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The thing that Tony realizes, about getting fucked in the ass without a condom, is that hours later, after you’ve been rejected, and stormed out of your lab without any pants on, after you’ve begun to regret that but before you’re willing to do anything about it, once you’ve done your best to start forgetting, you’ll feel his cum leaking out of your ass and everything will come crashing back down on you again.

On the plus side, the actual fucking was pretty great. Even the false start was pretty great. Tony shivers at the thought of Steve trying to force his way in without any preparation, knows he shouldn’t be turned on by the idea of that, but it’s not the pain he’s thinking of, it’s the idea of being taken, forcefully, by Captain fucking America.

He was already thinking of round two, planning it out in his head, speculative, excited, when Steve rejected him. Thinking about how they could make it better, thinking a little bit about riding him, because Tony knows from all of his experience on the other side of things that it’s really fucking hot. And then, it was all over.

He’s not justified in being upset, he knows that. They did their thing and Tony has both sucked Steve’s dick and gotten fucked by him and there’s really not much else that he needs from him, right?

But, well, fuck, it’s hard not to take it a little bit personally when you finally get fucked by another guy for the first time and then before you’ve even had enough time to fully register that, he turns to you with legitimate, actual pain in his eyes and tells you that you’re not worth it.

Even if you don’t particularly care whether you’re worth it, it still sucks.

He wishes he’d never thought Steve fucking Rogers could legitimately want him. He’s a master of self-delusion, but even that’s a stretch.

And, actually, he feels shittier than he expected, for taking Cap’s virginity like that. He’s assuming he did take his virginity, because he’s never actually asked, but it seemed kind of like it.

He thinks he would feel good about it, if Cap had just felt good about it. Major milestone and all, and at 25, with a body like that, it was way overdue. Tony tells himself this as he grinds his teeth and tightens a screw and wonders if maybe he should try to apologize.

But – apologize for what? Cap was a willing and eager participant. He’d made his own decisions. He’d admitted to being gay, and even if he’d just been experimenting, it didn’t make any sense to like sucking dick but not enjoy fucking.

If anything, Steve should be the one apologizing. If he couldn’t handle it, he shouldn’t have started anything.

****

He decides it’s best to let it all blow over. Let Cap go back to being the disinterested, uptight stick-in-the-mud. Talking to him isn’t going to fix anything. At best it’ll draw things out, which isn’t something either of them should want.

Except Steve keeps trying to see him.

Tony just pretends not to be available. He doesn’t want to wade through the painful apology that Rogers has no doubt concocted. It was just a little bit of childish anger at having a great fuck ruined so quickly. There’s no need to give Cap the satisfaction of feeling magnanimous at his expense.

And he could verbally destroy him in an instant, of course, but there’s even less point in tearing Cap down just for being disgustingly perfect.

He thinks about sending him a fruit basket, something flashy, with a card that says “sorry for your loss,” to let Steve know that they’re skipping right ahead to the stage where they’re laughing at this.

He gets caught up in work instead. He gets so caught up in work that he doesn’t even bring anyone back to the tower for a couple of weeks.

When he does, she’s a blonde, of course, and she does this cute thing where she talks and Tony doesn’t listen. They meet at a work thing, by which he means a club, by which he means that she’s many years his junior. Aspiring something. Actress, model, journalist, blogger, maybe.

He’s actually not that proud of his promiscuity anymore. Not after he had a real relationship with Pepper. But she’s impressively good in bed for her age, by which he mostly means that she’s familiar with how to orgasm. And she does that, loudly.

The next morning he gets up early and goes down to his lab, leaving her sprawled across almost half of a king sized bed, trusting that she’ll be gone when he gets back.

It’s a highly predictable thing that the brain does, making connections. And that’s why he’s thinking about Steve. That’s the only reason he can’t stop thinking about Steve.

He wonders what happened to him. Because the pestering stopped, at some point, and he’s just now realizing, as he settles into his favorite chair with a cup of coffee and some jellybeans, that it’s been longer than statistically plausible since they last talked.

Sure, there haven’t been any attacks, so he hasn’t had that reason, and sure, Tony’s been wrapped up in work, but, still. He hasn’t seen Steve looking boy-next-door adorable in his white t-shirt and checked blue pajama pants in ages. Although he did see him naked one time, in a dream.

That’s not relevant, of course. He just likes thinking about it.

He’s had to spend his mornings admiring Thor’s remarkable muscle definition from afar and resisting the urge to make jokes about it or subtly inquire as to Thor’s preferences, because he knows from experience that neither of those things will actually come across as subtle. And as much as that’s easier than having to think about Steve, he still misses him.

“Don’t tell me Steve’s avoiding me, Jarv,” he says. “Also don’t interpret that literally. If he is, I want to know.”

“Captain Rogers no longer resides here, sir.”

“He – he what?”

“He moved out last Tuesday. He left a note, if you would like to read it.”

Tony raises his eyebrows into his coffee, and tosses back a handful of candy and tries to process this.

He reads the letter. It goes on for almost a page about how grateful Steve was for the hospitality, and emphasizes that he’s very appreciative of everything Tony’s done for him. Around paragraph four it’s beginning to read more like a love letter than an intent to vacate.

He doesn’t even address the why until the last paragraph, and then it’s a quick line about how he doesn’t think they should cohabitate, even if it’s a gigantic house and they technically never have to see one another.

Tony adds that last part, mentally, as he concocts his argument. Steve’s being pretty uptight and old fashioned about this, but he can win him back. He’s fairly certain he can do that.

He really hopes no one else knows. It’s been what, almost a week and a half? If they haven’t heard, or been told, they’re going to get suspicious. And, well, everyone’s really going to hate him if they find out he chased Captain America out of the tower.

Shit.

He wishes he could talk to Pepper about this. Wishes they were talking on more than a polite functional level more than once a month or so, although that’s still a step up from the thinly disguised vitriol.

It was his fault, he knows that. He pushes people away. Pepper had even given him a pretty explicit warning.

“You’ve never had to try, have you? Everything just came to you. But that’s not how this works, Tony. I can’t just wait here for you to appreciate me. You have to try, this time. Or I’m leaving.”

And now he’s scared Steve away, and it might be under completely different circumstances, and he doubts Steve actually cares if Tony appreciates him, but it’s still a problem.

He has to do something.

****

They meet at a Starbucks, and when the good Captain walks up in pressed khakis, hair practically glowing in the sunlight, Tony’s a little thrown. A little part of him was hoping Steve might look disheveled, maybe a hair or two out of place, something to reflect that it was a bad idea to move out.

He just looks perfect, instead. Every single inch of him looks perfect. His eyes, his lips, his shoulders, his forearms, his butt, everything ridiculously, off-putting-ly perfect.

Intellectually, he knows that it’s just how Steve looks. Like the world’s largest action figure, a man molded out of plastic. But every time he’s been picturing him – and, yeah, okay, so he’s been picturing him fairly often – it’s the way he is when he’s relaxed. In the morning, or the evenings, or after he’s done working out, when his hair’s out of place and his clothes are rumpled and he looks softer and more approachable and somehow happier.

It’s busy, which gives them some time to share awkward small talk in line, and gives him time to explain to Steve that this is what people do for fun now, and he doesn’t need to get plain coffee, and no, it’s not too expensive because $4 is such a very small fraction of 9 billion that it’s really not even statistically significant.

And then he gets to pay for a tall decaf black coffee for Steve and a tall black coffee for himself, because he’s not about to look like he strongly enjoys what Steve derisively calls a cup full of sugar.

So, that’s going great.

They walk down the street together, Tony’s security detail keeping a discreet distance because it’s not like anyone can cause him petty bodily harm with Steve standing right next to him.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Tony says. “You should move back in.”

And Steve drums his fingers on the coffee cup, and he glances at Tony, and he doesn’t say anything.

Well, if that’s how Steve wants to do this.

“Real compelling argument you’re making,” Steve says, finally, after they’ve walked a silent block, and Tony can’t help but chalk that one up as another little victory.

Except, he admits begrudgingly to himself, taking a sip of coffee that’s just a little too cold, that’s definitely not why he’s here.

“Didn’t know I was supposed to be arguing.”

“So what, you think you can just show up and I’ll come running?”

Tony shrugs. A little bit, yeah, he had. Steve’s not actually a bad person at all, and so Tony never expected Steve to carry on in any sort of irrational hissy fit.

What do you say to make someone feel better about sleeping with you and then realizing that they actually didn’t want to do that? It’s not a problem he’s really had before.

“You know I respect you, right?”

It’s worth a try, but that doesn’t seem to be what Steve’s looking for, judging by the raised eyebrow, and the way he studies his coffee before nodding. “Yeah.”

“Okay,” Tony says. “Good. I just wasn’t sure, you know, because of how I keep telling you that I don’t.”

Steve looks at him out of the corner of his eye, and then he makes a little grunt of unhappy agreement and takes a sip of coffee.

And it’s not like he expected Steve to laugh at that, but a smile might have been nice. A sentence would have been phenomenal.

He sits down on a bench and Steve sits next to him, hunched over like he’s expecting Tony to attack or something.

“You can’t just move out because we fucked,” he says, to hell with subtlety, and Steve flinches at the word. Or the fact that it happened. Tony’s not omniscient, could be anything. “Tons of people do that all the time and manage to stay friends. There’s a term for it, even. Friends with benefits.”

Steve looks at him. “I moved out because you were avoiding me.”

Oh, well, that’s good. That one’s easy. “I wasn’t avoiding you. I was just busy.”

Steve’s eyes narrow. “Then Jarvis was lying, when he said you told him to say you weren’t there?”

“Ahh,” Tony says. “Fuck. Well, that’s going to take forever to fix.”

Steve smiles at that, but it’s the grim smile of someone who just proved a point he didn’t want to be making, so Tony’s fairly certain that one doesn’t count.

“I mean, okay, yes, I was avoiding you. But it’s only because I assumed you were coming in to make some awkward apology.”

“Why would I be the one apologizing?”

Well. That’s something he hasn’t thought about. He always assumed that Steve would be sorry for the way things went down. Except if Steve Rogers, the human moral compass, doesn’t think he should apologize, then he’s probably right. And now’s probably not the time to oppose that on principle.

“I don’t know,” he says, brushing it off. “You’re always apologizing for things.”

“Yeah, well,” Steve says, the words coming out on a strong exhale, “not this time.”

Tony knows that’s his cue to say something to make it all better.

“So you should move back in.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Look, I appreciate you coming down here and buying me coffee, but that doesn’t change anything. I need some time away. I need to not run into you right now.”

And, he really wants to say that he has no problem with running into Steve, quite the opposite. But that’s probably not going to make this any better.

“Listen, I’m sorry,” he says, last ditch effort. “I’m used to just going for what I want. But I shouldn’t have taken your virginity like that. It should have been with someone special.”

Steve looks at him for a second, looking at him like he’s completely missing something. And he says, “it was,” and then he looks away.

Fuck.

He’d definitely seemed like a virgin.

“Okay, I know this isn’t how it’s supposed to go, but you’ve just gotta tell me what it is that I did wrong. Because I’m never going to guess.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong.”

That’s not helpful.

“Well, then you need to tell what this is all about.”

“Okay,” Steve says, standing up. “I’ll do that.”

“Wait, where are you going?”

“I told you, I need time to think. Everything’s always so rushed with you.”

“Oh,” Tony says. “Okay.”

But that’s not the end. Steve makes it five steps, and then he turns around, looks Tony up and down, and says, “Do you care about me at all?”

He doesn’t wait for a response. He just leaves, leaves Tony sitting on the bench trying and repeatedly failing to comprehend the question.

******

He’d set up the meeting as a detour from his other plans, so that he could save face and not seem like he just drove across town to spend ten minutes with Steve fucking Rogers, like they were inseparable or something.

So he finds himself in the back of the car with his security team, trying to prep for his next meeting, and instead wondering how that went so terribly.

No preparation, probably. Underestimating him, maybe. Caring too much, could be.

Which is why Steve’s last question is still playing on his mind. Does he care about him at all? What kind of question is that?

It’s just, it’s completely inappropriate for the conversation they were having. Obviously Tony fucking cared enough to go try and make him move back in. It’s not like Steve was some charity case he was forced into helping. He wants him around.

Why the hell does Steve even care if Tony cares?

It’s not like –

Oh. Oh, fuck. Oh fuckity fucking motherfuck.

Fucking hell.

He’s been thinking about this all wrong. He’s been thinking of the kiss as an outlier, but it’s not, it’s the whole damn data set. The rest is just noise. Fucking incredible noise, but ultimately he’s been approaching this like they’re fuckbuddies and it turns out it’s a whole different problem altogether.

Jesus fuck.

Well, no wonder Steve is upset.

And likely to remain upset, because there’s no way Tony can do that, can come through with whatever it is that Steve’s looking for. It’s just basic analysis. You make a graph of Tony Stark’s past relationship and you extend that line out and it crosses right through Steve fucking Rogers’ broken heart.

Fuck.

And the worst part is that he’d known it, kind of, at one point, but he let Steve’s distance and coolness convince him otherwise so by the time they fucked he wasn’t even thinking that, he wasn’t thinking anything close to that, he was just thinking about Captain America’s dick and how much he wanted it.

Fuck.

He’s distracted throughout the meeting. That’s not a bad thing, actually, because he likes to affect an air of disinterest. And he keeps having mildly inappropriate thoughts but again, that’s not unusual.

But the time, it makes him think some things that he shouldn’t be thinking. He knows he shouldn’t blame the setting, but it’s hard to pace and curse and drink excessively at a business meeting, and his thoughts start taking on a distinctly more positive slant than they should be.

Sure, he’s always liked Steve. Secretly. He’s a fan of people who are strong and competent, and while he’s not a fan of being challenged, Steve’s managed to tone that down to only be mildly annoying.

But that’s the sort of thinking that logically leads to, hey, maybe I’ll agree to fight aliens with him. There’s no logical segue into gee, maybe we should date.

Which is not exactly what he’s thinking, but, close enough.

He knows it’s ridiculous. He knows it’s the worst idea he’s ever had. He knows it’s a combination of a fairly long dry spell and the fact that now that he’s over his only real meaningful relationship he feels like he needs another one, and the fact that he only knows maybe ten people who treat him like a normal human being.

And yet he misses all the key points of the meeting because he’s thinking about the possibility, and that’s probably the very least of the problems dating Steve would create. For instance, the inevitability that Steve will hate him.

That’s a pretty big one.

And that won’t be good for the team, because Tony’s kind of important from the standpoint that he finances them, and Steve’s kind of important from the standpoint that everything would fall apart without him, so there’s that.

That’s maybe a big consideration.

It would have helped, of course, to be a responsible adult in this situation from the beginning. But now’s a better time to start than never.

His gut instinct is to let Steve stay away until they both snap out of it, because clearly that’s what Steve’s willing to do. But, he’s spent enough time around Cap to know that he’ll just keep putting unnecessary pressure on himself if Tony doesn’t step in.

And well, this is why you don’t fuck people you like.

The least he can do is let him down easy. Invite him for dinner, make him see what a bad idea this is. Help him get over it. And then convince him to move back in.

Or not. It’d probably help, not having to run into him when he’s sleepy and disheveled. That’s definitely when he’ll be at his weakest. Maybe Steve has a point, with this moving out thing.

Still, instead of getting drunk and talking himself out of it, he calls Steve. Gets a voicemail.

“I figured it out,” he says. “We should talk. Come over for dinner, Thursday, at 8.”

He figures three days is plenty of time for Steve to think about things. Because that’s the absolute extent of how long he’s willing to wait to sort this out, and because he’s kind of hoping that three days will be enough time to completely get rid of this little crush that he’s been maybe nurturing a little for the last couple of months.

Then, he gets drunk.

******

“I uh, cooked something for us,” Tony says, letting Steve into his private dining room, taking the bottle of wine he’s brought, pretending not to notice how thoughtful that was. “And then I threw that away and ordered this.”

Steve smiles politely, and great, it’s going to be one of those conversations. Steve usually laughs at his jokes, the ones that aren’t directed to him or at his expense.

So, like two of them.

“Uh, sit down,” Tony says, gesturing in the general direction of the table, wishing Steve would say something to make this easier. He definitely should have told him this was a break-y up-y sort of deal over the phone. He definitely shouldn’t have made it sound like maybe a bit of a date.

He makes small talk for a little bit, because he doesn’t want this to seem like he just invited Steve over to formally reject him. He wants to make the easiest segue they can into being friends again.

“So,” Steve says, finally, when they’re almost done eating. “You said you figured it out.”

Tony nods.

“And you’re okay with it.”

“I thought we were just having sex,” Tony says, shrugging to convey what a non-problem this whole thing should be. “I didn’t think there was anything more to it.”

“I know,” Steve says, blushing a little. “I shouldn’t have let it happen. I’m sorry.”

“Wha- whoa, no, you’re not apologizing here,” Tony says, cocking his head. “I’m the one apologizing here. What happened to our last conversation?”

“Pardon?”

“Where you said you weren’t going to apologize?”

“Oh,” Steve says. “That was just for the incident in your lab. From the start, I knew what you wanted wasn’t what I wanted, and I should have respected that.”

“You don’t know what I wanted,” Tony says, getting a little excited because, awesome, breakthrough. “You have no idea what I wanted.”

“So you didn’t just want to have sex with me?”

“Okay,” Tony concedes, flashing Steve with what he hopes is a self effacing grin. “You have some idea of what I wanted. But you’re wrong, for the record, if you thought that that’s all I wanted.”

Steve looks at him, eyes full of doubt, raises one eyebrow. “Really.”

“Jesus Christ, really,” Tony says, because, fuck. “I mean, have you met yourself?”

And Steve turns very red, which is fucking adorable.

Oh. Shit. This was supposed to go in the other direction. “Uh, but,” Tony says. “But, I’m the last person you want to be involved with.”

Steve looks down, looks at his pasta and swirls it around a fork and the silence seems to stretch on for ages. “That’s really my call, though.”

“No, it’s not,” Tony says, and he’s not trying to look for sympathy, he’s absolutely just being truthful, but maybe it doesn’t come across that way when he says, “I’d just fuck everything up.”

And Steve rolls his eyes. He actually does that.

“Honestly, empirically speaking. I know what I’m bad at – which, mostly, is nothing – but the one thing I am absolutely terrible at is relationships. You’ll just wind up hating me. It’s not a good idea.”

“So you invited me over to tell me that I could have had a shot, but I don’t?”

Tony grimaces. “In my defense, I wasn’t planning to tell you the first part.”

“Oh,” Steve says. “Then that’s fine.”

“Steve –”

“You can turn me down, that’s your right,” Steve says. “But then you’d better do it for a better reason than that.”

“You’re too argumentative, it’d never work,” Tony says, and he can do this all day, he’s very quick on his feet.

“Something you put more than two seconds of thought into.”

“Okay, now you’re making up too many rules.”

“Fine,” Steve says, sighing heavily. “I don’t even know why I came here. I should have known it would be a waste of time.”

He stands up, jaw set, and Tony feels like shit again. “Steve, wait –”

“For what?”

“Steve, just, don’t take this personally. I want to, but – I really can’t do this.”

“So you’re not even going to try?”

“Trying isn’t good enough.”

“Sure it is.”

And Tony bites his lip and slides his jaw back and forth and doesn’t want to do it, absolutely doesn’t want to do it, but, well, maybe he should respect Steve’s autonomy. “You said it’s your call. So what would that be?”

Steve looks at him, those perfect blue eyes look at him and Tony’s only holding his gaze because he doesn’t want to back down, because the way Steve’s looking at him makes him so uncomfortable.

“I want to be with you,” Steve says, sitting back down slowly. “And I can’t be around you right now if I’m not. I’m not trying to give you an ultimatum, that’s just how things are. And I’m sorry if that’s forward but we already had sex and I think you should at least be able to give me a chance.”

Tony swallows. “I can’t give you everything that you’ll want. I mean, just ask Pepper. It’s not worth it.”

“I’ll settle. I don't want to, but I will. For whatever you can give me. But if that’s really nothing, I want to know it now.”

Tony sighs. He knows he should lie. But he can’t. “If you try to start something, I’m not going to stop you. That’s just the kind of person I am. But you really shouldn’t. You’re just going to get hurt.”

Steve shrugs. “I’m already hurt.”

Tony tries not to roll his eyes at that because it’s probably true. And it’s his fault.

“Okay,” Tony says. “Uh, I should clean up.”

Steve blinks, but he just sits there, looking a little lost, as Tony starts to clear the table. Tony’s hoping it’ll give him an excuse to go into another room and silently berate himself, but of course it doesn’t, because Steve’s hot on his trail with the stack of plates.

And Steve places them in the sink, and then he stands leaning against the wall with one hand on the back of his neck, and he spends a few moments clearly psyching himself up before he says, “I want to start something.”

“Uh, no you don’t,” Tony says, fixing his gaze squarely on the sink, even though he’s already placed the dishes there and it’s not like he’s going to actually wash them.

“I know what I’m doing, Tony,” Steve says, walking up behind him and putting a hand on Tony’s hip, which is most definitely not on the agenda for this meeting.

Tony swallows. “That doesn’t mean you should be doing it.”

“You know, I’ve never really kissed you,” Steve says, his breath warm on Tony’s ear.

And Tony’s finding this being a responsible adult thing so very difficult. Impulse control has never been a strength of his. He knows this is a terrible idea, he knows he needs to stop it and all he can think about is how good Steve feels against him.

“Steve –” he’s trying to protest but it comes out as a moan of assent instead, and Steve’s other hand slides up his stomach and comes to rest over his arc reactor, Steve’s lips find their way to his neck and shit, Steve’s been reading more or watching romantic movies or something and Tony’s never going to be able to compete with that.

He tries not to give in, tries not to lose that voice in his head that keeps saying, don’t let this happen, but instead he finds himself turning around, sliding his arms around Steve’s strong, muscled torso.

“Steve, think about what you’re doing,” Tony says, and it’s awfully hypocritical, but Steve also has much better impulse control than he does, so Steve should know better.

“I have.”

“And you’re okay with it, you’re really okay with the consequences?”

“You said you wouldn’t stop me.”

“I’m not stopping you,” Tony says, and he’s definitely not, he’s definitely got his hand under Steve’s shirt and no intention of removing it. He’s just, well, he’s absolving himself of any culpability. Which sounds pretty bad. “I’m just – uh...”

Steve doesn’t let him finish, which is good because he didn’t have any new words lined up anyway, after that it was all just a mixed feeling of helplessness and lust and foreboding, and as Steve’s lips come to his the lust gets a little stronger but so does the foreboding, because this can’t be good. Look at Pepper.

Steve kisses like a college girl, but one of the ones that Tony kissed while he was still in grad school. Like he’s done some things and he knows some things but ultimately he’s still just figuring it out, he’s still not really sure what to do with his tongue, and Tony’s perfectly okay with teaching him.

Except he’s not supposed to be teaching him, he’s supposed to be putting his foot down and averting disaster and everything that sounded so much more persuasive back when he didn’t have his hand down Captain America’s pants

At this point nothing short of a national disaster is stopping him, and maybe he could go to the bathroom and masturbate but that would probably be more disastrous for their working relationship than just letting this happen.

Just this once.

And then he’ll put an end to it. One time, and that’s it. Just to get it out of their systems.

He tells himself this as they make it from the kitchen to the bedroom, as their clothes just kind of magically fall off, aided strongly by Tony’s fingers, and as Steve’s fingers close around his cock.

And then he just kind of forgets to keep telling himself that. He just gets lost in the sensations, gasping as Steve fucks him into the sheets, as Steve leans over him and kisses him, rough and passionate and he’s already getting better at it, at the kissing, and Tony can imagine how great he’ll be with a little more practice.

He doesn’t remember until they’re sprawled out on the bed, breathing heavily, Steve’s arm around him, and then he maybe doesn’t want to take away his chance at doing this again in the future.

But, well, he knows that it’s crazy to think this could work. He’ll give them the rest of the night. And then this has to end. Before Steve really gets hurt.

“I was thinking next time maybe you could fuck me,” Steve whispers, earnest and flushed, running his fingers along Tony’s jaw.

Eh, Tony thinks, closing his eyes, sliding a hand across Steve’s abs. He’s a tough kid.