Butterflies and Loose Wings (page 3)
- - -
A full month had passed since the battle against the kid with a magical wand. The new moon was up in the sky again, on a spectacularly clear night, but Tony wasn’t enjoying it because J.A.R.V.I.S. was malfunctioning after being glitchy for days – and not only was Tony at a loss as to what was causing his AI to continuously crash, but he was getting a severe headache to boot.
It was around midnight when he gave up and decided to join the other Avengers on their shared common floor. On his way there, the hallway suddenly appeared to melt and twist around him, leaving Tony stumbling forward and onto the floor as his balance completely failed him.
He couldn’t stand up; he couldn’t pick himself up or move, his head caught in a tumbler, the world tilting painfully around him. How long he lay there, Tony wasn’t sure, but when everything finally stopped spinning and he thought it was finally over, images began to hit him, left and right: memories, sounds, sensations…
From somewhere far away, in between the clashing fragments, he heard Clint calling his name.
“Shit, he’s worse than anyone else,” the archer went on to whoever he was with. “Can you stand up?”
Tony felt like snapping that he could barely feel his legs while his brain was having some kind of seizure – or that’s how it felt. Torrents of images kept assaulting him, trying to triumph over one another. All of them made sense – all of them were real – but there was one problem with all of it: they couldn’t have happened. Not at the same time.
His body was dragged up from the floor by someone stronger than Clint. That left only Thor and Steve, but Tony was fairly certain he would have known if the hands were those of his lover.
Tony wanted it all to slow down, to stop moving so fast so that he could comprehend, but whatever force was in play didn’t heed his pleas – not until it felt like the moving masses had ground his mind into dust between their moving weights, pieces finally locking into place after hacking at each other to fit in.
None of it made sense.
It couldn’t be real, but the memories in his head…
Tony was terrified and shot up where he had been lying on the couch, now surrounded by the other Avengers, in the living room of the common floor.
“Tony?” Bruce and Steve asked almost in the same breath, then shared a look that was incredibly hard to describe. Tony knew where it was coming from.
“Please tell me this is a dream and someone’s going to dunk me in cold water in order to wake me up,” Tony pleaded.
“This is no dream, my friend,” Thor said.
“What just happened?” Clint demanded. “It was like someone switched on a leaf-blower in my brain.”
Tony blinked at the archer. Had everyone felt it? All of them looked relatively okay – all but Bruce and Steve, who were still quiet and tense, looking at each other from the corners of their eyes. “Alright, someone, tell me…” Tony wasn’t sure what he wanted anyone to say – or not say. “I don’t…” He tried to even out his breathing, feeling like he was getting trapped in another panic attack when he had been free of them for months. But as the events of the last month – each day since the battle in Harlem – fell into place in his mind, he couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed.
Side by side, in his mind, sat two sets of memories: one of a month spent with Bruce, and another with Steve. Both were equally bright and real; both of them he could feel with every fiber of his body, individually.
“It’s confusing, to say the least,” Natasha started, a frown etched onto her face. “It’s like I’m looking at two mirrors in a fun house. Both of them show a different image…”
“But they’re both real,” Clint agreed, then looked at Tony. “What do you remember?”
“Remember?” Tony said carefully, licking his dry lips.
“Yeah,” Clint nodded. “The last month. Were you with Bruce, or were you with Steve, because I seem to remember both, and I want to know which version to stick to before I go insane!”
Tony felt utterly helpless. Not knowing what to say, he looked at the two men – his teammates, his lovers – and it was clear he was getting no answers from either of them.
“Fuck,” Clint decided, leaning back in his seat and sliding his fingers into his hair, squeezing tight. “Please someone wake me up. It was bad enough…”
“Shut up, Clint,” Natasha snapped at him. “It was fine,” she corrected, looking at Bruce, Steve and Tony each. “We understood it. We supported it – to the best of our ability. None of it was a problem until…”
“Until somehow the world turned topsy-turvy and both alternatives became equally real,” Bruce summed up, looking at Steve. “I remember, clearly, when we found out about you and Tony, five days into your relationship.”
Steve nodded haltingly. “And I remember you and Tony coming out about it a week after the battle – just as clearly as I remember every moment spent with him,” he added, looking at Tony with desperation. “How is this possible?”
“Magic,” Thor spoke up again. He had a deeply thoughtful look on his face. “I can almost feel its absence now. Ever since we battled that youth with the wand and the Hulk broke the magical barrier, there has been a magical layer hanging above us all.”
“The residual effects of the fight,” Tony nodded, then sat up in alarm. “Does that mean half of Manhattan has just been reset to factory settings?”
“Nay,” Thor shook his head. “You three were in the heart of the outburst, when the wand broke in half. While the magic could be detected elsewhere, only you three were affected. After all, none of the other Avengers have suffered from dual lives, save for the one caused by your involvement.”
“Gee, that sounds really supportive,” Tony glowered at him.
“I meant no disrespect,” Thor reassured him. “I was happy for you – all of you – for finding companionship amongst each other. Now, however…” He looked at Bruce and Steve.
Tony, on the other hand, tried not to look at them – mostly because he suddenly felt like he had been cheating on them the entire time they had been together. At the same time, he had had some of the best times of his life, and he most certainly hadn’t been cheating on anyone – at least not on purpose.
“Okay, so, here’s what we’re going to do,” Clint leaned forward. “Tony, you’ve got to choose.”
“Choose?” Tony started slightly. “Choose what?”
“One of them,” Clint pointed at Bruce and Steve. “This is your mess.”
“What is this, pre-school?” Tony snapped and stood up. “I…I can’t just choose between the two of them! For a month, I put all I had into a relationship… well, two relationships, by the look of it, but…” He was having trouble breathing again and he started pacing.
“You can’t just leave things hanging!” Clint called out. “It isn’t fair to anyone.”
“And choosing is?” Steve asked.
“Unless one of you is willing to stand down,” Natasha suggested. “I’m not saying it’s perfect, but something’s got to give.”
“I suppose everyone thinks it should be me,” Bruce noted. “I’m unreliable and most likely to jump ship, so I should let Steve have him.”
“There, problem solved,” Clint clapped his hands.
“No,” Bruce cut him off with a sharp shake of his head, and Tony could tell he was getting angry. “You really think I’ll just step down?” he asked the other Avengers and stood up as well. Tony stopped pacing in favor of watching his science buddy agitate the hell out of the other Avengers. He knew it wasn’t helping the situation but damn, it felt good. “Tony’s the best thing that has happened to me in years. I’m not going to let that go just because you people think it’s inconvenient.”
Silence followed his statement.
Involuntarily, Tony looked at Steve, who met his eyes.
“I guess that leaves me out,” Steve said finally, never dropping Tony’s gaze. “Bruce has found the happiness he deserves. I’ve already lost everything I had in life once, so I might as well do it again by abandoning the single most important relationship I’ve been able to forge since the ice.” His eyes narrowed before he went on: “I don’t think so.”
While Tony knew where this was going, he was so incredibly happy that Steve wasn’t just going to bow out of the competition.
“Seems like we’re at an impasse,” Bruce concluded.
“Fantastic,” Clint muttered and looked at Tony accusingly. “I’m starting to wonder what’s so fucking special about him. Is he that great in bed?” Both Bruce and Steve gave the archer dark, menacing looks, and he chose not to elaborate his opinion on the situation.
“What are you guys going to do now?” Natasha asked. “Make a schedule and pass Tony around?”
Neither Bruce nor Steve looked happy with that idea, either.
“You could both court him,” Thor suggested. “And he who wins Tony’s heart in the end will get to keep it.” He grinned. “It ought to be a great battle with two noble warriors such as yourselves.”
“There will be no fighting!” Tony snapped, suddenly tired of all this. “Bruce would Hulk out and break every bone in Steve’s body – then probably tear off his head for good measure. That’s an unfair advantage – and totally beside the point, too,” he added. He looked at his fellow Avengers, who weren’t being very helpful, and then at the two men he had equal amounts of feelings for.
“What do you suggest?” Steve asked.
“I have no idea,” Tony said, because that was the truth. “I… need time to think.”
“That sounds promising,” Clint muttered.
“I think we all need some time to think,” Bruce agreed, and so everyone departed back to their own floors, Thor still claiming that a healthy contest had ever been the perfect measure of a worthy partner.
Tony went back to his lab and resumed his attempts to revive J.A.R.V.I.S. He was getting an idea why the AI had crashed, and after almost two days of trying to bring J.A.R.V.I.S. back up, Tony succeeded. The reboot almost fried all the processors in the Tower, but the AI was finally up and running.
“Sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. started, sounding uncertain.
“Thank you, sir. It seems major portions of my data have been corrupted during the latest system crash. I shall begin removal and diagnostics –”
“Hold on,” Tony ordered. “Is the corrupted data from the last month?”
“I’ve stored most of it on a separate server. Place any other corrupted fragments there and we can hopefully piece together something from them.”
J.A.R.V.I.S. worked for a couple hours to do just that and was running much smoother afterwards.
“There seems to be an anomaly,” the AI pointed out after everything was in order. “Two layers of data are attempting to exist at the same time.”
“Welcome to newest edition of Tony Stark’s life,” Tony joked ruefully and described the situation to J.A.R.V.I.S.
“It would seem Mr. Odinson’s theory is sound. It would also explain my continuous system crash when the unknown, residual energy finally faded and the two alternatives merged into one.”
Tony nodded along and looked at the corrupted data floating around the screen. Bits and pieces of the two lives he remembered. While his brain was able to take it all in, albeit with much difficulty, J.A.R.V.I.S.’s programming could not accept such contradictions to his logic.
“What are you going to do, sir?” the AI asked at length.
“I have no idea,” Tony admitted, yet again. He hated not knowing – especially when he knew he was failing to make a decision mostly because he feared losing either Bruce or Steve.
“Keeping Dr. Banner and Captain Rogers in limbo seems like an unsavory option as well,” J.A.R.V.I.S. noted.
“I’m aware of that. How do you think I feel?”
The AI did not respond, knowing better than to try and alleviate Tony’s current mindset.
Tony sat in his lab for a few more hours, looking over the data removed from J.A.R.V.I.S.’s operating system. It wasn’t going to offer him anything he didn’t already know and feel, but he hoped some kind of epiphany could be reached if he just kept poking at it long enough.
“Sir, Dr. Banner and Captain Rogers are at the door, requesting entrance,” J.A.R.V.I.S. informed him suddenly.
Tony started and whirled around on his chair. Behind the see-through wall, Bruce stood with his hands in his pockets and Steve offered him a tiny little wave. Tony sighed. “Open the door,” he ordered the AI, and a second later the two men were stepping inside.
“You’ve been locked in here for over two days,” Bruce started.
“I’m aware,” Tony agreed and rolled his saddle-chair towards the coffee machine to see if there was any coffee left.
“We’ve talked,” Steve added. “Neither of us is willing to step down.”
Tony sighed again, heavily. There wasn’t even any coffee left. He turned around to look at the two men, feeling a familiar hopelessness overtake him. “I cannot choose,” he stated. “Not like this. Maybe never. I don’t want to. I… care for you both. At the same time. I know it’s different for you, because you lived both versions, and so did I, but in each version I was with someone, and I can’t just forget that. Or undo that,” he added.
“We get that,” Bruce said. He looked tired, a little haggard, and Steve looked like he had spent too much time in the gym. Both of them must have tried to work the frustration from their systems and failed – and now they were looking to Tony for an answer, which he didn’t have.
“I’m sorry,” Tony said, then retracted: “In fact, no, I’m not sorry. At all. I… have feelings for both of you. That hasn’t changed. I think a piece of wisdom from my old life is going to be the best medicine for this: all or nothing.”
Steve frowned. “You mean…”
“Both or none,” Bruce put it into words.
“That’s…” Steve looked at Bruce again, then at Tony. “We’re like rivals,” he pointed out.
“You have something in common,” Tony stated, standing up and walking towards them. He stopped a few feet away and pointed at himself: “Me.” For a second he hesitated, then plunged forward again: “If you can’t get behind that idea, then this is over. I refuse to let either one of you go in favor of the other, even if you would choose to do it.”
Both Bruce and Steve were quiet, and Tony supposed a little convincing couldn’t hurt – especially now that he had finally had his epiphany: “When I was with each one of you,” he went on, taking a step closer to them, “I had this constant feeling that something was wrong. I think I know what that is, now.” Both men looked at him expectantly. “Something was missing – literally. Every time I was with Bruce, there was a place left for Steve in our bed. Each time I was with Steve, there was an empty spot on the bed where Bruce would sleep when we were together.”
“That’s… not how it works,” Bruce argued softly.
“Maybe it isn’t – but maybe it is,” Tony insisted. “For me, that’s the only solution. If you can’t take it – either one of you – I’ll accept that. What choice do I have?” he added ruefully.
“We should give it a shot,” Steve said, making his choice way quicker than Tony had expected.
“We would still be sharing him,” Bruce pointed out.
“We would be sharing each other,” Tony laid down the law. “Big difference. I don’t want you to fake it, but I would appreciate a genuine attempt to like each other.”
Bruce and Steve looked at each other, this time with less hostility. “We’re teammates,” Steve noted. “And friends. We both love Tony.”
“Whoa!” Tony threw up his hands. “No one said anything about the big l-word!”
Steve looked at him, alarmed – and maybe a little hurt – whereas Bruce simply looked amused. “He’s allergic to that word,” Bruce conspiratorially stage-whispered to Steve. “I’m pretty sure of that. You’re going to spook him with that kind of talk, like a wild animal into the night.”
“Ha ha,” Tony mock-laughed. “Seriously, Steve. We’ve been together for a month, that doesn’t mean –”
“I know what I feel,” Steve argued, sharply, and that was the end of that discussion, clearly.
“Okay,” Bruce broke the silence. “So, we’re giving this a shot. Any ideas on how we’re going to do it?”
“How about a date night?” Tony suggested, because that couldn’t go wrong.
“With strawberries?” Steve asked, a soft smile back on his face.
Bruce didn’t get it – Tony had to remember that – so he nodded and told Bruce: “You’ll see. And I’m pretty sure we have to clue Steve in on the whole… well, fisting thing.”
It was adorable how Bruce flushed, just a little – and Steve didn’t look nearly as confused as he should have.
- - -
The first few date nights went just as well as could be expected: with some tension in the air and Tony trying to play matchmaker. Every kiss and touch felt like someone was being left outside, though, and Tony wondered how he could make things easier. He even ordered Bruce and Steve to go out on their own and have some fun. They ended up going for a walk, eating hot dogs and talking about Tony’s most annoying quirks.
It was better than nothing.
Tony was nearing the end of his wit, though, and he was constantly afraid that their arrangement would fail. He couldn’t force two people to like each other, or have romantic feelings for each other, but he had hoped their mutual attraction for Tony would help.
Their individual relationships suffered as well, seeing as whenever Tony was with just one of the men, it felt like cheating and doing things behind the absentee’s back.
Slowly, though, Bruce and Steve did relax around one another. They liked sharing dirty jokes about Tony, opening up about their first month with him, and Tony decided to let it play out.
Eventually, there came a point in their love-triangle of a relationship where some serious decisions had to be made: “We should move in together,” Bruce said. “That is how we’ll become familiar with one another and see whether this will work or not.”
That they chose to live on Tony’s floor wasn’t such a shock, seeing as in either version of their first month together, that’s where they had been.
The first night in the same bed was odd. Everyone came and went to the bathroom, self-conscious, but as soon as Tony lay down in the middle and the two men took their places, it was like things clicked for the first time.
“I think I’m beginning to see what you meant,” Bruce confessed against Tony’s shoulder.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Tony decided, and for the first time he actually believed it.
Of course, the first time he concretely felt like he had made the right choice was when Bruce and Steve decided to kiss. They had been living together for a almost a month, having been in their current arrangement for three, and Tony was so sex-starved that he wasn’t sure whether he would go insane or blind when Steve pulled Bruce into a kiss and the single peck on the lips transformed into something that would have deserved its own page in Kama Sutra.
It was one of the single hottest things Tony had ever seen – not because it was sexually charged, but because it featured two of his favorite people in the world.
Tony whined from where he stood in the doorway of the bedroom, and Steve finally drew back, fixing Tony with a strange look.
Bruce turned his head as well, looking over his shoulder at Tony, and a small smile played on his lips. “He looks a little lost, don’t you think?” he mused.
“I’m sure he’ll find his way,” Steve decided and lured Bruce back into a kiss. It was clear they liked it, far more than they liked kissing Tony, which almost made him jealous.
Well, when Tony got jealous, he made himself the center of the attention – or, in this case, he wanted to make sure both his lovers knew exactly how he felt about this. Slowly, he moved over to them, not wanting to break their moment. Both their eyes were closed, Steve’s hands on Bruce’s face, Bruce’s resting on Steve’s waist and shoulder. They looked content doing just that, and Tony ached to do something – anything – to make it better for them.
He cast his eyes down for a bit and noted that yes, Steve was hard. It didn’t take much to get him going, usually, but Steve had avoided getting aroused when Bruce was around, which had led to some awkward and hasty exists. Now, he wasn’t running away, and neither was Bruce, which gave Tony the perfect idea: he rushed over to a box on the night stand, fishing a condom out of it, then returned to the two and with the condom between his lips, he worked both their pants open with deft fingers.
The kiss was cut off almost immediately.
“Proceed,” Tony mumbled the order. “Please,” he added and knelt down at their feet.
Bruce met his eyes and Tony pointedly showed him the condom – extra durability for extra protection – and opened the packet, sliding the condom carefully on Bruce’s cock. His hand smoothed it into place, then the other cleverly wrapped around Steve’s, standing proudly at attention, as always.
“Kiss,” Tony urged.
Steve dared to chuckle. “I think he likes it.”
“I think he likes that it’s us.”
“Shut up and kiss,” Tony insisted.
Bruce pursed his lips, chuckled, then reached for Steve’s face and tugged it down to his own, resuming the dance of lips and tongues. Not too much tongue, Tony noticed. It was slower, too, than how either of them kissed him. Maybe they were putting on a show for him – or maybe they just liked taking their time. Their hands were wandering a little, too, over their upper bodies, but it seemed they steered clear of anything lower than their waists. That meant Tony was supposed to handle that department, which was fine with him.
He watched for a bit longer, jerking both men, then told himself not to be greedy and abandoned his perfect view point in order to lean in drag his tongue along Steve’s cock, then Bruce’s, and finally pulled both of them together so that he didn’t have to move around so much. He would have loved to handle Bruce without the condom, but they all knew the danger of the blood pumping through Bruce’s veins and no one wanted to take that kind of unnecessary risk.
That meant Tony just paid extra attention to the condom-covered flesh, noting that Steve didn’t seem to mind. He laved them both – literally – with enough attention to not leave anyone wanting. He even pondered trying to suck them both at the same time, but that was a feat for another time – especially when Bruce and Steve suddenly drew apart, leaving Tony hesitating as they both stepped back – a few seconds before Tony was lifted to stand between them.
“I think we’ve established this is going to work out just fine,” Steve noted.
“Agreed,” Bruce said, breathing heavily. Both their lips were red and plump from kissing. Bruce’s hair was even more of a mess than usual, whereas Steve’s looked like fingers had been combing through it over and over. “Get the lube,” Bruce ordered, and Tony’s eyes glazed a little. While Steve moved away to the bedroom, Bruce looked Tony in the eye and smiled. “You’ve given us so much time to get used to the situation. It’s time we thank you for your patience.”
“My patience?” Tony swallowed – then moaned as Bruce kissed him.
Steve returned, fingers already wet. He tossed the lube down, then yanked at Tony’s pants, forcing them down to his knees, and his fingers slid between his cheeks and into his ass with minimal warning. Tony tried to change his stance, to make it easier, but Bruce was holding onto his hair and keeping him right where he was.
“Did you think of trying to fit both our cocks in your mouth?” Bruce asked, teasingly.
Tony nodded vigorously; Steve’s fingers were pressing hard against his prostate, robbing any actual words from him.
“We’ll get there,” Bruce promised.
Tony knew of another orifice that might fit two cocks at once, if they tried, but he and Bruce hadn’t gotten there yet – mostly because Bruce still feared losing control. Who knew; with Steve present, that might change.
“Okay,” Steve said from his back, “I think we’re good to go.”
Bruce smiled and nodded, taking a long stride back, then his hands urged Tony forward and down by his head and shoulder. Tony felt his body flush a little, especially when Steve aligned himself behind him and slowly thrust inside his ass. After he was bent forward a bit further, Bruce’s cock ended up right beneath Tony’s face, and he got the hint, reaching his hands out to hang onto Bruce’s waist and thigh while he put his mouth on his condom-covered dick. Bruce sighed and then grunted – just as Tony did – when Steve’s first real thrust sent him more forcefully down on Bruce’s cock.
If they had planned that, it was perfect.
If they hadn’t? Tony was probably in heaven.
Bruce’s cock barely left his mouth as Steve thrust into him from behind, strong hands steadying his hips, keeping him upright without a fear of falling. The tempo was hard but not fast, and it seemed to serve Steve and Bruce perfectly, because they came almost at the same time, Bruce finishing as Steve caught his breath after shooting his load up Tony’s ass.
“Okay,” Bruce panted finally and drew Tony’s face up and away from his spent flesh, then helped Tony stand up straight. Steve was right behind him, steadying him and kissing his skin above the neck of his shirt, and Bruce’s hand found his hard cock and delivered the two dozen strokes it took for Tony to come with a strangled moan.
“I’m thinking ice cream and a movie,” Steve said while Tony was still catching his breath.
“After a shower,” Bruce agreed.
“I think I love you two,” Tony managed to offer.
“We know,” they both replied at once and took turns kissing him before guiding him into the shower. Later, when they settled on the bed together, with bowls of ice cream and cookie crumbs on top, Tony marveled how they had gotten all the way here by some magical accident, and it still felt like he had been waiting for this his entire life.
Well, it only proved that things had a way of working themselves out.