It's not until he's impaled on a road sign that Tony begins to really appreciate Manhattan's rush hour. Any other time of day, and the paramedics would already be here and Steve wouldn't be practically breaking his hand.
“You've gotta stay calm, Tony. Just, just stay awake and keep breathing, and then we'll be fine. Medicine is much better than in my day and so you'll be fine, of course you'll be fine-”
This had not been the plan.
The plan had been to finally get Steve out of Stark Tower, half way through its transformation into Avengers Tower, and to a ball game or the park. Anything that could be considered a 'just friends' activity by the innocent and a first date by Tony. Because Tony is the only one who knows how he really feels about Steve, and 'just friends' certainly isn't it.
From his experience with life threatening injuries, which is far more extensive than he would have ever cared for, Tony doesn't think that the pole had gone through anything major. He's mainly just glad that it hadn't been the end with the sign on it, that would have really fucked up his abdominal cavity. Some question remains as to why there's a sign in his stomach in the first place.
“Steve? Hey, Steve, stop freaking out for a sec.”
“What is it Tony?” Great, Tony gets to be the one who made Captain America sound like he's only moment away from breaking out into big girly sobs.
“We were riding on your bike, right? Going to the park?”
“Yes, oh my god, do you have a concussion? How many fingers am I holding up?”
Tony weakly batted aside Steve's frantically waving hand. “Three, okay? We were just riding along minding our own business and then what? How exactly did I end up the Human Shish-kebab?”
Steve blinked at him, absorbing the question for a long moment. “We drove through one of Spiderman's fights with Venom. I'd have taken another route if I'd known he was around, they seem to always end up fighting in this part of the city.”
“You mean to tell me that I was collateral damage to another super's fight?” Tony knew he sounded like a whiny brat but, well, the ambulance still hadn't shown up and he was beginning to really notice the blood loss. “I'm better than that. Fuck, they didn't even stop to notice that one of those fucking javelin street signs, which is a good idea for our next fight with Loki, I'm gonna steal it see how he likes being shish-kebabbed, but seriously, I'm Tony Fucking Stark and they didn't even pause for breath. You like me better than that don't you, Steve? I bet you do, but if you don't I guess that's okay too, I'll still let you live in my Tower and oh thank fuck are those sirens?”
Before Steve could answer, Tony felt his head thunk back against the pavement as everything went dark.
******** ********* ********
Modern hospitals terrify Steve. Intellectually, he knows the medicine is much more advanced, the surgeries much safer and the pain management more effective. However, to the kid who grew up in Brooklyn reading the 1940s version of sci-fi, modern hospitals are almost exactly how he had pictured the interior of alien space craft, come to abduct innocent young men and women for hideous experimentation and probing.
That he's the result of a sci-fi style experiment doesn't make him any less worried about what these masked doctors might do. In fact, rather the opposite. He's sure they'd love to cut him open and drain his blood...
Before he can work his way into a real panic, a hand descends on his shoulder. He looks up with a fairly well concealed twitch of nerves, but Pepper's smile tells him that she definitely noticed.
“How are you doing, Steve?”
“Shouldn't I be the one to ask you that?”
“I've got a little more experience being in this position than you, especially when it comes to Tony.”
Steve wishes that sad fact wasn't true. Tony has suffered enough in his life and is trying so hard to be a good man and the universe just doesn't seem willing to cut him any kind of break.
***** ***** ***** Several Weeks Earlier ***** ***** *****
Tony falls in love with Steve because of Dummy.
Well, no, not because of Dummy, that sounds weird, more like because of how Steve reacts to Dummy. Most people laugh a little, especially at the name and then ignore the little robot. Admittedly, he's no where near impressive as Jarvis and You is more coordinated, but Dummy is Tony's oldest friend and creation. Dummy was first and for Tony, he'll always be special.
Steve doesn't laugh. He practically drops to his knees, running his hands over every nut, bolt, and joint in obvious fascination.
“Tony, this is great! You built this?”
“Uh...yeah. That's Dummy. I built him in college.” Tony managed to stop himself before says that he just wanted a friend.
“So you were what, twenty-two, twenty-three?”
Tony rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. “More like seventeen. He was my final project when I was graduating from MIT.”
Steve turned wide blue eyes to Tony, and he just wanted to melt into a big pathetic puddle on lab floor. “You graduated from college when you were seventeen?”
“I did mention the genius part of the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist title, right? I'm pretty sure I did. That tends to mean skipping ahead, these days. School was boring anyways, I just wanted to get to the good labs over in R&D. MIT just wasn't up to Dad's standards on lab equipment and personally, I think that's why Dummy's as dumb as he is. Inferior quality components in the initial design. Well, that and I'd slept about four hours total that week and was jacked up on way too much coffee but that's hardly the main point.”
Tony glanced at Steve to gauge his reaction only to find that he'd lost the captain somewhere and he'd gone back to thoroughly investigating the little robot, much to Dummy's delight. Tilting his head, Tony realized that the only word that could be used to describe Steve's obvious enthusiasm towards Dummy was 'adorable'. He also realized that he wanted Steve to look at him with the same fascination, and was working out plans on how to reveal the arc reactor before he could stop himself.
At least, he supposed, if he had to fall in love with anyone, at least it was Captain America.
****** ******** ******* Present ****** ******** *******
When Peter Parker scurries into the hospital waiting room, Steve has to restrain a snarl. He knows Spiderman would never intentionally have allowed Tony to be injured, but he can't help but feel a certain level of blame towards the web slinger. Sitting in the hospital waiting room is a special kind of painful. The humming of the lights and the incomprehensible announcements that always blare just as Steve is about to doze off. He doesn't want to think of Tony, sedated and small, surrounded by doctors. He doesn't want to think about people Tony doesn't know and doesn't trust touching the reactor.
His feelings towards Tony have been shifting and sitting here is giving Steve far too much time to think about it. How could those feelings not change, though, with the genius suddenly focusing all that heady attention in Steve's direction? Movie nights, this disastrous trip to the game, and swimming in the Tower's pool.
Not that that hadn't been a disaster as well...
****** ******** ******* Then ****** ******** *******
Tony couldn't breathe. When Steve had suggested they go for a swim, adorably excited over the existence of a pool in the Tower, Tony had agreed without thinking. And he'd been alright, not great but coping with being in a dimly lit room with a relatively large body of water. He certainly hadn't been planning on actually getting in, maybe dangling his legs in from the side if he was feeling very brave.
But Steve didn't know about the water boarding, didn't know about the cave at all, really, and had pulled Tony in after him, not giving any chance for Tony to protest.
And Tony couldn't breathe.
“Are you alright? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pulled you in like that. Tony? Tony, you have to calm down, you're starting to scare me. Tony, talk to me. Tony!”
Large warm hands gripped his shoulders and Tony was lost.
The rough hands of his captors shook him, demanding something from him in what he thought was Dari. He'd have to ask Yinsen if he survived this session. Last time the shorts from the water getting into the casing in his chest nearly drove him into full cardiac arrest, car battery or no car battery. He was already soaking, must have blacked out for part of it this time. The hands dragged him through the water, and he didn't remember the cave having a lake, but it must have, it must have, and he lashed out. The hands were pulling him free of the water but Tony knew better than to think the worst would be over, especially since he'd tried to fight back this time. Should've learned his fucking lesson, should know better by now, Yisen warned him, tried to warn him.
“I'm sorry, please don't. I'm sorry,” He could feel himself starting to hyperventilate, and for a moment the hands let him go. Tony tried to curl into a defensive ball, bringing his shaking fingers to clench over the still raw hole in his chest, but his captors held his shoulders and he shattered.
“I'll build it, oh god, I'll build it, please just – I'll build it, I swear I'll – “ His voice broke.
Footsteps echoed, towards, away, they were everywhere, ringing in his head. The slap of water against the walls made him shiver. They were still talking, why were they talking? He'd agreed to build the missile. New hands grabbed at his face and smeared something greasy under his nose before he could rear back and break free. Mint burned through his sinuses, and he pawed helplessly at his face, the incredible sharpness blinding him to anything and everything else. By the time his eyes stopped watering, he knew he was in the pool in Avengers' Tower. New York, not Afghanistan.
He felt like Thor had smacked him around with Mjolnir for an hour.
While he wasn't wearing the armour.
Clint was standing back, arms crossed and a grim expression. He didn't give Tony a chance to recover.
“You should have told us.”
Steve cringed as Tony cackled at that. “Told you? Told you what? 'Hey guys, remember how I was held by terrorists for three months? Turns out they come by the name honestly. But hey, I can get in the shower now, so long as I don't stick my face in the spray so that's a big step don't you think?' Yeah I can see that would've gone over great.”
“That's not the point, Tony.”
“Then what is the point, Clint?” Tony snarled. Steve flinched, shrinking in on himself as much as he could, curling back to press against one wall.
“As your team mates we need to know what kind of things trigger a flashback. What if one happened in the middle of a fight and we weren't prepared because you never told us that this happens sometimes?”
Tony shifted uneasily, hands clammy and slipping on the wet tile. The only thing that came anywhere close to being as awful as the flashbacks themselves was talking about it. “Look by the time it gets to where someone does something to trigger me, I'm already fucked. Someone trying to rip the reactor out isn't exactly going to have my best interests at heart.”
“What about a doctor touching your chest?” Clint's stance had loosened and his tone gentled, throwing Tony off. Hawkeye wasn't gentle, except occasionally with Natasha, so why was he trying to act kind now?
“Would that set you off?”
Tony paused, hating for Clint to be right, but had to reluctantly admit, “Probably.”
“That's something we need to know.”
Tony curled his knees into his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. The last thing he needed or wanted right now was to be attacked like this. His breathing was still shaky and if Clint kept harping on like this Tony was really going to just kiss the last of his dignity goodbye and break down crying.
“Can we just not?” Clint's eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to object, but Tony cut him off. “I'll have Jarvis work up a psych eval or something, but not right now. Not today, okay?”
Clint nodded, grudgingly, and stalked towards the elevator. The near silent swish of the doors announced his departure, and Tony felt some of the tension leave his spine and shoulders. Just him and Steve now. He was just mustering the effort to break the silence when Steve blurted, “I'm sorry.”
“It's not like you could've known.”
“Bucky was captured by HYDRA.” When Tony remained silent, uncertain of where Steve was headed with this, he continued, “He wasn't much a fan of water after that either.”
“How long did they have him?”
“About a week.”
Tony scooted across the pool deck until there was only a breath of space between them. He searched Steve's face, but failed to find an answer to the question suddenly pressing heavily on his mind. The words crawled up his throat like living creatures, “So you don't think I'm weak then?”
“God, no, Tony,” Steve sounded shocked, “I could never think that.” The super soldier wrapped him in a tight hug, and Tony shuddered as his muscles unlocked. Misinterpreting, Steve started to pull away, blue eyes filling with hurt and guilt. Panicking, Tony twisted further into the embrace and wound his arms around Steve's ribs before doing his level best to crush the breath from him. It couldn't have been comfortable for Steve, even with the enhanced strength, but he didn't complain.
This close, Tony could hear Steve's heartbeat. It felt like forever since he'd heard that sound, his own weak one long since drowned in the hum of the reactor. Steve ran gentle fingers through Tony's hair and that was the last thing he was really aware of before he fell asleep in Steve's arms.
****** ******** ******* Now ****** ******** *******
Steve knew he was a goner the second Tony fell asleep against him. The tiny snuffling snores, the way Tony clung to him, everything about the picture the sleeping genius presented was both completely adorable and irresistible.
If he's honest with himself, he knows that he already knew, and has known since Tony explained the reactor to him. Since Tony had trusted him with that knowledge.
It isn't until now, though, that the Captain has a chance to really think about what his feelings for Tony mean. had seen Tony drunk, but it had in no way prepared him for the kitten-weak and clingy Tony that apparently appears when the morphine comes out and it feels wrong to be having less than pure thoughts about his injured team mate.
Steve isn't completely naïve, no matter what Tony seems to think. He knows that a man can love a man or a woman a woman. That two men can get up to all sorts of things just as well as a man and a lady in the bedroom. He's just never really thought about another man as an option before, and certainly would've considered someone like Tony to be way out of his league.
Spiderman is distracting him for being able to give his full attention to his thoughts. The younger hero is wringing his hands and staring as Tony snores away. Peter hadn't been in the room for Tony's brief period awake, during which he'd mostly mumbled nonsense about wanting to see Steve in a tux and having nefarious plans on how to “make it work,” which was a reference that made Pepper snort and that Steve, as usual, didn't understand.
She'd really been something to see, chewing Spiderman a new one on every topic from spacial awareness to his treatment of civilians in general. By the end, Steve had felt ready to forgive and forget, especially since the poor guy looked about ready to wet himself. Anyway, instead of spending this time fuming and holding a grudge, Steve should be reading up on what to do once Tony was released from the hospital. Even though he'd be laid up for a week or so to let the wound heal, everyone had agreed it'd be best if he did it at home and Steve had volunteered for Tony-sitting duty.
He wants to be able to do the best job he can for his friend, and he's sure lots of medical advice has changed since he was last in the hospital and so he settles in for a long night of reading up on current first aid practices while Tony sleeps off the good drugs.
******* Then *******
Even if Team Movie Night had a few too many people to really be considered a date with Steve, Tony wasn't going to let that stop him. It was his turn to choose and after much deliberation he'd settled on House of Wax. After all, who didn't like seeing Paris Hilton's character brutally killed?
Steve, as it turned out.
“Are you alright, Steve?”
The sounds of more retching came from the bathroom. “Okay, so no.” Tony muttered to himself. In fairness, he'd sort of forgotten how graphic parts of the movie were, and that in the 40s they didn't even show couples sleeping in the same bed on TV. Or was that the 50s? 60s? Either way, definitely after Steve's time and Tony was an idiot and ruined their not-date.
Tony glanced around for something to distract himself from how badly this was turning out, when his eyes landed on a trashy rag of a magazine with a grainy photo of him and Natasha.
'Romance in the air?Billionaire Tony Stark seen out with as of yet unidentified gorgeous red head. There is speculation that the lovely lady is, in fact, the mysterious Black Widow. If so, this could prove to be a romance of epic proportions!'
Tony couldn't bring himself to read more. If Steve saw this, and the universe definitely hated Tony enough that he probably already had, then he'd wish his teammates the best of luck and that would extinguish any real chance Tony had. And then Tony would have to pine away like some ye olden day maiden and that was just bullshit. He's Iron Man. Iron Man shouldn't have to pine. Iron Man should fucking well sweep who ever the fuck he wants off their very much flattered feet.
He needed a drink.
******* ****** *******
Steve felt, at best, sheepish by the time he felt recovered enough to emerge from the bathroom. He hadn't expected to be so easily disturbed by what was, frankly, a very unrealistic film, considering everything he'd seen and done during the war. It was just that even the memory of part of that actor's face being peeled away was making his stomach roll in rebellion.
He tried to think of anything else.
His mind stubbornly replayed the scene again, and again.
“Steve! Ol' buddy, ol' pal. I'm sorry. About the movie, cause that's all I have to be sorry for, right? Jarvis? That's it right?”
“I believe so, sir.”
Tony swayed in place and grinned, over bright, at Steve. Howard, he remembered fondly, had been the same way when he got just the other side of tipsy. Over pleased with himself and everything around him. Steve seemed to remember quite a lot of groping of inappropriate areas happening back stage, mostly of the chorus girls, occasionally of himself.
“It's alright, Tony. I know you didn't expect that reaction. I didn't either, to be honest.”
“Let me make it up to you. I'll, I could redesign your shield or make your uniform more, uh, uniform-y? More patriotic? I'm sure I'll think of something, just give me a second here.”
Steve cringed at the thought of Tony so much as touching his shield with the intention of changing it. “I like my shield the way it is.” Tony's face crumpled, and the Captain felt like the worst person on the planet. “I mean, thank you very much for the offer and it isn't that I don't appreciate it, but um, maybe you could make my uniform's trousers fit better? They're kind of tight and tend to bunch up a little when I'm trying to move. It can be pretty uncomfortable sometimes.”
Tony lit up again, beaming and nodding his head like one of those little dogs Steve had seen in cars. “Oh, yeah, I can so do that. I'll even retro fit in some ball protection because tell you what, that's like, the second most armoured place on my suit. Cause, life without my balls wouldn't be nearly as fun.”
“Right... Um, what's the most armoured place?”
“The part that covers the reactor.” Tony's eyes were shadowed.
“Oh...that makes sense. It'd be bad if that was damaged right?”
The billionaire's shoulders hunched in, as if he was trying to curl around the arc reactor, as if Steve might try and take it from him. “Yeah. It's kind of what's keeping me alive, y'know?”
“Sort of. I mean, that's what it says in the file SHEILD gave me, but I don't really understand.”
Tony looked at him in silence for a moment that stretched long enough that Steve started to shift uncomfortably. “Come with me to the workshop.”
Steve padded along dutifully behind, following Tony into the depths of the Tower where he'd not explored before, wondering what it was exactly that the other man needed to show him.
The workshop is exactly how he'd imagined the future would be. For the most part, being in the year 2012 was disappointing. No flying cars, TV was largely the same even if color was pretty cool, and people were still just as turned around and mixed up as they'd been in his time. It really didn't seem to matter when or where he was, humans were generally human, all over the earth. Tony's lab though, looked like something straight from his science fiction dreams. Everything was shiny and holographic and mobile, it was like one of those movies where the characters went to an alien world on some sort of high-tech spaceship.
Steve was interrupted from his investigation of the workshop as Tony pulled up what looked like an x-ray on one of his screens. It was obviously the side view of a chest, but there was something punched in almost half way through and little white spots scattered around that.
“This is me, which you might have guessed. The big thing is the arc reactor, and it's a side view because that's the only way you can see the shrapnel that it's holding in place.”
“Shrapnel? From the bomb, right?”
“Yeah. With out the reactor, it starts to move towards my heart, where it'd kill me. Obviously.”
Steve stared, not at the x-ray, but at the faint light that showed through Tony's shirt. “Does it hurt?”
Tony's smiled was brittle. “Not anymore.”
*** ***** ***** Present **** ***** *****
Tony braces himself and depresses the play button. He had really been forced to hunt for an actual CD player that hadn't been long since cannibalised into something better, but there is no way he is letting this particular CD anywhere near his hard drive. Gritting his teeth and practically cuddling his favorite soldering iron, the really small one for precision detailing, Tony manages to endure a full thirty seconds of swinging big band brass before ripping the ear buds out and flinging the entire contraption to the far side of the workshop.
Dummy whirrs thoughtfully before blasting the CD player with his fire extinguisher, efficiently killing the noise that had still been blaring from it to taunt Tony.
He's only in the workshop because he managed to wake up during the thirty freaking seconds Steve had fallen asleep for. Sneaking with a stab wound had been the complete opposite of fun, and he knew that the others would know exactly where he'd gone, but he couldn't help himself. He just wasn't comfortable in the bedroom where he spent so little of his time, and the memories of the time he did spend there were all full of shallow sex and nightmares.
Yes, much better for him to be in his workshop playing around with code upgrades for Dummy. Which, hey, there's a thought. Maybe Dummy was only as stupid and useless as he was because Tony only ever seemed to code for him when he was either high as a kite on pain killers, drunk as a skunk or hadn't slept for a week or so.
“Jarvis, make a note. The next time I'm fully rested and not on any kind of drugs and am sober, remind me that I want to take a look at Dummy's code.”
The mental image of Steve in a tux came back to him from the hazy depth of half-remembered morphine dreams. “Oh, and Jarvis, be sure to invite Steve to the annual Captain America Charity Auction and Gala.”
“Are you sure that's wise, sir?”
“Of course it's wise. He'll love it, saving puppies or orphans or whatever they decided for honoring his memory.”
“It is a charity to support the families of soldiers declared MIA, sir, and it may make Captain Rogers uncomfortable because it was set up in his memory and he is still alive.”
“Just send the invite, Jarvis.”
“Very well, sir.”
***** ******* *******
So far the charity gala is everything Tony could have hoped for and more. He feels that his escalating feeling of deep paranoia is therefore completely and utterly justified, which is a total drag because Steve in a tux is one-hundred percent edible man-candy. Tony wants to just sit back and enjoy the sights, so to speak, but the niggling voice in the back of his head is determined that something is about to go wrong.
It's almost a relief when the first Doombot crashes through the picture window.
Lunging for the suitcase armour, wincing as his stitches pull, Tony does a quick survey of the area only to be frozen mid-motion at the glory that of Steve fighting robots in a tuxedo. It's all of his James Bond, Captain America, and just plain old Steve Rogers fantasies come to life at once. The fabric of the tux jacket bunches as Steve swings half an ice sculpture into the face of the foremost bot. The white shirt underneath looks like it's only barely clinging to its buttons, stretching tight across that magnificently muscular chest.
Pepper's voice brings him crashing back to the moment, just in time to avoid a robotic fist to the face. Engaging the armour, he's swinging before it's fully on, the gauntlets only just snapping into place in time to protect his hands. The Doombot's head crumples like a soad can, a display of truly shoddy production. No wonder Steve hasn't gone for his shield, he hardly needs it against this trash. If this is that best Doom can do, Tony almost feels bad for the guy. It must hurt to be this bad at something as easy as building robots like these.
Or maybe, Tony thinks, idly swatting another bot to the side and into a fountain where it shorts out, maybe it's only him that is noticing Doom's robots are all flash and no bang. Maybe that can be the next thing he does with Steve. A nice, romantic, robotics lecture, with an emphasis on why StarkTech is so much more advanced than what they're facing now. Fuck, Tony could probably make a better robot from just his cell phone, and hey now, there's a thought for later. At least if he has to fight with his stab wound, impalement wound really, it'll be an easy enough battle.
“Iron Man, pay attention!”
This time, Tony dodges right into the oncoming fist and wow, that explains where all the money for this little project has gone. Weak, crumply faces, and very ouchy, strong fists. His new vantage point from the floor did provide an excellent view of Steve's gorgeously tight ass sailing gracefully to his rescue. The lovelorn sigh loses a little something coming through the suit's voice regulator, but the emotion behind it is more than there.
***** ******* *******
“What is wrong with you, Tony? You've never been that distracted in a fight before. You could've been seriously hurt. Again. I mean, you've still got stitches in, the doctors told you to take it easy, even if there haven't been any complications.”
Steve has been ranting since they got to Tony's lab and his tone is so full of hurt, confusion and disappointment that Tony's brilliant brain shuts down. He's brought Captain America to near tears and he can't even offer any excuse other than the truth as a defence.
“I got distracted by your ass.”
“My what?!” Steve flushes bright red and sounds like he's choking a bit on his own spit.
“Okay, well not just your ass. Your general, you-ness. It's very distracting. Like right now for instance, we're talking and you're angry and sad and that sucks but I'm also wondering how you'd react if I just dropped to my knees and sucked your cock. Which, if you're wondering and or willing, I would very much like to do at some point.”
Steve is definitely choking on his ownspit now. Should Tony do the heimlich? What's the protocol for nearly killing a friend by confessing an undying lust for them? Or, oh, better plan.
Tony drops to his knees and crawls over to Steve, leaning up and rubbing his cheek against one firm thigh. “So, what do you say, oh Captain, my Captain?”
**** **** ***** ***** *******
"Make me choke on your cock, you know you want to and I promise I'll like it just as much. Come on, Steve, don't make me beg you. I will, though, if that's what it takes." Steve woke as the Tony in his dream dropped to his knees in a mirror image of when he propositioned the captain in reality. The image had stayed with him, haunting him whether he's awake or sleeping, interrupting everything from making breakfast to sparring with Thor. He's still unsure of how to react to Tony's interest. He knows that running away hadn't been the most mature response, nor something that fit with his reputation on and off the battlefield, but it had come so far out of left field that Steve hadn't been able to react any other way. And now he keeps having these inappropriate dreams. It's one thing to think about a team mate in a sexual way. Heck, he'd thought of Peggy like that a time or two, and Bucky more than once if he's being completely honest with himself. But those thoughts had always been gentle and romantic. Taking Peggy in front of a fire on a pile of downy soft quilts, or massaging all the tension from Bucky's back and shoulders before sliding oiled fingers into secret places that make him blush to contemplate. Nothing like the dreams he has of pushing Tony down, winding his hand through the other man's hair, and shoving his cock down Tony's throat until he gags. Or the dreams where Tony is the one to push him down onto the bed and ride him until they're both sobbing from the feel of it. No, he hasn't had dreams like these before.
It's the dreams that have pushed him to this, the worst game of hide and seek Steve has ever been forced to play, and he's including the hunt for HYDRA base and chasing Red Skull when he says that. Tony's house is too big, too many empty rooms, and he's sure he's checked that one bathroom on the forth floor at least three times now. And he still has no clue as to where Tony is.
He just needs to talk things out, ask Tony what he was thinking(besides the obvious) when he dropped to his knees like that. Steve's never been a casual romance kind of guy, and he's got the distinctly disappointing feeling that Tony is, but maybe that's not what the billionaire wants from him. If only he could ask, but to do that he has to find Tony.
As always, Jarvis's voice from nowhere startles Steve. It's just plain science fiction freaky to have a house that talks and he doesn't care what anyone else says about it because it's only Tony's house that does it and so it's not normal. Even for this century.
“You appear to be experiencing some difficulty, may I be of assistance in any way?”
Freaky. “I'm just looking for Tony.”
“Mr. Stark is in the Captain America Wing of the Stark Collection, which is in Sub-Basement Two.”
He's where? Steve valiantly ignores the name of the wing as he jogs towards the elevator. Jarvis must have said that as a joke. A very, very tasteless joke.
****** ****** ***** ******
“The Stark Collection, Captain America Wing” the sign read.
It's Tony's favorite place in the house and the one place he knows that Steve won't think to check, assuming Steve knows this room exists at all. He admits that it's more than a little extravagant to have an art gallery in his home, but he can't bear to part with a single item of his vast collection of Captain America memorabilia, and it's a little less creepy if he surrounds it with art and calls it the “Stark Collection”.
It's also an excellent place to get drunk and wallow in rejection, with the object of his affection staring at him from every framed vintage propaganda poster and painting. He's not even bothering to drink the good stuff, just cheap Kentucky bourbon because yee-haw America!
Does anybody even say 'yee-haw America'? He doesn't think so, but then he has had most of this bottle and turns out the cheap stuff still packs a pretty good kick once he drinks enough.
“Hey Jarvis, do you think Steve would like a repulsor fitted to that big ol' star on his chest? I bet I could make a star shaped one. Just for Steve.”
“I highly recommend against the idea, Sir. Past data suggests that any designs you attempt in your current state are likely to be highly explosive and dangerous to the user.”
“Pfft. That was what? One or two tiny little glitches.”
“The entire workshop had to be refitted after your latest 'glitch', Sir.”
“I still think Steve would like it.” Grabbing his bottle, Tony wobbles towards the door with a sick mix of desperation, determination and whiskey roiling in his gut. “I'm gonna build it. And I'm gonna make it play music, the national anthem and The Star Spangled Man With a Plan. Yeah, he's gonna love it. I'll make the music clap-on clap-off style. It'll be awesome.”
“I sincerely doubt that, sir. Due to Emergency Protocol 689-7 Point B I am now alerting Captain Rogers to your present location, state of inebriation and intentions towards your workshop.”
“No, no, no, don't do that, Jarvis! You'll ruin the surprise.”
**** **** **** ***** *****
“Uh, yea, Jarvis?”
“Mr. Stark is now making his way towards his workshop with the intentions of building a new design of replusor unit that has potential to be highly unstable. He has also consumed nearly an entire bottle of truly sub-par Kentucky bourbon.”
Steve speeds his steps. “Just through here, right Jarvis?”
“Indeed, you should be on a collision course with Mr. Stark intersecting-”
**** **** **** ***** *****
Tony is aware that whining at the person he desperately wants to have sex with is an almost sure fire way to never actually have sex with them. He's fully conscious of this little tidbit and yet here he is, whinging away at a surprisingly patient Captain America.
“No, Tony. No workshop, no coffee, and definitely no more alcohol. You've just gotten out of the hospital, are you really that eager to land yourself back there so soon? You weren't supposed to drink at all while taking that pain medication.”
Tony can feel his lower lip sticking out in what is definitely a pout worthy of a six year old. “But I'm bored. And you took my bourbon. And you won't let me work or do anything fun and my brain just doesn't shut off okay? It keeps on going and I'm not tired, and I'm only a little drunk, definitely not enough to go to sleep so don't even say that, I can see you thinking it from here. That's all I've done the past few days anyways. I'm fucking sick of it. Now, let me go work on something before my skull explodes or implodes or something else equally messy.”
His posture is broadcasting 'defensive' all over the room, but he still hunches his shoulders and crosses his arms defiantly as he stares Steve down. The other man looks concerned and confused in roughly equal measure.
“How about instead of you running away again, you and I have a talk about the other day.”
“Not fair to take advantage of me when I'm drunk. You always do this. I should lock you out of the Tower or something if I wanna drink.”
Sighing, Steve can't help but shake his head. “Why were you drinking again, Tony? I thought you were cutting back?”
“Well, I was drinking before because of that article where it was saying that me and Tasha were getting together cause I thought you'd tell us to ride off happily into the sunset and I don't wanna have to ride into the sunset with her. Cause she's scary.”
“...that was when you were talking about redesigning my uniform to better protect my, um, 'anatomy', right?”
“Yeah, cause every guy wants to protect his balls.”
“Right... and this time?”
“I was drinking because of feelings.”
“Yup. I don't like them, I don't do them, but I'm having them and so me and Bourbie were gettin' it on to distract me.”
“And are these feelings at all to do with me?”
Tony's eyes can really be incredibly expressive when he tries. Steve feels like he's just punched a kitten. “Maybe.”
“Ok, fine, yes they're you-feelings. But you ran away last time and I don't want to talk about it cause you obviously don't want me and that's find I'm used to that and I just have to try and remember that and it's no big deal ok?”
And now Steve really feels like a dirt-bag. “Tony, of course I want you.”
“But not like I want you.”
“I never said that! It's just, well, you came on a bit strong and it was very sudden and I didn't know what to do.”
“So you ran away.”
Steve chuckles. “Not my proudest moment, I will admit, but I needed the time to think.”
Visibly perking up, Tony inches closer, “So, you do want a relationship with me?”
“It's something I've been thinking about, yes. But I really don't think this is a conversation we should be having while you're drunk. Why don't you go to bed and we can talk about this when you get up?”
“We can talk about it now, now is good, no, now is great. Let's do now.”
“No, Tony. Bed.”
This time, Steve manages to resist the kicked kitten face and herd Tony out of the lab.
***** ****** *****
The pounding in his head is an old, old friend of Tony's. His tongue feels, and tastes, like he spent the night licking his Persian rugs and from the ache in his body, he might have done just that.
“What...did I end up drunkenly confessing things to Steve last night?”
“Unfortunately, sir, you did.”
“Ah. And, how, uh, how'd he take it?”
“Remarkably well, sir. I do believe Captain Rogers is anticipating continuing the conversation as soon as he is alerted that you are awake.”
Tony can't help be groan and drag a pillow over his head. Great. More talk about feelings and relationships and other things that make Tony feel like his skin is trying to crawl away from his body. “Is he at least making coffee?”
“He is indeed, sir.”
* * * * * *
Waiting for Tony to get up is a study in agony for Steve. He's had the coffee ready since Jarvis notified him that the billionaire seemed to be in the beginning stages of waking, but that had left him at loose ends now that it was done. Would Tony still want to be with him like that? Could the other man really see Steve Rogers through all the flash of Captain America and the ghost of Howard?
Staring blankly into the fridge isn't really helping to pass the time and isn't offering up anything he feels like eating either, for once. Jarvis's quiet “Captain Rogers?” nearly has him snapping the handle free of the door.
“Uh, yes? Is Tony up?”
“Sir is on his way to the kitchen.”
***** ***** ****
The light coming from the open doorway to the kitchen is blindly bright, reflecting off each cruel piece of chrome and directly into Tony's eyes. He doesn't care that that's mathematically impossible, because that is definitely what is happening. Ignoring the tall blonde problem standing awkwardly by the island, he staggers to the coffee maker and immediately downs a mug of just-barely-cool-enough caffeinated bliss. Half way through the second cup, he glances up and Steve manages to catch and hold his gaze.
“Tony, we need to talk. Are you ready to have this conversation?”
“Ready? No, not really, probably not ever but I'm sober and awake and that seems to fit your criteria for this song and dance so let's hit it.”
"Last night you asked me if I wanted a relationship with you. I told you that I've been thinking about it, but I need to know if you were serious or if that was just the bourbon talking. I haven't been here very long, but it's been long enough that I've heard about your reputation. That article about you and Natasha isn't the only thing I've seen, Tony."
Tony can't help but curl in on himself a bit, the hand unoccupied by coffee coming up to trace around the edges of the arc reactor. "Yeah, well, Steve, I don't know how much attention you've been paying to the time stamps on those particular articles, but they were all before my little three month vacay. You know me and Pepper didn't work out because she got tired of seeing me throw myself into danger, and she's the only one I've even tried to be with since I got back, okay?"
"I didn't know," Steve says, looking embarrassed. "I mean, I'm sorry, I hadn't noticed that. But I'd have known that if you'd talk to me about it.”
“It's not exactly something I feel like talking about over dinner.”
“Bucky never talked about it, either, and I could see it eating him up inside all those months we chased the Red Skull."
Tony rubs harder at the edge of the reactor. “What do you want me to say, Steve? That that wasn't the only reason Pepper left me? That she left me because I couldn't get it up half the time, that she couldn't ever fucking touch me without setting off a flash back? That she's been gone for months and I've been trying really fucking hard to be able to shower to try and show her that I'm getting better just so the one person who I thought could love me might come back even though I'm never really going to love her like that? Is that the kind of shit you want to hear, Steve? Just tell me what to say and I'll say it. I'll tell you all about how I can't sleep unless I've worked myself half to death and even then it isn't easy and that the reason Jarvis says the time, location and weather is because when I wake up I don't always know where I am. I'll tell you – I'll tell you-”
His throat closes up on him and he has to take a moment to just breathe. “I'll tell you whatever you want, if you promise not to leave me here alone.”
"I want you to tell me everything," Steve says, standing straighter now. He rounds the corner of the island, coming closer to Tony, who grips his mug impossibly tighter. "Every single thing that hurts you, that scares you, I want to hear about it. I won't leave you for it, not like Pepper did. I can't promise that I can help you, Tony, but I can promise to try and I can promise to stay.”
The rim of the reactor is digging into his fingertips hard enough to bruise and Tony can't breathe. He can't breathe and he can't think and the mug is dropping from his other hand as his nerves goes senseless and his brain is like a computer rebooting with a whole new operating system in place.
Steve promises to stay, promises to not leave him here alone.
Steve doesn't break his promises.
Steve continues to move toward Tony until he is only inches away. Their chests are close enough that a faint glow from Tony's reactor shows on Steve's white shirt. Steve isn't touching Tony, just looking down at him. Tony knows Steve is taller, but he's hunched in on himself making the distance between their faces larger than it would be otherwise. Tony isn't looking up, can't look up, even though he feels Steve's eyes burning a hole into the top of his skull.
"Tony," Steve says, the proximity and Tony's nerves making it seem much louder than it probably was. "I promise to stay, so long as you promise to be honest with me."
Steve's hands find their way to Tony's arms, the grip soft but startling enough that Tony flinches.
"Does this bother you, Tony?"
“It obviously bothers you a little, you flinched like I was hurting you.”
Tony glances up to Steve in panic but can only hold it for a moment before turning back to stare at the floor. “You didn't hurt me, you didn't. But, if I'm not expecting it, well, even if I am expecting it really, I don't really like to be grabbed or pulled any where.”
“And you don't like water.”
A shudder runs through Tony, and he feels Steve's hands tighten in a way that is reassuring for the moment, rather than confining. “No. I'm getting better but still, no. That trick with the mint that Clint pulled helped a bit though. When it got bad.”
"And you can fight," Steve tells him. "You can fight like there's no problem. You tried to take Thor down the first time you met him, and it didn't trigger anything when he hit you. You've never been triggered in any fight."
“I couldn't fight back in the cave.”
"But you did, in the end. You built the Mark One. You became Iron Man."
“That's not the same though. To get to where I could build, I had to give in. I had to break, you understand? They fucking broke me, Steve.” His breath shivers out of him and he leans forward to press his forehead against Steve's chest. The fabric of his t-shirt is soft and cool. “I'm so tired. Yeah, I can fight, I fight all the god damned time. Fight not to flip out when Clint or Natasha is just suddenly there. Fight not to drink and drink and drink until the scotch and whiskey and whatever else finally covers up the taste of that nasty ass water from the cave. Fight to keep breathing when I feel like my chest is in a vice and that there are people creeping up behind me even when I'm alone. I'm tired of fighting. I'm just tired.”
One of Steve's hands loosens it's hold on Tony's arm, and without ever losing contact with Tony's body, trails its way to his back. With fingers splayed, Steve's palm rubs gently down Tony's back, stops just above his hips, and moves back up toward his shoulders. Steve repeats the motion several times without saying a word, and Tony leans in so more than just his forehead is touching the Captain. Steve's second hand joins the other on Tony's back, and the stroking motion stops.
He's feeling confined, and a bit like the breath has been knocked right back out from where he'd finally caught it but this is Steve and he might love Steve and definitely wants to trust the other man not to hurt him. So, brain, this is not an attack, this is fine, whatever this is.
It takes Tony a few disjointed moments to realize that he's being hugged. Not a quick 'hey, happy to see you again' hug, the kind he got a million of when he got back, but a real, honest to God hug. It's the first real hug he can remember getting in a long, long time, and he snakes his arms around Steve's chest to return it. He feels Steve dip his head and breath out against his hair.
"If you're tired," Steve says, his breath tickling Tony's scalp, "we could go take a nap."
Tony lets out a quiet “hah.” It's not quite a laugh but it's the lightest this conversation has been and Tony is exhausted. Drunken sleep wasn't real sleep, not with his body trying to process all that alcohol and whatever else was in his system. He needed real sleep, and god didn't it just prove it that he didn't notice 'til now that Steve said 'we'?
"Well if you're so tired you're having trouble with basic English, maybe I should just carry you up."
Tony can tell Steve is trying to be gently teasing but the thought of his feet being lifted off the ground by another human instead of his suit thrusters is horrific. His muscles tense involuntarily, even as he finally manages to meet Steve's eyes, and the Captain looks a bit crushed but understanding which is even worse as far as Tony is concerned.
“I think I'll walk. Do you even know where my room is?”
“Uh, well no. We're going to your room?”
Tony starts to head back down the hall, carefully not turning back to gauge Steve's reaction to his next remark. “If we tried to sleep in your room or a guest room I can guarantee waking up to a panic attack and that's really something I'd rather skip if it's all the same to you.”
Tony can feel the Captain is doing his best to be as little of an intimidating presence as possible as he follows. Steve's footsteps are light, barely audible between his feet being bare and the luxurious plush pile of the carpet. He lets Tony lead him, stopping several steps away when they reach the bedroom door.
“We don't have to do this.” The Captain's voice is soft.
Tony bares his teeth. “No, but I want to.”
Steve closes the door behind himself.
******* ********* ************* ********* ********
The morning light in New York is rarely ever soft when it comes through the window. It has had to fight and shove through buildings and high rises to get there and by the time it does, it spears directly for the eyes, hoping for a hang over or two to exploit. This morning though, when the sun wakes him up, Steve does mind that it's stabbing straight into his eyes because Tony is curled up in his arms, face turned in to the curve of Steve's throat.
Sleeping, Tony looks younger, the intense focus of his waking hours relaxed for once. The dark shadows under his eyes make Steve frown, if Tony's willing to be with him maybe Steve will be able to convince him to eat and sleep on a more regular schedule. Then again, if Pepper couldn't do it, he might be hoping for too much, too soon. As if sensing his gaze, Tony stirred, muttering unintelligibly and nuzzling into Steve, tickling his throat with stubble.
“Tony,” Steve keeps his voice low, not wanting to startle the other man. “Tony, your beard is tickling me.”
“Steeeeveee.” Tony is not a morning person, though if he's honest Steve didn't expect him to be.
“Come on, Tony, wake up a little more and we can go get you coffee.”
Steve can't hold in a chuckle. “Yes Tony, coffee, all you have to do is let me get up so I can bring it to you.”
Tony flops to one side, burying his head under a pillow and flapping one hand in a loose wave. Steve rolls to his feet and pads down the hall to the kitchen, where Jarvis has a cup of steaming dark roast ready to go. Having been subjected several times to Tony's rant on the “hideous dilution of coffee with such foul misery as milk and sugar,” he knows to take it back to the bedroom as black as it is brewed.
Nudging the door open, Steve pauses to absorb the sight of Tony sprawled loose limbed on the bed like a star fish. He can't believe that there's a chance that this gorgeous man, who has suffered so much, is willing to try again with him. The mug clinks quietly as he sets it on the night stand and when he glances towards Tony, hoping to have a few more moments of watching him be this relaxed, but the bed is empty and Tony is pressing himself in the corner, pupils blown wide in panic, breath coming in shallow pants.
Immediately, Steve knows that this is a flashback, although he doesn't quite know what triggered it. He had thought it would be okay, since they had slept in Tony's room. He had even just talked to Tony, albeit a groggy, morning-Tony with an extremely limited vocabulary. Steve is momentarily overwhelmed by how easily Tony can be set off. Before Steve can even think of something to say to draw Tony back into the present, Jarvis is doing it for him. The omnipresent voice rattles off the day, time, location and weather, but Tony doesn't so much as blink in acknowledgement.
"Tony," Steve says. His voice is weaker than intended, so he tries again, louder and clearer this time. "Tony, you're in the Avengers Tower, in your room. It's just Steve. You invited me in here with you, remember? After coffee in the kitchen? We talked..." He pauses a moment to gauge Tony's reaction.
Again, Tony doesn't seem to comprehend. He's shaking in a way that makes Steve's stomach flip and his eyes are wild and unseeing. Steve wishes more than anything he had some of Hawkeye's mint paste.
Carefully, moving as slow and smooth as he can manage in an effort not to startle or scare Tony more than the other man already is, Steve presses himself into the opposite corner. He's tried everything he knows to do, doesn't know who to call or how Tony would react to being touched, and so now all he can think to do is try and wait it out, to be here for Tony when he surfaces from whatever is plaguing his mind.
* * * * * *
It's the clink of the mug against the wood of the night stand. Tony knows he's safe, knows it's just Steve coming back with coffee, but the sound is identical to when Yinsen used to set his tools down on their make shift table for the night and try to coax Tony to rest. He's pressing into the corner, just like he used to in the cave when his body would finally give out on him, and he can hear Jarvis reciting the information of where he is in a soothing monotone.
There's an over lap in his head. He can still see that Steve is there and he's in his room but the feelings are all from the cave. His heart is pounding and he's breathing like he did right after the surgery, before he learned to breathe around the unforgiving mass in his chest, pressing his lungs back and to the sides, reducing their capacity. Steve is talking and Tony tries to narrow his focus to just the words, tries to still his body and relax enough that he can at least respond.
After long minutes, he finally manages to choke out. “Jarvis. Again.”
“Yes, sir. It is currently sixty-two degrees Fahrenheit outside. The time is 9:28 AM and you are currently located in the master bedroom of the Avenger's Tower. Captain Rogers is present. The tower is otherwise uninhabited.”
The ringing silence after Jarvis finishes is overwhelming and Tony can feel his grip starting to slip again. “Steve. Talk. Please.”
"I'm sitting on the other side of the room. I left for a few minutes to get you coffee. It's sitting on the nightstand. Do you want me to hand it to you?"
“I know where you are.” Tony can't help the snarl in his voice. “It was the fucking coffee that was the fucking problem.”
Steve sounds gutted, and for a sick moment Tony takes a pleasurable sort of pride in his ability to cause it. “The mug hitting the night stand sounded like the tools in the cave hitting the table we had. You wanted me to tell you everything? Well this time, it was you. Last time, it was you. All you do is fucking trigger me.”
"I'm...Tony, God, I'm sorry," Steve eventually manages to choke out. His voice sounds like it's trying to escape his throat, and he's tripping over his words. "I am so sorry. I don't...I promised you I wouldn't leave. But if that's what'll help you, I can go. Do you - should I leave? Do you want me to go?"
Tony's body goes all over cold. He probably should have realized that that's what Steve would think he wants and he did, in the moment, want to hurt Steve that badly but he doesn't want Steve to leave him, he doesn't want to be alone. His hands are twisted so tightly in the fabric of his pyjama pants that the circulation is cutting off and they're cramping up. “No,” he breathes, “No, Steve. Please, stay. I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, it's not your fault, you couldn't know, I was just taking things out on you, oh please god don't leave me.”
Sobbing, Tony hunches over, and manages to unclench one hand enough to reach out towards Steve. He can only hope that the Captain manages to read what he wants, because Tony is barely sure of that himself.
But Steve knows what Tony needs. He can just hear soft footfalls approaching him over the throbbing of his own pulse. Tony isn't looking up, but he can imagine Steve crouching down in front of him, just outside his highly coveted space bubble. There isn't a single moment of hesitation between when the footsteps end Steve's hand closing over Tony's.
He grips back hard enough his knuckles go white. Steve's breath stirs the air just enough that Tony can start to sync his own up and as his heart rate settles he can uncurl further. He manages to lift his head so he can stare at Steve's position kneeling on the plush carpet. The captain's lap looks more and more comfortable and Tony allows himself to slide forward to curl his arms around Steve's waist.
"I won't leave unless you tell me to," Steve tells him. Again, Steve's head is above Tony's in this position. Tony's arc reactor is safely inches away from being pressed against Steve, but he feels incredibly close when the captain's voice comes from directly above him. "I won't ask again. You'll have to tell me, alright?"
Tony winds his fingers in the hem of Steve's shirt and breathes. He can do this. They can do this.
***** ***** ****** ***** ******
Two days after the incident with the coffee mug, Tony turns to face Steve over dinner and says "I want to have sex." And then, after a beat of stunned silence, "With you."
Steve's face brightens for a moment and he looks like he wants to say yes, but it's short lived. He averts his eyes for a second or two, then looks at Tony with a sad sort of scrutiny. Steve heaves out a sigh, rubs his hands together, looking more worn down than Tony has ever seen him.
"I want that, too, Tony," he finally says, but his voice is strained. "But I don't think we're there yet."
“What are you even talking about? I just said that I wanted to, why are you saying we're not there. If you want to, and I want to, how are we not there?”
"I don't want to trigger you." Steve says, but he isn't looking at Tony. His eyes are on his hands. He's still rubbing them like they're sore from overuse.
Tony doesn't bother to keep the scorn out of his voice. “I wasn't raped in the cave, Steve. As long as you don't try and rip the arc reactor out of my chest, we should be fine, so what's the real reason you don't want me?”
Steve's head whips up, his hands still, and with an intensity that almost startles Tony, Steve's eyes zero in on Tony's.
"I want you. God, I want you Tony," he says almost breathlessly. He pauses, and Tony can tell he's gathering his thoughts as Steve runs a hand through his hair. "Pre-serum Steve Rogers wasn't exactly a lady killer, and post-serum Steve Rogers was too busy being a HYDRA killer. Peggy was my girl, yeah, but we hardly ever saw each other once the Commandos and I went after the Red Skull's factories..."
"So you're what, scared? That you won't be any good?"
"I wish that was all it was," Steve shakes his head, and the smile on his lips is all wrong. Tony doesn't like it, so he tries to make it real.
"Afraid of gay sex?" He asks, and Steve laughs.
"Nah," Steve chuckles.
"Then what's got Captain America so spooked?" Tony asks.
"Captain America," Steve says with a sweeping gesture that encompasses his whole body. "If Steve Rogers had ever been lucky enough to find a girl who was into short, thin, and sickly, then all he would have had to worry about was performance. But Captain America...sometimes he forgets that he's not a twig anymore. It's normally not a big deal. I'll hold a cup too tight or twist a knob too hard. But what if it's you next time I slip up? You've already been hurt, I've already set you off twice, and I don't know what I'll be like during sex...it's a recipe for disaster, Tony."
“Okay, so, legit concern.” Tony paused to actually think instead of giving the first flip answer to come to mind. “I can't handle restraints during sex anymore, at least, not without us building up to it, even if they're on you, it just feels too coercive these days. But what if you hold onto the head board? It's got slats and I think it's strong enough that it won't break, it's not like I can't just buy a new one if it does.”
“And where would that leave you?”
Tony can't help but grin. Steve being this innocent is just adorable. “Well, that's up to you, soldier. If you think you can hold on better laying on your stomach, I'll stretch you out and fuck you 'til you see stars. If you'd rather be on your back and facing me for your first time, I'll ride you like the picture of human perfection you are.”
With the right technology, Tony is sure he could run some sort of devise from the heat generated by Steve's blush. “Oh, uh, w-well...”
Tony's grin widens manically. “Well, I'm more than happy to decide since the cat's got your tongue.” He leers directly at Steve's crotch, “And I most definitely want to be able to watch your face as you come apart beneath me.”
Snatching up Steve's hand, he cackles and drags the Captain towards the bedroom. Plan of attack time. Everything is new to Steve, and the super soldier is already anxious about hurting Tony, so it's probably best if he handles all the prep while Steve lays there and, he's guessing, hyperventilates.
Tony can't wait.
* * * * *
Steve is naked, flat on his back gripping the promised headboard slats like his life depends on it, and if Tony moans like that one more time, he's going to lose it. The billionaire has three fingers slipping in and out of himself, lube squelching in a way that should be revolting but is making Steve's cock jump and pulse against his stomach.
Tony twists his fingers in as deep as they'll go one last time and then pulls them free with a whimper. He wipes them on the sheet before reaching for a condom.
“Don't try this until you've had as much practice as I have, because you can rip it and that defeats the purpose entirely.” Tony says before he proceeds to tear the wrapper open with his teeth.
“I'll uh, keep that in mind?” Steve's voice cracks as Tony rolls the condom onto him in a smooth movement.
He shifts his grip on the slats, gripping hard enough that they creak under the strain. “Yeah, yeah.”
Tony throws a leg over his hips, aligning himself above Steve. He reaches back, touching the edges of his hole, the muscle twitching, before stretching to guide Steve into him. The slick slid into the heat of Tony's body is delicious and Steve hears the slats crack in his heads. His back arches up hard enough that Tony is lifted up so his knees nearly leave the bed.
Tony's hands come up to grip at Steve shoulders. “Oh, oh Steve, you do n-not need to worry about performance. Hah-hoo boy, that is nice.”
A flush of pride adds to the blush Steve can already feel burning across his cheeks. He manages to relax to lie back against the bed, and Tony takes that as his cue to start moving. He doesn't so much lift himself, as undulate his hips, grinding into Steve and clenching around him.
Steve wants to hold out, wants this to last, but the pleasure is building up, tightening the base of his spine and he's lifting to thrust up gasping, his hands shaking around the shards of head board. Tony reaches up to pry his hands free. “I trust you Steve, and if you don't let go you're going to hurt yourself , come on, come on sweet heart.”
He unlocks his fingers one at a time and lets Tony guide his hands to rest on Tony's hips. He grips gently, and uses his new grip to lift Tony nearly off and then pull him down firmly. Tony lets out a sharp gasp and arches backwards, held in place by Steve's broad palms. “Oh god-oh-oh right there Steve, right there.”
Steve's always been a quick learner and he lifts Tony again and again, his cock hitting the same spot inside again and again. Tony curls over him, palming his own cock, internal muscles fluttering, and Steve's climax blindsides him. It feels like he comes forever, his vision greying out and he can hardly breathe.
He comes back to himself and Tony is stroking himself, pupils blown wide and lip parted around each moaning breath. “That was gorgeous baby, I want to watch you every time you cum, oh god.”
Steve smiles blearily up, flexing his fingers around Tony's hips and that's enough to tip Tony over the edge. He stripes Steve from navel all the way up to his chin. Steve wrinkles his nose slightly, and Tony giggles as he falls to the side. The condom is just as messy to remove and from the way Tony laughs out right, Steve knows he did it wrong but he can't bring himself to care. The physical pleasure of sex is great, definitely, but the sense of closeness it gives, that he feels connecting him to Tony, that is at least as good, if not better.
He pads into the bathroom, trying to ignore that his legs are trembling. A soft wash cloth takes care of the mess on his chest and he brings one with him as he heads back to bed and Tony. The billionaire reaches out for it and Steve jerks it away. At Tony's incredulous stare, he blushes but remains determined. “Let me?”
Tony smiles and it's soft and intimate in a way Steve hasn't seen before. He lies back and spreads his legs, crossing his arms behind his head. “Okay then.”
Cleaning the lube from between between Tony's legs is almost meditative. He throws the cloth onto the night stand, where it lands with a wet thwump, and crawls to rest his head on Tony's shoulder, wrapping his arms around Tony's narrow waist, careful not to brush anywhere close to the reactor. He hates to fulfil the cliché, but within moments, he can feel himself falling asleep as Tony runs a hand through his hair.
***** EPILOGUE *****
They've been together for nearly a year when Tony calls him down to the workshop in the middle of the afternoon. It's not that uncommon but something in his voice tells Steve that something is up. He hopes that it isn't a flashback or panic attack because Tony hasn't had one in nearly three months and that gives Steve a deep sense of personal satisfaction, that he's been as good for Tony as Tony has for him.
When he gets down there, it takes him a moment to figure out where Tony is. The lights are all dimmed except for right around the strange chair surrounded by monitors that Steve hasn't ever seen used before. Now, leads are hooked up to Tony's bare chest and his pounding heart rate is lined in green on the display.
“What's going on?”
Tony's eyes are more than a little manic as he grins over at Steve. “I have an early anniversary present for you.” He lifts a hand up to twist the reactor free, applying pressure to the bioscanners that make it possible. Steve can feel the air wuff out of him as Tony pulls it nearly free, only just connected by the thin wires that keep him safe and alive and he's not worried about Tony anymore because seeing the gaping hole where the reactor normally sits nearly breaks Steve's heart.
“Steve, baby, shh, it's okay come here. I'm fine, I promise, look it's still connected, I'm fine.”
He staggers to Tony on legs that are numb with shock. Tony holds his free hand out and Steve clutches it like a life line. “Why are you doing this?”
Tony smiles that same gentle smile that Steve has become familiar with ever since their first time together. “I want you to hold it.”
Steve's hand comes up on autopilot before what Tony has said registers. He's about to jerk it back into his chest, to say that he doesn't want that level of responsibility, that he doesn't care that Tony thinks he's ready for that because Steve isn't, but before he can, Tony drops it into his palm. He is holding Tony's heart and it hums with quite energy and Steve knows his eyes are wild as they look to Tony.
“I uh, changed the biolocks a bit. Cause if there's ever a problem and I can't change it which is likely, I need someone who I trust to change it out. So I need to show you how to put the new one in. Now, if this one was dead, you'd have to disconnect the wires, but I don't really feel like going into cardiac arrest right now so we're gonna skip that step. If you had to, the ports are color coded to match the wires. But now, see these grooves? Line them up with the ridges on the reactor and slid it on home.”
Steve follows Tony's instructions, swallowing harshly at the slick feel of the reactor sliding into its port. He can't help but press his hand against the face of it as it sits flush to Tony's chest. “Please, never make me do that again.”
“I don't want to have to, baby, I really don't. But look at me for a minute here.” Tony waits for Steve to meet his eyes. “There's no one else I'd want to trust with my heart.”