Chapter 1: Integrate
At first, that is how Steve wakes up.
At first, that is how Steve wakes up feeling.
At first, that is what Steve ends up doing when he can’t sleep anymore. And when he’s done pacing, he goes down to the communal kitchen and tries to sort his head out.
Usually, this takes place in the middle of the night, somewhere around three in the morning.
Usually, Steve’s the only one awake.
But not this morning.
Steve sees five people all assembled around the kitchen counter, seemingly sitting in wait for his inevitable arrival.
He scratches his arm absently and frowns. “What is this?”
Natasha is the first to speak, looking at Tony pointedly, as if to tell him not to speak yet. “We’ve noticed that you’re having some trouble adjusting.”
This confuses Steve. He doesn’t think anyone’s noticed, nobody had said anything. That’s when he realises that both Clint and Natasha could stay undetected in one place for as long as they wished. They’re both resourceful and do what needs to be done.
“I’m being watched?” Steve asks quite defensively. He’s in the company of friends, but still. A life spent on guard will do that to you.
Tony shrugs. “Jarvis is always watching.”
“Always?” Clint asks, swallowing nervously.
Tony sighs. “Yep. I gotta hand it to you, Barton. Didn’t know anyone could bend that way.”
Bruce tuts. “We’re getting off track. Steve, we’re just a little bit worried about you. You’re not sleeping in a consistent pattern and when you do, well it’s not exactly what anyone would call peaceful.”
“And this is from the guy who turns into a big green rage monster,” Tony claps Bruce on the back, the latter shaking his head slowly. “Point is, we’re here for you, Cap.”
“We want to help, friend,” Thor grunts from the far side of the table. “On Asgard, problems with rest are usually solved by granting a person a new bed companion. Or several, depending on the severity of the troubles.”
Clint frowns deeply. “Not sure that’s what Cap needs, buddy.”
Natasha snorts. “What the boys are trying to say, Steve, is that none of us know how hard it is to wake up seventy years after you thought you died in the ocean. But every single one of us knows how much damage inconsistent sleep can do. I was on mission and had to watch a target for as long as they were in the house. Had to stay awake for four days. I won’t go into the details, but it wasn’t pretty.”
Steve shakes his head lightly. “Thank you all for being concerned, but I’m okay. Sure, I’m not sleeping when I should be, but I’m sleeping. I’ve always had nightmares, so that’s nothing new. There’s nothing you guys can do about it.”
Thor rolls his eyes. “Nonsense, Steve.” He walks towards the soldier firmly, grasping his shoulders. “Friends can always help another friend in need. You’ve been frozen for seven decades, which I hear is a long time here on Midgard.”
Steve just nods, resigned to the fact that his friends aren’t going to give up. He loves them and hates them for that.
Bruce takes the wheel swiftly. “Steve, accept that you’ve been through something awful. Learn to deal with it. Let us in.”
Steve sighs. “I won’t burden you all with my problems. I appreciate the gestures, but I think this is something I have to deal with alone.”
“How many times have you said that in your life?” Natasha barks. “Let other people worry about you and not let them help. Life sucks for all of us, Steve, but it sucks more when we’re alone.
“You’re grieving, Steve. All the people you were standing side by side with in the 40’s are either really old or already dead. That’s a big thing to grasp and we’re the only people you’ve got. I’m sorry for being blunt, but you needed to hear it.”
Steve supposes he did and silently thanks Natasha for her brutal honesty. And she’s right, of course. The five people standing in front of him are the only people he’s got. He does briefly consider Nick Fury, but can anyone really depend on the Director of SHIELD? He takes a look at their faces, desperate for him to let them in, to let them help him. He’s never liked people helping him out of pity, that’s what he used to say to Bucky whenever Steve suffered from another bout of illnesses. You shouldn’t have to help me just because you can, Buck. Those words repeat themselves in his mind and that’s when he realises.
They want to help not because they can, but because they’re his friends and they want him to be happy. Steve blinks as he also realises that was what Bucky had tried to do. Well he’s not going to make the same mistake again. He’s not going to shut everyone out and put it down to pride. Not anymore.
“You’re right. All of you. If you think there’s a way to help, I’m open to it.”
He sees the smiles on their faces and knows that all it takes is to let them in.
It starts that night.
After much discussion, Thor’s neglected suggestion actually seems the most logical, though it’s not enforced in the way Thor meant it.
Initially, Clint perches himself on a chair overlooking Steve’s bed, not watching him sleep, but monitoring his breathing and checking for signs of distress. He brings a book, Anna Karenina, to occupy his thoughts and keep his mind active. He’s in no danger of falling asleep, but it’s just in case. Clint doesn’t like to let people down, especially not a national icon.
So when Steve wakes up, sensing a foreign presence in his room, it takes Clint half a second to react to the unusual movement.
“It’s just me, Steve,” Clint says, hands in the air.
“Oh. Clint,” he breathes, as though he didn’t recognise the man upon first sight. “What time is it?”
“Just past two,” Clint answers evenly, “and you’ve been out for just under three hours.”
“You don’t have to keep sitting here, Clint. I’m sure you want to sleep.”
Clint works at suppressing a yawn and Steve looks pointedly at him. “Steve, remember what we all talked about. You need to let people in. You’re so used to putting other people first that you don’t know what it feels like to accept help. And I’m fine, I’ve never really been a heavy sleeper.”
“Maybe somebody should be helping you,” Steve mutters before settling back into his position and closing his eyes.
“Yeah,” Clint mumbles to himself, “maybe.”
Steve’s out for maybe another two hours before he begins mumbling. Clint’s eyes flicker to the sleeping man as the noises escalate. Mumbles become whispers. Whispers become normal speech. Normal speech becomes shouts. And shouts become unadulterated screams of pain and distress. Clint’s over there in a heartbeat, hand on Steve’s chest, trying to keep him rooted to the spot. It seems to work, though Clint is unable to stop the twitch in Steve’s legs and the clench of his jaw.
“Steve, you’re okay. You’re safe.”
“No! I have to put this plane in the water!”
Clint blinks quickly as he understands that Steve still thinks he’s fighting in the Second World War and that he’s back sacrificing himself for the good of people by crashing the plane.
“Steve, you’re not on a plane. It’s me, Clint. You’re at Stark Tower, you’re not on a plane.”
Steve cries out as though in pain and grits his teeth like he can’t handle it anymore. “I have no choice, Peggy!”
Clint winces and takes a deep breath. As an assassin, he’s not equipped to deal with comforting someone who’s in this kind of position. “Steve, wake up!” Clint shakes his heavy body to no avail. Muttering a quick apology, Clint strikes him across the face sharply. “Steve!”
Steve jerks awake, breathing heavily, a hand to his face. “What happened? Where am I?”
Clint laughs softly. “You’re in your bedroom at Stark Tower. You live here now. The year is 2012. Do you know who I am?”
Steve sits up, rubbing his eyes. “I know who you are, Clint. I…I was on the plane. It was crashing.”
“You’re not there anymore, Steve. That happened seventy years ago. Okay, I’m going to need you to breathe with me. In. And out. And again…”
Steve complies, taking deep breaths, remembering that it helps him to focus on his breathing.
“Good, that’s good, Steve.”
Steve nods. “Thank you.”
“No need for that. I’m just doing what I can for a friend.”
Clint absently strokes Steve’s hair lightly, using his other hand to secure Steve in case he isn’t fully integrated with reality quite yet. Steve doesn’t push his hands away, because something feels right about it, in a way that he’s never felt before. He adjusts his position and Clint blinks pointedly.
“Do you want me to stop? If I’m making you uncomfortable…”
Steve shakes his head. “No, not at all. Would it surprise you to hear that I was enjoying it?”
Clint smirks. “Not one little bit. I’ve been known to have a soothing touch.”
“Bet the dames can’t get enough of that.”
“Nobody says dames anymore,” Clint replies quietly, “and besides, who said anything about me being into women?”
Clint smirks once more, kissing Steve’s head gently. “You should sleep a little more if you can. Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you wake up.”
And Steve doesn’t doubt that he will be.
Chapter 2: Bonding
“Wait, do we actually have to do this?” Steve questioned to the group as they left Fury’s office.
“Apparently so, Cap,” Tony replied quickly as he walked ahead of everybody as usual. Bruce slipped his hand into Clint’s and the archer smiled, squeezing it like it was second nature for him to do so. They had only just become an item, but their synchronicity was unquestionable.
After an incident involving misfired rockets, Nick Fury was clamping down on their teamwork skills. Obviously, Bruce and Clint had that down (as Steve had so unwittingly discovered one night in the kitchen), but it was about the others.
After the battle of New York, there was still some palpable tension between Steve and Tony and all of their disagreement. Tony would never fail to bring up the fact that he saved the world and Steve would grow increasingly tired of the gloating. He would always be grateful to Tony for laying down his life for the rest of the world, including himself, but Steve wasn’t down for the excessive bragging. Steve would roll his eyes and Tony would snarl at him, that was their routine. After Natasha had joked about there being some sort of sexual tension between them, both parties had denied it and boiled it down to the other one being incessantly ignorant. They were Steve’s words, anyway. Tony’s were much more violent. Natasha had smirked and known that it would just be a matter of time before it came to a head.
Apparently, Nick Fury’s mandated bonding session was the place for that.
Thor had a smile on his face as they walked to the common area. “Come on, friends, this is not so bad! At least there are no threats to this world. It is a good idea to get to know each other better! On Asgard, bonding exercises are common, though they often take place in the bedroom!”
Bruce chuckled. “I don’t think that’s much of an option here, buddy. Unless we were to invite Sam and Jane over and let all of our inhibitions go, then it’s not really an option.”
Tony gaped. “Are you forgetting there are some of us that are unattached?”
Steve nodded. “And not partial to a casual orgy?”
Natasha scoffed. “Not yet, anyway.”
“What was that?” Tony pried.
Natasha simply smirked and walked ahead of them. Tony cocked his head to side and Steve slapped his arm.
“You shouldn’t ogle her like that,” Steve admonished, “she’s more than just something to stare at. She is a person, Stark. How would you like it if all I did was ogle you and not acknowledge your value as a human being?”
Tony shrugged. “I don’t think it would be the end of the world.” With a quick wink, Tony went on to join Natasha. Steve frowned at the unusual feeling in his stomach as Clint slung an arm around his shoulders.
Clint sighed. “Face it, buddy. You’re in love with Tony Stark.”
Steve opened his mouth to vehemently deny this preposterous accusation, but found himself unable to. For reasons unexplainable, he said nothing and moved on with his day.
Sam and Jane understandably excused, the group found themselves settled around the coffee table, looking at each other expectantly. Everybody seemed to turn to Tony, the social butterfly of the group. Under different circumstances, it would be Thor but his lack of Midgardian knowledge meant that Tony was their social guru and thus the leader of this little bonding session between superheroes.
“So what is actually happening here?” Steve posited. “Is the exercise to see how long we can quietly stare at each other?”
Bruce rolled his eyes, sensing that Steve was in a mood, but let it go when his eyes lingered on Tony a little too long. One look at Clint told him everything he needed to know. Oh. It’s like that. Clint just nodded and continued observing Tony as he had been doing for the past ten minutes.
Tony scoffed. “There’s clearly awkwardness between us, Cap. All we’ve done together is save the world…well, besides Hulk and Katniss over there, but that’s a different story. I propose we make this mandatory S.H.I.E.L.D get together more exciting? Alcohol and a high school teenage girl game? And before you say it, Cap, we know you can’t get drunk. This is for us.”
Steve scowled at him, feeling his heart thump in his chest when Tony locked eyes with him. What is going on? Could Clint be right? No, surely not!
When Tony returned with several bottles of alcohol from his personal collection, Natasha groaned.
“Please tell me we’re not playing Truth or Dare,” she pleaded.
Tony stopped for a second. “Huh. We weren’t going to, but I actually think that’s an excellent idea, Widow.”
When Clint turned to Natasha, she winked subtly at him and nobody else saw it but him. He nodded, understanding immediately. Wait a few rounds until Tony gets into the game and drinks a little. Then goad him into picking dare if he hasn’t already and then dare him to kiss Cap. Got it. Piece of cake.
Steve paused. “Does Truth or Dare sound like what I think it sounds like?”
Thor hummed in agreement. “I’m with Captain Rogers. This sounds like a farce.”
Tony inhaled and patiently explained the rules, ignoring the way that Steve was looking at him. That was a can of worms not to be opened.
Thor rubbed his large hands together. “We must begin immediately! I will not back down from a challenge.”
So the game began.
“Nat, truth or—?”
Natasha snorted. “Do you even need to finish that sentence?”
Clint nodded. “Dare it is then. Call Sam and get him worked up on speakerphone.”
“Really, Clint?” Bruce chuckled.
Natasha shrugged. “I’m all for embarrassing my boyfriend.”
Steve smirked a little and sat forward, able to take enjoyment out of Sam’s discomfort. It sounded worse in his head. Sam had made him uncomfortable many times in their friendship.
Nat listened for the dial tone and smirked when Sam picked up. “Hey, baby.” She eyed the other Avengers and put her finger to her lips.
Sam’s voice was cracked and strained. “You okay, Nat? I thought it was superhero game night tonight?”
Natasha moaned seductively. “Oh, it is, but I slipped away for a while. I needed you.”
Tony’s mouth fell open at how in character Natasha was getting. He felt something in him stir and he tried to suppress it. He didn’t need that right now. Clint knew how this was going to end, he had witnessed it before. Thor was unsure of what was happening but was definitely intrigued. Bruce and Steve stared at each other, as embarrassed as the other clearly was. They were more upstanding than the others, not that they didn’t have their private sides. Bruce, in fact, was incredibly kinky when with Clint and appreciated some good foreplay. Clint also appreciated it, very much.
Sam coughed. “You just can’t resist me, can you?”
Steve rolled his eyes in sync with Tony, making Bruce smirk at them.
Natasha bit her lip. “Even just thinking about you is getting me so hot.”
And that was all Steve registered. His blush was a deep red and he had tried to focus on other things. The way he saw it, sexual acts and exchanges were for the bedroom and not to be witnessed by anybody else. He didn’t judge Clint for making her do it or Natasha for actually doing it, but it wasn’t something he would have felt comfortable with himself.
Natasha looked to Steve. “Truth or dare, fearless leader?”
Steve paused. “Uh, truth?”
Natasha huffed, eyeing Clint pointedly. No, it’s too soon and too easy. Clint understood.
“Tell us all your first impressions of us.” Natasha thought that was a smart play. It was getting tensions rising between Steve and Tony, making everything so much more heated by the time their inevitable union came around.
Steve nodded steadily. “Uh, they were mostly in terms of professionality, I guess.”
“I mean personally, Steve.”
Steve nodded in understanding. He rattled off his impressions of them all, each team member satisfied enough with their descriptions:
Thor- reliable and kind.
Clint- easy going and resilient.
Bruce- intelligent and respectful
Natasha- wise and fearless
Except for Tony.
Tony- hot headed and arrogant.
Normally, Tony would have been absolutely fine with such a description, but something about Steve telling him his thoughts put him out a little bit. In reality, though, Steve had two other words picked out for Tony.
Gorgeous and alluring.
At the last minute, he had decided not to share them with everyone, especially Tony. Even though he figured everyone knew about the connection he and Tony supposedly shared, he wanted to keep his feelings to himself. He wasn’t sure if his words would have hurt Tony or not. The man had a thick shell, but those who cared about him could easily pierce that and that was what he hated more than anything. Wait.
How did Steve even know that?
Could it be that he was paying more attention to Tony Stark than he realised? Maybe Clint was right.
I mean, it wouldn’t be that out of the question to have feelings for Tony. Did my heart stop a little when he carried the nuke into the portal? Yes. Did I find it hard to breathe when he winked to me earlier? Possibly. Oh, god, how could Steve have missed it?
“Oh my god,” he whispered to himself. Tony’s eyes flickered over to him but flickered away just as quickly.
Clint turned to Natasha. Anytime now.
“Steve? It’s your turn?” Bruce prompted and Steve came back to reality, continuing the game. A few more rounds passed. Tony had to drink three vodka shots in lieu of answering a truth question. He knew what it was going to be and wasn’t ready for that yet. Clint was dared to eat something of Thor’s choice off of Bruce’s body, which the archer thoroughly enjoyed (and so did everybody else for that matter). Thor answered every truth question with no shame, even admitting to fantasising about each of the team members in various sexual positions. Tony made a mental note to get Thor to elaborate, but now was not that time.
Finally, Natasha had had enough. After answering a question about her sex life, she turned to a slightly inebriated Tony. “Truth or dare?”
Tony hiccupped and blinked rapidly. “Dare. Why not?”
Natasha shrugged. “Say or do what you’ve been meaning to for weeks now.”
Steve had no idea what that meant until Tony glowered at Natasha and turned his whole body towards him. The eye contact alone was more than enough to make Steve tingle, never mind to overwhelming discomfort that threatened to swallow him whole.
“Steve fucking Rogers,” Tony began, slurring his words slightly. “Where the hell do I even begin? Fuck, Steve, I don’t even know what to say. I guess it’s easier to just tell you straight up.” Another hiccup. “I love you, Steve. I love you so much that I didn’t even think it was possible to keep it myself. Apparently, I didn’t, considering you’re the only one who didn’t know. I know that I’m slightly drunk and you’re probably not going to take this seriously, but it’s true. And I don’t care if you feel the same way or not, no that’s a lie, I absolutely care. But you said it yourself tonight, I’m hot-headed and arrogant, everything Captain America should not be involved with.”
Steve blinked past his bewilderment and walked over to Tony, pressing his lips firmly against the other man’s to shut him up. Tony’s words got lost in Steve’s mouth and all was forgotten as Steve drank in the taste of whiskey strongly on Tony’s tongue. Steve pulled back and kissed him more chastely this time.
“I guess it’s a good thing that Captain America isn’t here to disapprove of your language and tell you to watch your manners. But I’m Steve and Steve thinks that Tony is amazing and perfect and Steve loves Tony, too.”
Tony frowned. “Okay, you should really stop talking about yourself in third person, it’s creepy. But I’m all about the kissing, the kissing’s good. More of that.”
Steve smirked and kissed him again, sitting fully on Tony’s lap now, sinking into the chair below them.
Bruce and Clint felt themselves getting a little bit aroused by the display in front of them and were definitely going to use that as inspiration in their games. Natasha was proud of her scheming and Thor looked bemused.
He shook his head to clear it. “Was I the only one who didn’t see that coming?”
Chapter 3: Assembled Hearts
Steve smiled at the feeling of Bruce’s head nuzzling into his chest and then again at the contented sigh the doctor released as he got comfortable in Steve’s embrace. It had taken them a while to become physically intimate, even though they hadn’t been sexually intimate. That was something that Bruce really felt anxious and uncomfortable about, even though he wanted it more than Steve knew. He wasn’t going to put Steve in danger like that and Steve would let Bruce control the pace of their relationship so he felt at ease around his new boyfriend.
“I had a thought, about what we were talking about earlier,” Bruce murmured, breaking the serenity that washed over them.
Steve stopped stroking the tough curls and hummed in response, signalling for Bruce to continue. Steve was so relaxed that words weren’t coming easily to him.
“I think we should go after what we want. We both want it and I think the others do, too.”
Steve sighed. “There wasn’t anything like this in my day. Men courted women and women found a nice working man to provide for them while they had kids. That was the way everybody was. This is all so…new. Just being with you is something I would have never considered before waking up from the ice. As soon as I met you, I knew everything was going to change. Then I met the others and everything changed again.”
“Tell me about it,” Bruce requested and Steve went back to threading his hands through his boyfriend’s hair.
“It wasn’t just me feeling things for someone anymore. It was me looking at five different people and knowing that my feelings for all of them were the same. I felt the same every time I talked to them, when they talked to each other. I know you understand that.”
Bruce swallowed nervously. He wasn’t great with expressing his feelings, but he was getting better at it, thanks to Steve, who had no problem sharing things he felt with great poetry in his arsenal. “I saw Tony first. It was eye-opening. After everything that’s happened with me, it felt strange to feel something so normal. And then I met everyone else and normalcy became less likely.
“I mean, you get it, so you know how each of them has such an aura about them. When we started this, I was scared that my feelings for them were going to get in the way of this. That if they weren’t on board of if you weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to only be with you. I know now that I would be, but sometimes it doesn’t stop me from wondering. Who was first for you, besides me I mean?”
“Nat,” Steve swallowed. “One of the things I love about all of you is how there are no punches being pulled. Everyone is forthright and has no regrets about it. Nat says whatever she’s thinking and doesn’t apologise for it which is admirable. Tony makes some risky jokes sometimes, but his lack of fear is what I love. He’s confident, knows that he’s brilliant. Thor has been raised to presume that all honesty is good honesty, which could be a burden, but the fact that he’s sensitive balances that. He won’t say things that’ll hurt people, only things that people need to hear.
“Clint is much the same. He won’t object to being blunt if it’s in someone’s best interests. He’s caring, protective and will do anything for those he cares about. You two have that in common.”
Bruce smiled sweetly. “I had no idea you’ve observed everyone this much.”
Steve quirked his lips wickedly. “Can I tell you something? Sometimes when I’m sketching, I’m not actually sketching. Sometimes I write down little nuances about you all. Things that I wouldn’t otherwise notice were I not paying complete attention. A lot of the time I am drawing pictures of everyone, but I can’t help but make notes of things that I observe.”
“Tell me some things.”
Steve chuckled softly at the inquisitiveness and how even a direct request sounded tentative when coming from his boyfriend. “Okay. Well, have you noticed Nat tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear?”
Bruce shook his head simply.
Steve smiled. “She does that when she receives a compliment she doesn’t quite believe. Something she’s been conditioned to do, probably. She doesn’t even consider herself human, Bruce. She was raised to be a weapon and that’s all she thinks of herself as. The reality is that she’s so much more and I wish she knew that. I should tell her more often.
“She’s dynamic yet reserved at the same time. She’s fiery and icy. She’s the perfect balance. Not to forget that she’s insanely beautiful and possibly the most emotionally strong person I know. I respect her very much and I’m proud to know her.”
Bruce put a gentle hand on Steve’s arm. He didn’t know when they had moved from their comfortable position, but they were now both sat cross-legged in front of each other, the slightest contact just enough to show their affection. They were at a point in their relationship where they didn’t really need to affirm their feelings for one another, but Bruce found that the gestures were nice and he appreciated that Steve shared the same point of view.
“Really, I should tell all of them how loved they are,” Steve chuckled, “but it’s not quite that simple. It’s a strange dynamic we all have already and I don’t want to complicate that even further once they know. We’re a good team both in the field and out and that could be ruined.”
Bruce nodded. “With a dynamic like this one, it could be tricky. One loose piece and the whole puzzle falls apart.”
“I don’t want that to happen. But what I want…more than anything, is for the others to feel the way we do.”
“Don’t you think it’s lucky? That we both feel the exact same way about each other and the other four?” Bruce quirked his lips into a happy smile. Just talking about his feelings for the others with Steve made him more elated than he could ever describe to anybody else who didn’t know what he was feeling.
“I’m glad we found each other. And I’m glad we found the others. I just hope they’re glad in the same way as we are.”
Steve snorted. “What are the chances of that happening? I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this isn’t going to work out with all of us.”
Bruce sighed. “You might be right.” His eyes flickered towards the door and then quickly back again. “You spoke about Nat, what about the others? What kinds of things have you noticed about them?”
Steve smiled, hoping for an excuse to continue talking about the people he loved. “Clint has a weakness for romantic comedies, but he won’t ever admit to crying during them. Have you noticed that whenever we watch them, he’s always absent?”
Bruce nodded. That did make sense, actually. “I never realised that was why.”
“He watches them on his own when he knows the soundproofing won’t betray his tears.”
“How do you know this?”
“Observation. When I first woke up from the ice, I was completely unable to trust anyone. I would keep to myself, just watch people from afar and learn about what had changed. It turned out that a lot had changed. The way people behaved. Children were crasser, people were more publicly promiscuous, everything was just different.
“I hadn’t decided whether it was a good different or not. As good at being stealthy as he is, I noticed that Clint was following me a lot, probably under Fury’s orders. My senses are superhuman, of course I noticed. The more I watched him, the more amused I became. People were different, sure, but Clint was something else entirely. He seemed like he wanted to be isolated yet involved at the same time. At this moment, I had thought everyone was binary in the way they behaved. You were either shy or outgoing, that was it. I couldn’t seem to get a read on Clint which intrigued me.”
Bruce nodded. “I feel that way about Nat.”
Steve agreed noncommittally. “They’re more alike than most people realise. They’ve fought together, been together, they have a rhythm. Once I got a read on Nat, it became easier to observe Clint. The way he spoke, the way he moved. It sounds deep, but I just like observing. It allows me to open connections easier.”
“Connections?” Bruce’s lips quirked slightly.
Steve swatted his arm with a smile. “You know what I mean. I don’t make friends easily, Bruce. Bucky and I were attached at the hip from childhood, so that was different. The rest of the Howling Commandos looked to me as a leader, so the respect was there. The five of you are different for me, for obvious reasons, but by watching, I can strike up conversations.”
“When did you know? With Clint, I mean.” Bruce was genuinely interested.
Steve ran his tongue over his teeth. “About three days into noticing he was there,” he muttered shyly. “He’s captivating, you know? Charming. Even without speaking to him, his nuances captured my interest.”
“That long? That must be difficult for you.”
“Not nearly as difficult as being in love with Tony Stark,” Steve quipped.
Bruce smirked, knowing Tony would love that particular comment. “I can empathise.”
“He’s misunderstood, Bruce. Not in an emotional teenager way, but in the way he presents himself.”
“Absolutely,” Bruce took over, happy to let Steve listen for a moment or two. “He puts on a façade, as we all do, but the world took to it. Some love it for it, some resent him for it. But he is who he is and he doesn’t apologise for that. He hides his pain just like everybody else. He’s a human being just like everybody else and that’s what the public doesn’t understand.
“They see the Iron Man suits and think he’s just an incredible scientist. They don’t see the kind, generous person underneath. Possibly because he doesn’t let them, but that’s beside the point.”
Steve chuckled. “Tony is a very unique person. He’s also the smartest person I’ve ever met. He’s always one step ahead of everyone and sometimes people need that. He pre-empts them and makes the decision he knows they’re too afraid to make. Like me moving in here. I didn’t want to, at first, but he knew it was the best thing for me to do. He made the decision for me; not being arrogant, being smart. I’m stubborn, you know this, so does he. He refused to let me argue and moved my things into my floor without letting me know. Naturally, I was furious at the time, but I understood and thanked him for doing it after I’d calmed down.”
“Tony knows exactly how to push the right buttons.”
“Like I said, he’s insanely smart and perceptive,” Steve agreed, “and even though he can be annoying, I can’t help but love him for precisely that reason.”
“Me too,” Bruce whispered fondly. “I don’t know about you, but Thor was the easiest to fall for.”
Steve blinked quickly and laughed. “After fifteen minutes, I knew Thor was special. Not just because of the whole other planet thing, but because of who he is. He didn’t pretend to be anything else because it has never occurred to him to do so. It’s fascinating, actually. Thor always knows when I’m sketching him. He doesn’t adjust his pose, he lets me draw whatever is happening. I misjudged him massively, thinking his god status would give him a huge ego. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
“He has a beautiful heart,” Bruce interjected, grinning from ear to ear. Even thinking about Thor made him happy, as did thinking about any of the Avengers. “Kind, compassionate, gentle and not at all opposed to polyamories.” Bruce winked at his boyfriend.
“That’s a bonus,” Steve smirked. “I’m not going to pretend that Thor and I have tons in common, because we don’t. But I think that’s what makes us friends. We’re literally from two different worlds than the rest of you and we’re learning customs together. We actually had a big debate on how to properly address strangers. It turns out that neither “Greetings, friend” or “Howdy, ma’am” actually work in this generation. Clint quickly showed us how wrong we were.”
“Not a bad effort, though,” Bruce giggled.
“I thought so,” Steve defended. He was about to say more when a creak sounded from outside the room. “Bruce? Do we have eavesdroppers?” Steve felt a little bit sick. He was telling the truth when he said that nobody pulled any punches, but any of them were to have heard what he said about them, well he didn’t know what exactly could be done about that.
“Maybe,” Bruce whispered, fidgeting. “Guys?”
Of course, Steve’s bad luck was just as he always knew it to be.
The door swung open to reveal Natasha, Clint, Tony and Thor stood collectively, faces emotionless and inquisitive at the same time.
“Cap,” Clint mumbled. “We, um, didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”
Tony scoffed. “Of course we did.”
Steve frowned. “How did you know what I was saying in the first place?”
Natasha just pointed upwards.
“I should’ve known,” Steve sighed. “I understand if you guys need some time.”
Natasha coughed awkwardly. “Steve, never in my entire life has anybody ever said such nice things about me. Not even Clint whispering things in my ear during sex.”
Clint rubbed the back of his neck. “That was so unnecessary.”
Nat glowered at him playfully before turning back to Steve and Bruce. “I just can’t believe this is happening.”
“What do you mean?”
“That we all love each other.”
Steve frowned deeply. “We all?” He looked around at Tony, Clint and Thor, who nodded slowly.
Tony sighed. “I don’t know whether it’s fate, an alien spell or just some really good luck, but it’s true. We all look at each other the same way. We all feel the same way. I don’t know how this happened, but it has and I’m glad we’re talking about it.”
Thor grunted. “It’s true. On Asgard, people have many different physical partners. But it isn’t for people to have numerous soulmates.”
Clint gasped. “Wait, soulmates? Is that what this is?”
Natasha shrugged. “How could it be anything but? I mean, six people from very different pasts coming together and falling in love with each other? If this isn’t fated, I don’t know what is.”
Steve eyed them all nervously. “So there’s no breaks in the chain? Everyone feels the same about everyone else?”
The six of them nodded.
“So this is real,” Steve spoke joyfully. “You guys love me too.”
It was Clint who scoffed. “Steve, you’re like the most lovable person I’ve ever met. You’ve noticed things about us, but we’ve noticed things about you too. Like how adorable it is when you’re trying to understand Google and you pout so cutely when you can’t.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Life was perfectly fine before Google, you know.”
Tony smirked. “Or the way you unconsciously protect us all. Even if we don’t need protecting. It might be the serum in you, but I don’t think it is.”
Steve shook his head, muttering, “Bucky was always the protector out of the two of us. I always started the fights.”
Thor sighed. “Or the way you can’t accept a compliment. It is endearing, friend. You get all flustered when people try to say nice things about you.”
Bruce noticed Steve flushing a deep red. “That is endearing.”
Nat chuckled. “I personally love how deep your voice gets when you go into Cap mode. It’s amusing, mostly because you have no idea you even do it, do you?”
Steve blushed more and hid his face in Bruce’s chest. Bruce let his hand drift to the back of Steve’s head.
“Now I think this is one of the things I love the most about you, Steve. How humble you are. You’re a truly amazing person yet you don’t let it faze you. I’m proud to say that I love you, Steve Rogers.”
“We all are,” Tony echoed as they surrounded him. Once they were all assembled on the bed, Clint blinked slowly.
“So what now?”
Chapter 4: Welcome To The Show
Warnings for some light smut content...
Most of the Avengers did other things in their spare time.
Tony obviously worked on his latest inventions.
Natasha did her own thing which nobody actually knew about, but it kept her pretty busy.
Clint taught a few classes at a school for the deaf a few times a week, which he loved to do and it kept him extremely happy.
Bruce carried out experiments more often than not, with or without Tony’s help depending on what the other man was doing at the time.
Thor was between worlds a lot; sometimes making sure things on Asgard were running smoothly and sometimes keeping the peace on Earth. The rest of them wondered when Thor had time to relax or if he had any hobbies that didn’t involve peacekeeping.
But Steve was a mystery. He would randomly disappear on certain nights and not return until four or five in the morning with a glow on his face and a flush that would spread all over it. Only Tony and Clint were really awake at that time and neither of them understood where Steve went all of those times. Together, they were determined to try and figure it out.
“Vampire?” Clint suggested, shrugging, adjusting his hearing aid slightly.
Tony frowned. “I’m not sure. Can you really Captain America with bloodstains in his teeth?”
Clint nodded. “Good point. Is he seeing someone?”
“Nat would know, wouldn’t she? She’s like a bloodhound being able to sniff out relationships.”
Clint smirked. “She’s only ever missed one.”
Tony put his arm around the archer tightly. “Are you sure that you don’t just want to tell her?”
“Soon, I guess, but I kinda like it how it is. All the sneaking around makes it that much hotter. I mean, when we stay apart in front of everybody else and then come together on our own, it’s amazing, Tony.”
“True. See, this is why I keep you around.”
Clint raised a perfectly trained eyebrow. “Not the only reason. You’d go crazy without me around to keep you in check.” Clint ran a finger down his boyfriend’s face. “Imagine if the world knew that superhero billionaire genius whatever Tony Stark was actually a submissive bottom.”
Tony shivered at the touch. “As much as I want you to throw me down and fuck me into the sofa, we have a mystery to solve.”
“The Nighttime Whereabouts Of Steve Rogers.”
Tony looked down at his phone and blinked several times before thinking about something that made the most sense. “I think I know where our mystery man goes at night.”
“Oh, just like that? Absolutely not!” Clint moaned. “We have to search his room and find torn out journal pages and things like that before we actually crack the case.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Velma, if I want to skip a few steps. If I’m right, we can solve this and come back and have sex.”
Clint debated this briefly. There wasn’t much that needed to be thought about. Finding out Steve’s secret plus sex with Tony? If pizza was involved that would be a perfect way to spend the night. “Okay, let’s go!”
Tony chuckled at Clint’s lack of rebuttal. “Jarvis, have a car ready for us in ten minutes. And let’s use George this time, he’s the best at pretending that we’re not feeling each other up in the backseat.”
Clint reckoned that if Jarvis was a real person, he would be blushing and choking on his words. But the AI just replied with a “Certainly, sir” and did his thing. Clint was just grateful that he had the opportunity to get frisky with his boyfriend with somebody watching. Yes, Clint was a little bit of an exhibitionist and he especially loved it when Tony’s car drivers were watching them through the rearview mirror, trying to show discretion at their boss giving his boyfriend a hand job in the backseat.
“So where are we actually going?” Clint wondered as they drove through the city streets, the sky still dark and the lights illuminating the world around them. Clint never really appreciated how beautiful New York looked at this time of the morning. He was always much more interested in how beautiful Tony looked at this time of the morning with the shadows dancing across his face and that signature grin plastered all over it. Then Tony would do his thing with his hand and Clint would fail to see anything at all.
Tony smirked. “Think about it. The last place in the city that you’d expect to see Captain America.”
And as they walked through the double doors twenty minutes later, Clint did indeed think about it. He thought about it a lot, actually.
The pounding music swelled around them and Tony grasped Clint’s hand, already seeing eager looks pointed their way. Tony nudged past the crowd and leaned on the desk at the back of the room.
“I’m looking for someone,” Tony murmured as the woman in front of him smirked and rose from her seat to listen to him.
“Well, you’ve come to the right place. What about blondie here?”
Tony squeezed Clint’s hand harder. “Mine. Listen, this guy’s six three, built like a house. Blond.”
Her eyes lighted considerably. “I know who you’re talking about. I can tell you where he is, but it’ll cost ya.”
Tony rolled his eyes and handed over forty dollars. “That enough?”
She shrugged. “Sure. Go down the hall over there and knock on the first door on the left. He’ll be in there.”
As Tony led Clint away, the latter stared in bemusement. “I feel like I’ve just witnessed a drug deal. Seriously, how the fuck did you find him so quickly? And here, of all places?”
Tony tapped his nose. “Just wait. If what’s behind the door is what I think it is, we’re about to be in for something special.”
Clint gaped as the pieces finally fit together. “Tony…should we really?”
“Come on! Chances are he’ll kick us out. Just maybe, he says yes. Let’s go find out, shall we?”
Clint shrugged, then nodded as Tony rapped hard on the door in front of him.
Clint’s eyes widened. “That’s definitely him.”
Tony smirked and edged open the door. “Surprise!”
Steve just stared blankly at the two. “Seriously?”
Clint sighed. “Steve, we can leave…”
Steve’s stared turned into a smirk. “No such thing. I’m surprised it took you this long to figure it out. I haven’t exactly been subtle about it.”
Steve stood, shirtless, in the middle of the medium-sized room. There was a sofa at the back and two individual four-leg chairs at the side. Around the room lay an assortment of different objects that Clint wasn’t paying much attention to but, once he concentrated on them, he realised what they were.
They were sex toys.
“Well, we finally cracked the case.”
Steve smiled. “As your reward, I’ll give you a show. Free of charge, of course. If you want.”
Tony and Clint looked at each other and nodded simultaneously.
Steve rubbed his hands together. “Okay, well, take a chair and I’ll start the music.”
Tony pulled out chairs for he and Clint.
Steve pushed play on the old stereo as a low electronica beat thudded around the room. “Usually I ask for no touching and no jerking off, but since it’s you guys you can do whatever you like.”
Clint almost drooled at the thought. He was hopelessly in love with Tony, but nobody could deny that Steve talking sexy wasn’t the most erotic thing in the world.
On the other chair, Tony was thinking the exact same thing, already starting to get hard, something that was definitely not missed by Steve.
“I haven’t even started yet, Tony,” he chuckled.
Tony shrugged. “So, you talking about jerking off gets me hot, sue me.”
Steve looked between them. “Who first?”
Tony nodded to Clint.
Clint agreed with his own affirmative nod.
Steve grinned at his silent enthusiasm, sauntering over the blond archer. Once he got there, he turned around, ripping off his sweatpants. Tony knew they weren’t made to be ripped, showing Steve’s innate strength.
Clint gaped at the sight of Steve’s barely clad ass, it was thick and made for squeezing. He remembered Steve’s invitation to touch, so he did. With both hands, he squeezed.
And then Steve dropped into his lap and Clint saw stars.
Steve grinded his ass down hard into Clint’s groin, igniting sparks Clint only felt with Tony. A fleeting moment of guilt crossed his mind, until his peripheral caught a glimpse of Tony grabbing his clothed dick.
He felt his own dick start to stir at the frictional contact. Letting it do its thing, Clint put his hands on the back of his head, jutting his pelvis up against Steve’s ass. Steve grinned at the pushback and decided to spin around, gripping the back of the chair for support. Legs grounded, Steve rolled his hips down.
A throaty groan escaped Clint’s mouth and that turned Steve on more than anything. Glancing across the way, he realised that Tony had taken his fully erect cock from his pants and was stroking it slowly.
Tony raised an eyebrow, seeing the tent in Steve’s boxers. “Feel free.”
Steve glanced at Clint, who nodded wordlessly, mouth open. Leaning away from the blond, Steve shrugged his boxers sluggishly down his thighs and legs. Clint and Tony watched with rapt interest as he did so. Steve turned to Tony as he stepped out of his underwear. “Sofa?”
And Tony was already there, legs widened.
Clint stood as Steve turned to his boyfriend, popping his jeans’ button and shedding them. He palmed his bulge as he ambled over to the other two. Steve stopped him beforehand.
“Allow me,” he muttered, in what almost sounded like a growl.
Steve dropped to his knees and ran his tongue along the area just above Clint’s underwear.
“Come on, this is torture,” Tony whined.
Clint shuddered as Steve’s teeth delicately grasped the material of his boxer briefs. With a moan, Steve pulled them down.
Experimentally, Steve gave Clint’s cock a few pumps, twisting his wrist quickly as he did. Glancing upwards and smirking, he stood up and returned to where he had dropped his boxers. Putting them on, he turned to his fellow Avengers.
“Time’s up. Slots are fifteen minutes each.”
Tony gaped angrily. “I’m sat here, fully hard, waiting for you.”
“I know,” Steve shrugged. “But you’re luckier than other customers.”
“Why is that?” Clint frowned.
“Don’t you see?” Steve asked.
Tony shook his head.
“You guys get to take me home.”
Tony had never moved faster in his life. Clint almost fell over trying to return his clothes to their original positions on his body.
Steve just watched them with a grin, surprisingly happy about them stumbling in on his moonlight job. He didn’t do it for the money, he simply loved showing off his body. He worked hard on it and people enjoyed what he did.
As Tony and Clint readied themselves, not able to will away their eager members, Steve led them out the door.
Tony turned to Clint. “We’re so feeling him up in the car.”
Clint chuckled. “Wait, I just remembered, I still don’t know how you found him here with no clues.”
Tony got out his phone. “Find my Friends. Never have I been so glad for Apple technology.”
The three shared a laugh as they left the building, excited about what was to come once they returned to Avengers Tower.
Chapter 5: Crowded Places
Just breathe, Tony. You can do this.
Tony sighed deeply. He was supposed to be having a good day with Bruce after a particularly difficult mission. Bruce had suggested that the two take some time to relax, being the two that would be most deeply affected by an outburst of rage. Bruce was understandable, turning into a big green rage monster and the like, but not many people realised how tightly wound Tony Stark actually was. He would overcompensate with wit and sarcasm, but in reality he was a ticking time bomb and an unpredictable one at that. He never knew when something would come along and destroy his bubble of manufactured calm that he imposed around himself. He didn’t want to go back to the copious amounts of alcohol and drugs he used as a coping mechanism. It was not a healthy habit and the group needed him strong and with all of his wits about him. Sure he had the occasional glass of whiskey and Coke every now and then but nothing too heavy.
It was much easier to be around Bruce in these times than it was to be alone. Despite Tony’s hatred for all things deep and personal, he found that sharing things like this with Bruce helped more than he would have thought. Bruce was a master of self-control, he had to be, and he had a big weight on his shoulders should one thing set him off. Bruce taught him several techniques on how to centre and ground himself so that he could stay in control of his emotions and not let them run wild all over the place. Despite what people thought, Tony was a highly emotional being who covered said emotions behind veils and layers of stone and a cold-hearted lack of sentiment. Before they had really gotten close, Steve had posited the question of whether Tony actually had functioning emotions. Tony had jokingly agreed with him, but had silently cursed himself for continuing the façade which he had carefully and meticulously cultivated.
Natasha would understand, he rather thought. She was very much the same, highly emotional with just enough layers to cover it from those who did not know what to look for in terms of signs. Everybody had a weak spot, their Achilles heel that, when prodded, would make their emotions come spilling out. For Tony, it was his mother, Maria. He hadn’t figured out Natasha’s quite yet, but he knew that she absolutely had one.
“Tony? You doing okay, pal?”
“Yep. Just need a minute.”
Bruce nodded. He of all people understood. “Take as long as you need.”
“There are just so many people here. I always forget. I know it’s my fault for living in New York, but I just…”
“Not your fault. Not at all. Crowds are a tricky thing to deal with, especially when you’ve been through what you have. I know Clint used to have the same problem.”
“How did he get through it?”
“He remembered himself and who he is. He repeated simple things back to himself, like his name and whoever he was with. If he was alone, it’d be his birthday, favourite colour, details like that. You could try that, it seemed to work for Clint. Of course, everybody is different, so there’s no telling if it’ll do you any good.”
“It can’t hurt to try.”
So Tony tried it. In his head, he ran through the things he knew about himself. His name, age, birthday, his favourite colour (though what self-respecting adult had a favourite colour anymore?), and by the time he had finished running through things he knew for certain, he was feeling much more relaxed.
Bruce had led him to a secluded lakeside spot, where he set up two deckchairs and placed a cooler of beers in between them. Bruce leaned back in his chair and sighed contentedly. Tony lay back, trying to soak in as much of the sun as he could. Working in their labs meant that the two didn’t get as much natural light as they would have wanted, so now was an opportune moment to obtain a healthy amount.
“You didn’t bring me here to seduce me, did you?” Tony chirped after a few moments of uncomfortable silence.
Bruce chuckled. “Would you turn me down if I did?”
Tony laughed too, realising that he wasn’t sure that he would turn Bruce down. “I don’t quite know the answer to that one just yet.”
“This is more than enough for now. I come here sometimes after a lengthy period of the Other Guy being in control. Just to reset my brain chemistry and realign my thoughts. Once your thoughts and feelings are intact, your body starts to react in kind. And I thought that after New York you would’ve needed it the most. Everyone needs their sanctuary, Tony. I thought you might want to share mine.”
“What makes you think I don’t have one already?”
“I considered that,” Bruce said softly, “but I realised you would’ve used it by now. And...I don’t know, maybe I wanted something that was...ours. Clint and Natasha have their history, Cap and Thor have bonded over not knowing jack shit about Earth, I thought we could have our thing. If that’s...you know, cool with you.”
Tony smiled. “Yeah, I think it is, Banner.”
Bruce reached across and patted Tony’s arm gently.
Tony flinched at the contact, but warmed to it when Bruce’s finger lightly rubbed across his skin. Tony grasped at the hand with his own and shivered.
“Please don’t let go of me.”