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Title: Turn me on (or turn on me)? [on AO3]
Author: Enmuse
Fandom: Marvel Cinematic Universe (based on Phase One films)
Characters/Pairings: Steve Rogers/Toni Stark
Rating: Mature
Warnings: cis!female Toni Stark, elements of PTSD and panic attacks. This series' universe involves Toni having had a double mastectomy under less than stellar conditions. SEE AUTHOR'S NOTES.
Words: ~1200
Summary: She doesn't have the words for how frustrating it is to want this man close to her, to feel like she trusts him intimately, but her body rebels and something in her brain kicks into fight-or-flight when they get too close.

Author's Notes: This is set in the future of Starring Role 'verse, Steve and Toni are together. This story is written in present tense and without dialogue — it's more of an introspective piece.

I'm not quite sure how to label warnings for this, just be aware that it's potentially triggering. Toni has repeated panic attacks when she and Steve try to have sex. Steve does not push the issue. Mentioned past dubious consent/non-con.

Title comes from Vitamin C's "Turn Me On", which is haunting. Also debated on skimming a line from Joydrop's "Spiders" which is in a similar vein.


The first time Steve makes a move to have sex, it's an utter disaster. Steve's hands wander a little farther than normal and his fingers slip under Toni's shirt. The skin contact is only at her waist, at first, and she's so caught up in the pleasant buzz from their kissing and usual brushing against each other than she doesn't notice. Then his hands go higher and as the shirt lifts from her stomach and she can feel the room's central air brushing against her flushed skin, the mood's gone. Toni's heart is in her throat and her arms come up between their bodies. She shoves at Steve hard, even raising her knee to put more distance between them and suddenly Steve's cringing back as her knee hits sensitive areas.

Toni tugs her shirt back into place while muttering curses and apologies. She feels like an utter ass but her heart isn't racing from arousal anymore, and all she wants to do is run. Steve recovers enough from the knee-to-the-groin incident to stand up and take a step back, hands held out to the sides. It feels like he's looming though, so Toni curses again and stands up on shaky legs. She says something, she has no idea what, and then she rushes from the room before she has to listen to whatever his reply is.


Steve has no idea how to approach the issue. When he does try, Toni grits her teeth to hold back a snappy retort as he tip-toes around the implied questions of assault during her captivity. He means well, she tells herself. He's trying to make things work. She tells him flatly that her captors were women-hating pigs who only laid hands on her to shove her face-first into a trough of water. Steve can't look at her for long minutes and has to excuse himself to hold it together. She feels a little bad, but she doesn't know how else to talk about it. She doesn't want to talk about Afghanistan. She doesn't want to talk about the times long before then when she had been a less than enthusiastic participant in sex.

She doesn't explain why she's so angry about how she reacted. She doesn't have the words for how frustrating it is to want this man close to her, to feel like she trusts him intimately, but her body rebels and something in her brain kicks into fight-or-flight when they get too close.

Toni wants him and she doesn't understand why it seems that her conscious and subconscious are at war over the matter.


The next time they're rounding the bases — and it's weeks later, Steve cautiously avoided anything more than sweet kisses, only cuddling while others are around — Toni takes the lead. She presses Steve against the the back of the couch and turns their slow kissing into something wet and hot. She straddles his lap, sitting on his thighs and leaning her upper body close. Steve's hands slowly stroke from her hips to her knees and back again, twitching at her hips but making no move to shift clothing. Toni says to hell with that and slips her hand under Steve's shirt, tugging it higher until she can duck her head and kiss his sternum. He's sensitive and delightfully responsive to her caresses and Toni smiles against his skin as she moves lower, edging further off his lap. Steve's hands move to her back and neck, restless but light, the touch lighting up Toni's nerves with pleasant little jolts. She doesn't really make a conscious note of it, but she's happy and relieved that things are going well.

She's placing a teasing nip at the edge of Steve's belly button when his fingers catch in the collar of her shirt. For a moment he hesitates, Toni's vaguely aware of that, and then the fingers move more deliberately to her collar bone and towards her shoulder, shifting the strap of her bra—

Toni jerks back and slaps the offending hand angrily. She slides onto the floor and shoves away Steve's other hand even though he's already retreating. She's so god damn angry — not scared, no way in hell is she scared — and she fists her hands on her thighs to keep from punching him. It's not Steve, she knows it's not Steve, but she can't punch herself and even if she could, she doesn't know why she'd want to. There's just so much anger welling up in her it's hard to breathe and she's all the more angry because she can feel the heat of arousal turning to the flush of tears. She shoves off the floor and thinks she yells, but isn't sure. She turns and paces away but even though she doesn't want Steve to see her like this, she doesn't go away this time. She remembers the weeks of hesitant looks and careful touches and she doesn't want that to happen again.

She still can't talk, even as she braces herself to try again and again. Steve sits on the couch, she can hear him breathing every so often when her gasps abate. He sits and he waits; she hates and loves him for it.

Eventually she shudders and stumbles her way back to the couch. She curls up next to Steve and rests her head on his shoulder. She turns her face against his chest and tells herself not to think about the tear that slides down her cheek. He doesn't move, not until she swears at him and makes a quiet plea for him to hold her. Steve rests one arm around her back but it's a lose hold, a touch telegraphing that he'll let go the instant she makes a move to leave. Toni squeezes her eyes shut and tells herself to shape the fuck up.


Somehow it isn't until the third freak-out episode that Toni figures it out. This time she's shoved Steve away and collapsed against the wall, sliding down to the floor with her arms against her chest and her head resting on her knees as she concentrates on breathing and relaxing. Somewhere between Steve's broken-sounding apologies and pleas for help understanding, Toni becomes aware of the press of her false boobs against her forearms. Realization strikes and she's left breathless at how impossibly dense she's been. How had she not put it together before now?

She lifts her head and looks over at Steve, who's kneeling a few feet away, looking concerned but uncomfortable in jeans that do little to hide his erection. Toni leans her head against the wall with a shaky, watery sigh and then starts chuckling. She knows it's bitter-sounding and only adds to Steve's worry, but she can't help it. Slowly, brokenly she shares her realization. Steve's quiet and patient, listening attentively and seeming to relax with every minute that passes.

Toni doesn't understand how her explanation calms him. Steve's less cautious this time around when Toni's breathing steadies out; he moves to sit at her side and wraps a loose arm around her shoulders before she has to ask. He leans his cheek against her hair and tells her quietly that they'll figure out what will work for them. It sounds like he's about to say something else, but after a quick inhale his word changes. Toni can still sense the implication, though, and once again feels the embarrassing heat of building tears. She doesn't know why he almost said 'I love you' at a moment when she's ruining things again.


Notes: There will likely be a second part to this but I've been sitting on this headcanon for nearly two years and wanted to share it. This situation does have a happy ending in that they're able to work through things slowly.

The bridge chapter of "It's my problem..." is nearly completed as a draft so I wanted something available while you wait for that.

On a personal note, this was something cathartic for me.