"On your left-!"
That was all the warning Tony got before he had 220 pounds of supersoldier slamming into him, knocking him right out of the air. He wasn't sure how Steve tackled him—had the idiot leapt off a fucking building, or what?—but one minute Tony hovering and blasting away at the giant lizards crawling through Manhattan, the next, he was crashing into the ground.
Steve was caught by whatever blast of energy Loki had been aiming at Tony, thrown back into a building. Tony rolled over and fired up the repulsors, flying over to where Steve had crash-landed and was sitting up with a groan.
"Jesus, Cap, you suicidal or what?"
"What, I save your ass and that's the thanks I get?"
Tony blinked, a bit surprised at Steve's unusual phrasing, but he supposed that had been a pretty rough hit. He extended a hand anyway to help him up, and Steve took it.
"Thanks," Tony nodded.
"We're superheroes, it's what we do," and then Steve winked at him.
"Uh," Tony replied articulately, "How hard did you hit your head, exactly?"
"Why, you want to play nurse for me later?"
"I'm, uh," Tony's mouth was rather dry at the moment, because he was pretty sure Steve's face was never meant to look that dirty, for the good of humanity, "Gonna take that as really, really hard."
"You know what else is really hard?"
Steve was inching into his space now, lips close to where his ear was within the helmet, and there were still like fifteen huge lizards running around Manhattan and Tony had absolutely no idea what was happening right now but it was also ridiculously hot.
"I think I have an idea, yes…"
Tony tried to step back, maybe put a little air between them, but then Steve was really in his space and it was kind of hard to keep backing away because the lusty look Steve was giving him should most definitely be considered a lethal weapon.
"Won't you take care of me when we get back to the Tower?" Steve was murmuring, lashes low, a dirty smirk across his lips, "I'm injured, you know. I think I'll need someone to put me to bed."
Tony was frozen, then, because this was just not anything his libido was prepared to experience. Thing is, Tony and Steve had been sleeping together for almost four months, two months after the team was first formed. They'd been in the shop, Tony messing around with Iron Man specs, Steve sketching away like he always was, until suddenly he wasn't.
Tony turned, and Steve had moved from lounging on the couch to just behind him. There was something strange in his eyes, contemplative, hesitant.
Steve took a step forward, his fingers stretching out, then curling back when he saw Tony back away. Tony hadn't meant to back away, hadn't even registered that he had until the worktable was pressed into his back. He didn't know what he was backing away from, exactly—this was Steve, after all. Tony wasn't really one to declare people his BFFL or whatever the latest term was, but he and Steve were close, closer than anyone had ever thought they'd be after how they'd started off.
Thing was, Steve was looming over him now, not intimating but eclipsing, as if trying to consume all of Tony's concentration for just one, brief moment. Part of Tony almost wanted to give it to him.
Steve's words were quiet, no more than murmur, then he had one hand on Tony's chin, tipping his head up to press his lips to Tony's softly. For a brief moment, Tony gave in; he let himself lean forward, just a bit, grasping Steve's shirt in his hands and all but falling into Steve's arms like every damned cliché in the book. Steve, of course, just caught him, moving both hands to Tony's forearms and holding him steady.
For a brief moment, Tony stopped thinking.
Then he remembered himself, detached himself from Steve, releasing his shirt and pushing him back. Steve let him, watching him with anxious eyes as Tony quickly corrected him.
"I don't do relationships."
And he didn't. He'd tried with Pepper, and he'd failed. Pepper knew him inside and out, had put up with his shit for decades; if he couldn't make it work with her, what chance did he have with someone like Steve? He'd ruin the relationship, and ruin Steve along with it.
Tony expected that to be the end of it. Maybe a little discussion about continuing to be professional on missions, maybe something about staying friends because Steve was Steve and he was sure to be full of clichés. Instead, Steve watched him. Tony, nothing more to say, watched back; the emotions flickered through Steve's eyes too fast to keep track of, but settled on something…closed off, not open to Tony's interpretation.
Then they were kissing again, more insistently this time, Steve's open palms pulling at Tony's waist until they were flush against each other. Tony almost pushed him away again, until Steve's teeth bit down on his lip, edging Tony's mouth open and working his tongue in ways that had Tony thinking that someone was going to go to hell for teaching Steve Rogers to kiss like that.
After that, there weren't a lot of words exchanged.
Steve didn't ask anything more of Tony; things remained exactly how they'd always been. They spent time together in the workshop, grabbed dinner a couple times a week, went on missions and hung out with the group. Then, come nightfall, they fucked. Mostly after missions, though if Tony went to bed before 1 or 2 in the morning, Steve never failed to sneak into his room just moments after—Tony was pretty sure JARVIS was helping him with that one somehow, the sneaky bastard.
Meanwhile, Tony convinced himself he wasn't quite as much of a despicable person if Steve was the one who kept initiating it. He was Captain America, Tony would've had to have been a saint to turn him down, and he'd been called many things, but "saint" had never been one of them.
So, Tony was fuck buddies with Captain America.
God help him.
But for all the times they'd slept together, Steve had never been like this. He hadn't been shy exactly, or tentative, he certainly knew what he wanted, but he'd been…softer about it. Less blunt, frankly.
"I'm sorry, what?" Tony managed, mouth dry, arousal becoming somewhat uncomfortable in the confines of the Iron Man armor.
"Well, if you're going to be difficult," Steve huffed, rolling his eyes before passing Tony with another salacious wink, "Guess that means I'll just have to make you beg for it later."
And then Steve was gone, hoisting up his shield and taking off in the direction of the rest of the team while Tony tried to get his brain functions back online.
What the fuck?
Tony spent the post-mission debriefing with Steve's hand snaking up his thigh and, at one highly uncomfortable and incredibly arousing point, in his lap. Tony stopped himself from coming in his pants like a teenager by jumping up so fast his chair hit the ground and declaring he had to go to the bathroom. Steve stood, as if to fucking follow him, and Tony almost lost any semblance of sanity picturing dirty, groping sex in the SHIELD bathroom.
"You stay!" Tony jabbed a finger in Steve's direction, his voice hitting a particularly unmentionable note, before he turned and stalked out of the room.
He didn't go back.
He went to the Tower instead, hoping a little breathing room would help him figure out what in the hell was up with Steve. Had he said something to make him act this way? Was Steve just playing some elaborate joke on him? Tony couldn't quite figure it out, but when he got out of his post-mission shower, he only had time to get pants on before Steve, in all his star-spangled glory, was in Tony's bedroom, grabbing him by the waist and pulling him into bed.
Tony noticed almost immediately that it was different somehow. There were a couple of things, but the first Tony noticed was that Steve was being rough—very rough, manhandling Tony like he was some kind of ragdoll, throwing him on the bed and descending on him with a brief, teeth-clacking kiss. It was graceless, not really Steve's usual style, but Steve was already moving on, nipping and licking his way down Tony's chest.
Don't get him wrong, it was fucking hot, and Tony may not have been in his twenties anymore but he could sure as hell handle some edge, some bite. Thing was, he'd told Steve to be rough before, came as close as he ever did to begging for it, but Steve always just shook his head at him, kissing him silent and telling him he couldn't risk that.
Not anymore, apparently.
Steve flipped him then, pulling Tony on top, a maneuver that had Tony's back and knees aching in protest. If the roughness was surprising and hot, what was surprising and strange was that Steve didn't kiss him. Okay, there were a few more of those bruising, graceless ones, but those were really more assaults on his mouth than anything else; Steve didn't kiss him.
And okay, to be fair, Tony had thought Steve was strange for spending so much time kissing him the first couple of times they'd slept together, but he was…used to it now, he supposed. It wasn't that he liked it—of course not, it was excessive for just fuck buddies—but if it got Steve off, whatever. Also, Tony could admit, the guy was one hell of a thorough kisser, so it wasn't like Tony was really complaining.
But Steve was bypassing kissing altogether this time, just rolling over again to shove him into the bed and get to business, which, okay, again, hot, but some strange, sadistic part of Tony was asking what happened to the kissing. And he blamed it on the fact that Steve was a fantastic kisser, very well-trained to Tony's needs, thank you, and had nothing to do with anything even remotely sentimental.
Thing was, Tony hadn't even realized how much time they spent just kissing until the kissing stopped. Because Steve was already shucking the suit and pulling at Tony's pants and there was this weird voice in the back of his head he was pretty sure he'd never heard before ever that was asking for Steve to slow down.
And what the fuck? Tony didn't say slow down. Tony said hurry the fuck up already. Tony said let's fuck on the table because he couldn't wait for a bed and don't call me, I'll call you because who cared if he was lying it was a one night stand and stop kissing me like that Steve or I'm not going to last only for Steve to give him one of Those Smiles and say one of these nights, Tony.
It was weird, was all he was saying.
But he ignored it, because it was still sex with Steve, and sex with Steve was fantastic. Since sex with Steve was fantastic he was babbling of course, the usual slew of encouragements he didn't bother to think through anymore because it wasn't as if Steve was going to judge him for it or anything, but then he did.
"Fuck, Steve, so hot, keep, ah, there, that's it-"
"Christ, stop talking, would you? Killing a mood, here."
Tony froze up and craned his neck to look at Steve, really look at him. Because Steve teased him about it, laughed about it, blushed about it, sometimes shut him up with a kiss when he got really ludicrous, but he'd never told him to stop. Hell, Tony was pretty sure he got off on it, with all his flushed cheeks and lip-biting and even moaning when Tony really let his mouth run.
Besides that, he knew Tony talked during sex, practically kept a running fucking commentary, this wasn't exactly news. Come to think of it, the blush was gone too, and it was weird, because if you'd have told Tony a day ago that Steve would finally lose all that hesitance and prolonged kissing and blushing at every filthy word Tony said, Tony would have probably had a fucking party.
But this was weird and not like his Steve at all.
Not, not his Steve, he didn't mean it like that, just not the same Steve. So naturally, Tony asked,
"Are you a Skrull?"
And instead of laughing like Steve would, maybe kissing him and telling him he was ridiculous, whoever the fuck this was on top of him just thrust harder and grunted at him,
"Jesus fucking Christ, do you ever shut up?"
Tony was done, and not in the good way.
Potentially-Skrull-Steve, however, didn't care. He didn't seem to even fucking notice that Tony Jr was no longer an active participant, just continued fucking Tony until he was finished, and Tony was now 87% sure he'd just let a Skrull fuck him.
Once he was finished, potentially-Skrull-Steve rolled off him, picking up his clothes. Tony made to grab his wrist but stopped himself, opening his mouth and closing it just as fast. He didn't know what he would have said, but it didn't matter, because this wasn't Steve.
For all the above reasons, and for another one now too; Steve never left. Not that Tony was attached, or anything, it wasn't as if he cared, but Steve always stayed. He was always fuzzy and mellow and cuddly after sex, and while Tony grumbled and complained, he was warm against Tony's back and Tony hadn't had nightmares in months, so.
Surprisingly, it wasn't awkward, either. That first night maybe, if only because Tony thought he'd have to have the I-don't-do-relationships speech again in the morning despite his warnings, but when he woke Steve was gone. There was a sticky note beside his bed, a doodle of pancakes and orange juice with the tagline "downstairs if you want them" and that was that.
Steve stayed, he woke up first, and left Tony doodles on sticky notes. They didn't date, they didn't talk about it outside of when they were actually doing it, and if Tony kept the sticky notes, well, JARVIS wouldn't tell. Thing was, whatever weird, fucked up friends with benefits deal they had going on, it worked for them.
"Oh, darling," potentially-Skrull-Steve interrupted his thoughts then with a disturbingly condescending look that Tony had never, ever seen on Steve's face before, "You didn't think I'd stay, did you? I don't do relationships."
Then he was laughing, sauntering out the door and leaving Tony gaping like a fish. In that moment, Tony more sure about one thing than he had ever been about anything in his life.
That was not his Steve.
Tony disappeared into the workshop. He needed, quite desperately, to do something with his hands for a while, anything to put Steve and that weird, strangely cruel-sounding parting statement out of his mind. He worked mindlessly for almost four hours, until JARVIS told him his presence was required in the rec room.
The Avengers were all assembled, even Coulson, and Steve was sitting on the floor looking huffy. Natasha looked amused, Clint looked grossed out, Bruce and Coulson just seemed resigned. Thor, however, looked ashamed, and that worried Tony the most.
The pieces clicked into place.
"What did Loki do?"
If Thor was looking like that it meant Loki had done something, and it made sense. When they'd been fighting earlier, Steve had changed after taking the hit meant for Tony. It had looked to be just Loki's usual energy blasts, but with Loki, nothing was ever as it seemed. He probably would have suspected it sooner, if Steve hadn't been so god damn keen on getting into his pants.
"He has cast a spell upon Steven," Thor fidgeted.
"Has he now?" Tony replied sarcastically, "I didn't notice when Steve, y'know, grabbed my junk in the middle of a SHIELD meeting or anything."
"I didn't grab you," Steve rolled his eyes, "For fuck's sake, you're all over-reacting."
"Did Steve just say fuck?" Tony raised an eyebrow.
"Are you deaf?" Steve rolled his eyes at him, "Someone explain this ridiculous bullshit to him, I don't have time, I have a press conference in-"
"You have no such thing," Coulson interrupted, "You're on lockdown."
"Excuse you, do you know who I am? I am the first Avenger, a national hero; I'm Captain Fucking America—!"
"The shifting spell Loki cast upon him is a reversal spell," Thor ignored Steve and Coulson's arguing and talked to Tony, "Steven's personality has been, essentially, flipped."
"Which explains why we caught him out spending half his backpay on strippers and fancy cars," Clint snorted.
Tony couldn't help but laugh at that, though Coulson shot him a dirty glare.
"Captain America paid for strippers," Tony grinned, "Oh my god, I am never letting him live this down. Ever."
"We extracted him before the situation became compromised, of course," Coulson cleared his throat.
"Which, okay, totally not cool," Steve complained, "I was about to get laid."
"JARVIS? Please tell me you're getting all this on film," Tony asked just to hear the answer.
"Yes, sir," JARVIS obliged, "Though I doubt Captain Rogers will be pleased with you when he returns to form."
"Eh," Tony waved off his AI's concern, "Wait, does that means Spangles is gonna go all upervillain-say on us?"
"That's yet to be determined," Natasha shrugged, "He shows no signs of it, but…"
"I'm not evil," Steve rolled his eyes, "And a spell doesn't mean I can't understand pig latin, idiot."
"Huh," Tony tilted his head at Steve, "It's kind of like he's possessed."
"Kind of like he's possessed by you," Clint snickered.
Tony had to admit, he and Steve were pretty opposite in most respects; an opposite spell on Steve was seeming more and more like looking in a mirror.
"Well done on reaching the peak of narcissism, by the way," Natasha told him wryly.
"You basically fucked yourself," Clint snorted, clearly trying to keep a straight face.
"How did you know we had sex?" Tony protested, and that seemed to be what Clint had been hoping he'd ask.
"He was bragging about it!" Clint cracked up, "Was telling this stripper all about how he'd just fucked Tony Stark and walked out when we found him in that nightclub."
"Huh…" Tony furrowed his brow in thought.
He didn't particularly care what Steve told the stripping community at large, but something else had just occurred to him. If Steve was having a little opposite day, and having sex with Tony hadn't meant anything, then it sort of stood to reason that when they usually had sex…
It meant something to Steve.
Tony hated magic.
Really, really hated it. It messed with the laws of physics, with all common sense, and with his precious technology. It was messy and complicated and made him want to wring his hands or punch something.
At this particular moment, he kind of wanted to punch Steve.
Because okay, Tony was an intelligent guy. Denial was good, denial was his friend, but when confronted with something—like, oh, say, his fuck buddy good ol Captain America might be in love with him—Tony wasn't stupid. When smacked in the face with the evidence, he could put the pieces together.
Tony hadn't messed around with anyone else in the four months he'd been sleeping with Steve, and he was pretty damn sure Steve The Boy Scout hadn't either. They had dinner together pretty often, twice a week at least, and they slept in the same bed almost every night. They argued, they teased, they talked. They were close, closer than Tony had been to anyone in a long time, and the evidence was all but smacking him in the face.
They were dating.
Steve being Steve, he probably already knew. He knew Tony better than Tony knew himself. Steve had probably known all along that as long as he didn't back Tony into a corner about it, that he'd be comfortable enough around Steve to just sort of fall into a relationship without realizing.
The bastard had sneak dated him.
What the fuck?Since when did Captain America, paragon of virtue, go around sneak dating people? The hell was up with that? Steve just…knew him too well, was too deep under Tony's skin, and god if that didn't fucking terrify him. This was exactly why Tony didn't do relationships. What happened when Steve wizened up, realized that Tony was an emotionally fucked up idiot who didn't deserve anyone, much less Steve god damn Rogers? Tony would get hurt, that's what. He'd get his heart ripped out of his chest and stomped on, and thanks to Loki, he now had a pretty good idea what it was going to feel like.
Because while Tony came to these revelations, Steve was out attempting to screw half of New York.
Steve was ridiculous. He was Tony in his twenties: rich and horny and adventurous. Tony wasn't enough to keep Steve's attention—didn't that fucking sting—and it took the Avengers combined effort to keep Steve's antics out of the papers. Tony caused a number of these scenes himself, suiting up to forcibly haul Steve out of club after club, bar after bar. After the fifth time he caught Steve giving them the slip to make out with some grungy-looking slut in a bathroom stall, they had a showdown that nearly demolished the club.
The team voted Tony off the Steve-watching mission after that.
Which was probably wise, because if he had to spend another second watching Steve grind on some skimpily-dressed twenty-something, he was going to burst a blood vessel. He hated this. It made his fucking blood boil. Not that Tony was a particularly monogamous or possessive guy—hell, flirting was in his genetic code—it was the intent that bothered him.
Steve wasn't joking. Steve was flirting to flirt, or dancing to dance. He was honestly game to fuck half of New York if someone didn't stop him. And that…that bothered Tony, bothered him a lot. More than he'd thought it would, more than he'd care to admit to Steve anytime soon.
So he spent the next 47 hours in the lab, trying to trace the gamma signature of Loki's staff, or pin down his face by improving the SHIELD tracking software. There were no hits, and Bruce was the first to try and pull him out of the lab.
"So you finally figured out you were dating Steve."
"Uh," Tony paused, swiping a screen away to peer at Bruce, "That obvious?"
"You're startlingly oblivious when you want to be."
"I wouldn't say oblivious," Tony wheeled his chair over to Bruce, offering the one opposite, "Blissfully ignorant, maybe."
"Four months is a long time, Tony," Bruce took the offered seat with a sigh, "I didn't think it was possible to be that patient."
"Yeah, he's a god damn saint," Tony grumbled, images of Steve playing tongue hockey with some punk with a neck tattoo running through his mind.
"He never complained, you know," Bruce told him, ignoring Tony's grumblings, "I never once heard him say anything that made me think he expected more from you. I think he honestly meant to take whatever you could give. And that's rare, Tony. To find someone who understands you to that extent? I have to admit, we were all relatively convinced he was fooling himself, thinking that you cared."
"You physically attacked him for touching someone else."
"I warned him to quit it with the below-the-belt bullshit—"
"I'm not saying you were wrong, Steve'll be glad you stopped him when he's back to normal. I'm just saying that I think before all this we were pretty sure you were…"
"A bit harsh. More that we thought you didn't know how invested he was."
"And you didn't think to tell me?"
"Clint got halfway to the shop before Steve threatened anyone who said a word about his feelings with solitary clean-up duty for a year."
"We figured if he got hurt after that, well, it was a hurt he was prepared to bear."
"That's very…" Tony paused, thinking about the own hurt he wasn't prepared to bear, "Idealistic."
"All I'm saying is, he was patient with you. Don't you think you could at least try to be patient with him?"
"I found out he was sneak-dating me the day he decided he wanted to fuck other people, and I didn't punch him in the face. I'd say I've been very patient with him."
"You didn't punch him in the face because his face would break your hand."
"I can be patient and logical," Tony pointed out, "Besides, it doesn't matter. I'm breaking it off with him. Well, technically speaking I'd say he's broken it off himself, but—"
"What the hell do you mean?"
Tony turned to Bruce in surprise. It wasn't that Bruce didn't swear, it was just a part of his keep-calm vibe that he didn't do so very often.
"What do you mean, you're 'breaking it off with him'?"
"We were friends with benefits, Bruce," Tony rolled his eyes, "He got invested and tried to sneak-date me or whatever, but that just means it's time to end it. It's not his fault, but I'm not going to keep sleeping with the poor guy if he's in love with me or something—"
"You're a damned fool," Bruce shook his head, "How can you be so smart about some things and so stupid about others?"
"He's not the only one in love, Tony. And you know that. You're scared, but you know that."
"Thanks for the advice, Buddha, but I don't do relationships," Tony rolled his eyes, ignoring the twinge of pain at remembering how Steve had thrown those words in his face.
You didn't think I'd stay, did you? I don't do relationships.
"Whatever you say, Tony," Bruce just sighed, muttering something about stubborn fools deserving each other. Then, after a moment's quiet, "Would you at least try talking to him? You remember what you were like in your twenties, maybe you know what to say to get him under control. The least you could do is stop this orgy thing he's convinced he's going to host here tonight—"
"Pepper!" Tony leapt up.
"Pepper, she handled me, she could totally handle Steve, yes, awesome, you're perfect, Bruce! JARVIS, tell Pepper to get down here ASAP, tell her it's an emergency, we're hosting an orgy—"
"No, Tony, we're stopping the orgy—"
"We'll work on the details later, just tell her there are orgies involved—"
"Miss Potts says she will be down post-haste, and to tell you that it's not her birthday and she's wearing stilettos, so nude greetings are not recommended, orgy or no orgy."
"Ouch," Tony winced, "No love like Pepper love."
"This doesn't sound like a new warning," Bruce raised an eyebrow.
"I had admittedly poor judgment in my youth."
"By youth," JARVIS corrected, "Sir means to say until about a year and a half prior."
"You know what else was poor judgment?" Tony grumbled, "Giving you a sass code. Now that was poor judgment."
"What's this about orgies, Tony?" Pepper entered the workshop with a sigh, the promised stilettos clicking against the pavement.
"Steve's trying to host one," Tony grinned.
"Funny," she rolled her eyes, "But I've told you, they're bad press for the company—"
"No, Pep, I'm serious. Steve wants to host an orgy," Tony informed her seriously.
Pepper looked to Bruce, who gave a solemn nod.
She sank into a chair.
"Aw, I broke Pepper," Tony grinned gleefully, "Been a while since I managed that. Don't worry too much Pep, he's been hit by a reversal spell. Now he's all about sex drugs and rock 'n roll."
"Loki?" she raised an eyebrow at Bruce, who nodded.
"Magic," she pursed her lips, "Great."
"So we were thinking, Steve's kind of like a young, Greek-god-looking me. Any tips on keeping him from destroying that sterling rep of his?"
Pepper paused a moment, thinking it over, then,
"Find his inventing equivalent."
"You were always easiest to manage when you had a project. And if you didn't, I made one up to keep you busy," Pepper smirked, "Find his equivalent, and shove it down his throat."
Turned out, the team expected Tony to know this. To his own surprise, he did.
So while Nat and Thor were on Steve-sitting duty, Tony went out to every art shop in New York City, and bought every kind of quality art supply he could find. He bought easels and paints and notebooks and graphite and colored pencils, things Steve used and things he didn't, new projects galore, anything to keep Steve from going out and sexing up people that weren't him.
When Tony presented Steve with the art supplies, he got a brief flicker.
It wasn't much, just a flash of excitement reminiscent of normal Steve, and it made something in Tony's chest ache. So he shoved the supplies into Steve's hands, told him to go do art things, and ran back to hide in the shop.
Steve was less trouble after that. They still had to watch him at night, but during the day he painted or sketched instead of running off to explore the city with women hanging off his arms.
Tony still didn't like being around him.
They didn't manage to track down Loki, but when Steve showed up in Tony's shop a week after the spell was cast, blushing red from head to toe, he kind of put two and two together.
Didn't mean he couldn't be a dick about it though.
"Steve, I told you, we're not having an orgy at the Tower, it's bad press," Tony told him, turning back to his screen without further comment.
"I know, you're a free man, you want to fuck every busty blonde in the Tri-State area, you've made that very clear—"
"No! No, I—"
"Sorry, have you moved on to redheads now? I know we've moved through brunettes, you made it quite clear you were through with that category."
Okay, that might have sounded a little more bitter than he'd meant it to.
"Tony," Steve moved forward to turn him by his shoulders, make Tony face him, "Please. I'm sorry."
"Oh, the spell wore off, then? Does this mean you're not going to be screwing around with every drunken teenager who throws themselves your way anymore?"
"Please stop," Steve asked, a hurt look in his eyes, like he was the one who got to be upset by all this.
"Yeah," Tony jerked his shoulders out of Steve's grip, turning back to his screen, "We should stop."
"You, me. Us. This," Tony gesticulated, "Whatever this is, this stupid sneak-dating thing you've been doing to me without telling me, this caring bullshit—"
"Don't," then Steve was grabbing his wrist, pulling him around and close, too close, their chests an inch apart, their hips brushing with electricity, "Don't belittle it like that."
"What's the hell is there to belittle?" Tony just shouted, wanting to push Steve away and pull him closer all at once, both urges strong enough to resist the other, leaving him right where he was, "We're not together, Steve! We're not dating, not seeing each other, nothing! We're two friends who fuck each other, why can't you just leave it at that?"
Steve kissed him then. Tony had sort of been expecting him to, had been expecting to fight it, to kick and shove and bite his lip and do whatever he needed to, but Steve surprised him. Tony had been expecting fire, expecting intensity and crash and burn. He thought Steve would shut him up, push him against the workshop table, maybe fuck him over it. Angry sex was nothing to sneeze at, even if Tony still had every intention of ending this…thing, whatever it was.
But there was no fire in Steve's kiss, just a soft, pleading press of the lips. Steve shifted his hold on Tony, raised his hands to cradle Tony's face like he was breakable. He stepped closer, eclipsing everything else in Tony's world like he too often did. The fragility of the kiss surprised Tony, surprised him enough that he caved into it, melting against Steve and curling his hands into Steve's shirt for the support, the warmth, the familiarity. For Steve.
Steve broke away just barely, just enough to rest their foreheads together, running the pads of his thumbs over Tony's cheeks as if to smooth away any worry.
"Because I have never," Steve told him quietly, as if there had been no break in their conversation, "Ever, fucked you, Tony."
The implications went unsaid, but practically vibrated between them. Tony couldn't bring himself to pull away, to speak, to do anything at all. They stood there, chest to chest, and Steve just looked at him. And Tony could see it now, in retrospect. Could see the way Steve had always looked at him like that, like he was more than a friend, more than a fuck buddy, more than everything. Like he was precious and important and all Steve wanted; like they could last.
"Tell me that's all we ever were," Steve said at last, his lips still just a breath away from Tony's, "Tell me you really think all we did was fuck, and I'll go."
The word 'fuck' was still strange on Steve's lips. Tony had heard him say it before, obviously; in the heat of passion, in a battle gone wrong, when he lost at MarioKart. But he'd never heard it said quite like that, spat with derision, something filthy and wrong, something Steve found personally insulting.
He tried to say it.
Tried to spit it back with the same poison, tried for an insulting yes, you idiot, we fucked, that's what fuck buddies do, tried for a low blow of yeah, we fucked, just like you fucked half of New York last week, but neither made it past his lips.
Of all the god damned clichés in the book, of all the sappy, desperate, whiny pleas he could've mustered, that was probably the worst. If the arms around his waist and the lips on his were any indication though, Steve didn't really seem to grasp how completely pathetic Tony was.
"I won't," Steve murmured against his lips, "I promise."
"I'm going to ruin you," Tony warned, his fingers brushing the short blonde hair at the nape of Steve's neck while Steve kissed his way down Tony's.
"You won't, I promise."
"I don't deserve you."
"You do, I promise."
"Stop promising. You can't promise any of that."
"I'll make any promises I please," Steve nipped and sucked at his collarbone, almost in reprimand, "I promise that I love you. That you deserve me, same as I deserve you. That you're being ridiculous and working yourself up over something that shouldn't even need a second thought."
"I think falling in love with Captain America warrants a second thought."
"Nope," Steve popped the 'p', kissing any protest silent.
"Potentially," Tony pulled away to correct hastily, "Potentially falling in love."
"Of course," Steve agreed easily, but Tony could feel the smug smile in his kiss.