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Stretch Out Your Hand and Strike All He Has

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“It’s just the first pass,” Tony tells Rhodey as he walks beside the man wearing customized leg braces hooked up to an external neural net.

“Yeah.” Rhodey’s movement is stuttering and stilted, clunky, like a baby deer taking its first steps.

The tech is still not perfect, not nearly good enough for his honeybear. “Give me some feedback. Anything you can think of. Shock absorption. Lateral movement,” Tony says, throwing out suggestions in the wake of unbearable silence. “Cup holder?”

As they leave the safety of the therapeutic bars, Rhodey quips, “You may wanna think about some AC down in–” his legs fail, and he falls, catching himself on his hands before he can break his nose on the tile. He chokes up, in near tears from either the hit to his useless legs or from frustration, Tony isn’t sure.

It breaks his heart either way.

“Let’s go,” Tony murmurs, reaching for him. “I’ll give you a hand.”

But Rhodey is already waving him off. “No. No, don’t. Don’t help me,” he lifts himself up by his arms to roll into a sitting position, breathing hard from the exertion, from the pain. Tony stays by his side the entire time, crouched down, wanting to help but feeling helpless.

Rhodey gazes up at him then turns away, shaking his head at what he sees in his best friend’s eyes. “A hundred and thirty eight,” he says. “A hundred and thirty eight combat missions. That’s how many I’ve flown, Tony. Every one of them could’ve been my last, but I flew ‘em. Because the fight needed to be fought. It’s the same with these Accords. I signed because it was the right thing to do. And yeah, this sucks. This is a… this is a bad beat,” he meets Tony’s eyes. “But it hasn’t changed my mind. I don’t think,” he says resolutely.

And isn’t that just like Rhodey, always trying to protect him, to make him feel better, even when Tony isn’t the one hurting. He holds out a hand, and this time Rhodey accepts, allowing Tony to pull him up to a standing position.

He grunts in pain.

“You okay?” Tony asks.

“Oh yeah,” but his pinched expression belies any assurances.

They are interrupted by a delivery for “Tony Stank” from his ex-friend and former teammate: the asshole who shall not be named. Tony tears open the package and dumps the contents – an ancient flip phone – onto his desk before reading the accompanying letter.

Tony, I’m glad you’re back at the compound. I don’t like the idea of you rattling around a mansion by yourself…

 


 

That had been three weeks ago.

Rhodey is walking better, learning how to use his new legs even as Tony continues to tweak them – making them faster, lighter, more responsive, better than the last pair, better than the originals, if he can manage that.

(He can’t, doesn’t mean he doesn’t try.)

“Jesus, Tones, is the next set going to come with jetpacks?” Rhodey jokes. “I’ve always wanted to place first in a marathon.”

Jetpacks.

All Tony can think about is system failure, billows of smoke spiraling up…

War Machine, spinning end over end, in freefall with Iron Man blasting after him, but Tony is much too far, much too slow. He can’t–

The smile slips off Rhodey’s face as he says, more seriously this time, “Really, these are good. Great, actually. I can barely feel them on me, and look,” he takes a strut across the room, ending in a twirl. “No system lag, instantaneous feedback.”

Rhodey, unconscious and broken, crumpled in his very own impact crater.

“You okay?” The man in question snaps his fingers in Tony face. “Ground control to Major Tony.”

“…You want to be the next Usain Bolt? I can make it happen.” Tony will do anything to make up for–

“Hey,” Rhodey says. It’s soft but sufficient to shut Tony up. For once. “I’m gonna keep repeating this until you believe it: It wasn’t your fault, man. Every time we step into the suit, both of us take a risk that we might not be coming home, but the cause? It was worth fighting for.”

Tony (tries to) believe him, because it has to be worth it. It has to be worth Rhodey’s legs, Clint’s freedom, and Steve…

Steve.

The dissolution of whatever gentle tentative something verging on respect, on desire, that had been brewing between him and the other man now twisted into a well of rage, blistering and bright, springing anew at the very thought of Steve Rogers, of what he had kept from Tony.

Did you know?

Whatever they could have been, it’s dead and buried now, as dead as the Avengers Initiative itself.

“You think you could program some dance moves into these babies?” Rhodey gingerly tests out the full range of motion, finding it satisfactory for what it is.

Tony’s smile is a wobbly line. “Depends. You looking to join Riverdance? Rapid fire legs, upper body stock still?”

 


 

Tony keeps the flip phone on his person at all times or just within reach when he’s sleeping or in the shower. He isn’t quite sure why he holds onto it; he only knows that Cap had made him a promise, and the phone is a manifestation of that promise.

He wants to know if Steve will really show up.

He wants to know if it is a lie as well.

He doesn’t know which answer he’d prefer.

 


 

We all need family. The Avengers are yours, maybe more so than mine, Steve had written.

Liar, Tony thinks sourly, as he sits alone in his office, the flip phone burning a proverbial hole in his inner jacket pocket.

One by one, the Avengers who sided with Tony defect to join Steve’s rogues.

The first had been King T’Challa of Wakanda, which isn’t exactly surprising to Tony. He hadn’t really known him on a personal level, so their connection is slim at best. The man had only fought alongside him for vengeance, and once the real bomber had been caught, any alliance with Tony’s side of the conflict had dissipated. The reclusive country is closing ranks, refusing to comply with the Accords. The UN can’t enforce such measures on a sovereign nation that never signed, but as long as the Black Panther stays within his borders, policing his own people and staying out of international affairs, he can do whatever he wants.

Natasha had been next. Shortly before T’Challa followed Tony to Siberia, he had informed the UN about Natasha’s actions in Liepzig, how she had aided the rogues’ escape, but by the time they managed to build a case for her arrest, she had already gone off the grid, disappearing into the ether.

Ross had been pissed, but with the speed of bureaucracy, what did he expect? (And what could Tony expect now that that self-same bureaucracy oversees the so-called Avengers’ actions? ‘Strike while the iron is lukewarm’ as the saying goes.)

But Nat is smart, resourceful; she hadn’t needed Tony or the Avengers before, and she didn’t need them now to land on her feet. Still…

“Nat’s gone,” Tony tells Steve in clipped tones, calling the one number pre-programmed into the burner before he can think through the consequences of his actions: Namely, that he would have to talk to the lying asshole himself and now isn’t that a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions?

Steve is silent for a moment, then: “What happened?”

“What do you think? You and that homicidal boyfriend of yours happened,” Tony tries to temper the resentment bleeding into his tone. He is not very successful. “Don’t get me wrong. Nat’s a big girl; she makes her own decisions, but they know she helped you escape. They’re charging her with willful misconduct, aiding and abetting, conspiracy, international terrorism… and that’s just the first round of indictments,” he says. “Ross turned a rather interesting shade of purple. Who knows? He might even have an aneurysm, so add that to your body count,” not that Tony cares if the man drops dead. It would probably mean less paperwork for Iron Man &co. “He can’t make treason stick because technically the Accords fall under international jurisdiction, but it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.”

Steve focuses on the facts, like the goddamn Boy Scout (on the lam) he is. “Do you know where she’s headed? Did she tell you?”

“Not in so many words, but smart money is on whatever shithole you’re calling home these days.”

Steve breathes out slow, producing a low static over the shoddy connection. “It would be nice to see Nat again.”

“Yeah, just like the good old days.” A flare of rage, of hurt, spikes through Tony’s nerves, causing his hands to tremble and clench tight around the cheap plastic. “A happy little family reunion,” and that family has never included Tony.

Never.

“Tony, I didn’t–”

“God, I don’t know why I even called,” Tony cuts him off, uninterested in whatever petty condolences Steve had prepared for such an occasion. “This is a mistake. Chalk it up to nostalgia or early-onset senility – Maybe I should get a brain scan. F.R.I.?” he addresses his AI assistant.

“Yes, Mr. Stark?”

He massages his forehead with steepled fingers. “I feel a headache coming on. Please tell me it’s not a brain tumor.”

“Tony–” Steve tries to interject, and Tony must be imagining things because the man sounds miserable.

It does nothing to soothe his anger. “Say hi to Nat for me,” and Sam and Clint and Vision. Bucky can rot for all he cares.

“I just wanted to–”

Tony hangs up before he can finish. He couldn’t care less what Steve wants.

Family, my ass, he thinks, giving his office chair a spin.

Come to think of it, Steve didn’t even have the courtesy to thank him for the heads up.

Rude.

 


 

I’ve been on my own since I was 18. I never really fit in anywhere, even in the army. My faith’s in people, I guess. Individuals. And I’m happy to say that, for the most part, they haven’t let me down. Which is why…

Vision’s defection hits him the hardest, though Tony isn’t sure why he is so surprised. Vision doesn’t talk to him anymore, not since Rhodey’s accident, too ashamed, too guilty to look either of them in the eye. Tony had always viewed Vision as a sort of extension of himself in a way, being an evolution of J.A.R.V.I.S. whose base code Tony had written when he was younger and less angry. It is an odd sort of betrayal, but then again, Tony has always been self-destructive–

…What did it say about Tony that Vision had sided with Captain America in the end?

The man at least had the courtesy to tell him before he left, logically laying out his thought process, the whys and hows, as if any of that mattered more than the fact that he had fallen in love with the Scarlett Witch, and the Accords were a direct threat to her, had been designed to contain her like the nuclear warhead she is.

Tony doesn’t even bother calling Cap about Vision. Steve likely knew of his defection through Wanda anyway.

That left just him and Rhodey (and Honeybear is paralyzed, so it’s not like he can run, Tony thinks, a touch hysterically). Peter is fourteen, too young to know better; he doesn’t count…

Tony remembers when he was fourteen, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. That’s when he had met Rhodey. Back when life was still exciting and new and the shape of his future had yet to solidify into the mess it would become, Tony had been eager to prove himself. And so, unusually precocious and way too drunk, Tony had hit on the older upperclassman – I love a man in uniform – he had said, referring to Rhodey’s school cafeteria outfit from his work-study program. Rhodey had taken one look at Tony, at the peach fuzz just barely growing in on his upper lip and asked, Okay, who gave beer to the twelve year old? But he had stayed with Tony, turned him on his side to make sure he didn’t drown in his own vomit and gave him his MIT hoodie to wear when he threw up all over his favorite band tee.

Rhodey had even gotten him a job tutoring freshmen, not that Tony needed the money, but Rhodey had thought the boy could do with some friends (slightly) closer to his own age outside of the single-serving ones he met at frat parties. The lessons were laughably easy, and sometimes Tony grew frustrated with how long it took other students to understand the material.

Tony stands in his old office in a deserted compound, decluttering the possessions of former Avengers. Pepper had offered to have professionals box up everything for storage, but Tony had felt he needed to do it himself. For closure or something equally asinine. Whatever it was had made sense at the time.

He tosses an introductory physics book he had meant to give Peter into the ‘Donate’ pile.

Now here’s a question, an easy one hailing from Physics 101: What do you call it when the air resistance or drag is equal and opposite to the weight of the object?

One of Tony’s doctorates is in Engineering Physics, but he could do the math since he was four years old.

Rhodey falls out of the sky, reaching a terminal velocity of 54 m/s in 12 seconds.

It is his fault. He had dragged Honeybear into this, had crippled him as surely as if he had taken a bat to his lower back himself. He had let Rhodey down…

I can’t let them down either, Steve’s words taunt him from the depths of his psyche.

Perhaps it had been inevitable. In the intervening years since that fateful party, Tony had managed to fuck up every relationship and friendship he had ever had, but Rhodey always stays with him through his raging benders, his parents’ deaths, his general selfishness and flakiness. It had been the singular relationship Tony hadn’t managed to drive into the ground (until now, that is, and quite literally as it turns out).

Rhodey still stands by him, but he suspects he doesn’t exactly stand by the Accords anymore. They’re too restrictive, stifling, and sometimes, when Rhodey struggles with his prosthetics, when he’s not quite as fast as he used to be, nor his movements as fluid, Tony can see doubt in the shadow of Rhodey’s eyes and the grit of his teeth…

Tony still visits him, when he wants to get away from the solitude of an empty compound, from the echo of his own mind reverberating back on itself, his thoughts compounding, snowballing until he can barely breathe under the weight of his guilt, his helpless wrath. He still designs upgrades to the tech helping his best friend regain function, but it’s hard to watch Rhodey struggle, to know it’s his fault. It took Tony thirty-one years, but he managed to ruin the one constant in his life–

He blames Steve Rogers.

 


 

Tony practically falls into the limo, leaving the soundproof divider separating him and Happy up. He tilts his head back, breathes out slow and rubs the ache in his left arm, a remnant of Siberia that often acts up when the weather changes. This is Steve’s comeuppance, both what he deserves and what the Accords require. Yet, Tony’s fingers itch to pick up the phone, to call the man who once was his friend and warn him before it’s too late.

Locks can be replaced, but maybe they shouldn’t.

He deliberates for approximately 36.4 seconds before he makes the call.

“Tony?” Steve says, his tone low, edging on tentative.

“You need to move.”

“Where are you?” and there’s the Captain America voice he knows and loves. “What’s the situation?”

“The situation is that your position has been compromised. They know where you are, and unless you and your team want to end up wearing matching orange jumpsuits – which will clash tragically with Nat’s hair, by the way – you’ll get the fuck out. Right now.”

“Compromised?” He repeats, like he has all the time in the world. “So, you aren’t in trouble? You’re fine?”

They don’t have time for this.

“Did I stutter? Why aren’t I hearing the sounds of an emergency evac? They know about Cambodia, Rogers; a STRIKE team is converging on your location as we speak, so go! Go now!”

“Slow down, Tony.”

“No! You need to get up to speed. Did you not hear what I just said? They are about to bust your ass–”

“Tony–”

“And maybe if it was just you and Manchurian Candidate–”

“We–”

“But no, you had to drag Sam and Nat into this, not to mention Clint and that Giant guy. You know they have kids, right?” Tony had brought an actual child into the conflict, but he’s not about to point that out.

“Tony–”

“You never think, do you, Steve? You never consider the ramifications, not just the political clusterfuck you left behind, but what about your own goddamn life? And hell, if you don’t care about that because you have a death wish or this crazy savior complex or whatever your deal is, then at least think about your team. They–”

“Jesus Christ, Tony! We’re not in Cambodia! We left weeks ago.”

“…Oh,” Tony says, his adrenaline waning, replaced by something akin to embarrassment, “So the intel was–”

“Outdated, yes. A source tipped us off.”

Captain not-America-anymore apparently hands out his exclusive, supposedly-confidential phone number like a suburban mom hands out candy on Halloween. Tony isn’t special; the phone doesn’t mean anything.

“Well then, I suppose this call is just a giant waste of time for both of us, huh? You have everything completely under control. As usual.”

“Tony,” and the man sounds tired. “I sent you the phone so you could call us if you needed help. You shouldn’t feel obligated to compromise yourself–”

Because Steve is such an expert on what compromise looks like? That’s rich. He couldn’t even bend a little to preserve their team – their family – to stave off the worst case scenario currently dogging his heels. Steve doesn’t need Tony anymore, and perhaps he never did.

“So that’s it?” Tony says bitterly. “You’re above accepting help from a government lapdog; hm? How close am I? You can tell me.”

“Tony–”

“Because God forbid you compromise your sterling image by reaching across the aisle, by working with the opposition towards a common goal: Keeping everyone safe, so we can all go home.” If only Cap had backed him on the Accords, the others would have fallen in line. They could have stayed a team, and Rhodey would have never–

There’s a small impact crater outside Liepzig. Tony had it filled in and re-sod shortly after, as if nothing ever happened.

Tony wishes it never happened.

“That’s not what I–”

“How is that going by the way?” Tony asks in such a way as to make it clear he doesn’t require a real answer. “Have you been able to keep Barnes from going into a fugue state and killing the others while they sleep–”

“You know that’s not fair–”

“Or at least the ones you like anyway?” Because in the hierarchy of people important to Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes ranked number one while Tony hovered somewhere just above Barnes’s favorite tapeworm.

“Jesus Christ, Stark, will you shut up for once in your life!”

Tony pauses, more out of shock than anything, but he recovers in the next moment, dropping his voice low: “Oh, I’m starting to want you to make me.”

He expects angry denials, an old-fashioned tongue lashing perhaps, or maybe even an I-am-disappointed-in-you speech about the crassness of dragging his precious Bucky’s delicate mental state into their argument, but what he gets is a low groan of pain.

“What was that? Are you injured?” Has Tony been riling up an invalid, someone who should be recuperating? Steve is fairly invulnerable; anything short of a cannonball through his gut isn’t going to keep him down long.

Oh God, is Steve dying?

“N– no,” Steve manages, but is that panting? “I’m fine.”

Fine for Steve is a meaningless construct, ranging from perfectly healthy to mortally wounded. “Are you – No, you can’t be; you’re not that stupid – Are you on a mission? Why the fuck would you answer your phone when you’re on a mission?”

“Because you called,” he replies, as if that makes any sense at all.

“You could have let it go to voicemail. I mean… Jesus fucking Christ, Cap. Priorities.”

“…I’m not on a mission,” he admits.

“Then what–”

“I’m in bed.”

Oh, Tony thinks and then catches on to the underlying implication. Ohhhh…

Tony wonders who it is. It could be a stranger, some rando Steve picked up somewhere between Cambodia and wherever the hell he is right now, but that isn’t really his style. Nat maybe? She and Steve always seemed close, or as close as one could get to the Black Widow and live to tell the tale. Or is it Sam? Sam always had Steve’s back (Tony imagines him having Steve’s ‘back’ in other, more different and varied ways).

Or perhaps – and this is the most likely candidate if Tony is being painfully honest with himself – it’s Bucky.

That inspires an icy chill down his spine, the ache of an old injury that never quite healed – one that whispers of inadequacy and a landslide of insecurities – and yet.

And yet.

Steve Rogers picked up his call; he chose Tony. He is with Bucky in the flesh and prioritized Tony for once since this whole debacle began. It’s much too late of course, but Tony would be lying if he said there wasn’t a sick sense of satisfaction at the thought.

“Well,” he says, feigning indifference (and failing miserably), “Isn’t that flattering?”

Steve audibly shudders, a low stuttering breath inspiring a matching shiver in Tony.

Jesus Christ, Tony shouldn’t be doing this, but then again, since when has Tony ever let that stop him?

“I thought,” and Steve swallows around a lump, his voice a touch dry and sandpapery, husky with desire. Is he literally with Barnes right now? The two of them slotted together, one pounding into the other as Steve struggles to speak through the thrusts, over the wet slap of skin against skin? “I thought you needed me, needed us. I thought – I thought you were in trouble,” he chokes off another moan. “I’ll always come for you, Tony.”

Fuck.

“Phrasing, Cap, though considering the circumstances, I’m willing to let that one slide.” Tony settles back into the leather seat, palming his erection already raised to half-mast and considering whether he should spring it free from the confines of his trousers. He has a good hour until he reaches the compound upstate. Plenty of time. He unzips. “So, you finally found someone to pop your cherry, huh?” He pulls out a bottle of lube from the side dash, squirts some out, rubs it warm, and starts slow, working himself over, but even so, his verbal admonishment of the other man is harsh, almost guttural at the thought of someone else having Steve–

Someone else? He disregards the pain heartbreak annoyance at the thought.

“I mean, I’d say it’s long overdue, but you are the leading authority on waiting too long, so I guess congratulations are in order.” Tony imagines Barnes trying to regain Steve’s attention, growing impatient the longer Tony keeps lover boy on the phone…

Tony is never hanging up.

“Who’s the lucky person? Anyone I know?” he asks, before thinking better of it. “Wait. Don’t answer that. I wouldn’t want you to ruin this for me. I’ve got a couple guesses, and the mystery lets me to keep my favorites.”

It’s probably Barnes anyway, he thinks resentfully.

“I’m alone.”

Then why…

Tony can’t breathe; his hand pauses mid-stroke.

“Tony?” Steve says, the name on his lips breathless, like a prayer.

Tony has never been religious, but now he’s imagining Steve on bended knee, head bowed before him, penitent, pleading for absolution, eyes half-lidded under thick blond lashes and pink tongue slipping out to wet his lips gone much too dry.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…

He swallows. “You don’t sound alone.”

“I am,” Steve manages to rasp, even as his breath quickens, and yeah… there’s no mistaking what the man is up to on the other end (or more accurately what bits of Steve are up).

But Tony feigns ignorance as he inquires, “Then it sounds like you’ve got yourself pretty worked up over something. Care to share with the class?” He begins anew, stroking up and down, over the sensitive ridge running along the underside of his cockhead, his speed increasing as he varies the pressure along his shaft.

“You–” Steve’s breath hitches as he lets out another moan.

Well then.

That’s more honesty than Tony had been expecting. “Fuck… Steve…” he groans just before popping off like a goddamn teenager, spilling all over his dress shirt. It’s moderately embarrassing. “You–” As he comes down, the gravity of what he has done washes over him. “Goddammit, Cap. Goddamn you. I– I need to go.”

“Tony,” Steve’s pleading now, even as his panting picks up, increasing in speed and volume. Steve sounds so close, and if Tony stays on the line, he’ll never un-know what Captain America sounds like when he cums. “Tony, I–”

Tony hangs up.

 


 

I know I hurt you, Tony.

He can’t stop thinking about it. The huskiness of Steve’s voice enhanced in his memory, amplified by the drag of Tony’s fingers over his own erection, the desire broadcast clear in Steve’s breathy vocalizations, how he had said Tony’s name, rough and wanting. His mind wanders over the memories, turning and tumbling through them, but they never lose their sharp edges, cutting through all other thoughts like tissue paper. He thinks about it as he goes over status reports, stock projections, new projects. He thinks about it in the shower just before he turns up the cold water. He thinks about all those stolen moments with Steve, as he’s falling asleep in the twilight hours.

He can’t concentrate on anything else. Steve is a drug injected into Tony, setting his mind aflame and blocking out everything else in a veil of blackened ash. It’s ridiculous how much he wants someone he–

I guess I thought by not telling you about your parents, I was sparing you, but I can see now that I was really sparing myself, and–

He hates Steve Rogers.

Together, Steve had promised him.

Well, where is he now? Selfish, uncompromising, lying asshole that he is, too wrapped up in his personal freedoms and whatever he has going on with Bucky Barnes of all people to care that Tony had been trying to keep the promise they had made to each other, to keep the team together at all costs, so they will be ready when the time came.

Don’t bullshit me, Rogers! Did you know?

How could he keep it from Tony? The why behind the singular defining event of his young adult life, the incident that kicked off years of grief and regret…

And Steve knew.

I’m sorry.

Fat lot of good it did Tony now. Steve had left him, had taken the kids in the divorce even, leaving him alone to deal with the emotional devastation of his parents’ murders (absconding with their assassin no less), not to mention the fallout from Ross, the UN, and the whole media circus covering the banishment of America’s former Golden Boy.

And finally, Tony remembers the pain in Rhodey’s face as he shuffled forward in various prototypes. His best friend will never walk unassisted again.

Hopefully one day you can understand.

What Tony understands is that all of them, one by one – Tony’s family, Steve had called them – had chosen the former Captain America over him. So what if Tony is looking for a little payback? What of it? He is so tired, tired of fighting, tired of being left behind. He just wants someone to choose him for once.

…Who better than the man who started it all?

And so, angry, bitter, and more than a little horny, Tony pulls out the flip phone – the one for emergencies only – and dials Steve’s number.

The man picks up on the third ring.

“Where are you?” Tony asks, because it’s been almost 72 hours, and although it’s plausible Steve has moved on to a different time zone, it’s not very likely he has made it far. He should be in bed by now…

Like last time.

Tony’s dick twitches with interest.

“You know I can’t say,” Steve replies, because his mind is always on the mission, unlike Tony’s.

That’s something else Tony holds against him, just another straw to add to the pile that broke the camel’s back and buried it under for good measure.

He rolls his eyes, his tone nearly acidic as he clarifies, “Not your coordinates, because frankly, my dear Cap, I don’t give a damn.” If he had asked, F.R.I.D.A.Y. could probably track them down within the hour, give or take, which is why he never asks. “I’m asking, where are you?

“…in bed,” he says. There’s a sultry quality to his tone Tony has never heard from Steve before.

Now, we’re getting somewhere.

“And are you alone?” he murmurs, his voice equally low, popping open his pants and pulling out his dick before Cap can even reply.

“…Yes.”

Tony gives himself a stroke, to test the waters, and shivers. “What do you want from me?”

“You.”

Tony sucks in a breath. Yep, this is working for him.

Goddammit.

“I’m gonna need you to be more specific than that.”

“I can give you want you need, if you’ll let me,” Steve says, his voice already husky, seductive.

“And what is it you think I need, hm? A healthy dose of super-soldier dick? You think you have what it takes to bring me to my knees?”

It’s a challenge, a gauntlet thrown, the only thing that has ever made sense between them.

The only thing they know how to be to each other.

Steve recognizes it, too. “Don’t you ever get tired of it, Tony? Of fighting? Of trying to be in charge all the time? With the Avengers. At SI. The great visionary, the born leader. Always pushing back against the group, against me... You want to know what I think?”

“Not really,” Tony rasps out, “but I bet you’re gonna tell me anyway.”

His answer is breathy, gravelly. “I think you want someone to put you in your place, crave it even.”

“And you think that someone is you?” Tony denies the truth. He would fight it, of course, both Steve and his own contrary libido to his dying breath if it came down to that.

“You should let me, you know. I could be so good to you, Tony. I could take care of you,” a breath, a pause before he grinds out, “I could be so goddamn sweet, if only you’d let me.”

Let?

“What would be the fun in that?”

Steve rolls with it. “…Or I could make you,” – a sharp intake of air, a groan – “I know you won’t go down easy – you never want to make things easy – but I can bend you over, push inside… make you take it. You’d like that, huh?”

Tony grips himself tighter, imagines Cap – all fire and self-righteous fury – holding Tony down, tearing off his clothes. He’d press his blunt cockhead to Tony’s entrance and sheath it with a snap of his hips. Draped over his body and buried deep, Steve could take what he wants at the speed he wants, with no regard to Tony’s comfort, his wants or wishes. If Steve would take him like that – and he is strong enough to make it a reality – then whatever happens after wouldn’t be Tony’s fault. Not the sex. Not the blinding orgasm. Not this roiling desire for a man he should detest. Tony’s pleasure would be entirely incidental.

“You’d let me, wouldn’t you?” Steve’s deep voice rumbles through the haze of Tony’s mind. “You’d let me have you; let me do what I want.”

Tony moans, the feeling building, his own release imminent. In his fantasies, he wouldn’t let Steve do anything; Steve would take. He’d make Tony enjoy it, make him want it, too.

“Anything I want,” Steve continues, his words halting and interspersed with his own groans. “And I want to take you apart, Tony. I’m gonna take you apart, break you down,” – his words falter on a rolling exhale – “Until all you can think of is me.”

Steve would push him down, split him open on his cock, make Tony scream, make him beg for more. Tony would try to rock back into it, but Steve would smack his ass – No! You take what I give you, slut – and he’d lift his hips so Tony would have no leverage, no control. He would be forced to accept sex on Steve’s terms, receiving pleasure at the other man’s pace.

And Steve would be relentless.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

It wouldn’t matter what Tony likes.

Steve sounds close. “Anything I want.”

Yes.

Tony can feel it, the rising tide of his building orgasm riding roughshod over conscious thought, so close to breaking. “Fuck… Steve… Steve, I’m– fuck!”

“I want you to.”

And Tony does, cumming over himself, spurting white onto his stomach, over his hand clenched around his dick. He hears Steve crest as well, and now he will never unknow the sound.

Steve’s breath evens out over the phone. “Did you…” he asks.

“Yeah, Cap, and it sounds like you did, too,” Tony replies, his head clearing much too soon, cottoning on to the fact that he just had phone sex with Captain fucking America. He looks up at the ceiling, still a touch dazed at the sequence of events. He wipes his hand on his ruined shirt. If he had been thinking clearly, he may have gotten a towel before his virtual booty call, but then again, if he had been thinking clearly, he might not have called Steve at all. “Nothing like a hate-fuck to really clear your head, you know.”

“Tony…” and now the man sounds miserable. “Please–”

Good.

So Tony doubles down. “I got to say, Cap, You’re pretty good at this. If this whole vigilante thing doesn’t work out for you, I think you have a bright future in the exciting and growing field of phone sex,” he says, his tone flippant. “Now, I know what you’re thinking, but sex work is real work, too. I’m sure you’ll have customers lining round the block to take their shot at you, especially if this is the level of service they can expect. Do you have a Yelp page? Because I’d like to leave a rev–”

“Stop,” Steve manages. “Don’t do this, Tony. Don’t cheapen–”

But Tony goes for the jugular. “Cheap nothing, Cap. I’m sure you can charge a premium by the minute, and you’d still be booked solid through August 2018. I’d ask if I could get a friends and family discount, but we’re not exactly friends anymore so–”

He lies to himself that this is purely vengeance, as if he hasn’t wanted Steve forever.

Cap is angry. Anger is good. Anger is safe.

“You know all about billing by the minute, don’t you?” he says. “Tell me, Tony, do you give your superiors at the UN a bulk discount for the time spent hunting down your friends or is that more of a passion project for you?”

It’s the only way they know how to communicate anyway.

And Tony always gives as good as he gets it. “The best jobs are ones where you get paid to do what you love.”

Once upon a time, he and Cap had been on the same side, fighting the good fight against a clear enemy: the aliens spilling out from a literal hole in the sky and decimating their world. Steve had somehow forgotten that or at least didn’t consider the implications beyond the one battle (a baffling move for such a smart strategist), but Tony hadn’t. The threat is advanced beyond imagining, poised to destroy Earth, a vulnerable blue marble barely protected by a rag tag team of cosmic insects. 

I wish we agreed on the Accords, I really do, Steve had written all those months ago, when the wounds were still fresh. They should have healed by now, overgrown tough with scar tissue.

Steve should have looked at the big picture, then maybe…

“You know, you may be a lot of things, Tony,” Steve says. There’s no doubt he’s angry, but his tone insists he is not, that he is cool, rational and unruffled, under control. Tony knows better.

“But I never took you for a coward,” he finishes.

There’s a pause, a beat of silence where the line goes still, and Tony isn’t breathing.

A coward?

Rhodey is paralyzed from the waist down. He doesn’t blame Tony, but every stiff motion, every time the man struggles to tie his goddamn shoes without assistance is a quiet rebuke, a painful reminder that Tony wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t fast enough, wasn’t enough

And yet Tony still visits him anyway. Because he can’t let Rhodey down. Because Tony isn’t the one running from his problems.

And Steve has the gall to call him a coward?

Tony can’t help it.

He laughs.

It’s more of a mirthless chuckle, but it gets his point across.

“Tony, I–” And now Steve sounds remorseful as he tries to backtrack, to retreat from a fight he must know he can’t win.

Coward, indeed.

“Save it, Cap,” Tony snaps. If there was any doubt in Tony’s mind that he and Steve could ever be anything more than enemies, then this confirms the original hypothesis. Steve is dead to him. “I don’t want to hear it, your excuses, your lies. I’m done.”

“This– this may have gotten out of hand. I’m sorry, Tony.”

“A bit too late for that, don’t you think? A better time would have been before Siberia, before Liepzig even. Or maybe – and here’s a novel thought, one I’m sure has never even crossed your mind as a possibility – whenever you learned that your boyfriend killed my parents. How about that, huh? I know, shocking that I’d still be stuck on that. Six months or twenty-five years depending on how you look at it, and I still can’t get past it. Well, something to chew on with my hypothetical therapist, I guess.”

“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

I know you’re doing what you believe in, and that’s all any of us can do. That’s all any of us should.

“…You should have just signed, Cap.”

“You know I couldn’t. It wasn’t the right call.”

Keeping the Avengers together, keeping them whole, wasn’t the right call.

Tony sees red.

“You know what? Do what you have to do. Have fun putting out small fires with your vigilante friends, and I’ll be over here figuring out how to do the real work of saving everyone from the fucking alien apocalypse coming our way. Without you,” Tony grinds out. “If I hear something useful, maybe I pass it along, maybe not, but we’re not friends. We’re not even colleagues. We don’t have a relationship of any sort. We are strangers. Capisce?”

“Tony–”

“Don’t call me that,” Tony snaps. “We aren’t on a first name basis anymore. And this… whatever this was? It can’t happen again. In fact, it never happened at all. Get that through your thick skull.”

Steve sounds hoarse, on the verge of tears. “But you’re the one who called me.”

Damn it.

Tony pauses, momentarily at a loss for words. “…Goodbye, Cap. Take care of the others, and stay the fuck out of my life.”

And with that, he hangs up. He considers tossing the phone against the opposite wall, breaking it down into pieces, mulching the remains and recycling the plastic into something useful, like a cup holder. People love cup holders.

It would be so easy, he thinks, his fingers clenched around the body of the phone.

So, no matter what. I promise you, if you need us, if you need me, I’ll be there.

Instead, Tony deposits the phone in his pocket and tries to forget about its presence burdening him down, the weight of all the words between them both spoken and unspoken crushing his chest to the point of suffocation.

He rubs the ache in his left arm and considers asking F.R.I.D.A.Y. to turn up the heater, but he is alone here, trapped with the ghosts of everyone who has ever left him behind.

“F.R.I.?”

“Yes, Mr. Stark.”

“Call Rhodey. I have a hardware upgrade I want to discuss with him,” Tony says, his voice resigned. He tilts his head back to look at the ceiling. “I can make the braces even slimmer, more lightweight. I think he’d like that.”

“Right away, Mr. Stark.”