so this is gonna be a quasi-series? more like i’m splitting a one-shot into bits, but WHATEVER. semantics.
ilu theappleppielifestyle, this is for u
Jim knows Tony’s got a…touch thing.
He tries to keep it quiet, but it’s not a exactly quiet thing. Not when it’s something he aches for the way Tony does.
He’s known Tony long enough that Tony doesn’t try to keep it from him anymore, at least not on purpose. He’s been hiding it for so long though, sometimes he can’t help it.
Jim knows why, too.
A little over a year after they’d met, Tony had brought him back to New York and Jim had met the Starks.
Howard Stark had been distant, distracted—drunk off his ass. Maria Stark was melancholy in a way Jim wouldn’t recognize until he was older. She’d been affectionate with Tony, but only when his father wasn’t around. It had been pretty clear even to his eighteen-year-old self that Howard, for whatever reason, wouldn’t allow it. It didn’t make sense to him.
His own mama was the exact opposite, cupping his face and kissing his cheeks even in front of his superiors in the Air Force, embarrassing the everliving daylights out of him, so it had been a shock meeting Tony’s family. He’d always thought being wealthy would fix everything, but after seeing the Starks and the way they’d sat stiffly around the enormous dining room table in that big mansion hardly talking, he’d turned around on that idea in a hurry.
What it had done was make sense of the way Tony tended to crawl all over him, worming up against his side and tucking himself up under Jim’s arm when he got drunk and crashed into Jim’s dorm room.
After that weekend though, they’d gone back to school and Jim had been more determined than ever to be there for the brilliant, wacky kid who was the first peer he’d ever had. He deserved to have someone love on him the way Jim’s mom loved on him.
He did the best he could, but Jim takes after his dad who’s more like Tony’s mom. Not great at giving the kind of touches he thinks Tony really needs. But he’s great at letting Tony touch. Any time he moves in, Jim’s arms open automatically. He gets used to the weight of Tony’s head on his shoulder and the warmth of Tony’s body up his ribs. Someday he hopes there’ll be somebody who can do what he can’t, who will reach for Tony first.
In the meantime, he smiles when the door slides open as he heads in from the landing pad on the roof of Stark Tower and finds Tony racing toward him.
“Sugar Bear!” Tony yells and Jim laughs as Tony plows straight into him, arms coming up and wrapping tight around Jim’s back.
“Hey, Tones,” he says, gripping him back just as tight. “It’s good to see you, man.”
“Of course it is,” Tony says loftily. “It’s always good to see me. Eyes don’t get it any easier than me.”
Jim snorts. “We both know I’m the pretty one.”
“Ha!” Tony says and leans back, hands slipping to curl around Jim’s shoulders. He copies the movement and they stand there for a minute like a couple of idiots just grinning at each other.
“So how’s it going,” Jim asks finally. “What’s it like having all the supers in your back pocket?”
“There is only one super, thank you very much,” Tony says. “Thor doesn’t count, he’s normal for his species.”
“Is that what you tell yourself to make yourself feel better?”
“I am easily the coolest person on this team, I don’t have to tell myself anything to make me feel better. Don’t shove your issues off on me. I asked you if you wanted to be an Avenger.”
“I’m too busy being awesome,” Jim replies. Tony still hasn’t shaken him off, or made any effort to feign disinterest in having Jim all over him. Normally it’d be an uphill battle to give Tony what he so desperately wants. He frowns and squeezes Tony’s shoulders. “Hey, is everything okay?”
He gets more nervous when Tony doesn’t look up, his greasy hair flopping over his forehead and hiding his eyes.
“Ah…” He hears Tony swallow, and rubs his shoulder almost without thinking, encouraging him to say whatever it is. Tony finally looks up, just for a second, and Jim’s heart drops when he sees the wet sheen of his eyes. His voice is rough when he says, “Pepper.”
Jim’s hands squeeze a little tighter. “Shit. Shit. Tony— Jesus, Tony, I’m sorry. Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”
Before Tony can answer, he hauls him in for a hug, gets his arms around Tony’s shoulders and holds him tight, hand cupping the back of Tony’s head. Tony clutches at his sides, breaths a little uneven. “I dunno,” he says. “I dunno, Rhodey—”
“It’s okay,” Jim assures him. “It’s okay, you don’t have to. When?”
Tony sucks in a shaking breath. “Last Thursday,” he says and his voice breaks.
“Jesus, you should have told me, man, I would have come.”
The laugh that bursts from Tony’s mouth is a little hysterical. “Too early as usual.”
Jim ignores the joke. “She…” He hesitates, not wanting to phrase this wrong and make things worse.
“We agreed to end it,” Tony mumbles into his shoulder. “She doesn’t wanna do the saving the world thing and I moved five superheroes into the Tower. It wasn’t fair to her. I wanted to, for her, but I can't— I couldn't—”
Tony’s voice chokes off into silence, his hot, ragged breaths seeping through Jim’s shirt. Jesus, they called it quits. No wonder Tony’s…
Getting closer to Tony is impossible, but it doesn’t stop Jim from trying. “I’m sorry,” he breathes into the side of Tony’s head. “God, Tony, I’m so sorry. I really thought—”
Tony laughs that slightly hysterical laugh again and blurts, “Yeah, me too,” and then he’s coming apart under Jim’s hands, shaking with sobs.
Jim tries to make contact wherever he can. If they’ve been on the outs since Thursday it’s probably been over a week since anybody with blood and a beating heart touched Tony. No wonder he hadn’t pulled away. Broken up with Pepper, Jesus.
“I’m sorry, Tones,” he murmurs. “I’m sorry.”