Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers & Iron Man (MCU)
Genre: Drama, erotica
Rating: MA / FRAO
Characters: Phil Coulson, Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Also: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Maria Hill, J.A.R.V.I.S., Nick Fury, Pepper Potts, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Jasper Sitwell, Thor, Tony’s bots (DUM-E & U)
Pairings: Phil/Tony, implied past Pepper/Tony
Summary: It’s time to come clean about Phil Coulson’s death. Out of all the Avengers, Tony’s reaction is the most surprising, and Phil must investigate it further.
Written for: My card in Kink Bingo’s Round 6 (square: scars / scarification)
Warnings: M/M sexual content (fingering, frottage, handjob, kissing, oral), language, implied (faked) character death. Vague but firm spoilers for the ending of Iron Man 3.
Disclaimer: Iron Man, Avengers and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau, Shane Black, Joss Whedon, Louis Leterrier, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Feedback: Most welcome and always appreciated!
About Disinformed: I can partially blame this on Renai Chan. More than partially. She infested my brain with (long overdue) Phil/Tony action, and I can safely say this fic got out of control in each and every way imaginable.
So, if anyone at any point has any complaints about this story, I’m only partially to blame. (My brain does what it wants!)
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Written for my card in Kink Bingo’s Round 6. Square: “scars / scarification”.
It was ‘inevitable’, as Fury liked to say.
From the day Phil opened his eyes in a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. infirmary to this very moment, it had been inevitable that he would have to face the Avengers and live up to the lie Fury had concocted in his desperation to harness Phil’s touch-and-go condition into something he could use to make six people work together to save the world.
In his defense, Fury could always say that Agent Phil Coulson had literally died that day on the Helicarrier – and there had been no guarantees of his survival – but the fact that Phil was very much alive now would thwart that explanation.
Of all the places to set up the ‘inevitable’ meeting, Phil wouldn’t have chosen the Helicarrier, but in his line of work he rarely got to choose much of anything, and at least he was surrounded by people who had his back. Not that most of S.H.I.E.L.D. had been privy to the information that he was alive, and while Maria Hill may have guessed, Phil had gotten dirty looks from several other agents – Sitwell among them.
“Level seven, huh?” Sitwell had muttered, but eventually got over it, and he was close to being promoted to level seven himself so it really didn’t matter anyway.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel were professionals, however offended by the scheme, but the Avengers were another matter entirely. Phil considered it a smart choice to land the Helicarrier in the water for the duration of the briefing the superheroes were coming in for, because no one knew what would happen after coming clean about a lie that had existed for years. Between a Norse god and the Hulk…
Only essential staff remained on the bridge when Hill turned towards the spot where Phil stood with Fury. “The Avengers’ Quinjet has just landed and they are proceeding towards us.”
From his place on the lower deck, Sitwell gave Phil a meaningful look. He was probably enjoying this, just a little.
Fury just scowled, bracing himself. For a man who claimed he wasn’t feeling guilty, he was acting the opposite.
“You know we can still call this off, boss,” Phil mused out loud, arms crossed over his chest as loosely as possibly, tension banished from his body with minimal success.
“No,” Fury disagreed. “They need to be let into the loop. The things that are cooking up in the world can ignite at any moment, and I don’t need them to learn the truth in the middle of the next crisis.”
“Who knows, it might go over just as well as last time,” Hill murmured.
Fury pretended not to hear that.
Minutes dragged by as they waited. Phil tried to imagine every detour the heroes were making on their way to the bridge, or perhaps the Captain would be hurrying them along. The thought made his stomach clench: Phil had followed the Avengers after the battle of Manhattan, keeping himself up to date on what the team had been up to, but still, that didn’t mean he felt any less giddy meeting up with his idol again than he had been the last time they were face to face. When you modeled your morals to follow another person’s, and each decision in your life reflected the ideals of the man you admired…
Fury gave him a quick glance and then stepped away, glancing at one of the monitors, perhaps tracking the movements of the Avengers. The bridge was unnaturally quiet around them, even between the few people who were present. Everyone knew what was happening, even without a formal briefing.
Everyone knew how badly things could go.
A door hissed open further along the hallway, outside their field of vision.
“I’m beginning to recall why there was so much tension on this boat the last time we were all together on board it,” Stark was saying, his voice carrying over even when the Avengers couldn’t be seen.
“Let’s just get this over with,” Rogers’ snappy response followed immediately.
“You sound less enthusiastic than usual at the prospect of a new mission,” Romanoff mused.
“I’ve had a crappy few weeks. I could use some downtime,” the Captain responded.
“Aye, I would enjoy spending time with my Lady Jane and not sit in counsel,” Thor rumbled in agreement.
“I’m sure there are ways to make this more tolerable,” Barton chimed in. “Maybe Stark should have brought party favors.”
“You have expensive taste and we like sharing in your lifestyle of excess,” Barton cracked.
Someone chuckled – Banner, apparently, judging from his expression as the group rounded a corner.
Steve Rogers was the first to look forward, towards the table around which they would sit momentarily – and froze in his tracks. Stark ran into his back and Banner skidded to a halt at the abrupt stop. Barton and Romanoff followed Rogers’ line of sight while Thor was slightly slower to catch up.
No one said anything – not even Stark when he stepped around Rogers’ form with a questioning look on his face.
“Sit down,” Fury ordered. “There are some things that need clearing up.”
“You don’t say, sir,” Barton started, his eyes meeting Phil’s.
“Son of Coul!” Thor finally exclaimed and strode forward, engulfing Phil in an enormous hug of muscles, body armor and strange other-worldly smells. “Why have we not heard of your return from Valhalla? It is most unseemly.” He released Phil, who was then surrounded by Romanoff and Barton. Neither of them hugged him, but there were clasped hands and earnest, half-concealed looks. Phil knew he would have to sit the two of them down, eventually, but for now he held Barton’s eyes for a moment longer; he knew the man carried guilt over all those he had killed while under Loki’s influence, even after all these years, but at least he could drop Phil’s name from that list.
The two agents stepped back and Phil found himself face to face with Captain America. Rogers was not in full uniform, but someone had made him a leather jacket with the design honoring his emblem, and in Phil’s eyes there was no doubt who this man was.
“Agent Coulson,” Rogers said slowly, voice low and warm. “It is good to see you.” Then he was moving in, leaning forward, and Phil knew, rationally, that this was a belated reaction to the news of his injuries – and death – on the battlefield, but the hug he received still made him certain he would stutter if asked to speak. He knew he would be allowed to hug the other man back, and perhaps he should have, but he froze when he should have moved and then the moment was over; Rogers was moving back with a firm smile on his lips that looked like it might just as well turn into a sneer: it was clear he didn’t appreciate the secret Fury had withheld from the team.
Off to one side, Banner gave him a somewhat nervous smile. The two of them hadn’t really met, so Phil didn’t expect a big reaction from him.
His mind slowly caught up with the headcount, still reeling from the proximity of one Captain America, but he was a professional and he should be able to dismiss the nervous tension in his stomach.
Phil’s eyes moved away from the five Avengers gathered near him, hovering, as if someone might try to snatch him away now that they had just gotten him back.
The sixth Avenger stood where he had been earlier, rooted to the spot, dark eyes wide and unreadable. Phil squared his jaw, preparing himself for whatever was certain to escape Stark’s mind at any given second. The look on his face made him nervous, though: it reminded him of those few shots from the Disney Concert Hall, in L.A., when Stark had learned the truth about Obadiah Stane dealing SI’s weapons under the table. He had that same look on his face now, utterly betrayed, and last time he had dealt with such betrayal by taking his Iron Man armor for its maiden voyage on a battlefield in Gulmira.
“Tony?” Banner spoke up, clearly aware of the sudden extra tension in the air. The two of them had hit it off after they first met, and had continued on that note ever since. It hadn’t been an angle Phil had considered before, but if Stark went postal, the guy with the real anger management issues would be very likely to copy that.
Stark eventually took what looked like a steadying breath. His eyes narrowed, slightly, losing their vulnerability, and then he purposefully walked over. Phil was prepared for an attempted punch in the face, or a shove, or even a handshake or a clasp on the shoulder and congratulations for being alive.
Two pairs of hands rose towards his face, which were threatening his personal space but not overly aggressive, so he let it play out a bit further – until Stark’s hands rested on both sides of his face and all of him was in Phil’s personal space, followed by Stark’s lips on his.
Not many things happened in Phil’s life that he couldn’t at least somewhat anticipate.
Being kissed by Tony Stark, in the clear view of his team, his fellow agents and superiors, was nowhere in the realm of things he had ever entertained. Maybe a few private fantasies, because who didn’t entertain that train of thought when encountering Tony Stark in person, but all of those involved a whole lot less people staring at them.
It lasted only a few seconds, to be fair. Phil stood in shocked stillness, Stark’s lips hot against his.
The other man drew back almost as fast as he had approached, and fire literally danced in his eyes. His jaw was tightening enough to be painful, and he glared at Phil for two more seconds before directing his eyes at Fury. That the Director didn’t stand there with his jaw hanging open was a miracle, although the same couldn’t be said for Sitwell and Hill – or most of the crew on the deck.
“This better be the last time you pull this kind of shit on us, Nick,” Stark snapped and turned on the spot to stride back out the door.
“We have a briefing,” Rogers started, looking incredibly confused.
“Fuck the briefing!” Stark yelled back at them without turning or looking back, and punched something solid on his way out – possibly a door that didn’t open fast enough.
“He needs a moment,” Banner stated quickly. “He’s running a little hot.” It wasn’t just a figure of speech, either; there had been very little data available on how Stark had used the Extremis on himself, but S.H.I.E.L.D. had a lot of data on what AIM had done with it, and one could draw their conclusions from that.
“I think we all need a moment,” Barton mused, clearing his throat, then looked at Phil as if he held all the cards. “What the hell was that?”
“Do I look like I know?” Phil started, but then he looked off down the way Stark had disappeared and he wondered if he should know, after all.
“I did not think the Man of Iron would react so passionately upon your return,” Thor mused, a quizzical look on his face. “Is this a custom in Midgard?”
“Kissing people you thought were dead? Not usually,” Romanoff huffed. “But this is Stark we’re talking about. I’m sure he did that just for the shock value.”
“Well, it worked,” Rogers admitted, shifting uneasily. “Is he going to be okay?” he asked Banner then, clearly not buying all of Romanoff’s theory.
The scientist shrugged, looking thoughtful. “I suppose it depends on what brought this on.” He then turned his eyes on Phil, and it was clear he was weighing the possibility that he and Stark had been involved in the past.
Phil supposed it might have been prudent to clear the air, but he chose not to.
“Iron Man has just left the main bay,” Hill announced from her station. “Heading towards Manhattan.”
Fury sighed. “Fine; we can assume he’s not coming back. Sit your asses down, all of you,” he gestured at everyone who was left to move towards the table.
They did as they were told, in silence, and once Phil had the chance to just lean back and drown out Fury’s elaborate yet efficient explanation as to why Phil’s status had been kept a secret for this long, he allowed two fingers of his left hand rest on his lips, the motion minimal and well concealed as a thoughtful gesture, yet its sole purpose was to memorize the lost touch of Stark’s lips.
- - -
The gate to the parking garage opened before he could start inputting a code. The elevator was waiting for him, doors open, and it took him directly to the penthouse level. Phil knew each Avenger now had their own floor in the former Stark Tower, but none of them were present.
Well, not the five he had seen cornering Fury back at the Helicarrier once the briefing was over.
When the elevator doors opened, Pepper Potts was waiting for him. Phil did not start, knowing full well that he had been expected, since his entrance to the garage and elevator had been so smooth, not to mention the ride up.
“Phil,” Pepper smiled brightly and came forth to embrace him. “It’s so good to see you.” It was genuine, yet somewhat sad, and Phil wondered how much she knew of what had happened on the Helicarrier with Stark – especially when no one seemed to know for sure whether she and Stark were still together; there had been some strain between them, after Pepper’s exposure to Extremis, but they had made it work well enough that it kept people guessing.
“Is he here?” Phil asked. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see her, but he had come to check on Stark, and to hopefully clear the air between them.
“In his shop,” Pepper replied readily, a knowing look on her face. “What happened?”
Phil wasn’t sure whether she meant his supposed death and all that happened between then and now – or what happened mere hours ago. “I’ll sort it out,” he promised instead, and she accepted this, pointing him in the right direction towards a stairwell that would lead him to Stark’s hiding place.
The house in Malibu hadn’t been rebuilt, and after years of avoiding the return to New York City, Stark had gotten over whatever had held him back and made his home here. The glass wall that met Phil at the bottom of the stairs was familiar, and he looked at the keypad mounted beside the door.
“Agent Coulson,” J.A.R.V.I.S.’s familiar voice announced, “you have been given a S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison passcode to access this area.” A string of numbers appeared on a screen beside the keypad, and Phil memorized it, then inputted it, and was allowed in. He supposed this was a new phase for Stark – or just his weariness at S.H.I.E.L.D. breaking into his systems to gain access.
There was no music, which was a bit unsettling. Two robotic heads rose from the midst of workstations to look at him, then lowered again. It strangely reminded Phil of giraffes or ostriches, although the bots were dark and sleek. Maybe more like cranes.
One of the bots came around a table, dragging along a box of various bits of metal and pieces of wire that looked like scrap, but were probably worth more than most people’s entire toolsheds. Stark used only the best materials for his suits, after all.
“Agent,” Stark greeted him from where he sat on the floor, surrounded by more scrap and working on something that may have been an assembly of something brilliant, or just poking things at each other and waiting for a reaction that would serve as a distraction. “Have you come to threaten to taze me the next time I sexually assault you?” he asked, a forced lightness in his tone. He didn’t look at Phil, focusing on the wire he was twisting in his fingers. It was definitely serving as a distraction, for the moment.
“If that was your attempt at a sexual assault, I’m disappointed,” Phil mused, dryly.
Stark froze, his entire backside tensing, and then he looked around at Phil, suspicion on his face as if he couldn’t tell if he was being made fun of. “Why are you here?” he finally snapped.
Phil wasn’t entirely sure, although he knew where he should be, all things considered. It was clear he was antagonizing Stark in all the wrong ways – which was soon proved as he was zapped in the small of his back. His body jumped at the electric shock and he whirled around to find one of the bots there, some kind of tool in its claws. The head turned, three camera-eyes following his every move. When Phil took a step, the bot followed, bringing the tool closer to zap him again.
“Dummy, enough. Give me that before you short-circuit something!” Stark snapped.
Phil watched cautiously as the bot moved past him as if he no longer existed and handed Stark the tool.
“Guess we proved that theory wrong,” Stark muttered and the way he smoothed his hand along Dummy’s body was almost like a caress – a praise for a job well done.
“Sir, I scanned Agent Coulson upon his entry to the building, as I told you earlier; he is not an android, or a human-machine hybrid, nor does he have any kind of mechanical organs inside his body,” J.A.R.V.I.S.’s voice declared.
Phil rubbed the prickling spot at the small of his back and realized the shock hadn’t been an accident at all.
“We still have to prove he isn’t a zombie of some kind,” Stark said off-handedly. He had moved his body around, now sitting cross-legged while looking at Phil. Both bots were flanking him, and for all their clumsy movements and limited capabilities, Phil knew he might not stand a chance against them should they gang up on him.
“Are you drunk?” Phil asked, although he thought he would know if Stark was, and he didn’t think so.
“No,” Stark denied it as well. “I’m just not trusting Fury an iota more than I have to.”
Phil wondered if Stark would trust him a few iotas more than Fury. He doubted it. “Modern medicine,” he finally shrugged. “I can show you the scars.” Saying that felt childish, but sometimes that was the only way to negotiate with Stark when he got like this.
The other man debated it, then let out a disinterested huff and climbed to his feet. “Drink?” he asked, and Phil knew it was another test.
“Sure,” he replied, because that was not what Stark was expecting; Agent Coulson wouldn’t drink while he was on the job.
He wasn’t on the job right now. This was personal. Sure, he was wearing the suit, but he wasn’t one of those people who peeled off the Armani and became someone else.
Stark poured them both generous drinks from a relatively well-hidden bar at the far the side of the room, and Phil moved over in measured steps to accept his glass. He was aware of how the bots still followed his every move, like well-trained guard dogs. Stark clinked glasses with him – then downed all of his in one go, not even coughing at the sudden burn that had to assault his throat. Phil hadn’t even sniffed at his drink before Stark was pouring himself another.
“No need to get drunk on my account,” Phil noted and sipped. Whiskey, the good stuff.
“Right, because I always need a reason,” Stark noted with heavy sarcasm in his voice. No doubt he’d had that discussion many a time in the past, with various people. He brought the glass to his lips and swallowed some down, but went easier on it and fixed a pair of dark eyes on Phil once more. “So… Phil,” he said at length, tasting the word. Phil remembered the last time Stark had called him that – or rather, had parroted Ms. Potts. “Why are you here?”
“To figure something out,” Phil admitted, and took another sip of the whiskey, then loosened his tie a little. Stark’s eyes didn’t bulge in his head, but it was a near thing.
“What?” Stark asked, then seemed to think about it, turning every rock and pebble over in his head. “The kiss? There’s nothing to figure out. It was just a… reaction.” For something that was ‘just a reaction’, it seemed to trouble him a lot, and Stark swallowed the rest of his drink and automatically reached for more.
Phil guessed that Stark’s had been perhaps the most honest – and also the most bizarre – reaction anyone had given upon his abrupt return from the dead. “I’d love to see how you treat your enemies when they rise from the dead,” he mused.
“Like I greeted them when they were still alive,” Stark groused, his eyes flying towards Phil’s face and then off again, as if he suddenly couldn’t look at him for extended periods of time. “You’re special.”
“Special?” Phil had a feeling they were finally zeroing in on something in the midst of all the bullshit.
Stark gave a theatrical shrug. “The man in my corner, that sort of thing.” It felt almost like his mouth was running independently from the rest of him – or at least separate from the practiced signals his body was giving.
“I thought you didn’t trust me.”
Stark gave him a look. “I don’t.” Another shrug. Stark’s tone suggested he was lying – or trying to cover up his tracks.
Phil narrowed his eyes over his glass and took a couple swigs from it to goad Stark. His ‘no nonsense’-routine would yield only so many results, and so far, Stark had seemed off-balance whenever Phil broke the mold. “Shall we return to the topic at hand?” he asked between sips, then finished the whiskey and set the glass down on the table beside them. When Stark automatically moved to refill it, Phil placed his hand over the glass, signaling that he was done.
“Did you bring your Taser?” Stark asked in return, eyes still downcast; he was trying to read between the lines of Phil’s gestures.
“I’m beginning to think I should have; seems to be a good conversation opener.”
The brown eyes met his, calculating. “The topic?” he asked, as if he could no longer remember.
“The kiss,” Stark repeated, as if he needed further reminding. His eyes were still searching for something – for cues – and Phil wished he knew whether he was finding any – especially when Stark took a half-step forward and kissed Phil again. He should have seen this one coming, but there was no actual tell he could detect yet, and the pressure of Stark’s lips against his was distracting. There were no games, no tricks; just a rather simple shift of lips against his, and Phil debated reciprocating. Part of him wanted to. In his line of work, intimacy was a rare thing, and when you got a taste, you usually wanted the rest of it, too. Only, this wasn’t a ‘nobody’, but someone Phil had been tasked to watch, track and protect in the past.
Stark was an asset and an ally – a hero – and Stark’s involvement with Phil crossed several lines that should not be crossed by someone who was categorized in the above ways.
Phil also called him a friend in the secrecy of his own mind.
From Stark’s ‘you’re special’ comment, he knew the feeling was mutual.
So, he allowed the kiss to go on, and was relaxed if not actively participating in it. Stark didn’t seem to mind. The heat was gathering on his lips again, but not as palpable or distracting as on the Helicarrier – not before Stark’s tongue swiped against the seam of Phil’s lips and there was no way the wet heat was natural.
Phil’s eyes opened and he started, even though he didn’t mean to, and Stark eyed him again, almost suspiciously. “Did you swallow a furnace?” Phil had to ask, to break the tension that was swiftly forming.
Stark chuckled and leaned a bit closer, but didn’t go for the lips this time. “Imagine that around your dick,” he said, voice low, breaths insanely hot on Phil’s left ear.
Phil groaned, because he was just a man, and men had urges. Pressing, pulsing urges. He was glad he had loosened his tie.
“Do you still want to talk about the kiss?” Stark asked.
“We’ll have to, eventually.”
“It will get weird.”
“Not if we’re not around each other. Knowing Fury, he’ll just stick you back wherever he’s kept you for the last couple of years,” Stark mused and moved back a step, expression deeply dissatisfied.
“Had you stayed for the briefing, you would know I was working while under the radar,” Phil noted.
“Working on what?”
“So why tell us now?”
“Because it’s a good time, between crises,” Phil repeated Fury’s speech. “When the shit hits the fan again – and it always does – there won’t be time to do this; you’ll be otherwise occupied.”
Stark cocked his head slightly. “And what will you be doing?” he asked.
“What I always do.”
That, clearly, hadn’t been the right thing to say, because Stark went back to the bar, poured himself another drink, all the while looking deeply unhappy. “You should have waited,” Stark finally snapped, glaring at his drink but clearly wanting to glare at Phil instead.
“I thought you already disapproved of keeping the lid on my status for this long –”
“You should have waited, on the Helicarrier,” Stark added, looking at him, fingers clenching around the glass in his hand and he set it down hard before he dropped it – or broke it. “You had to go and play hero – and got stabbed in the chest by Loki.”
So, that was the problem. Phil wasn’t stupid enough to imagine Stark was berating him for his confidence to take on the Asgardian, but rather articulating his own guilt for not being there.
Stark had lost people; important people. Most of them hadn’t died in battle – Phil had probably been the first of that sort, after Stark’s escape from the cave – and that had to hurt on a new level, because Stark had no training or concept of how to accept the loss of life in the field. The things in his profile – and the things Phil knew because his gut said so – made it clear that fighting to win wasn’t just Stark’s desire to save the day. He was personally invested, more often than not, and while his own survival was irrelevant, that of the others was a personal stake for him.
When he lost…
Phil, once again, felt like scowling at Fury for playing the Avengers, but he knew it had been necessary, and he was still proud of the way his supposed death had impacted the team.
Now it was time for clean-up, though, and he wasn’t certain whether he was the man for the job.
He had never been one to back down from a challenge, though.
“I’m still here,” Phil finally stated, needlessly. Stark gave him a look but didn’t say anything, so Phil took that as a cue to go on: “You knowing I was alive – or struggling for my life for the first few months – wouldn’t have made a difference. Fury inspired you to fight as a team, using the tools he had.”
“Deception seems to be his favorite,” Stark mused darkly.
“Something you’re not unfamiliar with,” Phil pointed out. Stark narrowed his eyes. “You two have surprisingly much in common,” he added.
“Like work ethic?” Stark scoffed.
“Like I said: a lot in common,” Phil smiled dryly.
“You’re just trying to make me feel sorry for him.”
“Hardly. He didn’t exactly make my life easier with all this.”
This lured a smile out of Stark. “I never figured you for the type to have a life outside the suit.”
“It has nothing to do with the suit.”
“Yeah?” Stark quirked an eyebrow. “Then you could, in theory, remove the suit, and still be Agent Coulson.”
“Or I could be Phil while wearing it,” he challenged that theory.
“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that,” Stark noted.
“You’ve been comfortable enough to swap saliva with me.”
Their eyes met, locking.
“Show me,” Stark said finally. When Phil didn’t get it, the other man gestured at his left shoulder. A stupider man may have missed the hint, but Phil rarely made promises lightly, and he remembered this one. Slowly, he undid the buttons of his jacket, then the five top ones of the white button-up beneath it, and tugged the clothing to the side along with the sleeveless undershirt.
Stark stepped closer, eyes searching, and there may have been a flash in them – or then it was just a trick of light, although most of the lights in the workshop were of white and blue variety, not orange. Stark’s hand reached forward, fingers sliding along Phil’s skin, brushing the clothes further out of the way, until the motion stopped as rough fingertips encountered scar tissue.
Phil stayed still, not unlike when facing a dangerous, wild animal. The fingers moved slightly, circling the edges. It tickled, and it felt cool before feeling hot, and Phil knew he wasn’t imagining the lightshow in Stark’s eyes anymore: the orange licked the edges of brown deep from within the black pupils, as if reaching forward from secret depths. An edge of nail caught his skin, but Phil breathed through it, allowing Stark to work through this.
“It’s healed nicely,” Stark finally decided, slowly withdrawing his hand.
“My back looks worse,” Phil admitted, shifting the shirt and jacket back into place but not bothering to button them up, should Stark need another demonstration that his stabbing hadn’t been just another hoax.
Their eyes met again, and the orange receded slightly – only to drift down along cheekbones and disappear somewhere in Stark’s throat, along with a swallow that looked a bit forced. “You showed me yours…” he said slowly.
“You don’t have to,” Phil said quickly.
“But you’re curious.” It wasn’t a question.
“Of course,” Phil admitted. Only a few people had been privy to this, after all. Stark hadn’t had his arc reactor for a while now, and somehow the knowledge of its absence was troubling.
The other man shrugged and began to work on his own shirt, undoing the buttons, revealing a smooth, tan chest, and at the center of it the barest hint of a circular scar. It was so faint that if Phil hadn’t known to look for it, he wouldn’t have spotted it. His hand rose without a conscious order from his brain, tracing the skin much as Stark had touched his.
It had been better when Stark had his shirt on; now he could see the absence of the device that used to keep him alive, and the fact that there was no gaping hole or a fist-sized mass of marred skin was deeply unsettling.
He pressed against the circle, as if to test whether it would give, and for a moment he thought he could detect a line in the ribcage as well, like a seam, beneath the edge of the scar. He knew that was where they had cut the bone to fit the original electro magnet model, back in the cave, and if his fingers hadn’t gone searching for it, he would have missed it as well.
As he circled, tracing the hidden seam beneath the skin, faint tendrils of orange began to follow his touch, as if chasing it – a group of predators waiting for a moment to strike. Phil removed his fingers just before the lights caught up with him, and he watched them slow down and then disappear, seeping back into the skin, sinking into the depths… not unlike the shadow of a shark in the water, and afterwards, when the danger’s passed, you realize just how close you were to possibly losing your life, or a limb.
These were just lights, but Phil was not an idiot.
“I haven’t been this much on edge in years,” Stark spoke up suddenly, making Phil start a little. Years of practice kept him from showing any physical sign of surprise, but his mind was forcefully snapped back into the moment. There was a rueful smile on Stark’s face, the expression around it strained – and his eyes were intense. The lights that had vanished from his skin were dancing in the dark depths gazing at Phil. “It’s unsettling,” he went on.
“The reports say you have it under control,” Phil responded, to let Stark know that he knew – that S.H.I.E.L.D. knew; that there was no need for secrecy on this topic.
Stark snorted. “The report says what I want it to say.” He paused, inhaled, and the lights vanished from his eyes also. “I didn’t inject myself with a compound that would make me spontaneously combust; that was never an option. Even after I had fixed Pepper, I tweaked it, ran tests, but in the end…” He looked troubled, and almost scared for the briefest second. “Sometimes, I’m not sure if I got it stabilized enough, even now. The moment I saw you standing there, today, I felt like setting the whole room ablaze.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Phil reassured him, then stopped. “Does it?” he asked.
Stark’s lips quirked once again. “I made certain I wouldn’t turn into a human bomb. However, I can still go too hot for anyone around me. Banner can attest to that; we did some amazing tests. Even the Hulk lost his eyebrows for a couple of days.”
That, most certainly, wasn’t in Stark’s current file. S.H.I.E.L.D. was under the impression that whatever form of Extremis Stark carried, it had been used to enable the removal of both the arc reactor and the shrapnel from his chest, and to heal the injuries afterwards. That Extremis was still very much active in his body was going to put a lot of people on edge – but the fact that no one had noticed spoke volumes: Tony Stark was Iron Man. He hadn’t turned himself into another super-soldier.
“You should keep that information to yourself,” Phil finally said, which earned him a somewhat surprised look. “A lot of people mourned the loss of the Extremis and all its potential applications. They don’t need to know it still exists, in perfected form, inside your body.”
“That might be the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“Don’t get used to it.”
“I could try,” Stark teased.
Phil decided he needed another drink and moved himself over to the bar to do just that. Stark trailed behind him, offering his own glass when Phil finally selected a bottle and poured himself a few fingers. He poured Stark a similar amount and not a bit more, then placed the bottle back in its place on the shelf.
“Are you going to report your findings back to Fury?” Stark asked after he had swallowed a mouthful.
Stark’s eyes narrowed again, studying his face at length. “Do you know how infuriating it is when I can’t read you?” the other man mused finally. He sounded genuinely troubled by it, on some level, frustration beginning to show. It also manifested itself as new tendrils of light flashing beneath every visible expanse of his skin.
“I can imagine,” Phil deadpanned, not letting anything show on his face. It was practiced, like a mask, comfortable to wear and hard to wash off when need be. There wasn’t often need for it to come off, but he guessed this was a good time as any. “I just told you to keep the information to yourself. I think it would defeat the purpose of secrecy if I told Director Fury that you’re keeping things from him.”
The frown eased off Stark’s features, but his attention remained on Phil’s face. “So what is this, then? Leverage?”
“This is two guys having a drink,” Phil gestured with his glass.
“Don’t fuck with me, Agent,” Stark snapped, his entire demeanor changing in a heartbeat from guarded to offensive. On the side the bots moved, looking at them – if they had ever stopped. Phil could admit it had perhaps been a mistake to stop following their every move.
“I’m not,” Phil mused. “Yet.”
Stark opened his mouth a fraction, then closed it. It wasn’t pure hesitation, but perhaps a chance to allow his brain to reconsider his next words before releasing them. He didn’t usually do that, unless the subject was incredibly flammable and Stark wasn’t absolutely certain whether he could escape in time – or catch fire.
“Are you… coming onto me?” Stark finally asked, as if still uncertain whether he was reading the situation correctly.
Phil didn’t answer instantly. He took his time, savoring his selected drink, draining the glass slowly and thoroughly. All the while he kept his attention on Stark, which in turn nailed the other’s eyes on his face while the genius brain attempted to figure him out. It wasn’t as if he expected Stark to not see it, but what he knew for a fact was that there were some lines even Tony Stark wouldn’t cross – not unless he had permission.
Most of them, surprisingly, involved people’s sexual boundaries.
Finishing his drink, Phil set down his glass, just as slow and purposeful as he had been at his drinking. Stark’s attention was rapt on his every move, his own drink long forgotten, and Phil helpfully took the glass from him. The other man didn’t resist, too engrossed with figuring out his endgame, but since Phil hadn’t exactly figured it out himself, he doubted Stark would do so ahead of him.
“It is curious how oblivious a notorious playboy can be, isn’t it?” Phil finally mused.
Stark blinked. “What?” he asked, dazed, almost as if someone had knocked him upside the head.
Phil didn’t tease him; that wasn’t his thing, and as much as he appreciated a strategic approach, straightforwardness often simplified things in a rather pleasant way – if you had the balls for it. Phil liked to think he had balls for a lot of things, none of which included standing up to a Norse god with a weapon he wasn’t sure worked at all.
Reaching out to tug Stark closer by the neck of his shirt and aligning their faces for another kiss didn’t threaten his life, but it took guts of a different sort to pull off. Sealing the deal with lips on lips was far more effortless, as if the momentum just carried them there, and Stark’s mouth was startled open, leaving Phil ample room to lick between his lips and then into the other man’s mouth.
At the first touch of their tongues, Stark shifted towards him until they were flush against each other. There were no protests – no hesitation – as Stark’s hands tentatively settled on Phil’s waist, barely touching, then his right hand moved up to his shoulder and to the nape of his neck, seeking either purchase or control, fingers squeezing but never tightening in desperation, alarm or warning.
Stark may not have looked like much next to super-soldiers, Asgardians and trained agents, but he had hard lines and delectable curves Phil had no reason not to touch as they were so freely offered to him. When Phil’s fingers slipped beneath the hem of Stark’s shirt, his skin was hot. Perhaps it was normal body heat, or the Extremis, but Phil dragged a line up his back, following his spine and ribs as far as the shirt allowed, then dropped down past the original starting point, finding that he could slip beneath the edge of the ragged jeans. The swell of Stark’s ass was firm, but when he tried, there was plenty to grab onto.
Heat was blown onto his face as Stark dragged his head back from the kiss with a sharp exhalation. “Is there a password I need to know?” he asked.
“A password for what?” Phil asked.
“For you to take this off,” Stark impatiently motioned at his suit.
Phil fixed a self-assured smile on his lips, despite his rumpled clothes, hair and perhaps a slight swelling on his lips. “Maybe I prefer men with some initiative.”
Stark came at him and shoved him back, faster than he had been in the past. Stronger, too. Phil took a few steps back and felt his ass collide with something semi-hard. The back of a couch. He hadn’t seen it, behind all the tables and rubble around Stark’s workshop.
The other man followed him, looking like a predator, fingers opening and closing as he prowled closer. Phil took the moment to round the furniture and start working his shirt off. First, though, he had to unfasten his tie, and as he did that, Stark launched himself over the back of the couch and ended up kneeling on top of it, a hungry, desperate look on his face.
Phil slipped the tie free, and after a few seconds of debate he looped both ends around his fingers and brought the material around the back of Stark’s head, trapping his neck and pulling him into another kiss. The height difference made it a little awkward, and Stark eventually moved down, kissing a trail down his neck and then onto his shoulder. Work-hardened fingers finished undoing Phil’s shirt and then shoved the undershirt aside as his lips landed on the scar, tongue flicking against the sensitive, raised flesh.
Fingers tightening around and against the tie, Phil breathed in, looking down. As far-gone as this was, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t what he needed, either.
He pressed down with his hands, the tie forcing Stark to follow. It wasn’t enough to actually force him, but Stark followed the motion, moving down. His fingers lifted the edge of the undershirt, the clever tongue trailing down his stomach, sucking and biting as his fingers moved further down, working Phil’s belt and pants open, shoving them down.
Neither of them had forgotten his earlier statement, clearly.
Phil didn’t want to put too much stock in the breathy promise Stark had given him, but the moment Stark’s fingers fished his hard dick from his underwear and the lips he had kissed several times today wrapped around it, he could tell Stark hadn’t been bragging; from this angle it was impossible to see whether his face lit up with an orange lightshow, but his mouth was impossibly hot and wet, and Phil needed all his willpower to not fuck up into it, to get more of it before it was over.
The heat didn’t disappear. It also seemed to continue down Stark’s throat when the man took him as deep as was humanly possible. There was something incredibly desperate about it, the tight hold of Stark’s fingers on his clothed thighs, the tension in his shoulders, and Phil finally released the tie, letting it fall to the floor.
“Stark,” he said softly, reaching out to touch the dark hair.
The tension didn’t dissipate, and Stark held himself down, swallowing and struggling.
“Tony,” Phil offered, and the other man pulled up from his cock, gasping desperately for air. His eyes were wide and brown as they gazed up at him, his lips red and wet but not glowing. That would have been beyond disturbing. There were no words that were guaranteed to work, so Phil simply framed Stark’s face and allowed him to make a decision.
Stark leaned forward, eventually, pressing his lips against the underside of Phil’s cock, their eyes still connected, until Stark’s eyelids fluttered shut and he went back into it. For some reason, it felt like watching him going underwater, the image distorted as his tongue laved at the length of Phil’s dick and then snaked down to drag against his balls. Maybe it was simply the pleasure coursing through him, making everything a little blurry.
Phil grounded him by maintaining the touch on Stark’s face, feeling the bulge against the cheek when the other man took him inside his mouth again, going slower this time, movements more measured. The fingers around Phil’s thighs weren’t pressing nearly as hard.
“Tony,” Phil said after a bit, not even going for the less personal name to test the waters, “let me sit down.” It was becoming a distraction to keep himself upright.
Stark pulled back a little and Phil sat down on the couch beside him, pants and underwear mid-thigh, shirt and jacket undone, undershirt bunched up in a strange tangle around his midsection. Stark was watching him, as if calculating the odds of whatever would come next.
Since he still had both his hands on the other man’s face, it was easy to pull Stark closer and kiss him again. Phil detected a foreign taste on his lips, knowing it was his own, and he licked it off. Stark’s mouth quivered and he moved suddenly to the side, straddling Phil, pressing them together. Clearly proximity was important to him, and Phil had no reason to resist.
He did, however, have a few protests about Stark’s state of clothing; those ragged jeans dragged against his bare erection, causing too much rough friction, and he lowered his hands to get rid of it. He waited for a protest, a wall to come up, but Stark merely shifted his hips to help with the process while still kissing Phil, and so the agent took matters into his own hands, yanking Stark’s zipper down and his jeans as far as they would go. They didn’t go far enough with Stark’s legs spread to accommodate Phil’s body beneath his, which was infuriating.
“Easy, tiger,” Stark purred against his lips, drawing back long enough to move his body and assist Phil in the removal of his jeans. As soon as that was done, he was back on Phil’s lap – with the matter-of-fact assistance of Phil’s hands on his hips – his mouth pressing a hot kiss against the corner of his mouth.
Now Phil was the clothed one, but his pants were easily maneuvered lower to expose enough skin to achieve comfort. Or, what relative comfort there was when he was hard and aching to come.
“Want to feel another hot orifice wrapped around your cock?” Stark murmured against Phil’s neck as he made a poor attempt to hide where he was going, his lips landing on the scar on his chest a few second later.
“No,” Phil grunted.
Stark’s mouth froze on his skin.
“Not today,” Phil amended, not bothering to explain to Stark that prepping his ass would take too long in Phil’s book. So, another time. Call it a rain check.
That seemed to take them right back where they had left off, Stark’s teeth pressing against his scarred skin.
Phil proceeded to yank off his jacket and shirt, then hoisted the undershirt off as he went. Stark’s hands immediately settled on his chest, teasing the skin, sliding lower eventually, towards their dicks that were rubbing together as Stark moved his hips in slight, grinding motions.
Not yet willing to go for the grand finale, Phil moved to divest Stark of his final articles of clothing. The shirt yielded to the force behind his hands, a few buttons rolling away across the floor, but Stark didn’t stop to comment, flinging the fabric to the side as if it wasn’t worth his attention while laving at the sensitive spot on Phil’s chest, above his heart.
Now Phil was free to return the favor. He ducked his head, then frowned, finding himself blocked from his destination. He slid a hand up to Stark’s hair, to nudge him away, to put some space between them, but the other man refused to get the hint. Or, he knew what Phil was doing but chose to ignore it, because he was a selfish person when he could get away with it.
Phil had no problem putting Stark back in his place: his hand fisted in the dark curls and yanked Stark’s face off his chest in one motion, not giving the other man time to react. A grunt of pain followed, dark eyes flashing as Phil put several inches between their chests. Their hips, however, remained as they were, the grinding motions never stopping. If possible, Stark pressed a little harder against him as Phil’s grip kept him from returning his mouth to his chest.
Free to follow through on his plan, Phil leaned forward and kissed the center of Stark’s chest, in the middle of the faint circle. As much as he had wanted to do that, he knew he still needed to make sure he wasn’t stepping on a landmine by doing it. However, when he lifted his eyes to check Stark’s face, he found the dark lashes pressed against the cheekbones and not a hint of discomfort or panic on the other man’s features.
A green light, then.
He dragged his tongue with excessive force against the edge of the circle and Stark groaned, shifted, and pressed their hips a bit closer to one another. His right hand slipped in on the action, wrapping around them, which was good. One or both of them was weeping enough pre-cum to make things bearably slick, and Stark’s fingers were dexterous and strong. They handled the two dicks with rough strokes and squeezes, just as Phil continued to trace every inch of where the arc reactor had sat before.
Stark’s skin was starting to grow hot against his, more than was natural; from feverish to something else… Phil wondered if he was getting too excited, but when he pulled back to look, Stark shifted his head against the hold Phil still had on his hair and opened his eyes, blinking rapidly, as if forced out of some pleasant reverie. “What?” he asked, almost alarmed.
“Do I need to evacuate the premises?” Phil asked.
“No,” Stark ground out, swallowing with obvious difficulty. His skin was aglow, and it was as if the light in his chest had simply been sucked inside and chosen another color on the spectrum to represent itself.
Phil let go of his hair, just in case, and both his hands settled on Stark’s waist. Between them, Stark’s hand was still busy. The other one moved onto Phil’s shoulder, around to the back, and then his fingers landed on the scar of the entry wound. They mapped it, inch by inch, over and over, and Phil rested his face against Stark’s chest again, feeling the hammering of his heart, the intense heat beneath the skin, and the shift in his leg muscles as Stark continued to bring them both off.
Not surprisingly, Phil came first. It felt like he had been floating on the edge for ages, and eventually it became too much. He shot his load over the insistent pull of Stark’s hand, hips jerking into it, his lips finding the scar on the other man’s chest at the last second.
Stark stilled for a moment, unwrapping his hand from around them both. Somehow he moved like a wounded animal, and Phil wondered what he thought was going to happen now.
“Keep going,” Phil ordered. Against his stomach and softening cock, he felt Stark’s hand slide back around his own cock, getting back into the rhythm, although it was faltering now. Maybe he was close – or maybe he was entirely too far away. “Do you need a hand?” Phil asked, not looking at the other man, sweaty forehead pressed against Stark’s chest. He didn’t want to move, not yet, but he could do something to help the other man along.
“If that’s your thing,” Stark replied, voice a little strained. He was definitely close, but not there yet.
Phil supposed this was a good time to satiate one curiosity – to confirm a pattern. So, he moved his right hand to scoop up some of his own cum, slicking his fingers and then adjusted his left hand on Stark’s hip, moving it back to squeeze one ass cheek instead, exposing the hole that lay in between. Stark faltered only for a second when Phil felt around and pressed one wet finger into him, then another.
There wasn’t much room to move around without further stretching, but his theory was proven: Stark was hot on the inside. His mouth had already been something else, but it had nothing on his ass, the muscles clamping down, the heat intensifying, and the other man’s hips jerked back and forth, grinding in a new direction. Phil moved to counter it, knowing what Stark was going for, not exactly moving his fingers back and forth but giving him enough stimuli to take him over the edge with a hoarse cry.
It may have surprised Phil that Stark’s cum wasn’t scalding, which was a somewhat ridiculous thought. It was warmer than usual, even on his flushed skin, and as Phil lay back against the couch, freeing his hands, he could see the orange glow whirling and then receding from Stark’s skin as he came down from his orgasm.
“Fuck,” Stark finally declared and laid against him, a heavy weight on Phil’s sated body. Phil turned his head, just a little, spying a lingering glow in the brown eyes. It withdrew into itself and slowly vanished, and once that happened, Stark seemed to come back to the moment and directed his attention at Phil’s face. The slack expression slowly transformed into a more guarded one – the one he usually wore, just like Phil’s own mask. When he didn’t say anything, Phil moved his own face to kiss him again.
The heat was gone, but it was still good; as if Stark wasn’t shoved all the way back where he used to be.
How much time passed as they lay on the couch, Phil wasn’t sure. They kept touching each other’s scars, kissing occasionally. The bots brought over various items to help them clean themselves, from dirty rags to cleaning substances that would probably cause a severe burn if applied to the skin. They got it right eventually, even when Stark’s snark remained dialed down to a minimum. Phil wondered if that was a post-coital thing, or something else.
“Agent Coulson,” J.A.R.V.I.S. eventually intruded on their moment, “Director Fury has left a request for you to return to base as soon as it is convenient for you.”
While the wording of the phrase may have suggested his boss knew what had gone down, Phil knew that wasn’t the case. He had come out here to solve the riddle behind the kiss, and Fury could guess as much. The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t go as far as to imagine this. After all, he hadn’t imagined it himself when he took off for the Avengers Tower.
“Honeymoon’s over,” Stark joked lamely, rolling over on the couch and then to his feet, picking up his clothing before proceeding to cloth himself.
Phil took his example, smoothing down the creases to the best of his ability. When he was done, Stark had his back turned to him, but Phil was aware the man was spying on him through a holographic screen that showed various little screens with live feed from all corners of the workshop. It was strange to look at himself from every angle at once, but Phil worked with bizarre things every day, and Tony Stark wasn’t in the top ten of those things.
“What happens now?” Stark asked after he must have noticed Phil noticing his discreet attempts to monitor his reactions.
“I go back to S.H.I.E.L.D. and tell Director Fury that we attempted to resolve the situation,” Phil answered coolly.
“I may have to imply there are still miles to go before you are appeased.”
Stark chuckled. “Right…”
Phil walked over to him and laid a hand at the center of his back – opposite from where the scar lay on his chest. Stark’s head perked up; he didn’t fail to notice the gesture.
There were a dozen things Phil could have said, implied or teased the other man with. He chose not to voice a single one of them, instead turning, taking one more look at himself and then began to cross the room. “Will you see me out?” he asked casually.
Instead of telling him that he knew the way, Stark turned away from the screen and followed him to the stairs. They climbed up, a silence hanging between them. It wasn’t tense, or strained; there was a knowledge they both shared, a secret, and the tension had bled out of Stark’s shoulders.
They arrived at the penthouse level. Pepper Potts was still there, a laptop in front of her, and she turned to see them approach. A smile was on her lips almost instantly, as if she knew. Most likely she could see the difference in Stark’s stance, and she rose to greet them. “Better?” she asked, not clarifying.
Stark stepped forward. “Good enough for now,” he replied.
Pepper gave him a radiant smile, then watched as Stark settled beside her. She placed an arm around Stark’s waist, pulling him in, and they stood side by side, like they belonged there with each other. Phil was beginning to think it was a habit and a form of comfort rather than what people might take it as. To further prove his observation, Stark was still relaxed and gave Phil a bland look that told him not to react to the small display of affection from Pepper. After all, his arm circled Pepper’s waist a moment later.
“I should go,” Phil said needlessly.
“Have a safe ride back, Agent Coulson,” Pepper said by way of a farewell. Off to their right, an elevator arrived and the door opened to welcome him in.
“See you around, Phil,” Stark echoed as Phil moved towards it.
As he stepped into the elevator and allowed the doors to close, Phil considered that small exchange and guessed some things had been irrevocably changed today. As he balanced from his heels to his toes and back, waiting for the elevator to reach the garage, he supposed his return from the dead could have gone worse.