oh, um. Jarvis records everything in the house. So-”

“Even the sex?”

“Especially the sex. For security reasons.”

“Tony, that's-”

“Its not like that, and no, not like that either, I can't even access it myself, it's just in case someone tries to throw sexual assault charges my way, Steve, it doesn't matter. What I was trying to say- I was wrong Steve, you're my friend, one of my best, if not the best and I didn't treat you like that and I'm so, so sorry.”

“Your friend,” Steve states woodenly.

“Okay, this conversation is not going as I planned, it all makes sense in my head – it's not just sex for me either, okay? And I never meant to hurt you.”

“You did.”

“I know. I'm sorry.” It's not enough. It's just words. He means them, yes, he feels them, but they're so inadequate. He's so inadequate.

Steve doesn’t reply, just looks away and stands up.

He takes Tony’s hand, pulls him to his feet.

“You’re still freezing, Tony. We need to get you warm.”

Steve steers him into the bathroom, starts filling the large bath tub and finishes undressing Tony. His hands are slower now, little touches lingering on Tony’s skin and Tony can’t help but closing his eyes and lean into it, relaxing in Steve’s hands.

Steve peels off his wet shirt carefully and now his hands are definitely caressing him and Tony feels light-headed. He’s panting slightly and Steve is watching him intently and the expression on his face is so familiar, oh God, Tony missed this, seeing that tenderness, seeing how much Steve wants him.

He can feel it all over his body, it’s exploding inside him, a burst of happiness, a sound he can't keep in. The relief makes him stagger into Steve’s arms and Steve pulls him in and holds him tight, hides his face in Tony’s neck. They’re both half-hard, but that’s not important right now: Steve has taken him back, it’s not too late and the joy is spreading through Tony like a wildfire and Tony would tell him, he wants to share it with Steve, he tries to, but he can’t, there’s something wrong with this voice, his throat won't work right and Steve holds him tighter, says, oh Tony, I missed you too, and it’s going to be all right, they’re all right, they’re going to be all right, and he doesn’t know whose lips finds whose, but they’re kissing, deep and slow and tender and it’s all right.

*

Tony is warm and comfortable, lying against Steve’s chest, Steve’s arms around him, he’s surrounded by warm water and it shouldn’t be this comfortable, two grown men fitting into an ordinary bath tub and especially when one of them Steve Rogers, but Tony doesn’t remember when he last was this relaxed, this happy. Steve is stroking his back, his arms, his chest, every part of Tony that he can reach, petting his hair and Tony could go to sleep like this, his feet have finally stopped aching, his body is heavy and tired, but there’s still something he needs to know.

“Do you still have the ring?”

Steve stills under him, Tony can feel his breath pausing.

“Yes, I still have it. Of course I still have it.”

“Can I see it?”

“Hand me my jeans?”

Tony does, getting half the floor wet in the process, and this time when Steve gives it to him, Tony does not run.

*

It should feel much more significant, Steve’s ring on his finger, but it doesn't, it's just piece of (beautiful) metal, it doesn't scare him, not any more; and there it is again, that explosion of joy inside him. It's slower this time, less like a supernova and more like, well. Like one of those slow, drawn-out orgasms Steve has given him so many of and look at that, Tony is hard again, as a rock.

But that can wait, because Steve’s arms are around him and Steve cannot stop smiling, a big goofy thing that threatens to split his face in half, Tony didn't even know Steve’s face could look like that and it’s adorable and he never wants it to stop.

Their fingers are twined together and Steve rubs over the ring and kisses Tony and it’s awkward, positioned like this, and wonderful and Tony feels like he’s floating and he doesn’t know what his face looks like right now, how much is shown and he doesn’t care. He lifts their hands and kisses Steve’s fingers.

“How long have you wanted to give me this?” Tony asks, between kisses.

“Since the hospital, where you-”

“I kissed you.”

“I kind of knew that was it, for me. I had the ring made as soon as I got out.”

“So you already had it when you jumped me in the office?” Oh God, he had, he blew Tony on Pepper's desk and what he really wanted was to be on his knees for a whole different reason and Tony remembers telling Rhodey that if Steve had gotten himself a girl he would be out buying rings and look at that, he was right.

“You do realize what you’re in for, right?" Tony asks, placing Steve's hand on his cheek and leaning into it, an excuse not to look Steve in the eyes, because he had to ask, but he's not sure he really wants to know the answer.

“Yes, I know you are going to drive me crazy, but... It's a good crazy, okay? Most of the time at least,” Steve says and holds Tony a bit tighter, kisses his ear. Tony can feel his smile against his skin.

“I want you, okay?” Steve says, voice unexpectedly gruff, “I don't want you to suddenly always listen to me, I know that’s impossible, but I want you to always listen to yourself, Tony.”

Tony has to turn around and kiss Steve properly at that, he's overbalancing, splashing water everywhere and Steve catches him, Steve always catches him and this bath tub really isn’t big enough for two grown men, one of them Steve Rogers, to trying to make out in it face to face.

Tony needs to get his hands on Steve, now, it can’t go fast enough and Steve seems to have the same idea. Steve stands up and gets out of the tub and fishes Tony out too, carries him back to the bed, dripping water everywhere, what does it matter when Tony has his legs wrapped around Steve and is kissing him furiously, placing small bites on his jaw, his throat. Steve groans and lowers him to the bed and stands back, looks at him, studies him in great detail, his gaze caressing Tony, intense and full of heath, sending fire running down Tony's spine

Tony stretches out, displaying himself for Steve, groaning and arching his back, never taking his eyes of Steve's face. His cock is almost painfully hard and he’s still wet all over from their bath; he must be a sight and Steve seems to be appreciating it; he’s flushed all over, eyes dark with hunger and his cock jutting out from his body. Tony wants nothing more that take it in his mouth, make Steve feel good, it’s been too long and Tony didn’t know he would ever miss sucking cock, but hey, you learn something new every day.

He sits up and reaches out, saying Please, please let me, Steve, but Steve bats his hand away, opens his back-pack standing next to the bed fishes out some of those nifty little packs of lube, Steve-the-eternal-boy-scout strikes again and then Tony is being pushed down on the bed and Steve covers him with his body, still damp. There’s water dripping on Tony’s face from Steve’s wet hair and then they’re kissing and all thought are gone from his head. It’s suddenly gloriously quiet in there, all thought killed by the overwhelming feeling of Steve's skin against his, Steve's weight pushing him down, Steve's hands on him, Steve's mouth on him.

It’s so good and what was Tony thinking, trying to save himself from this? He loves it, he loves the things Steve does to him, the way he seems to always knows the fastest way to bring Tony out of his head with want, the way he throws himself into it; Steve Rogers does not hold back, he goes all out, guns blazing and oh god, that’s Steve’s wet fingers in his ass. Tony and he can’t keep his mouth shut, he can’t, he's telling Steve about how he missed this so much, how much he loves it, when Steve holds him down with a single hand, when it's Steve's whole body weighting him down like now, grounding him and Steve starts panting at Tony's words, grinding against him and it's wonderful, it's perfect and -

“Stop! Steve, stop, stop!” Tony yells and pulls away from Steve, who sits up and backs away, alarm written all over his face, in every line of his body.

“I'm so sorry Tony, are you all right? What did I do?” Steve says, holding his hands up in surrender, clearly holding himself back from reaching out for Tony and God, Tony loves this man.

“I forgot something! It's important, Steve, I-” Tony scrambles off the bed, fumbling for his sodden suit-jacket Steve hung by the door, finding the inner pocket where – Thank God, it's still there.

He goes back to Steve, who's still sitting on the bed, looking bewildered and slightly amused.

Tony sits down next to him, on his knees. He takes Steve's broad hand in his.

“I need to give you this before we continue, it's important. So, sorry I scared you, but I'd forgotten. Um... I made you this, I want you to have it. If you want it, that's it. You don't have to, of course, but I'd be glad if- I'm just going to shut up now.” Tony opens his palm and lets the little piece of cold metal slide from his hand to Steve's. Then he looks away self-consciously as Steve opens his hand and looks at it.

“It's beautiful, Tony. And heavy.”

“I know, there's an iron core, um. Scraps from the Mark I suit, actually.”

“The one that you made in the cave?” Steve's eyes are wide as he looks at the golden ring in his palm.

“Yes, the first one. And the gold layer is the alloy I use in the suits, it's from the Mark VI, the one I was wearing when we first fought together. Um. Does it fit?” It's possible that the amount of word coming out of his mouth right now is direct proportional with how much he's blushing. It had seemed like such a good idea back in the workshop, but what if Steve thinks it's silly - he cut a bit of his shield, what can Tony give to match that?

“Yes, Tony, relax, it fits perfectly and it's beautiful and of course I'll wear it, God, come here-” Steve drags Tony into his arms and crushes him in a hug. He's very warm and still slightly damp and hello, still naked.

“Sorry I stopped the sex. I really liked the sex. Can we go back to the sex?” Tony remember Pepper's words, back in the yard, about Tony being rubbish at giving hugs (and it wasn't just the hugs she was talking about, was it), but it's hard. He feels so naked. Okay, he is naked. But he's usually fine being naked.

“It's okay, I'm glad you did. God, Tony, you gave me a ring!” Steve laughs and Tony can't look away, he did this, it is him that have made Steve so happy and he can't help but laugh himself. God, they're engaged.

“Steve, fuck, we have to arrange a wedding.” Tony says, the panic in Tony's voice making Steve laugh harder.

“We have to come out first, Tony.” Steve says, still smiling, pulling the blanket over them and turning off the light.

“Oh. Right. There is that. Can't we just get married really quietly, just the family, and the we can just announce the whole she-bang when we've left for our honey-moon?”

Steve is quiet for a moment.

“You know, I'd like that. Just the two of us and our friends.”

“Really? Then hell yes, that's a plan. Fuck the rest of the world. Let's be selfish for once. We've deserved it.”

“Yeah, I think we have, ” Steve says, kissing him deeply.

I've deserved this, Tony thinks, as he kisses Steve back, pulling him closer, reveling his warmth, the softness of his skin. I have.