kiyaar: (real life adventures)
[personal profile] kiyaar
TITLE: Plunge
AUTHOR: Kiyaar
UNIVERSE: 616
PAIRING: Tony/Steve
RATING: NC-17
WARNINGS:
character death

SUMMARY: The Illuminati ruin everything. Tony takes it upon himself to make it better. (Follows New Avengers #3.)
N.
DEMONS

Tony lands on the beach.

The sky is still blue here, though the faintest tinge of red’s started to creep in around the horizon. It could be sunset, maybe, if he didn’t know better, if the space-time continuum wasn’t irreparably torn on the opposite side of the globe.

He dives, propels himself through air and water, plummets in through the dark mouth of the cave and blankets himself with the sea. He doesn’t even have to use the lights, it’s so clear. It is beautifully dismal, barren and fathomless as he jets through the crystal blue dark, as he races to the surface again and the rock walls rise up to meet him as he breaks.

“I’m your goddamn offering,” he says, rising into the air, palms downturned, the water riffling beneath him where he hovers. He’s alone, and his voice bounces off the damp walls, off the blue. He feels braver than he should, but it’s difficult not to when his voice rings clear and sharp and strong in the silence.

“Do you know who I am?” comes a bodiless voice echoing over the water.

Tony swallows and says, “I’m here to bargain.”

The air rushes out of his lungs then, and the fog swirls around his metal feet.

“You’re not the sorcerer,” the voice says, hard and smooth and almost amused, and something he can’t see slithers around him as he hangs, bright and shining, in the dark air.

“No,” Tony says, “I’m –”

“Mortal,” the voice says, and then it’s changing, the fog isn’t fog.

“Yes,” Tony gets out. “I’m here to offer you –”

A laugh rings out over the stone-silence, over the perfectly still water.

“What a fool you must be,” the voice says, and then Tony realizes he’s so very alone.




I.
BRUISE

Asgard crashes to the ground in Oklahoma.

After the siege, after the smoke clears, after Norman Osborn is brought in chains to the Raft and Steve and Thor and Tony limp back from their misadventure through the nine realms, after the easy truce they had there slides into stilted silences and ignored phone calls, Steve shakes the president’s hand and decides he isn’t going to be Captain America anymore.

He is singled out, as he always is, by weary bureaucrats who relax at the sight of his face, who shake his hand like their lives depend on it. They tell him they need the world according to Steve Rogers.

He agrees. He’ll stand alone, he’ll do his best to fix things. It’s what he’s been doing all along, after all.

He is given more power than he needs or wants or cares for, and he can’t help but wonder if this is how it starts. Great men with the trust of nations pressed into their hands. Heroes. No one thinks about the damage they can do if they screw up.

But Steve nods, says yes and puts his armor away and gives his shield to Bucky, shoulders the burden that Tony tried and failed to shoulder, and wonders if he’s going to fail, too.

He is awarded the rank of commander, and Carol grins at him and flashes him a thumbs up from behind the velvet rope, and all he can do is smile and look at the empty chair that’s been saved for one Tony Stark.

He goes Reed Richards to ask about polymers and Kevlar, a drawing clutched in his hand, shifting from foot to foot in his civvies and boots. He went to Tony about this stuff once upon a time.

“You should ask Tony,” Reed says earnestly, because he still hasn’t learned how to be around people. “Implementation is his area. I’m just hypotheticals.”

Steve lies and says that Tony referred him. That he’s busy.

Sharon and he don’t get back together. She’s changed, since he died (since she killed him). She smiles less. He suspects it’s because of him. “I think it’s better this way,” she says, and she goes up on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she whispers, and hugs him without any sort of rancor at all, and he stands in the hangar bay in his new uniform that Tony didn’t design and watches her go and wonders why everything feels so wrong.

Tony would say there’s no one better for the job. That it has to be you, Steve. You’ll make it right, Cap.

You’re the best of us, he’d say.

But Tony is gone, and Steve aches to feel the weight of the shield in his hands, and the words are hollow without anyone to say them.

- - -


“I want you on this team,” Steve says, the star bright on his blue-leathered chest, and smiles, and so Tony is an Avenger again.

It’s better. He isn’t hiding in a cave, he isn’t running. The world feels less insane than everyone said it did, although he doesn’t have the memories to validate that either way. He does his best to move past the things the papers say he’s done. Tony is a thinker once more, a fighter. Not a scapegoat. He finds his feet again.

They’re sliding back into what they used to be, the Avengers.

Steve is elsewhere, and that’s probably how it should be.

He works with them, sometimes, when things are dire enough, like with Kang, but not as an Avenger. He has his own team, he has a new uniform and more responsibility than Tony can wrap his head around. He’s moved on. Commander Rogers.

Something in Tony’s heart clenches every time he sees Steve without the shield, sees him proud and stable and effective on his own.

It’s something Tony’s never managed to do.

- - -


They sit around a table at Funtime and pretend they’re better than sprawling in their chairs from exhaustion. Their roster is the same, which is presently a problem to absolutely no one.

“He’s Commander Rogers now,” Tony says, cradling his helmet between his hands. It’s a show, it’s just biomatter rearranged into metal now, but it grounds him a little. “He’s head of world security. I think we should tell him. He’s going to find out.”

Namor snickers, and Tony is proud of himself for not even sparing him a glance.

“He trusts you,” Reed says, frowning. “I don’t think he’ll come looking, he wouldn’t have a clue what to look for, really. We’re helping him just by existing –”

“He’s not going to find out,” Charles says impassively. “His thoughts haven’t strayed this way; he’s living in a golden age. He trusts his colleagues. I suggest we worry about this when we have cause to. That isn’t now.”

Tony props his elbows on the conference table and thinks about Steve, in an office somewhere, doing this the honorable way. Making the world safer, one job at a time.

“All right,” Tony shrugs, like he doesn’t care. “We don’t tell him.”


- - -


Tony is just stepping out of the tower elevator as Steve walks out of the conference room and into the kitchen.

“You don’t live here,” Tony says, before he remembers it’s the sort of joke that would have been funny once upon a time.

Steve looks down at his own body and frowns. He’s in his Commandery uniform today. Tony compensates for this; somehow his eyes always seem to end up on the gloves, which are normally approximately crotch-level. “It’s headquarters. I’m doing stuff. With Maria,” Steve says, a confused little look on his face, like it should be obvious. “We do this every Monday.”

Maria chooses that moment to walk out of the dining room, stretching her arms up around her head like a cat. She grabs the carafe and pours herself more coffee.

“Hey, Stark,” she says. It’s almost fond. Something about having Steve as a superior officer has really cut down on the verbal abuse he’s grown accustomed to.

“Uh,” Tony says.

“We’ll be out of your hair soon,” Steve says, like he has to say that, like Tony isn’t hyper-aware of his absence every time the Avengers get a call.

“Well, help yourselves,” Tony says, feeling terribly like a guest in his own building. He drifts through the kitchen, just slowly enough to leer at both of them in their skin-tight leather and snag a turnover from the plate Jarvis must have put out this morning. Maria scowls at him (normal), and Steve turns a little like he wants to start a conversation to be nice, to prove they’re still friends, but it’s enough to set an uncomfortable ache swirling in Tony’s stomach and it’s easier to be off, tugging his tie loose and dragging his feet down the hall to his room for a shower.

“Tony,” he thinks he hears Steve say, but it’s fine. This is how it is. They occupy different spheres now. Steve is a professional. Tony is a clever, amiable jackass.

Steve doesn’t look sad. That’s extrapolation.

Tony’s certainly not.


- - -


“How are they doing?” Steve asks. He’s rifling through the stacks of paperwork on his desk. His desk. That he owns. There used to be a plaque that said COMMANDER S. ROGERS until his arm knocked it into the trash one day.

“The same as they were doing yesterday,” Maria says, flipping through Sharon’s latest report, something about a psy-terrorism threat in South Africa. “You wanna go check up on ’em?”

“They’re your team,” Steve says, like it doesn’t hurt to say. “I’m just management.”

“Oh, bullshit,” Maria says fondly. “You’re an Avenger. You know that. They know that.”

The shitty part is, he does know it.

“We’ll meet on the Quincarrier from now on,” he says quietly.



II.
THERE IS NO “I” IN “TEAM”


You’d think, from the way Steve is scowling, that it was entirely Tony’s fault.

“How long has this been going on,” Steve is asking him, as they stand in the snow in Attillan with their friends behind them and all of Tony’s dirty secrets pulled to light.

“Long,” Tony says, because what else can he say. “Since Fury, since.”

The rest of them, Reed and Charles and Namor, stiffen. Medusa looks bored.

Steve looks like he’s about to rip Tony’s throat out, and Tony loses the rest of the bluster he was pretending to have.

The armor isn’t doing anything Tony wears it for. There’s a wall, a wall of Avengers come to see, and even the 50 meters they’ve put between them doesn’t feel like nearly enough to him. Luke is having this conversation with Stephen right now, too, but they’re sequestered away behind a fallen column of marble. He wants Steve to look over there, to see them all slouching, too. It wasn’t just him, Steve will realize, they’ll work it out, Steve will forgive him –

“I’m in charge of the security of the free world,” Steve is saying, like Tony isn’t painfully aware, like it needs to be said (and maybe it does) because Tony couldn’t ever manage the security of the free world by himself when he was in charge. Ego, Steve is saying. Disappointed. Behind my back, he says, and the edges of his words curl up like he can’t believe he has to say these things out loud.

“Steve,” Tony says, already queuing up the thousand justifications he could offer, searching his vaults for the thing that will make this blow over long enough to fix this until he can maybe find some more permanent way to fix their friendship. This is blowback he never counted on, he thinks desperately, he doesn’t remember it and it’s still his to fix, and he needs something, something better than separate teams and different jobs and running away

“I vouched for you,” Steve says. Tony wishes he’d take the damn balaclava off, that he’d yell without his face obscured like this, that he’d be better than Tony and take off his mask. “I told Congress you had my confidence –

I don’t know why, he wants to say and doesn’t, and he wonders what’s worse, the fact that Steve actually thought he was better than this or the fact that Steve made him believe it for a bit, there, too.
But that’s how his failures happen, grandiose and spectacular and bigger than everyone else’s. He’s always fallen hard. He’s always the last straw. He’s always Steve’s breaking point.

“I know,” Tony says, and he’s going to lift the faceplate, he is

“How am I supposed to trust you when you do shit like this,” Steve yells, and Tony breathes deep and keeps the faceplate down.

There’s nothing he can say. Yes, I know, we’ve been meeting for years, but we conveniently saved the planet a few times, so, you know, there’s that –

“What else,” Steve says, his breath fogging in the air. His mouth would be a snarl if it wasn’t so dead and cold and grim. He throws his words out just loud enough for Tony to hear. “What else have you lied to me about?”

Steve thinks he’s a liar.

“You can’t make these decisions!” Tony bellows back, because he’s just a little tired of Steve jumping to conclusions at his expense. He hasn’t lied. It was an omission. “You couldn’t!” He’d like to say what Steve really needs to hear, that he only lies to him and he’s never managed to figure out if that’s better or worse, that this is why he didn’t want to be on the Avengers again (he really did), that there’s no place in Steve’s life for Tony anymore outside these shouting matches and he desperately wishes there were –

“And you can?” Steve yells back, and everyone is staring at them, now. “Because of your giant goddamn brain? What gives you the right, Tony, what gives you the right to sneak around behind everyone’s back like you know best –”

“Qualified,” Tony sputters.

“The ego on you,” Steve says, “the unbelievable ego, Jesus –”

“It was important,” Tony says, and Steve looks like he might actually kill him for a minute. “No,” Tony snaps, before he can open his mouth again, “there are some things that are bigger than you, ok –”

“Stop trying to make this about us,” Steve snaps.

“I’m not –”

“You know, we’re not partners anymore,” Steve says. “I don’t owe you anything. I’m not beholden to you. I should arrest you right now –”

“Then arrest me,” Tony challenges, dizzy with wanting-not-wanting, trying to remember how to stall and failing utterly. “This is what I said, we don’t agree on anything anymore, Steve, I have been doing what needs to be done since –”

“I have been doing what needs to be done since before you were born,” Steve snaps, “and I do it better, don’t tell me about causality and risk, I’ve fought more wars than you –”

“Ok, Captain holier-than-thou–”

“What is your problem,” Steve says. “I’m doing my job, you’re the one being a complete ass–”

“Then why do you keep expecting better from me?” Tony bites back. “You belong on this team, Tony? I lobbied for you, Tony, you’re a good man, Tony, put your money where your fucking mouth is, Commander–”

“–I did you a favor with Congress because–”

“Because you can’t move on either,” Tony says fiercely.

Steve’s face freezes. Everyone is staring at them.

Tony wonders if he’s becoming an embarrassment. He wonders if Steve actually thinks this can be salvaged.

He can’t decide if it’s better or worse that Steve knows exactly what he’s talking about.

There is a way to resolve this, he’s sure, one that probably involved him not being a jackass years and years ago, one that involved honesty and trust, but he’s losing, he’s losing and some bastard is on the
loose with the infinity gems and Tony can’t help but notice how startlingly blue Steve’s eyes are.


“I’m not your kept man, Tony,” Steve hisses back, as if it proves something. “We’re not sleeping together.”

Tony looks at his boots, side by side with Steve’s in the snow. He feels him, senses the tension rolling off his leather-clad body in waves, how he’s bristling and proud and so much angrier about this than Tony ever thought he’d be.

“Well, maybe we should be,” Tony says quietly, and then there’s nothing but the wind.

- - -


The Infinity Gauntlet is sitting on Steve’s bed when he finally makes it back to his apartment.

Son of a bitch.

It’s warm in his hand, when he picks it up, it’s – vibrating, or something, giving off mystical energy he probably wouldn’t understand even if Tony explained it to him. He doesn’t know what to do with it. He supposes maybe that was the point. He thinks he wants to punch Tony in the face a little.

Tony, who slumped away, alone, after saving them all and wishing it out of existence and into Steve’s private apartment, Tony, no inkling of his cockiness left at all, no parting words, no insults thrown Steve’s way, just the slump of his shoulders and the red of him smaller and smaller as he flew away home without another word.

Maybe we should be, Steve thinks, and he takes the steps up to the roof two by two, the gauntlet clutched in his hand.


- - -


When Tony finally walks out of the bathroom, he’s wearing a towel.

“This is the last time you lie to me,” Steve says, and he tosses the Infinity gauntlet on the floor between them.

Steve is calm, even as Tony’s face pales, even as his eyes go hard and shuttered.

“Get out of my room, Commander,” Tony says calmly, and Steve doesn’t move.

“Did you mean it?” Steve says.

“Did I mean what,” Tony says, but he says it to his feet.

“Maybe we should be,” Steve says, closing the distance between them. He kicks the Infinity Gauntlet under Tony’s dresser, like it’s incidental, like he hasn’t been thinking about this since the moment Tony
said it.


Tony stares.

“Do you know why I kept my distance,” Steve says. “After Osborn, do you know why I stayed away?” Tony closes his eyes in what’s probably shame. “Because I had a thought,” he says quietly. “Because I had a thought that you didn’t want us to be anything but colleagues anymore.”

Tony has all but stopped breathing.

“That’s not,” Tony protests, “I thought.” His eyes dart around, he looks cornered. “You’re breaking and entering,” he says.

Steve stops with his hand on the twist of towel at Tony’s hip.

“Is that what it takes, Tony?” he whispers, certain that it’s only his heart pounding out of his chest that’s let him be this bold for this long. He traps him a little, leans an arm against the wall over Tony’s shoulder, leans in close enough to smell the spice of his shampoo. Steve’s touched him a thousand times, flipped his sweat-damp body onto foam mats and ripped his armor off to press his hands against his bare skin to staunch the flow of blood. But this, Tony with water beading on his shoulders and his face close enough for Steve to see every one of his eyelashes, Tony with dusky pink lips, his mouth slightly open, the sliver of tongue he slides out like he does when he’s solving a puzzle –

“What are you doing,” Tony says evenly.

“Answer my question,” Steve says, he hopes just as evenly.

“Your hand is on my hip,” Tony says.

“Yes it is,” Steve says. “Answer my question.”

“What question?”

“Did you mean it?”

Tony’s eyes settle on Steve’s collarbone.

“Why do you think I’m always lying,” is all Tony says, with a breathless little pleading edge to his voice.

Steve leans down and presses his lips against Tony’s.

He means it as an apology, maybe.

Tony makes a noise, soft and surprised in the hollow of his throat. He stands stock-still for the briefest of moments and then he’s moving, he’s bare skin squirming up against Steve’s chest and rocking his hips in a slow grind that makes contact somewhere against Steve’s thigh. It’s broken, instantly, the tension between them, it’s everything Steve didn’t know he wanted, and Tony’s mouth drags him in somehow, makes him forget that this is one of his crazier plans, and all there is in the world is the warmth of him, the slick of his lips that tastes like wintergreen, Tony’s tongue on his teeth –

Steve pulls away, just a little, to mouth at the corner of Tony’s mouth, to tilt his head forward and rake his lips across Tony’s temple, to breathe, hot, against his neck, to drag his teeth up to catch on his earlobe –

“Is this what it takes for you to trust me, Tony,” he whispers against Tony’s ear.

“What is this,” Tony splutters around the ragged breaths he’s sucking in, “where is this coming from –”

“Me,” Steve breathes, “it’s coming from me.” He lets himself pull Tony in, lets himself feel the perfect curve of his spine, lets himself touch what he’s only ever touched in the capacity of friends and brothers and those are his fingers, dragging along the edge of the towel, those are –

“You’re not,” Tony pants, “you’re not gay, you’re, Steve, oh, just –”

“And you’re straight as an arrow,” Steve says, as Tony’s arms come up around his neck. “Do you want this,” he says into Tony’s neck.

“Why aren’t you arresting me,” Tony says, and Steve runs his thumb over one of Tony’s nipples. “I gave you the, why aren’t you – Steve –

“Commander’s discretion,” Steve says, and he runs the flat of his palm down Tony’s stomach.

“Are you,” Tony starts, his voice wavering like it never does, “are you making a pass at me?”

Steve’s hand stills.

“No,” he says. “I’m proposing a solution.”

And Tony is breathing in uneven little gasps, still, something caged and unwilling and bare in his eyes, and the tactician in Steve wants to use this, this unsteady Tony caught off guard, but he stops, he waits, because Tony needs to want this as much as he does if this is going to work, Steve needs to be starting something instead of holding out an olive branch that lasts all of tonight–

“Yes,” Tony says helplessly, like he’s almost ashamed it’s been wrung from him. “Yeah, I meant it, but you don’t, you’re not–”

“You’re so damn stubborn,” Steve says, “you are the biggest obstacle, you keep talking about me, you keep talking about our friendship like it’s something you don’t deserve anymore, ever since I came back,
like it’s something you have to earn back, Tony, it never was –


“No,” Tony says, “You’re just–”

“You have to let this go,” Steve says, “You have to stop doing this lone wolf crap, ok, when are you going to get that you –”

“I’m doing what I can,” Tony says sharply. “You don’t get it, you didn’t singlehandedly wreck the world, ok, I didn’t want to drag you into anything, I knew you’d be like this –”

“When will you figure it out,” Steve all but roars, “that you don’t have to do everything on your own? You have friends, you have me, you can come to me if you need help, no one is blaming you for anything but YOU.

Tony is quiet for a long moment. Startled, maybe, into silence. “You’re gone,” he says, looking at Steve’s shoulder.

Steve tilts Tony’s head up with one of his thumbs, and Tony lets him.

“I’m here,” he says. “I’m around all the time, you don’t want to see me–”

“–you don’t want to see me–

“I am right here,” Steve says, “trust me, ok–”

“You should be pissed at me,” Tony mumbles to his stomach.

“I am pissed at you,” Steve says seriously. “But I’m pretty sure this bullshit you keep pulling is symptomatic of a larger problem.”

Tony blinks. “What larger problem?”

Steve stares at him for a long moment before he murmurs, “You should be aware that I’m not acting entirely unselfishly.”

He means it to be slow, but Tony leans into it this time, meets him halfway and more, meets him with something wild and grateful and desperate. His hands are everywhere, stroking up Steve’s back and dipping down almost tentatively to feel his ass, and Steve can’t help but push forward, can’t help but rub himself against Tony a little, because they can have this, they’re going to have this, this is what they do to each other, he is why Tony is hanging on him right now, panting like he’s dying, raw touch and sweat and the certainty that this is right, for once –

“Ok,” Tony says breathlessly, “ok, I wanna, can I, can you–”

“No more secrets,” Steve says.

“No more secrets,” Tony repeats, and Steve rocks in, because Tony is clawing at him, Tony is panting and scrabbling his fingers at his belt with one hand and running a finger over the crease between his crotch and his thigh. “Who designed this,” Tony says, “help me, this is, just–”

“We don’t have to,” Steve says. “I just.”

“Take your pants off,” Tony says.

Steve reaches down to rip at his belt and slips a finger beneath Tony’s towel to tug it down.

The gauntlet gleams on the hardwood.



III.
ET TU?


Tony expected anger.

When Steve realizes what he’s just been betrayed to, though, when Stephen reaches out his hand and violates his mind and Steve locks his eyes on Tony’s like it’s a matter of honor, all there is in his eyes is helpless shock and volumes of sadness.

Really, it’s only after Steve falls that Tony realizes exactly what he’s just ruined.



(part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)
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kiyaar: Tony Wielding the Infinity Gauntlet (Default)
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