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Title: Dutch Courage
Author: jazzypom
Rated: R for language and concepts.
Beta read: No. There might be the odd misadventure against grammar, but no war crimes.
Universe: Ultimates fic. Soz.
Summary: Tony's secret is revealed, Steve is at a loose end and well... they make out?
Disclaimer: Characters and situations are the property of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics. No profit is being made off this fan-written work.
Notes: For empty_splendor, a bespoke story according to prompt. She wanted fic that dealt with Tony's illness. Erm, I'm hand waving Ultimates canon, probably medical concepts as well. This is after Ultimate Power, but before The Ultimates move to the Avengers mansion. Frottage. Word count 6000. One day, I'll write a drabble. For serious.




If Steve had been asked his plans for this Saturday- the first Saturday off in a long damned time - he would have offered the following multiple choice list: (a) spending Saturday with Jan; (b) spending Saturday with the Barnes' or (c) all of the above, having a barbecue in the house on Cedar Street that smelled like violets and Gail.

Not here, standing in front of Stark's Park Avenue penthouse, crate in hand, and him being met by Stark's staff.

"Mr Rogers," the maid greeted, ever so politely.

She was pale eyed, dishwater blonde hair bundled into a bun at the nape of her neck - and familiar. Suddenly Steve remembered: she had waited on him the last time he came here with Thor, on the same night that Hank and Jan had had their- leave it, Steve told himself, turning his full attention to the woman before him. The maid was smartly dressed, in a white plain, button down blouse, black pencil shirt and comfortable shoes.

"Mr Stark's been expecting you. Please, come in," she said, moving aside to let Steve pass. "May I take your coat?"

"No, thank you ma'am," Steve demurred. It was spring, so he had on a light jacket. "I'm just here to-" he raised the crate in front of him, like one would angle a box of wine to show to a host. There was the tuneful clinking of bottles rubbing against each other as he titled the crate. "Drop this off," he finished.

If the maid had any unease with Steve and the crate, she showed no sign. If it had been Jarvis, Steve knew, he would have said something along the lines of, "Come to drown Tony in his drink of choice? No? Pity. The den of iniquity is this way."

Jarvis had died six weeks ago. Another life time ago, when they saved the world - again.

Shaking his head, Steve banished those thoughts away to focus on the present.

Tony's apartment seemed rather bare. Whether it was because of the back to basics aesthetic Stark spoke about the first time they met, or because he was moving his belongings to his new mansion Steve did not know. All he knew was that the hardwood floors were stripped sans rugs and carpets, their footsteps sounding a bit sharper in the quiet. The only noise was the clang of bottles in the crate punctuating each step. Suddenly, the maid stopped at the base of the stairs, barely flinching when Steve almost bumped into her, and gestured in the general direction of the above floor.

"Mr Stark has given us strict orders not to go up until called," she said, her voice crisply professional.

"I-" Steve said, trying to get an out.

"He's expecting you, Mr Rogers. If you need anything else, please call."

"Yes ma'am," Steve nodded, taking in the sweep of stairs to the upper floor, his eyes momentarily blinded by the sunlight exploding into a thousand shimmering iridescent starbursts via the crystal chandelier. If Steve had been an artist he might have been compelled to catch the sun washed gleam of the cherry wood floors, a contrast to walls the colour of rich cream. However, he was not. So, Steve took a moment to absorb the décor, then double timed it up the stairs.


Philosophically, Tony Stark knew that in terms of existence, there were people worse off than he.

Like being stupid for one. Ugly, for two. Incredibly boring for three. Truly, the world had no place for incredibly boring people. No, seriously.

When I rule the world, they will be the first to stand against the wall.

I'm joking.

Maybe.


Right now, however, as Tony curled up in his bedclothes, shivering, and naked save for a pair of boxers, he realised; I'll take all three for a billion, Alex, just to be well shot of this tumour and its inherent complications.

Tony was having a bad morning: his medication was not staying down, and damned if he'd call a doctor today if he could help it. There would be just be the pitying smiles and coaxing him to do more tests, 'just in case'. Which was damned annoying, because despite the different applications, the result was an infuriating constant: the tumour was inoperable.

Desperate to see anyone, Tony sent texts to everyone requesting a specific favour. Clint was drowning his sorrows, or finding twelve other ways to get himself killed, Thor had business in Asgard (really). So... Steve was the ticket.

To be fair, its not as if we're close, Tony mused. He closed his eyes for a few minutes, trying to keep his mind off the soreness in his body, by trying to count to one hundred backwards- in Swedish.

Steve should come, Tony thought, it's not as if he has anything better to do. Besides,he's a perennial boy scout, and couldn't refuse a mission of mercy. Could he?

He could, Tony mused. Oh well, only one way to find out.

Tony's musings were interrupted by a knock on the door, and a muffled, "Tony?" on the other side. Ah yes, he'd know that atrocious accent anywhere. Heavy on the consonants, distinct broad vowels. One would have thought that the lilt of German might have softened the hard clip of New York, but alas, Steve's accent was as tough as the rest of him.

"Hark," Tony found himself brightening as he heard the jingle of the bottles, "is that the sweet music of liquor to my ears?"

"I guess I can come in, then?" Tony heard Steve's voice as he saw the door knob being turned, before Steve came in and stopped for a good minute on the threshold, his eyes scanning, observing, calculating.

Tony stuck his head from underneath the bed covers, absently raking his fingers through his hair, wondering why Rogers paused in the doorway.

Oh yeah, the view from his windows tended to make people pause; the sweeping view west over the steeples of St James Church to Central Park, then across the river to New Jersey and all of mid town Manhattan. Tony was immune to the views, and as such did not invite Steve to absorb the views, mostly because Steve wasn't a... well, someone he needed to charm.

Distractedly, Tony looked at his bedroom, with luxe carpeting, the signed Dali print on the wall (Tony had a weakness for surrealism), and his bed as modest sized as a small continent- well, yeah.

"Come in," Tony gestured, shifting so that he was half leaning against his pillows. "You've saved my life, Rogers. You heeded my distress call."

Steve wondered in, carrying the heavy crate in one hand (someone was in rude health), with relative ease. If Jarvis had been here, he would have literally drooled over Steve's... prowess. Tony's mouth was watering all right, but over something else entirely.

"Krug. Bollinger. Taittinger. Pouilly Fuissé," Tony was almost moved to tears at the variety of alcohol. "Ah, Chateau Latour, 1973, a good year. Some wines by the time they get to this age, are bitter, and taste like piss," Tony continued, "but this... squeezed twixt the thighs of maidens - or at least their toes, is pure ambrosia." He held the bottle in his hand, tracing the outline of the bottle with a calloused finger, with the awe of a groom seeing his bride for the first time on their wedding night.

Steve stood there, by the bedside, hands in the pockets of his trousers, watching his team mate.

Not for the first time he wondered about the man, and his incessant need to prattle. All things being equal, one should have been able to dismiss Tony Stark. His tendency to speak about anything and nothing for one, or to focus on the superfluous for two. The value of the crate of wine alone was enough to buy many mid sized houses.

Steve recognised the material of the snowy white pillows that Tony was leaning against. His mother had taken in the odd washing and ironing of wealthier folk for him to recognise the fine linen. Steve was also Irish-American enough to notice the intricate crocheted border around the edges of the pillow cases. It should have made Stark seem like a dandy, but strangely, it suited. The deep blue sheets were also linen, with tartan lining, also in complimentary shades of blue.

"Stop standing and glowering chum," Tony lifted an eyebrow as he leaned over to tap the little night table beside him, and wouldn't you just know it, there was a built in fridge, with chilled glasses, crackers and cheese. Steve shook his head and rolled his eyes. Tony Stark, always angling to impress the dames.

"I'm not... glowering," Steve shook his head. "I'm just looking at you Stark, you don't look too good."

"You need to stop," Tony murmured, as he reached for glasses and a corkscrew. "Such talk will only turn my head. You'll ruin me for others."

"Come off it, Stark," Steve said, without heat. "I'm just... saying. Your skin is grey, it also looks as if it's peeling because... it is."

"It's been..." Tony gave a half smile, leaning against his pillows, not even trying for bonhomie, "... a bad day. It will only get worse if I have to stare at you looming over me for the rest of it. Sit here." Tony gestured at the bed he was sitting in. Steve looked at the bed, then looked at Tony and frowned, while Tony only rolled his eyes.

"Don't worry, Steve," Tony laughed. "I'm not Jarvis, your virtue is safe with me."

"Hah," Steve laughed, for Tony was funny. Even if Stark had been hale and hearty he was no match for Steve. Tony was a couple inches shorter than Steve for one, and on the lean side. In addition, Steve had never seen Tony on this side of sobriety. Impinging on his virtue, indeed.

A fumble at thick laces, and Steve tugged off his boots. For good measure, he shrugged off his coat, and sat on Tony's bed. It was comfortable, the sheets as smooth as fine silk under his hand, the bed immediately shifting to accommodate his form, giving him instant contoured comfort.

"Nice digs," Steve said.

"I try," Tony murmured, ridding the cork from the wine bottle with easy dispatch. "It's a tad run down, but needs must."

"I'm sorry about what I said earlier," Steve said, "I- Bucky has cancer. I mean-" Steve cleared his throat.

"If you must apologise, do it while quaffing wine, I say," Tony handed Steve a flute, poured him a slug of wine, and then helped himself to the bottle.

Stark was a hoot, Steve shook his head with amusement. All this money might have made Stark crazy, or at least, veering close enough to it. Obediently, Steve took a sip of wine, appreciating the robust, round flavour of it. The wine was as thick as ink, but rounded off with a faint taste of plums and honey.

It was something, lying on a bed big enough to entertain ten people in, and looking out at a view that before he would have only seen from small, light aircraft. Bit by bit, as he sipped, Steve felt himself relax for the first time in ages. Despite the company.

"Hmm, good," Tony nodded appreciatively as he drained the bottom of his wine glass. "I really shouldn't rush this excellent vintage, although there's loads more where this came from."

"You probably shouldn't," Steve agreed, sipping from his glass.

"I never took you for a wine connoisseur," Tony commented, as he topped up Steve's glass with another slug from the bottle. Steve looked at the amount, shrugged his shoulders before he drank some more.The wine was good, and short of the world ending (again), they were off the clock.

"Got a taste for it in Europe," Steve replied, settling into the pillows some more. "The French, despite everything, would always have wine to hand."

"How civilised," Tony murmured approvingly. "I find that one's outlook can only be improved with lashings of Taittinger."

"Is this safe to drink, with your medication, I mean?" Steve asked, deciding to risk a glance at his team-mate. Yeah, Stark's face seemed less pinched. At Steve's question though, Steve saw Tony frown. His sheets were now at his waist, his upper torso leanly muscled and bare, save for the implant studs along his arms. As far as Steve knew, the implants were for Stark's connections to his Iron Man suit.

"Can't make it any worse," Tony replied airily, swinging his bottle between thumb and middle finger. "Besides," Tony raised his glass in a toast of salute- with the same insouciance as if he were drinking cheap, tinned beer- "alcohol softens the edges of harsh realities. Such as impending death, and knowing that when hot doctors glance at me, they see a body shuffling off the mortal coil, instead of the man, Tony Stark."

"Yeah, well," Steve shrugged, draining the rest of his glass, holding it out for more while Tony opened another bottle of wine. "We all have our problems."

"Ah, that tone. I sense mon capitan has a touch of the lovelorn about him?" Tony tsked sympathetically, while topping up Steve's glass.

It was on the tip of Steve's tongue to say, "None of your business Stark." Instead, he found himself explaining: "Jan went to a science seminar with Pym."

"Ah."

"Yeah, 'ah', " Steve said, looking at the view and chewing on his bitterness as if it were rue. "Although they are divorced, Hank and herself have jointly done bodies of important 'research' over the years. As such, their personal relationship, although 'fraught with trauma' shouldn't undermine their professional one. Can you believe this dame?"

Tony could, but as he looked at the man sitting on the bed beside him, his wine glass hanging from the tips of trembling fingers, for the first time in a long time, Tony found himself trying to be...kind?

"It makes sense," Tony began, looking at the bottle. "The Pyms are a brand name and all. For all of Hank's shortcomings, he's a brilliant guy. Jan's worked with him regarding Pym particles, and both are leading specialists in subatomic technologies. Steve," Tony took a thoughtful sip from his wine glass, feeling the weight of liquid on his tongue before swallowing. "You have to let it go."

"How do you do it, Stark?" Steve shook his head, as he looked at the liquid in his glass. Tony raised the bottle in a silent offer, and Steve waved it away. "I mean, you're always with dames, and even the one that was supposed to stick - didn't- and you don't have a hitch in your step."

"Natasha stuck," Tony said, taking another slug of wine, "until she didn't. Steve, there's no trick to women, really."

"Really." Steve speared Tony a look over his shoulder. Tony knew that look, it was either annoyance or plain exasperation. Truth to tell, those were the only sorts of looks he got from Steve.

"Yeah, the trick is, well... there's no trick."

That comment was titillating enough to have Steve turning around to face Tony fully. The dying sun threw smears of red -rose light across the sky, a futile effort to stave off the oncoming purple dusk. In the dim light of the room, the star motif was a big wink on Steve's chest, and pushed Tony to quip, "don't you ever change shirts?"

Steve tugged at the hem his shirt, remarkably unselfconscious. "What's wrong with the shirt?"

"Nothing."

Steve shook his head, with a half smile on his face, as if Stark were mad. Yeah, Tony was accustomed to that look too. "So, you were saying, about women?"

Of course.

"There's no trick to women," Tony put his glass down on the night table beside his bed, steepling his fingers. "They come, they go. You enjoy them when you have them, appreciate the spaces they leave behind and fill it with other things."

Steve pushed himself off the bed, and walked towards the window, taking in the view of the water, of the buildings that seemed more like architectural models from a distance. Idly, he rested a loosely curved fist on the pristine plane of glass. New York, New York (and part of New Jersey too), the city he was born in, raised in, died for. You fill time with other things. Easy for Stark to say, Steve thought. Tony was plugged into this time, at ease with it to the point of making his society dance to his tune. As for Steve himself? He had been literally frozen in mid war, got thawed out all these years later, still with unresolved feelings about Gail and Jan. He was still physically and emotionally twenty eight, but should mentally be in his seventies. He just...

"You're vacationing in your head again, Steve."

Steve shifted, and saw Tony there, leaning against the wall in his customary robe and boxers, drink in hand. Not a wine glass in hand this time, but a short, squat tumbler, filled with a deep orange-yellow coloured liquid.

"No wine, Stark?"

Tony rolled his eyes, "I've had enough tannin for the night, thanks."

Steve shook his head and looked at the view, his eyes taking in the dazzling scope of it, of the city waking up, with lights shaping and outlining the cityscape.

"I do, you know," Steve started. "I do try to fill the 'spaces in-between', with learning new technologies, catching up on the history I've missed and... bottled water, what's that about? I mean, with Jan, I know that things aren't working and -" Steve paused to lean his forehead on his fist, still looking out at the view. "They might not work, but I have to try. I mean... what do gals want nowadays, anyway?"

"Damned if I know," Tony said, voice wry with amusement. "My fiancée tried to kill me, remember?"

Despite himself, Steve smiled. He still couldn't figure Tony out, but the man had a high dose of self mockery which made his company a bit more palatable than Steve realised at first. "Yeah, that was... something. But still, you - Stark. Stark? Stark!"



Daylight stomped at the edges of Tony Stark's eyelids, demanding to be let in.

With a groan, Tony threw an arm across his eyes, trying to keep the world out, just for a little while. Unfortunately, that was not an option, as his body roused to wakefulness. The first thing that struck him were odours: one a distinct, sharp pine smell, like disinfectant. The other was earthy, cut with citrus. When Tony opened his eyes, wincing at the brightness in the sun splashed room, he saw the source of both. Steve was asleep in the space beside him, lying on his stomach, his hands loosely curled on the pillow.

Tony looked down at himself, saw the change of underwear, and shitshitshitshit - his brain babbled frantically, as he struggled to get up, to try and spin, exert some damage control. Shitshitshitshi-

"Easy, Stark," Steve's voice was thick with sleep, the weight of his hand on Tony's shoulder.

"I'm good," Tony said, biting his lower lip, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The atmosphere in the room was more... expectant than tense. Tony could feel the weight of Steve's stare, saw those keen blue eyes making an inventory of his body. The pallor of his skin, naked except for white cotton boxers, vicious bed head and a five o' clock shadow marring the purity of his van dyke.

"So," Tony said, trying to buy some time so that he could think of a way out. "What happened?"

"Don't even try it," Steve said, his voice deceptively even. He had that look when he had found out about the Pyms' domestic situation. His eyes were blue chips of ice, his jaw stony.

"I guess the staff might have told you?" Tony murmured, as he made to move again, only for Steve's hand to block his movement again.

"They told me enough," Steve said. "I didn't press, even when the doctors came. I thought I'd wait for you to... divulge."

There was nothing for it then but to have it in the open, Tony sighed. "At least a hair of the dog?"

At Steve's withering look, Tony exhaled a hiss of breath through his teeth. He crossed his legs at the ankles, linked his fingers across his chest, and began, sneaking looks at Steve. "It's a side effect of this-" Tony made a vague gesture with his finger towards his head. Steve nodded, his eyes still cool, accessing. "I get headaches, dizzy spills at best, and rarely, but it happens. I get these... seizures and I-"

"Black out," Steve murmured, closing his eyes. A few hours ago, he and Tony were talking - only for Tony to cut off in mid sentence, the glass falling from his hand, landing on the carpet with a hollow 'thunk', with the gurgle of spilt liquid.

"Stark. Stark? Stark!"

Steve just remembered the moment in flashes: the whites of Tony's eyes, the uncontrolled spasm of limbs, his body twisting in throes of convulsions. Jesus, they seemed as if they stretched forever, even though it had been only five minutes. Steve found himself whispering an old prayer under his breath as he placed Stark into recovery position, his body and head on his side, willing Stark to please stop shaking.

Then, mercifully, the shaking stopped. Taking a deep breath, Steve pulled his mobile phone from his trouser pocket and called for an ambulance.

The rest of the night passed in a blur, as Steve stayed by Stark's bedside. Not surprisingly, Tony was rich enough to have hospital care delivered to his home, and influential enough to flatly turn down a stay in hospital. Steve stood to one side, trying to avoid being underfoot what with various epiloptologists and oncologists carrying high tech portable machines for CT scans, and MRI imaging.

Eventually, the doctors cleared out of Tony's house, leaving Stark almost drunk with fatigue from their extensive testing, and it took no coaxing to get him to sleep.

"I thought-" Steve's voice shook. Tony nodded his understanding. His seizures were rare, but when they happened... yeah, it caught even the most seasoned operative off guard.

"I normally take medication to keep it under control."

"Jesus, Tony," Steve breathed, shifting his weight as he propped himself on his forearm to glower at his team mate. "When were you going to say anything?"

"Um... now?"

Tony's attempt at humour fell flat, and judging by the set of Steve's mouth, Tony was a long way from turning that frown upside down.

"Of all the selfish, misguided attempts-" Steve began, stopping himself in mid tirade as if he thought better of it. Then, in a deceptively reasonable tone, he said,"Tell me you told Jan."

Tony's brief silence damned him. Then, he opened his mouth to try and argue,
"Now, wait-"

"No, you wait a minute, buster," Steve's voice was a low, tight thread of emotion. Despite its pitch, it still had enough of a slap to still Tony's tongue for a few seconds. "You need to rescind your place on the team with immediate effect, Stark."

The words were heavy, and tough enough to get Tony's ire up, and for two long beats, they glared at each other.

Only for Tony to give a roll of a belly laugh. He laughed until it sputtered into a cough, and although Steve wanted to deck him, team loyalty won out, and Steve moved to help Tony into a seated position.

"Are you okay?" Steve said, begrudgingly concerned.

"D-drink," Tony coughed, and with great dispatch, Steve got up, crossed the room to the fridge and placed a bottle of juice in his hand. Cautiously, Tony took a sip, and made a face.

"Ugh, there's juice in my alcohol. Um, scratch that, there's no alcohol."

"Oh yeah?" Steve's inquiry was innocent, solicitous, even. His eyes told a different story. If you looked closely enough, the bastard was almost smirking.

It gave Tony great pleasure to wipe the sneer off Steve's face. "If I'm not on the team," Tony began, almost recoiling from the unadulterated tang of orange and mango juice, "I'm not funding it. It's a part of the contracts that you signed."

Tony expected Steve to get upset, to do a General Patton and try to good soldier him into line. He didn't expect Steve to sit down on the side of his bed, lay a hand on his wrist, and speak in low tones of sympathy.

"Tony, you're ill," Steve began, " I -"

Absently, Tony drank the rest of his juice, only half listening to Steve, when a thought struck him. A thought so sudden, so solemn, he had to compose himself before speaking. He did not want to hear the answer, but Tony found himself asking anyway.

"You cleaned me up, didn't you?"

"That's not important. I-"

It was. Wordlessly, Tony pushed himself off the bed, and slowly walked across the room to the window, where there were three wet spots.

"I found some cleaning supplies in the bathroom," Steve said, his voice unsure in the quiet. "I figured -" at this he heard Steve clear his throat. "I figured," Steve repeated, "you'd want to be cleaned up before I rang the waitstaff and doctor."

Tony shook his head, as he dropped on his knees to closely inspect the carpet, his fingers trembling as they traced the wet spots. The carpet (stone grey) was clean, Steve had done a fine job of getting the muck out. Tomorrow, Tony thought, he'd rip out the carpet and install hardwood floors.

"It was a bad one," Tony murmured. "A sharp spike of pain, and because I'd mixed drinks, I didn't notice the taste of it on my tongue. It was..."

It was one of those where his bowels voided.

"Normally, they're kept under control with medication and nanites - but today, my medication... wouldn't stay down. It just... wouldn't."

The few times this happened around - others - the waitstaff (discreet, well paid) were directed to clean up. Once that happened, people tended not to see him in the same light. Although Tony would never tell a soul, Natasha's comments about his sickness had cut him to the core. For Steve to do that for him was more than mere courtesy, and not speak about it was huge. Tony blinked furiously as he looked at the carpet, and willed his voice to be firm, because he was about to beg.

"I can't resign from the team," Tony shook his head. "I can't go back to just being, Tony Stark: Millionaire with a terminal illness, or Tony Stark: poor little rich man. I... can't."

"Okay."

Tony was not surprised to hear Steve near him, but was surprised by the weight of Steve's hand on his shoulder, as Steve dropped to his knees beside him.

"I just-"

"I'm sorry I brought it up, look-"

"My armour is safe guarded against me, in any case." Tony said, hoping that Steve did not know how the effort cost him. "I can't not do this Steve."

It was the word can't that stopped Steve. If Tony had said, "I won't", or "I refuse" Steve would have forced the issue. However, the fact that he whispered, I can't, made him pause and reflect.

Who was he to judge a man's patriotism? To see himself as a yardstick? Probably two years ago, when he was fresh from the ice, perhaps. In the future, you came to realise that patriotism was not just putting your body on the line, but money and property as well.

Way back in '41, Steve decided to serve his country by giving back in the only way he could. He offered the frail shell of his body, yielding to the experiments of Dr Erskine to become a better man that he was. Stark strove for the same thing, in his own way.

"I know something about giving my body in service to something bigger than me," Steve murmured, awkwardly throwing his arm around Tony's shoulders, feeling the weight of Tony's head on the spot between his neck and shoulder. After the rough day Tony had, Steve decided to cut him a break.

"Listen, it's okay," Steve said, in a conspirational whisper, sure that he was doing the right thing. "We'll keep it quiet as long as we can."

Steve felt Tony nod. Or at least, Steve thought Tony nodded at first, before he felt the rasp of Tony's tongue and the scrape of teeth against the column of his throat. The punch of pleasure was so intense, it scrambled his brain. For a moment, Steve froze. Tony was a guy. A guy who liked women as far as he knew.

"Tony," Steve said on a hitch of breath, as he felt the heat of Stark's hand on his groin, and himself rapidly hardening under Tony's touch. He should be pulling away, not thrusting against Tony's palm. Maybe if he closed his eyes, or pulled away-

"Steve."

"I'm not-" Steve gasped at the sensation of Tony's hand on his cock, now freed from his trousers. Desperate, Steve tried to pull Tony upright, which was a bad move, as their hips were flushed against each other, rubbing against each other there - and -

"Please."

Steve might have had a chance resisting Tony's ministrations. Could have steeled himself against the light, open mouthed kisses along the jaw, the coax of Tony's tongue along the seam of his mouth, the tips of fingers as they ghosted along hidden places of his body, like the waistband of his trousers, the hollow of the underarms.

Perhaps.

But the whispered, broken plea undid him. In the two years he had known Stark, "please" was not a word in Tony's vocabulary, and Steve was half surprised that Tony knew how to use it in its correct context. There was also an edge of desperation to Tony's touches that Steve picked up on and instinctively, Steve's hands moved to soothe, to still. Awkwardly, they stumbled backwards to the bed, before tumbling onto it and tearing the sheets. There was the catch of breath at the awkward kiss in that spot between the ear and jaw, before he opened his mouth to let Tony - Tony- in. Their kisses were tinged with the sharp taste of mango, orange and madness, as Steve finally got Tony where he belonged. On the sheets, under him, their legs a tangle, and grunts of impatience as they clawed at and tore their clothing.

"Don't, just -" Steve breathed, sensible thought chased away by the sensation of Tony's hand on him, as he rubbed their cocks together, his thumb daubing the sticky liquid along their lengths, enough for it to lessen the friction as they rubbed against each other. It was awkward for Steve at first, his hands feeling angles and planes where he expected soft curves. Muscle where he expected some give. All this was moot however, as Tony ground his hips against Steve's, and Steve got Tony back by laving his tongue along the line of Tony's throat. Steve tasted the faint traces of medicine, salt and the faint sweetness of liquor on his skin. His hand moved to Tony's hip, holding it right there - so that he wouldn't move. Steve never knew desire could be so keen, that pleasure was not the sure piercing swipe of the blade- no- it took chunks of self restraint and inhibitions from you, like the tips of a serrated edged knife going through bark. Or the revelation that sexual thrill was not tied to a woman underneath you, it just had to be a person you were attracted to.

Tony's sobs of breath in Steve's ear was a soundtrack to their bodies' undulations, the friction and prickle of heat as their groins pressed against each other, their limbs slicked with sweat, Steve held Tony in place while he shuddered underneath him. Steve's generosity cost him, as he could not hold on, his cries muffled in the space on the pillow between Tony's neck and shoulder.

How long they stayed in that position, Steve did not know. He knew when the space between their bodies cooled, when the skin on their upper thighs were tight from their expelled fluids. He also knew when Tony placed his head on his shoulder. Absently, Steve felt Tony's pulse, using his pointer and middle finger at the base of his throat, and started to count the resting rate.

"I'm not dead, Steve."

"No," Steve said. "I guess not."

There was silence for a minute, as they caught their breath, and Steve spoke again. "I'm... in terms of what just happened. I'm not-"

" 'Gay' is now the accepted term," Tony's voice was steeped in amusement. Smug bastard, Steve thought, not realising that for the first time, the thought was more affectionate than annoyed. " The turn of phrase 'sissy boy' is antiquated and rather insulting. "

"So... are you?"

"No," Tony laughed, a low, genuine sound. "I'm not. We're just appreciating the spaces that women leave behind, and filling it with other things."

"Fine," Steve shifted his weight on his arm to study his companion. Not that he would admit it, but Steve was mostly relieved that Tony seemed in good spirits, and not the dispirited man who was tracing wet spots in the carpet. He liked the fact that Tony's voice was strong and mocking. Steve never wanted to see or hear Tony's vulnerability again. It hit too close to home.

"I'm not 'gay'," Steve rolled his eyes at the term. "In my day, 'gay' actually meant happy or 'brightly coloured'."

"O-kay grandpa," Tony's laughter was brief, and he squeezed Steve's arm as a gesture of comfort. "It's a helluva change for you, huh?"

"Yeah," Steve nodded, as he rolled unto his back, facing the ceiling, his eyes tracing the patterns of the mouldings along its corners. It had a certain turn of the century charm to it, and it should not have worked with all the fancy modern doodads in Stark's place, but it did.

" 'Gay' is the accepted term for sissy boy, great slacks are two hundred and fifty dollars a pair, women want to know where they stand in a relationship, but don't necessarily want to get married and -"

"You'll figure it out," Tony's words were slurred by his yawn.

Steve shrugged his shoulders, already feeling Tony being dragged by the undertow of sleep. He obviously got some sort of comfort from what they just did, and jeez. It frightened Steve, what they just did. He liked it, and he should not have done. Especially not with Tony Stark, even though Steve was aware enough to know that he liked it because it was with Tony Stark.

Tony Stark, poor little rich billionaire ladies' man Tony Stark. Wasn't that a kick in the head?

"I can hear you thinking, Steve," Tony's voice was drowsy, and Steve could tell that he was trying to stay awake. "You're okay?"

"Go to sleep Tony, it's Sunday morning. You're supposed to sleep in."

Amazingly, Tony did. Almost immediately, his breathing became rhythmic, even.

Ten more minutes, Steve told himself. Ten more minutes and he would leave. As he made to move, he discovered that he and Tony were a knot of limbs. For starters, Tony's fingers were linked with his, their legs tangled together. Absently, Steve rubbed his thumb over Stark's knuckles, always surprised to find scabs there, because Tony was always working on one Iron Man suit or another. Steve took a moment to truly look at the man that he was with. Tony's hair was getting a tad longer, it fell across his brow now instead of sticking up everywhere. His lashes were dark fans against his cheeks, and if it were not for the ravages of his illness, Tony had a face that could have been really pretty, instead of just being striking.

Strangely, for the first time that Steve had been awakened from his ice floe, for the first time in a long time - apart from fighting and saving the world - he felt sure that he would be able to adjust to life here, in the future present.

Just ten more minutes, Steve told himself, as he moved his head nearer to Tony's, the better to hear him breathing just in case he had another seizure. Just ten more minutes and-


Fin.

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The Triskelion - Everything Ultimates

August 2009

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