this grey house where I come from
Avengers MCU || PG-13 || Steve/Tony, past Tiberius/Tony || 3,900 words
There was never any actual violence, nothing dramatic or traumatizing, so Tony doesn’t know why ancient history can occasionally make him feel nauseous, or why some of the most innocuous and nonthreatening things that come out of Steve’s mouth can make his breath stutter.
- Warning for seriously dubious sexual consent, emotional manipulation, and underage sex (for both parties).
- Totally disregarding almost all canon concerning Tiberius Stone except for his creepy ability to string Tony along without Tony ever seeing it for what it is. (While Sunset Bain and Kathy Dare would've been other options, I have Reasons Left Unexplained for going this route.)
- Fic as Therapy
There was never any actual violence. There were no gunpoints, ski masks, or gloved hands clamped over a mouth. There was no blood, and any bruising that did happen was the kind of minor stuff that came with heat-of-the-moment moments, not malice. Hell, Pepper had been known to leave some seriously impressive scratches down his back, before Tony kept being too Tony and she had to leave for the West Coast before they got too tangled up in one another and started causing damage.
He doesn’t even think about certain memories most the time, will go months without his brain being a goddamn traitor, and anyway it was years ago. Ancient history that doesn't even begin to compare to recent history. So Tony doesn’t know why that ancient shit can occasionally make him feel nauseous, or why some of the most innocuous and nonthreatening things that come out of Steve’s mouth can make his breath stutter.
“What’s your favorite movie?” asks Steve.
Tony’s eyes are squinted behind the safety visor as he carefully guides a laser cutter around a sheet of metal that will eventually replace part of a broken joint on the armor. Fucking Attuma and his fucking undersea douchebag army. “Depends on whether or not I’m feeling family-friendly,” Tony replies distractedly, his brain throwing out innuendo without even thinking about it.
“How about something you’d be willing to watch in public,” Steve says dryly.
“Fun-killer. I don’t know, I like a lot of stuff, the spice of variety and all that.”
“How about right now?”
“I guess Backdoor Sluts IX is out of the question.”
“You guess right. A-plus.”
“How about Coneheads. Wait, you haven’t been introduced to Saturday Night Live yet, have you?” Tony finally turns off the torch and flips up the visor. “The nineties’ episodes, thanks, those’re the good ones. Dear god, man, we’ve been neglecting your education, Coneheads is a cornerstone of subgenre culture.”
“I’m sure,” says Steve, audibly amused.
Tony straightens up and tosses his shit on a nearby table with a firm, “Okay, I see what you did there. March your fine ass upstairs, we’re watching your movie.”
But then the words sink in and Tony freezes, breath catching in his throat, and he finds himself uncontrollably blurting out, “To watch the movie. Going upstairs, I mean, it’s to watch a movie, not to have sex. Because. We’re there to watch a movie.”
“Yes,” Steve says slowly, giving him a weird look. “That’s usually why people put on movies, right?”
“Right. Yes. That’s exactly it.” His lungs finally catch up, the lazy fuckers, and let him take a deep breath, that sudden knot of cold in his chest that has nothing to do with the arc reactor gradually loosening. “Move it, Gumby.”
Steve’s learned to pick and choose his pop culture references, so he just lets that one go and heads for the elevator.
Ten minutes later, Tony’s got a bowl of popcorn on his lap because you can’t have a retro movie night without some goddamn popcorn (or at least that’s what Rhodey and Pepper always told him) and the opening scene of the movie is starting. Steve’s a huge, warm bulk next to him on the couch, shoulder pressed lightly against his own as he grabs an obscene amount of popcorn in one of his big mitts, and it’s kind of awkward, the way Tony’s brain insists on having one part of itself dedicated to being very aware of Steve’s closeness in a way that has nothing to do with appreciating the peak of human physical perfection.
Another ten minutes pass, half the popcorn is gone, and the tension in Tony’s shoulders is winding tighter and tighter. He clearly remembers that the other Avengers have all fucked off tonight for one reason or another, which is probably why Steve is taking the opportunity to have a movie night that doesn’t include a communal attempt at Riff Trax. For some reason Tony can’t stop thinking about it, that there’s no one else but him and Steve and JARVIS and his own neuroses.
“Are you okay?” Steve asks.
“Peachy,” says Tony immediately.
“Which is perfectly normal when you’re superheroing and running a multi-billion-dollar corporation on the side.”
But Steve cheats and leaves Tony hanging on the whole banter thing. “No, you…keep looking at me like you’re expecting me to, I don’t know, poke you or something.”
Tony laughs and is unsettled when it comes out sounding tight. “That’s one way to put it, soldier.”
Tony waves a dismissive hand in the air. “Enough chatting, more watching. You put on movies to watch them, we did establish that, right?”
Steve decides not to be his usual stubborn-ass self and, with one more searching look, turns back to the screen. Tony finds himself relaxing by increments as time passes and Steve’s hands stay right where they should be, shoulder still pressing against his but not – not in a proprietary way. It’s just warm and firm and there. Then the movie ends, and Steve, who totally laughed throughout the whole thing, admits he can’t decide if it was awesome or a sad example of contemporary humor, and Tony rolls his eyes and whines about Steve’s complete lack of taste like he’s expected to. And…that’s it. Steve does kiss him, probably to shut up Tony’s whining, but that’s it. No animals were harmed or clothes removed or don’t you care about me said during the watching of this movie.
Dude, I wanna watch the movie.
But don’t you care about me?
That’s not the point here –
No, that’s not what I – okay. Okay, no, come back, it’s – it’s fine.
Steve’s being quiet. Tony doesn’t really think anything of it because he’s usually fairly quiet at these charity ball things that Fury demands they attend for the sake of buttering up rich assholes for donation money. Not that Tony couldn’t fund the Avengers himself, but hey, good PR, make nice with the powerful people who have friends on Capitol Hill and all that. Thor’s usually exempt from these things on account of being Thor-like, Clint’s diplomacy skills rarely last long, and Bruce’s reputation tends to precede him, so it’s generally the job of Tony, Steve, and Natasha to smile pretty.
Unsurprisingly, Natasha’s freaking good at this, but then, so is Tony. He has it down to a fine art, tracking body language and shifts in tone while mentally pulling up every detail he can remember about the people in his face. There are rules to this game the way there isn’t with normal human interaction, and Tony is good at playing the game. He’s had years to practice.
Steve doesn’t do half-bad himself, but tonight, he’s quieter than usual. He smiles and shakes hands, but whenever he catches Tony’s eye he looks…disappointed? Upset somehow?
When there’s a lull in the rounds, Tony takes his arm and tugs him towards a wall for some semblance of privacy. “What’s wrong, Cap?”
“Bullshit, that’s my line. Seriously, what’s wrong? You look like someone spiked your drink with Sour Babies.”
“Nothing, it’s just…do you have to flirt with everyone?”
Tony blinks. “What?”
Steve groans under his breath and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “I’m sorry, I’m being unreasonable and I know that. It just bothers me to see you flirting with everyone you come into contact with.”
“You’re the only girl for me, darling.”
Steve obviously fights the urge to roll his eyes. “I know, I know, it’s not that I don’t trust you. I do. It’s me being ridiculous.”
Christ, is Captain America being insecure? “Steve,” Tony says seriously. “I don’t do it on purpose. Honestly, I – it just happens. I’m used to it, it works – “
“Yeah, you know. For stuff. Quickest way to get what you want.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, Tony winces. “Uh, that came out wrong.”
Once upon a time, Steve probably would’ve been mildly angry. Or a lot angry, since ‘good people’ aren’t supposed to pull that kind of shit. But they’ve been a ‘them’ for like a month now and Bruce doesn’t even have to be Tony’s translator that often anymore, so now Steve is simply taking a deep breath and furrowing his brow. “You flirt to manipulate people.”
Ouch. “Low blow, Cap,” Tony says softly.
There’s a long pause in which they hold each other’s gaze and Steve’s brain ticks over. “You expect them to use you, don’t you. So you take control first.”
“Well, this has been fun, let’s never do it again.” Tony sets his empty cocktail glass on the tray of a passing waiter and holds out an arm. “Shall we return to the shark tank?”
“Tony,” Steve starts, but then he sighs and puts his hand in the bend of Tony’s elbow. “All right. If Senator Byrd tries to shake my hand yet again, however, I take no responsibility for my actions.”
Jesus Christ, sometimes I feel like I’m just a convenience to you.
Well, you are.
Way back in the beginning, Steve had said, “I didn’t realize you dated men.”
“I don’t,” Tony replied, which got him an arched eyebrow because it’s kind of hard to miss that Steve Rogers is very much male, in both biology and gender. He amends that to, “I usually don’t.”
“So why now?”
“My god, you’re nosy, aren’t you? Because I trust you.”
Oh. That had come out with a little more honesty than Tony intended.
He’s twenty-three and there’s a man at his side, handsome and charming and so mind-numbingly boring that he’s not even a shadow of a threat, but when blunt fingers slide around his wrist Tony’s mind is already racing ahead, calculating comparable body weights and anticipated strength and social pressures defining masculinity.
He smiles, says something, slips off in the direction of a woman giving him bedroom eyes instead.
A mission goes badly. Tony manages to get a mild concussion from being thrown through a cement parking structure, Natasha takes an energy-composed bullet to the shoulder, and Clint got a broken arm when a member of the latest species of invading aliens decided it’d be a good idea to take out the archer. Bruce passed out the moment he transformed back, so Steve and Thor are the most unhurt of the whole team. Steve…isn’t happy, and continues to be not happy on the way back to the tower after several hours spent hovering in the medical bay.
“Hey, hey, Cap,” says Tony, putting a hand on Steve’s shoulder. “It’s okay. We’re alive, no one lost a limb or their free will, so we’ll learn and come back three times better next time. Also, don’t lie, I totally saw you save a stray kitten.”
But Steve doesn’t crack a smile. His hands are curling and uncurling into fists, looking ready to go on a punching bag genocide, so Tony presses himself close and runs his fingers down Steve’s spine. Steve twitches sharply and takes a step back, giving him the kind of glare Tony hasn’t gotten since they shook hands over Loki’s transportation of shame back to Asgard, and walks off towards the gym without a word.
“Really, Stark?” mutters Clint, because of course Tony hadn’t waited for the others to disappear to lick their bandaged wounds before trying to put on the moves.
“What?” Tony snaps, feeling raw without really knowing why.
“Bad timing,” Natasha says mildly.
“Always worked before,” Tony says before he can stop himself, and Natasha blinks, eyes narrowing ever so slightly. “I’ll be in the workshop, and before you say anything, yes, JARVIS will make sure I don’t kill myself with a socket wrench or sleep for more than two hours at a time.”
His lover’s mad but he doesn’t want Tony naked.
Brave new world.
They’re fighting and Tony doesn’t know why he bothers. Tiberius slides a hand up his shirt and, whatever, it’s better than yelling.
They’ve been a ‘them’ for almost two months. Steve comes down to the workshop while Tony’s soldering something to ask about a field report Tony’s been repeatedly pretending to forget about, all wry amusement and yes, Tony, I know it’s busywork, but it keeps Fury’s bureaucrats off our backs, and no, you can’t buy off some senators to make them change the rules, that’s what we call ‘immoral’ and is not in fact a humanitarian cause.
It turns into some lip-locking and Steve’s grip on Tony’s hips, which has thus far proven to be a promising start to some awesome two-person acrobatics. But this time Tony’s awkwardly holding his own hands out to the sides, considering he is actually in the middle of something and his hands are still full of brilliant engineering things. Steve’s mouth is starting to migrate down his neck towards his collarbones when Tony breathes, “Wait, I don’t – not now.”
“Uh,” says Tony intelligently.
“Nothing, why’d you stop?”
Steve gives him that weird look again. They don’t come as often these days, but Tony is Tony and they’re probably never going to go away completely. “Didn’t you just ask me to?”
“I guess?” Tony doesn’t mean for it to come with a questioning lift at the end, especially when it makes Steve start getting concern all over the place. “I mean, I didn’t say that.”
“I might be out of my time here, but I don’t think the meaning of ‘wait’ and ‘not now’ has changed within the last several decades.”
“No, you’re right, of course you’re right. I was just testing you.”
Steve keeps looking at him.
“Wow, I haven’t felt this awkward since the morning I woke up wearing Pepper’s heels.”
“Tony – “
“Nope, busy being a genius here. I’ll see you tonight, Cap, I need to get this done in time for the next board meeting or Pepper will fly back to New York just to kick my ass.”
When Steve is finally convinced to leave the workshop, Tony drops onto a stool and braces his hands against the edge of a countertop, trying not to think about why his breath is getting short again.
It’s just sex. Everyone gets off, or at least Tiberius does, and everyone goes home happy, or at least goes home to take a shower so cold they can’t feel the stupid tears, and they’re finally allowed to focus on something else.
Whatever. It’s just sex.
They’ve been a ‘them’ for almost two months and Tony should’ve expected this.
“Tony,” says Steve when they’re getting into bed, Tony in pajama pants and shirt and Steve in sleeping boxers. It’s the voice that always indicates an impending discussion of uncomfortably serious matters and Tony’s immediately apprehensive, which is obviously the right reaction because Steve follows it up with, “Did someone hurt you?”
“Uh, what? I guess there were those giant robots, you were there. They would’ve been awesome if they hadn’t been rigged to blow and take out a good portion of the civilian population.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Actually, no, I don’t. Unless you mean the tabloids, but I’m serious when I told you there isn’t much I can do there. They’re going to take the smallest rumor and run with it as far as they possibly can regardless of all rhyme or reason.”
“Did you ever date someone who hurt you?” Steve clarifies, refusing to be distracted because he is as fucking stubborn as a tectonic plate.
“Okay, remember that incredibly embarrassing talk we had in the beginning about how I had a lot of one-night stands and only like two or three relationships, one of which was with Pepper? There wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for that.”
“It only takes one person,” Steve says softly. What the fuck, Tony wants to yell, suddenly angry and not entirely sure why, never can explain why he’ll get these rushes of, of emotion entirely out of the blue, anger or panic or something completely unreasonable. He’s tired and he just wants to go to sleep for once, goddamnit.
“What’s going on, Steve?” Tony demands. “No, really, what the fuck?”
“It’s not any one thing. I talked to Pepper – “
“You talked to my ex about us?”
“No, I talked to your friend about us,” and Tony winces because, yeah, he’s being unfair, “and some of the things she said…and there are little things, too, but mostly – Tony, you were surprised that I listened to you when you told me to stop yesterday.”
“I didn’t actually say ‘stop.’”
“Yes, you did.”
For once, Tony doesn’t have anything to say.
“And being surprised, that isn’t…right, and I know that for someone as, ah, experienced as you – “
“Usually when you bring home someone to fuck for a few hours you’re both there for only one reason anyway,” Tony interrupts, cool as the armor sitting in the air-conditioned workshop. But Steve doesn’t blush, or look away, or let it go, because he’s a goddamn soldier and goddamn Captain America.
“Stop dodging the issue, Tony.”
“Stop saying my name. You’re going to wear it out.”
Steve just keeps looking at him and finally Tony blurts out, “Look, it was years ago, back when I was a teenager and thought I was invincible. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
“Who was it?”
“Does it matter?”
“It would be nice to have a name I can focus all my hatred on.”
That startles a brief laugh out of Tony. “His name was Tiberius and we were at MIT together, about the same age, but I was ready to graduate when he started his first year, so. I was a stupid kid, okay? Didn’t know what I was doing. Jesus Christ, Steve, stop looking at me like that, it’s not like he hit me or whatever. There wasn’t any violence or whatever you’re imagining.”
“But you said no.”
“Yes. Maybe. I don’t know? God, does it actually matter at this point? I’m not exaggerating when I say it was decades ago.”
“It matters to me.”
“Well, it doesn’t to me,” Tony snarls, “and it’s my thing, not yours, so fuck you.”
“It doesn’t have to be violent to be rape.”
Tony’s shoulders hunch slightly. “It wasn’t – that, okay? Yes, sometimes I just wanted to watch the goddamn movie or finish a project, but it’s not a big deal. I had friends, I went to parties with all the designer drugs and drinking, and trust me, it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Besides, no one noticed. There weren’t any bruises or torn clothing or shit like that, and Tony had a dorm all to himself because his family was loaded like that, so no one noticed if maybe he’d come home with reddened eyes and spend the rest of the night wrapped up in thick blankets. He’s not a statistic, he refuses to be the poor little rich boy, he’d just been a little more sensitive than usual before he learned to suck it up and play the game. It’d been a homosexual relationship in a time when AIDS was the new reason to hate gays, and homophobia, both external and internal, had been the norm rather than the problem, so of course there were going to be difficulties.
He hears Steve come around the bed and stop an arm’s length in front of him, holding out a hand without touching him. Tony stares at the hand like it’s going to go all ninja-pwnage on him.
“May I hug you?”
“…Are you fucking kidding me.”
“You don’t have to ask my permission for a hug.”
But Steve keeps standing there with his hand out, not pushing, not saying a word about how it’s not a big deal, why are you being so cold, don’t you care about me, and Tony gets the impression that if he decided he’d rather not get a stupid hug then Steve would step back without hesitation.
“I have a thing,” says Tony, edging around Steve towards the door. “It’s an important thing, so I’ll just…go do it. Because it’s important.”
At this point he’s not even trying to hide the fact that he’s running.
I don’t think this is working, Ty.
What’s that supposed to mean?
I mean I don’t think it’s working. I’m not – we aren’t –
I love you, Tony.
Okay, not cool, Ty –
I’m not lying. Are you? Have you been lying this whole time? Every time you said it back, when you made me that robot thing –
Hey, that robot’s awesome, don’t even front –
I love you and you’re just going to throw that back in my face?
Damnit, why don’t you ever listen to what I’m actually fucking saying!
It’s five in the morning when Tony silently opens the bedroom door (their bedroom door, though it took weeks of fucking around before Tony could sleep next to Steve in his own bed without his skin starting to crawl after a while) and pads quietly to the bed. He doesn’t try to be ninja because Steve has the senses of a cat and the sound of someone moving without sound would send him into immediate God Mode.
Steve’s lying on his side on one half of the bed, the other half empty with the covers turned down just enough to be a no-pressure offer. Tony wiggles underneath as smoothly as possible, which is to say not smoothly at all, and curls his arms against his chest, rests his forehead between Steve’s broad shoulder-blades against the muscled dip of his spine. Steve’s breathing is still slow, but Tony knows he’s awake and pretending to sleep because he’s considerate like that.
“I felt powerless,” Tony murmurs into Steve’s warm skin. “He was the first person who treated me like I wasn’t only Howard Stark’s son and he…I honestly don’t think he even knew what he was doing. At first. And after a while it’s easier to just not care than to fight and that – that’s the worst part. I couldn’t even bring myself to hate him for it because it was too much effort, or anyone else later on for it, I guess, and, uh. I had DUM-E and U and Butterfingers and JARVIS, so, y'know, it didn’t matter until I took a missile to the chest. Literally.”
For a little while the room is quiet, just the sound of soft regular breathing, but then Steve is turning over and Tony’s thinking nope, nope, stay right there, no need to make this into a bigger production, thanks, the moment’s passed, except all Steve does is put a hand over one of Tony’s.
“You finish that thing in the workshop?” Steve whispers.
“Uh,” Tony mumbles, his chest feeling all sorts of weird tangled things. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. Just watch, it’s going to earn me an obscene amount of money. Well, more of it.”
Steve pokes him lightly in the bicep. “Braggart.”
“Really, Steve? Who says ‘braggart’ nowadays? No one, that’s who.”
Steve snorts but doesn’t reply, and the moment stretches. Tony wishes he could sleep, he’d thought that heartfelt confessions or whatever are supposed to precede the sleep of the righteous, but he’s as wide awake as though he’s finished off another pot of coffee.
“How does some SNL sound?” Steve suddenly asks, and Tony grins.