"You shouldn't call them minions," Pepper reminded him as Tony ignored her, deep in wire frames and schematics. His CEO did like to visit when there was something important that he should be paying attention to, but wasn't.
"They facilitate my brilliance, hence, 'minions'." Tony sighed. He actually did as much as he could for his employees, it wasn't as though they were a small mom-and-pop business they way they'd been back in Tony's father's day. Stark Motors was the name to beat on far too many fronts for Tony to get away with treating his employees second rate. "Look, you said we needed a major advertising push before the race. That is what I pay you the big bucks."
"That's why the shareholders pay me the big bucks," Pepper corrected him.
"I'm a majority shareholder... I transitively pay you the big bucks." He sighed, and brushed away the work he was working on. "This one's important, Pepper. Completely green, entirely renewable, electric power that can power a high low end torque, high horsepower, racecar enough to compete with the big guns at Le Mans. If we get this baby on the road and around the track we could have it out, consumer automotive, next model year."
"And that's why we're calling in an outside advertising firm, and you'll be expected to actually come, and nod your head, and maybe explain how the repulsor actually works enough for an art major to understand." Pepper took a few steps forward, her delightfully expensive high heels clacking down on the concrete of his workroom floor. "Do I make myself clear?"
He hummed his affirmative and then went back to his work.
Tony had mostly forgotten about the conversation in its entirety before Pepper came down, days later, while he was making his last specifications for the fabrication team - also known as his robots, DUM-E and U. She then cleared her throat, pointedly tapped her watch, and waited. "I need to get you a PA," she said. "Then, at least, I could tell them to come harass you. You never give Happy this much trouble."
"Because he makes sure I stay fit enough to race." The unspoken 'and you make me do boring things, like talk to advertising firms' hung in the air. "Lemme scrub down. I'll be ready in fifteen."
He scrubbed, neatened up his goatee, did a cursory gelling of his hair, before slipping into something that was a mix between 'I have a filthy amount of money' and 'but I don't give a fuck'. Pepper gave him a once over, and then sighed the sigh of an exasperated CEO wrangling her Chief Engineer. "Hammer has snaked most of the agency manpower who specialize in heavier duty motorsports, so we had to dig into bikes."
"Tony, your ride of choice when you aren't having Happy drive you around is a Stark-Fujikawa motorcycle."
"When I do it, it's tasteful, and expresses my love of fast things; when they do it, it's overcompensation."
Pepper gave him her patented Tony-you-are-being-a-jackass(tm) 'mmhmm'. She did drag him, near bodily, up to where he was meeting with the graphic designer to explain to some stupid art major exactly what was so incredible about-- shoulders, flawlessly chiseled cheekbones... and that ass. Tony actually found himself torn between gaping and just running his hands over the flawless specimen of humanity that was standing in a neatly fitted suit and that was an advertising guy?!
Tony actually took a moment to look at him, take in the whole package rather than the neat parts. The ad guy was nicely built, with strong shoulders and a delightful ass, blue eyes, neatly cropped blond hair... He looked like someone you'd buy off Craigslist.
"Mr. Stark, I'm Steve Rogers." He held out his hand, and Tony actually shook the guy's hand in return. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me."
"Anytime." It took a great deal of willpower not to turn to Pepper and say, plaintively, 'I want one'. Instead he looked over Steve Rogers one more time. "I haven't eaten all day. Working lunch?"
Steve, the pleasantly guileless puppy, gave him an enthusiastic nod, while Pepper eyed him with distrust that could only be earned by knowing him for longer than an hour. Tony actually checked his back pocket, found he had a wallet, and then led the way out of the building.
He wasn't even to the lobby when his phone chimed with a helpful message from Pepper: 'sexual harassment bad'.
After it was agreed on that they would have burgers, Tony took them the little burger shop he sometimes frequented and they were helpfully escorted away from prying eyes.
"So, Steve?" He got a chipper bob of the head for his troubles. "Pepper, or whoever hired you, no doubt said that we need the works and we need it fast?"
"You have a new car prototype, you need it badged, and desirable, before some big race."
"Some big race?!" Tony asked, offended, he bet Steve was a natural blond. "I'll give you one, since you come from biking, but Le Mans is the race of the year in endurance auto racing."
Tony wouldn't even need to put a bag over his head, just a gag in his mouth. "You wound me." He barely glanced at the menu, instead putting a hand on top of it, and looking over at Steve. "Yes there are cars, yes you go around a course, but there the similarities end. At one of the longest races in NASCAR you're in the car maybe three hours. Le Mans is twenty-four hours, it's not all about fast, it's not even all about handling, although I love fast and I love handling, it's about endurance, it's about not blowing out your engine or your tires or your motor, it's the pinnacle of reliability."
Steve, thankfully, decided just to nod so that Tony wouldn't need to stuff something in his mouth.
"Stark Motor got to slide into the experimental garage at Le Mans this year with one hell of a car. Very brilliant, everything you could ask for in endurance racing... gorgeous, great handling, and you will never need to pit for gas." Tony was very proud of that. "It runs on the repulsor tech we've been pioneering for the last years, and we're finally ready to stick it in a car. We make a good showing, we have a good ad campaign, boom, billionaires."
"I thought you were already a billionaire," Steve answered, finally showing some personality, and the personality was cheeky, Tony liked it.
"Double billionaire." Tony sighed, and then raked his fingers through his hair. "To be actually real here for a minute? It's about the future, it's about putting something on the road that doesn't kill the Earth." After a moment of wondering how much he should actually show his hand, he continued. "My father almost triple crowned motorsports before he tried to move into endurance racing... and he never could beat Le Mans."
Alright, Tony could admit it, he liked knowing that he might beat his old man at something, and making the race into green automotive was certainly a place to start.
"So it's about the future?"
"Always," Tony answered. "And... you know, it's a little bit of everything, endurance, handling..." Tony punctuated with an unsubtle leer.
Steve was gorgeous when he rolled his eyes.
He could admit it was a beautiful car.
The real kicker, in Steve's mind, as a designer, was when he'd asked Ms. Potts who did the design work on the frame for the road car, she had told him that it was all Tony. The racing car was, of course, designed first for aerodynamics, lift, and downforce, that only made sense, but the pure... sex aesthetic of the road car was something that Steve could admire.
Behind him, his son, Ian was doing some homework. More likely he was chatting with kids from school, but Steve had been a parent long enough to enjoy the delusion that his son was actually doing what he was supposed to.
He had a few ideas roughed out by the time the door opened, Bucky coming in and dropping his bag on the couch and collapsing without even a hello. Steve heard Ian's squeak, and then him run over to grab Bucky around the shoulders and give him a hug. It wasn't as though Ian didn't see his uncle near-daily, but Steve couldn't complain.
"New job?" Bucky asked, maybe a half-hour later, setting a beer down at the corner of his light table while Steve sketched.
"Yeah. I'll get Sam and the others working on it tomorrow, but I wanted to get a few ideas out while they were fresh." He put a few more lines down, before reaching for his beer.
Steve glanced over at him, where Bucky was carefully working the churchkey on his own beer, one handed, beer nestled in Bucky's armpit as he worked it. It was still something of a shock to see Bucky like that, one arm... but the man was resilient, and he'd learned his way around it fairly quickly, fast enough that he was already back in school after coming home from the Middle East.
"My new client wants to sleep with me," he said, after making sure Ian wasn't paying attention.
"Is she hot?"
Bucky's eyebrows furrowed for a moment. "Is he hot?"
"People Magazine certainly thinks so," Steve answered, under his breath. Steve thought so, but Tony Stark was arrogant, and a braggart, even if Steve could appreciate what he was doing for... the Earth, or something. "Tony Stark."
"Damn." Bucky took a long drink of beer. "I'm pretty sure Nat wouldn't even complain if I hit that. One of those people you'd put on your 'five exceptions' list. She's got a copy of at least one of his Men's Health Magazine appearances, the thing is basically porn."
"Well I am not going to 'hit that'," Steve said, air quotes obvious. "He's... attractive, if arrogant, but I'm not going to give Zola a leg to stand on when it comes to my 'unsuitability as a parent'." He frowned, if Zola found a sympathetic judge, no matter what it said on Ian's birth certificate or the custody arrangements, Steve could lose Ian, and he wasn't going to do that to his son, or his wife's memory.
"Hey," Bucky said, leaning against the table and looking down at Steve. "Let's be honest here, not like it would be a commitment, and take it from me, yoga is great for flexibility. Finish the job, enjoy yourself a time or two... you can't live your life worrying about that son of a bitch is going to try to hold over you the next time he convinces some kiddycourt judge of the merits of his case."
Steve didn't hide, he wasn't ashamed, but he did worry about it, did worry about what Ian's sperm donor would try to claim to wiggle his way into Ian's life again. As though Mary hadn't left him for damn good reasons all those years ago.
He and Bucky worked their way through the kitchen, making dinner, and then lunch for the next day for Ian, before Natasha finally swung by to collect Bucky and drag him back to their apartment a few blocks down from Steve's. After a half hour of Mario Kart with Ian, and checking over his homework, he put his son to bed, and couldn't quite stop himself from pulling up a laptop and googling Stark's Men's Health photoshoot...
It was Tony, completely naked, with nothing but a racing helmet to preserve his modesty. God, that really was almost porn. The suit from yesterday hadn't done him justice, but the man was built along leaner lines than Steve, but arms and legs were well built, and obviously very strong. He would have thought that someone who spent their entire day wrapped in a metal can wouldn't need to actually be fit, but he was clearly very much mistaken.
Stark wasn't boasting, Le Mans was a twenty-four hour endurance challenge, split by only three drivers, which meant that at least one driver would be in the car for eight hours, if not longer. Steve contented himself with googling the race rather than letting himself browse the image search further. Stark usually raced with James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, and Carol 'Captain Marvel' Danvers (apparently so nicknamed for her fairly expensive endorsement deal with Marvel Telco); Danvers and Rhodes were primarily in IndyCar and NASCAR, while Stark competed more in Formula 1 and the American Le Mans Series.
The goal for tomorrow, if he actually ran into Stark, was to not think about him naked... that would be hard... difficult... that would be difficult. Steve groaned and shoved himself face-first into his pillow.
Skipping the race wasn't how he wanted to start his season, but more lab time meant less training time, not that that kept Happy from dragging him out of the lab by the ear the minute they crested Thanksgiving every year.
"But I have a meeting with Wyche," Tony whined as Happy, bodily, dragged him off to the gym.
"No you don't, boss."
"Both of them, together, I've been invited to join them in a torrid threesome?"
"Unlikely," Happy answered, but when Tony actually got into the locker room and changed, he was in the zone.
The problem with training for endurance, and not just the quick reflexes and thinking that were required in the shorter courses, was that it was, by its very nature, something to be endured. Happy, even as his personal trainer, whose job it was to be there and urge him through the hurdles, mostly sat around and read magazines while Tony worked his way through dozens of yoga poses held far too long.
"Pepper bought me a graphic artist," Tony said, as he took a break to stretch out his back and kick back a sports drink.
"Does she know that?"
"Well she knew after I met the guy. Gorgeous. Maybe she'll let me keep him on retainer, I can just look at him all day..."
Happy rolled his eyes - Happy was not as cute as Steve was when he did so, though. Tony climbed on the elliptical and got to work on that.
"Wyche actually does want to meet with you." Happy glanced down at his tablet.
"Ha. Tell him he can have me in three hours, or now if he accepts the fact that I'm going to smell like I smell."
So he let Wyche pick his brain while he continued to train, and they went over some of the fun stuff for the road car, and Tony would probably be able to start driving around in the thing in a few months - best part of owning a company that made sexy cars. When four or so rolled around Tony broke for the day, since he didn't want to monopolize the employee gym after work.
That led to a shower, and then changing, before he headed out of the gym, tugging on a shirt as he went into the hallway, only to all but run into sexy Steve. "Hi?"
Steve was looking at him funny, and then over his shoulder to the glassed in gym.
"Employee gym," Tony explained, finger hooked over his shoulder. "Feel free to hit it up if you want."
"I'm not an employee," Steve answered, and then shook his head a bit. "I also have membership to a local gym where my friend's girlfriend works. She's a personal trainer."
"Your friend is a very lucky man, or woman?"
"Man." Steve snorted. "And he is." There was a long pause, just long enough that it started to get a bit awkward, before Steve added: "You work out?"
"I know you wouldn't believe it looking at me, but this physique is not, actually, god-given. I work for it. If I'm lucky, Happy lets me take off from Thanksgiving to New Years, but I'm rarely so lucky." Tony considered making an additional pass at Steve, realized that Pepper would be very upset after Happy ratted him out, and instead settled for a slight little smirk, and a: "My exercise regime is fairly extensive."
Alright... maybe he was bad at this 'not hitting on Steve' thing, but he was working on it...
Steve, at least, rewarded him with a faint blush, which Tony considered a win. The guy was attractive, Tony liked attractive. The fact that he didn't get the same chance to attend parties the way he had in his youth, not that thirty-two was old, meant that he didn't have the same access to attractive and willing model-actresses that he did then. He liked to think he'd matured a little bit, but he knew he hadn't.
"Your car designs are beautiful," Steve said, words tumbling out like some sort of compliment-tourettes.
It was too easy, so Tony couldn't help himself when his smiled broadened and he said, completely serious: "I'm attracted to beautiful things."
Steve, somehow, soldiered on. "I meant you're talented."
Way too easy, and, besides, that was the one thing that could almost compete with sex for Tony: compliments to his design work (which, no matter what people thought, did rate higher than compliments to his racing skills). "Thanks, I like to think I have an eye for it. There's a reason people want Stark Motors cars, and it's not just because we have one of the best racing teams in the world."
"Yeah, well... have a good evening."
"You, too, Steve."
"Hey, I was pro-sex," Bucky said, doing a rep before exhaling. "Natasha is also pro-sex, by the way."
"Oh, good. I was worried that my personal life might remain that way."
"Sorry, she has ways... secret, Russian ways."
"She asked how you were and you volunteered it." Steve knew the way this worked with them.
"Well... yeah." Bucky did another rep, took another breath. "I could poll Sam, too, on the pro/anti-sex divide. Pretty sure he thinks you need to get laid, though." He finished his set, and then worked himself out of position against the presses. "Although, if you need a real answer, it's because you're incapable of having 'just sex', which is what it would be. I'm sure you'd enjoy yourself and it would be fantastic."
"Right." Steve took a deep breath and then wiped down the press before taking his own seat there and started his own set. "Good answer."
"I don't think you believe that," Bucky said, because he knew Steve too well for his own good.
"That Men's Health photoshoot?" Steve trailed off, and Bucky nodded. "Not photoshopped, at all. He wasn't even 'in racing shape', apparently he takes a month off after Thanksgiving."
Bucky crossed his arms, more grabbed at his left shoulder with his right hand and leaned against the press. "Look, I'm to the point where I just want you to fuck him so I can have vicarious sex here. Natasha too."
"I don't want it to put--"
"Look, Zola is wildly unsuited as a parent, as a person. It's your name on his birth certificate, it's you he calls dad, it's him who fucked up his daughter so bad she ran away from home." Bucky took a deep breath, and looked down at where Steve was sulking.
In his heart, Steve knew Bucky was right. Zola barely had a leg to stand on. Steve had been married to Mary when Ian was born, and his name was on Ian's birth certificate even though genetic testing had long since proven what Steve had known from the day Mary found out she was pregnant. Zola being convicted of a disgusting amount of medical malfeasance probably didn't help his case.
So, he was decided. He'd flirt back... honestly he didn't think Stark was really that interested, but there was nothing wrong with a little flirting. Steve wasn't certain he remembered how, though. It had been probably three years since his last real relationship, something beyond a few dates and maybe a few rounds in bed. He didn't make any secret about his status as a single father, but apparently the reality was more than most people wanted. Steve barely flirting with his mid-30s with a son who was fast approaching teen years probably didn't help. Most women his age were just starting to establish themselves professionally, with no desire for kids right then.
Ian himself was also a complicating factor. Although he would deny it - badly, because he was just as bad a liar as Steve - Ian didn't much care for most of the women Steve dated; he wasn't the typical, aggressive and stereotypical teenager about it, he simply was picky, didn't want someone who cried over his mother with him, or wanted to replace her instantly. Steve knew most teenagers thought themselves mature, but Ian had more cause than most for the belief, sadly the women he'd dated thus far weren't particularly good at handling that.
Not that he would have been dating Tony Stark. If everything he knew about the man was even half true, the man did not do commitment.
"Thinking about him in nothing but a racing helmet?" Bucky asked, smirking.
"Well I am now."
Despite his efforts to keep an eye out for Stark, the man disappeared for almost three weeks, which he was later able to determine was a mix of total focus engineering, training, and racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Selected highlights were run during the week afterwards, and apparently Stark had crashed out on hour eighteen, much to the entire office's distress.
Stark was fine, at least, Steve saw him later that week down on the cafeteria floor sucking down coffee and taking a few minutes to chat with some engineering employees. Steve ended up with little more than an eyebrow quirk from him, but he smiled in return, and later, as though summoned, Tony showed up in the cubicle off from the main design drag where his design force of a half-dozen were set up.
"Miss me?" He asked, looking far too casual.
"You were gone?" Steve shot back, surprisingly lippy, even to himself, but hopefully his tone and the quirk of his mouth said that he was teasing.
"Oh, you know, here and there, racing..."
Steve wondered if it was fair game to mention the crash, or if he shouldn't bring it up. "Feeling alright?" Was what he settled for.
Tony made a little hum of acknowledgement. "That's why they put up barricades, didn't even get a concussion."
It seemed a cavalier attitude for a man whose father had died in a fairly violent car accident, but Steve wasn't going to judge. "I hope you had someone check you over," he said, and then after a moment, gave his own best smile and added: "thoroughly."
The change in tone seemed to cause the man to stumble for a moment, metaphorically, but he recovered well enough with a bright grin on his face. "Well, there were volunteers, of course. It's a grueling job. Have dinner with me."
It was bad enough Ian had to get babysat by Bucky most nights this week because of the grueling debut schedule for the Resilient, but even Bucky would probably frown at the idea of Steve coming home even later for a booty call. "I have to work late."
"Your boss is a slave driver." Tony shrugged. "I'll order in food for your posse. Sushi?"
"Usually I'd order it, and then bill it as part of the contract. Working dinner, you know."
"Come up to my office," Tony offered. "Working dinner... anywhere you want."
Steve, sadly, would have loved that, and Tony sounded like the kind of man who got off on office sex, sex against some high-rise window, something like that... "Still be here at eight or so?"
"Always," Tony answered. He fished through his pocket and then handed over a small key. "That will let the elevators take you to C-level. Come down when you want to check me over."
He took the key, and the cool metal felt like it was burning into his hand. "Thoroughly."
Not since his fiancée and his best friend had ended up in a motorcycle accident leaving her dead and him comatose, Tony with no answers about why. He scrubbed a hand over his face, not the thing to be thinking about when he was going to get to explore the attractive expanse of muscles that was Steve Rogers.
The intercomm gave a helpful bing to rouse him out of that melancholy diversion, and he glanced over. "Yeah?"
"Sir." It was Happy on the other end. "We... ah... there's a kid here, says he's looking for his father, but... the guy's not in the employee directory."
"Does he look like he could be mine?" Tony asked, only half joking.
"Dark hair, jackass, yeah." Tony could hear the smile in his voice. "No, he says his dad's Steve Rogers. You know him?"
Oh. Tony frowned at the phone. "Yeah. Send the kid down to C."
"You sure, Boss?"
"Yeah." Tony shut down the projects he was working on, and awaited the arrival of... Steve's kid. Wow. Tony was actually having a hard time wrapping his head around it, and having a little concerned that some random kid was wandering around Midtown looking for his dad in the various high-rises of Manhattan.
Most of his concerns were allayed when the kid showed up looking far older than Tony had expected, ten or older, at least. Tony buzzed open the workroom door, and the kid walked in, glanced at him, and then around, before his gaze fell back on Tony. "You're Tony Stark. You race cars."
"That I do, you're..." He realized he hadn't asked for the kid's name. "A kid, Steve Rogers is your dad."
"Ian," he said. "After my great grandpa."
"So, everything alright? I can take you up to see your dad."
Ian shrugged. "Dad's just working late all this week, so I don't get to see him much, and Uncle Bucky said 'well maybe you should stop by and see him after school', but he was being sarcastic... so I'm pretending I don't know what sarcastic is, and stopping by to see him, and then blaming Uncle Bucky."
"Crafty." Tony approved. "Well, I could take you up there..."
He watched Ian un-subtly crane his neck to look at the variety of sporty street cars that Tony kept as set-piece slash it-is-a-garage. The kid had taste.
"Or you could take a look at these beauties."
Ian was smitten with the motorcycles. He didn't even wait for permission to go over and lovingly ghost his hand just inches from the body of one of Tony's favorites. "This is the Stark-Fujikawa XRL SE!"
"Good eye." Tony came over to stand next to him for a minute. "It's not a set piece, it's street legal." He then patted the seat. "Up."
The kid hopped up, and he was comically not big enough to really ride, but he sat there, with a look on his face that said he was king of the world. "I own the XBox game."
"Yeah, we don't make that in house." Tony could have, he certainly had the programming skills, but Stark Motors made bikes and cars, and they made them best, so he wasn't going to do software, except recreationally. "I think Fujikawa side did some sort of deal with Microsoft."
"It's a good game." Ian strained forward to actually reach the handlebars, which he did by sitting up on his knees and making very convincing 'brrrrr' noises with his lips. The kid was... really pretty adorable.
Tony, as a rule, didn't spend much time with kids, he said 'fuck' far too often for that to be a good idea, but he did the occasional robots/engines high school grants, and worked with Kamen every now and again. Still, Ian was manageable in small doses.
"Where do you go to school?"
"That's a high school."
Ian gave him an unimpressed look, mouth and eyebrows quirked like Tony was the dumbest person ever. "I'm advanced."
"Do they have a degree in smartass?" Tony asked, before he'd thought better of it, which he would have.
"I'm advanced in that, too," Ian answered. He went back to his puttering for a few seconds before he leaned back and grinned. "This is pretty cool. When are you gonna race again?"
"I raced last week, Daytona 24 Hour."
"Did you win?"
"DNF," Tony answered, grumbling. It sucked to not finish, although he considered the Daytona to be a war of attrition anyway, just like Le Mans, and Monaco, really. "Made it eighteen hours in, got turned into a sidewall." By that fucking asshole hack, 'Detroit Steel' from Hammer racing.
Ian gave him a once over. "Are you alright?"
"Not a scratch." He shrugged. "C'est la vie. I won a few years back, so I'm not worried about it. La Mans is the important one, anymore."
The kid looked at him for a second, but it was clear he had no idea what Tony was talking about, that was fine. Le Mans would put him at an Endurance Triple Crown, and then he could think about conquering Monaco... also known as the track that killed Dad... not that Tony thought about that much, ever... more like couldn't forget when the damn announcers wouldn't stop talking about it every year. He hated Monaco.
"See, I've won at Daytona, the 24 Hour, and I've won at Seabring, 12 Hours, so all that remains is to conquer Le Mans, and I can have an Endurance Triple Crown. I won at Indianapolis when I was a kid, back in IndyCar, so... after Le Mans, I'd have to take Monaco. That's one of the Grand Prix for F1, which is where I race most of the time. Only one driver has ever done that in their entire career."
"Your dad?" Ian asked.
Tony laughed. "Graham Hill. No, Dad never won at Monaco. He took Le Mans, though."
"Which you haven't?"
"No, not yet."
Ian gave a sage little nod. "Dad says you've gotta keep trying, no matter what, you get up and keep going."
Tony felt a slight tightness in his chest at the words, but he dealt with them by putting his hand on the kid's head and mussing the hell out of his hair. "Well, listen to you. What do you say we order in some sushi and send it up to your dad with his son?"
His son, followed by Tony, was carting what looked to be a fairly epic order of take out Japanese food. He arched an eye at them both.
"Found this squirt poking around looking for someone named 'Dad', I think it might be corporate espionage." The man then gave a wink to Ian, and a smile to Steve. "So we grabbed dinner for everyone."
Ian then went to work pulling out the food, and chopsticks, and forks, and salads, while Sam and the others eagerly crowded around the small desk that Ian was setting up as a buffet. He caught Tony slinking away, with an odd look in his eye that Steve thought he could figure: 'kid, what the hell was I thinking?' which was a little heartbreaking. Not that Steve had been in love, just... that Tony could be so shallow.
"Hey, Tony!" Ian hollered after Tony as he was halfway out of the cubicle space. "You bought it, you should eat some."
Steve couldn't quite suppress the wince, because... while he appreciated Tony taking the time to point Ian in the right direction, he knew a brush off when he saw it, but, to his surprise Tony came back and picked at some of the sushi, as well as the edamame, while mostly avoiding the various cooked chicken and things.
"What are those?" Ian asked, as Tony sucked a soybean pod empty with his teeth... which wasn't attractive, damn it.
"Soybeans." Tony dropped the husk in the detritus pile at the center of the table. "Don't make that face, jeez. They're at least fun to eat. Here." He picked one up. "Bite here." He pointed to where the first bean was, and stuck part of it in his mouth, and Ian bit it, and sucked the bean out.
"They're salted for flavor." Tony took another one and ate it. "B vitamins, good protein, not too many carbs."
Ian took the rest of the bean pod from Tony and started to peel it open with his fingers. "Are you diabetic, like Dad?"
"Ahh... no," Tony said, quick glance over to Steve and then back at Ian. "I just don't do carbs for dinner on-season. Not that I don't cheat, but then Happy yells at me."
As if to prove his point, Tony picked up a sushi roll - tuna - and ate it in one bite. Ian, who seemed to have claimed Tony, followed his example only to spit the roll back into his hand and look at it, like it had betrayed him.
"It's tuna. Don't like it?"
Ian made a face. "We don't eat sushi at home."
Tony scooped up a napkin and stole the discarded sushi from Ian, replacing it with a scoop of rice and a few sliced pieces of some sort of chicken. "You'll like that more." Steve then watched him pick up a few more pieces of sushi, and kicked back against the table, glancing over at the assembled workers. "Impromptu pitch session?"
It should have been invasive, the primary shareholder and lead engineer sitting there, eating dinner with his consulting advertisers, but instead it felt almost... fun. Tony had some fairly on-point criticism of some of the designs, he seemed to know what Ms. Potts-Wyche would like, and there were more than a few times he just said 'Pep'd like that, but I'm not a fan', but it didn't seem picky.
Sam actually took down more than a few notes, and unlike some people they worked for, where you had to accept the fact that the person writing the checks got to dictate, Tony seemed content as long as the car looked attractive and he thought it appealed.
Tony stuck it out through the entire dinner, even if he got distracted by trying to convince Ian to try a California roll after his trauma with the tuna roll, and Ian agreed, in the end, that sushi might not be horrible.
It was horribly endearing, to see his son like that, obviously enamored with Tony, and Tony seemed, if not completely taken, at least willing to go along for the ride, and he even explained some of the food when Ian didn't know what it was. The fairly understandable spate of lust he'd been feeling for the man - attractive, fit, charming, flirtatious - was suddenly overtaken by something else, something softer, and Bucky's fairly on the nose reminder that he was incapable of 'just sex' came to mind full force.
No, his head had spiraled off into an alternate universe where Tony wasn't just interested in him as a pretty face, where maybe they could have something more, where Tony showed Ian around some racecar pit and made his life and Steve... he needed to stop that train of thought right that second.
"You know... I think Captain Marvel is my favorite," Ian said, picking through the last of the edamame.
Well, that certainly was one way to put a damper on any fantasies of Tony and Ian getting along in the long term.
Instead of looking offended at all, Tony just grabbed his chest, and made a pained 'ahhhh' noise, before he went back to leaning on his elbows. "I get it, she's cute, she's won a few races. You're Carol Corps?"
Ian shook his head. Steve didn't even know what Carol Corps was.
"Well, gotta fix that. I'll tell her you're a big fan."
Tony earned himself a thousand watt grin, and Steve felt something a little painful in his chest. The two of them just worked together, the way a smartass twelve year old and a genius race car driver shouldn't, but... it made Steve even more aware there was no way he could let himself sleep with Tony, not with Ian so enamored. He'd only be hurting both of them.
The impression that Tony was absolutely not interested in something with Steve, when Ian was in the mix, was solidified when he gave the entire table a friendly look and then said: "Go home, this stuff's great. If you need to wow Pep, go with this."
They all packed up, and Steve tried not to think about the fact that Ian could talk of absolutely nothing but how amazing Tony was. When the two of them got home, the look on Bucky's face made Ian realize he hadn't called before not coming home for hours, and there were apologies, and groveling, and Steve had to resort to a day or two's grounding, which, somehow, didn't even dampen Ian's enthusiasm.
"What the hell happened?" Bucky asked, while Steve rooted around in the fridge to pour himself some water.
"Ian dropped by, ran into Tony, Tony... has a new fan."
"So instead of hot sex against a floor to ceiling window, you accidentally introduced your potential hookup to your son?" Bucky had thought way too much about this, maybe because Steve really hadn't gotten laid in a while.
"I can't sleep with him now!" Steve protested. "Ian likes him... hell, I think I like him, now... but his penchant for busty and leggy supermodels couldn't be better publicized. I'd be a fling. What if Ian thought we were serious?"
"What if you thought you were serious?" Bucky asked, but he grabbed Steve around the shoulder and pulled him in to kiss him on the forehead. "Idiot. Let me get home, tell Nat that Ian wasn't kidnapped by Mexican drug lords."
Or Zola. Steve sighed, and gave Bucky a hug in return. "Thanks. He'll be home on time tomorrow."
He went to bed, and tried not to think about how the hell he'd gone from barely flirting with a man, to being moderately smitten, especially a man with a string of conquests as long as Tony Stark.
He would have been only too happy to do absolutely anything with Steve against any surface of his garage, but it was obvious that Ian was missing his dad with him working so much and that was not a sexy thought to take with him. Tony didn't have kids; if people ever asked him - which they rarely did - he would say something about the time not being right, or finding the right person, but the truth was he hadn't really given much thought to kids in years.
Steve was supposed to be a quick, fun, roll in the hay; he was gorgeous, well muscled, and had a jaw to die for... and yet Tony found himself enamored, and wondering if maybe he should have pressed for dinner, not a hookup. He still could, maybe. It wasn't as though he was enthralled with visions or possibilities of him being the runt's step-father or something, but... it might not have been horrible, assuming he was as sharp and enthusiastic as he'd come off in the two or so hours they'd spent together.
Tony needed to get it together.
The morning he spent exercising, not pushing too hard; he would be racing later that week - travel day tomorrow - and he didn't need to tire himself out, just make sure he was ready to ride. After he showered, and he changed, he swung by PR, hocked them for a 'Carol Corps' fan folder, hocked Carol to sign it - as she was visiting engineering today - and then brought the whole thing up to Steve, neatly depositing the envelope on his desk.
"That's for Ian," he said, leaning up against the cubicle divider when Steve glanced up at him. "Carol Corps package..."
Steve looked down at it, and smiled, even put his hand over the envelope, fingers spread across the paper. "Thanks. I'm sure he'll get a kick out of it."
Silence stretched on long enough to become awkward, with Tony not sure what to say, and Steve seemingly unwilling to fill in the gaps.
"Can I take you to dinner?" "I don't think this is a good idea."
It took Tony a moment to wind back and realize what Steve had said... not a good idea. Oh. Well. He frowned for a moment, but he could accept rejection with something akin to grace... he didn't do it often, but he was fairly sure he could.
"Alright," Tony said, a moment later. "Better than you not having a good time. Sure. Yeah." He got back up from his casual sprawl, and then took a step back. "Sure."
Steve took another deep breath, looking to screw up his own courage, and then he looked over to Tony. "Sorry, just... last night reminded me that I shouldn't be screwing around. Ian needs me, and I can't..."
It became immediately clear that Steve had apparently decided that this would have been 'screwing around', nothing serious. Tony wouldn't have even been opposed, but... it wasn't like he couldn't have given the whole 'commitment' thing a shot. Hadn't worked out last time, but that was years ago, and back when he was drinking. "Right, casual fucks only."
He wasn't sure why he was even surprised, it was his image, after all. After that, he took a few steps back, gave Steve a little quirk of a smile, and headed back the way he'd come. Tony was a grown man, he did not sulk, but he couldn't deny that he'd... well he'd at least wanted to try something with Steve, wanted to see if he could figure out the whole 'relationship' thing again or if he was still startlingly bad at it.
The remainder of the day he spent working on some supply issues with the consumer side stuff and then headed out to the airfield for the week's race. He had a new PA, apparently, Monica. He wasn't sure why he had a PA and a publicist, but apparently he needed that.
Alright, maybe he was sulking.
Sulking had him reflective and reflection made him thirsty, and thirsty made him glad there wasn't any alcohol on flights where he wouldn't be entertaining. He couldn't even blame Steve. It wasn't like his public persona didn't deeply reflect his internal process. He liked sex, he liked beautiful bed partners, he didn't demand - or many times even desire - for them to continue to be around afterwards. Steve was endearing, and not at all impressed with Tony's wealth or fame, he was smart, he was attractive, and sure Tony would have been happy to have him come and go, but to have Steve so immediately sure that Tony wouldn't be long-term material... it stung.
Right. Head in the game.
He pulled up the race course for the event, ran it against past street configurations, did an analysis to see how it compared, the worst places for crash outs, hard lines to hit, chicane, banks, tight turns... Tony burned the race into his mind, far enough that he could have ran the thing blindfolded.
Tony did the press, the glitz, the glam, he went out with a few of the guys, watched them get plastered, wished he could do the same, and fell asleep, face first, into his pillow and didn't whine to himself about how long it had been since he'd woken up with someone.
He qualified eighteenth with no obvious car trouble, and he got the expected 'WTF is bothering you?' text out of Pepper, he gave her the usual 'I am handling it' text in response, and he actually did manage to get his head out of his ass far enough to place second overall. Not horrible.
"So, let me get this straight," Bucky said, glowering at Steve over rapidly cooling Chuck E Cheese pizza while Ian made short work of various ball pits and slides. "You decided you didn't want to fuck him."
"Bucky. There are kids here."
"Get horizontal," Natasha clarified.
"Or vertical," Bucky continued. "So he brings you dinner, sends you home with your kid early, he brings you a personalized, autographed, Captain Marvel headshot that references your son's preference for her over Stark, he asks you to dinner, and you turn him down because he's not serious!?"
"And then he looked like I'd kicked his dog, or his sportscar, and left, yeah." Steve knew he was fairly tall now, unlike in his youth, but he did a remarkable job of sinking into their booth and felt small.
"You're hopeless," Bucky said. "Remind me again how you even got married?"
"You were there," Steve shot back, with less fire than he could have. "I had no idea he might... alright, I should have at least asked."
"And now James and I can't have vicarious sex with Tony Stark," Natasha added, as though that was the most salient detail in all of this. "Would you want him to be serious?"
"I-- don't know," Steve admitted. "He seems... he just sort of steam rolls over you, I guess." That wasn't fair. Steve knew that wasn't fair as soon as he'd said it. "Alright, he... brought us dinner, and he got Ian that photo." And the photo was obviously signed for Ian... He made an exasperated noise and then mussed his hair. "I just wouldn't want Ian to get attached."
Natasha quirked an eyebrow at him, which somehow judged all of Steve's life choices and found them wanting.
"He just... doesn't seem like the type who'd be serious," Steve admitted. Maybe Tony hadn't liked that Steve had implied he would just be a bed partner, but...
"You obviously don't read celebrity gossip," Natasha said, quickly adding: "Not that I do. My clients do, though. He was one half of this disgusting celebrity couple. It's all over the entire Stark Motors Motorcycle line: Stark-Fujikawa."
Steve managed to bite back the obvious reply of 'well where is she now', and was glad for it, when Natasha continued.
"They were engaged. She died in a motorcycle accident." Natasha shrugged. "He was disgustingly devoted, kept up the motorcycle department merger with Fujikawa senior despite the fact that she died, and might have been cheating on him, and even though the bikes are good, everyone agrees it was a huge financial loss for Stark Motors."
"Wow." Steve felt like sort of a jackass now.
"Fast forward a few months, and yes, he was out and about, with every single model-actress on the circuit, but I think it's unfair to say he couldn't," Nat finished, and gave him a slightly rueful smile.
"You just want me to get laid."
"That too," Bucky agreed.
"I'll apologize tomorrow."
"He's out of town," Nat said, thumbing through her phone. Steve arched an eyebrow at her. "I set up a Google Alert. He's got a race this weekend." She scanned through it. "Didn't qualify well. He won't be back until Monday, I'd think."
"Hey, at least you have a few days to figure out how to say 'I'm sorry I'm an idiot'," Bucky added, far too cheerful, as he carefully folded his pizza in half, one handed, and then took a large bite.
As it turned out, Tony wasn't back Monday. Steve checked during his regular exercise hours, only to not find him in the employee gym. He checked again on Tuesday, only to wish he hadn't. Tony was on the treadmill, all but naked, with little more than a pair of thin, short running shorts, and a pace monitor strapped around his chest. He was working a fairly sedate pace, while still running, but all of Tony's jokes about marathons rather than sprinting - usually as a thinly veiled euphemism for him having stamina in bed - came rushing back.
Unsure of his welcome, he carefully opened the door, and walked in. Tony saw him maybe a minute in, his face doing a complicated redux of the kicked-puppy look from last week. His mouth tightened, and then he nodded. "Hap, take thirty."
"You haven't cooled down--" Happy glanced over his shoulder and saw Steve, and then frowned at him.
"I'll keep my pace up, mother," Tony answered. "Take thirty."
Happy left, Tony continued to run, and Steve was left with the rhythmic sound of Tony's footfalls on the treadmill, the controlled breathing as Tony continued to run, and the very pleasant display of chest and legs that Steve forcibly drew his eyes away from.
Tony didn't say anything.
After another few more moments, Steve realized it was going to be up to him to actually say something. "I'm sorry." That was as good a start as any. "I... I panicked."
"You married?" Tony asked.
"What? No! Uh... widower."
"Not out with the kid?"
"I've dated--" Steve realized that this wasn't going to go the way he planned if he didn't take the reins here. Even in his comparative 'silent treatment' Tony was inclined to talk over him. "We hadn't exactly been exchanging promise rings," Steve said, voice a bit snippy. "I realized that, no matter what I might want or like, I had to think about Ian, and he deserves more than that from me. I need a date, not a-- a-- fling."
"Covered that," Tony said, mouth tight.
"And I should have said that, and at least given you the chance to turn me down, or not." Steve waited, Tony said nothing. "If you wanted to date, I would, but... I have a son, he will always be part of my life, and part of the life of whoever I dated. That's all I needed to say, and what I should have said last week."
Tony still didn't say anything - not a yes, not a no - but he continued to jog. There was enough of a look on his face that Steve thought he was probably thinking, so Steve waited. After a minute or so he started to shift from foot to foot.
"I'm free all this week, and next, but I have work to catch up with... pick a day, I'll take you somewhere nice." Tony still had a look, so Steve waited. "Tell Happy to give you Monica's number, she's my PA, give her the day."
Steve... tried not to feel wounded that Tony was outsourcing his dating to his PA.
"I know, I know, seems impersonal, but that's how I actually remember the important things when I'm neck-deep in engineering and training."
He tried to take it for what it was, Tony trying, even if it seemed like distance. "Alright, Thursday should be good... Bucky takes Ian to karate lessons." Bucky and Natasha both were way too helpful about babysitting and watching Ian, but Thursday was Steve's. He took Ian to his Monday karate lessons himself. "I'm looking forward to it."
The distant, slightly standoffish demeanor from Tony relaxed, and he had a cheeky grin then, relaxed, even as he continued to pound out a fairly intense running pace. "Me too. Diabetic, right? Low carb?"
Steve wasn't sure why he was surprised Tony had remembered. "It's not that bad. I just try not to eat a pound of pasta at a sitting."
After one final smile, he gave a little goodbye, and left Tony to his training. Happy glanced over to Tony when Steve asked, but the nod from Tony produced a neat business card from Happy's jacket pocket, which Steve tucked away, before he headed back up to his work area and pointedly ignored Sam's speculative looks.
Steve had Tony - driven by Happy - pick Steve up after Ian was off at karate. Tony tried not to take it personally, but, then again, it made sense, it wasn't like he and Steve were anything to each other yet. Maybe in the future... maybe. He tried not to think how long it had been since he'd been on a date with a different sort of intent than his usual. He could sleep walk his way through a date where the intent was bed, but now he was... uncertain.
"You have a driver," Steve said, sliding into the car while Tony held open the door.
"Ironic, I know. Racecar driver with a driver... it's probably for the best. I'm told that restraint on the road is not one of my charms." Tony then gave him a warm smile. "Steakhouse alright?"
Dinner itself was... good, Tony thought it went well, he had his usual topics that he could yammer over endlessly, green racing, engineering, racing... Steve volunteered a little bit more about Ian, and that was...
Well it was good. Maybe. Tony wasn't sure if talking about your dead wife was usual date material, but Steve didn't seem hung up - still loved her, obviously, but not pained.
"She was a real... smartass," Steve said, smiling when he said it. "Ian didn't get that from me."
"I don't know," Tony said, carefully scraping out a fluffy bit of potato, and then looking down at it. "You're pretty cheeky. He learned at least some of it from you. And he's clever."
"He thinks he's more clever than he is," Steve said. "Does he really think I'm falling for the idea that he doesn't understand sarcasm? That's how he ended up here the other day."
"I'm glad he did." Tony was... well he was dealing, trying to figure out what the hell it all meant. "He's... pretty great."
Steve smiled, head bowed with this sweet little grin on his face, as though Tony had paid him the greatest compliment in the world. "He is... I'm... I'm glad you like him."
"That usually a problem?" Tony asked, curious. If Steve's kid was secretly a hellion, it would be good to know beforehand.
"I guess... some of the people I've dated have tried to..." He shrugged. "Replace his mother, or put her on a pedestal. I guess he just doesn't have a lot of tolerance for... bullshit."
"I think kids have a finely tuned bullshit sense," Tony said. He always had at that age, knowing when he was or was not wanted, when things were bad. "Well I... I'll be honest, kids haven't been on my agenda for years, but I like him."
Steve seemed to mull something over for a while, looking down at his food, and then back up at Tony, eyes narrowed just slightly. "Any reason?" He asked, for all the world trying to be calm, but Tony could hear the slight hesitation there.
Tony smirked. "My guess is you already know." But that wasn't fair, he could at least give the question a real answer. "I... I was engaged, to a woman I intended to spend the rest of my life with. She died in a motorcycle accident." Tony left the worst of it out. It was bad enough to talk about Rumiko on a date, but Steve deserved to know. "I suppose we'd always intended...but after that I was a mess, inconsolable, in and out of rehab... alcohol." As though that made it any better. "It just reminded me I need to be serious about that if I..."
To his surprise, Steve reached out and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "That's more thought than a lot of people give."
"Right, well... that's why I'm not having any wine."
"I thought it was because you shouldn't drink and drive," Steve answered, with a little quirk of his lip that somehow was understanding and amused at the same time.
"See," Tony answered. "Cheeky."
It... it was good, dinner was definitely good. Tony hadn't felt this good about a date in a good long while. Steve seemed into it, they were flirty, just like they were at work, they just... it was great.
Steve even blushed sort of adorably when Tony asked Happy to take them to Steve's 'the long way' and without even being asked Happy brought up the screen between the driver's cabin and the back.
"Wanna make out a bit?"
Steve laughed, but he did pull Tony in and the two of them started to kiss. It started off tentative, Steve's lips just pressed against his, very warm, and soft... until Steve gave an experimental slide of his tongue against Tony's mouth and he gave up all pretense.
After that, the kissing became sloppy, and wet, and surprisingly needy. It was just... really pretty damn nice. Steve had a hand on Tony's waist, tugging him closer, and his fingers played against Tony's back, over his hips, up to his shoulders, while Tony kept a hand behind Steve's neck, kissing him, hard, learning every inch of his mouth, his chest...
He lost all track of time, just re-learning what it was like to be with someone you actually gave a damn about.
It was pretty damn nice, actually.
Tony honestly would have just let it devolve into frantic groping, maybe a blowjob, but instead he eased away, peppered a kiss against Steve's nose. "Wanna call it a night?" He asked.
Steve looked just as reluctant as Tony, but he did nod.
A soft tap on the divider between front and back had it roll down. "Home, boss?"
He and Steve ended up next to each other in the car, and Tony didn't bother to resist the urge to run his fingers over Steve's shoulder.
"I had a good time," Tony said, a little dumbly, but he wanted to get that out there.
"I want you to have this... You and Ian." He fished out the envelope from his breast pocket, and handed it to Steve.
"The Carol Corps thing was more than enough."
"Don't say that." Tony kissed him on the temple. "You'll think that's ridiculous, and extravagant, but I want you to have it."
Steve eyed it, skeptical for a moment, and then started to open it, only for Tony to squeeze his fingers along the flap, at which point, Steve silently tucked it into his own jacket pocket.
A quick goodnight kiss, and Steve was out of the car, and into the front door of his building. Happy peeled away soon after.
"So, now I'm curious, Boss..."
Tony just gave him a smile. It wasn't as though he didn't expect Steve to try to return it the next day.
"Did you have a good time on your date?" Ian asked. "Was there smoooooching?"
Steve laughed, and ruffled his son's hair. "I did have a good time." He leaned in and kissed the crown of his head after that. "And there's a smooch."
Ian huffed up at him, hair blowing to the side. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."
"Give it a few dates," Steve said. "You know I don't like to get you... I want to make sure it feels right before you get to know them."
"Aunt Nat and Uncle Bucky feel right against the refrigerator," Ian grumbled, sticking his tongue out at the both of them, getting a laugh from all of the adults. "But... you had fun? You're happy?"
Steve gave a happy little hum in response. "I am, I did. Now, you have school tomorrow. I'm home, I missed you." He then got down on his haunches so he was eye level with Ian and pointed to his cheek. Ian gave him a peck there. "And I'm smooched. Now, go to bed."
A hug and a few kisses for Nat and Bucky later, Ian headed off to wash up and head to bed.
"So," Bucky said, flinging his arm over Steve's shoulder. "Was there smooching?"
Steve couldn't contain his grin. "Oh yeah. It was... really nice, the whole date, not just the smooching. We talked, he's... really smart, and just fun to talk to. We talked a bit about Mary and Rumiko. Just... good."
Natasha leaned in and gave him a hug, and then a kiss on the cheek. "That's great. Shockingly open, but great."
"I get the feeling he doesn't really like talking about it, but... we did." After a moment, he reached into his jacket and pulled out the envelope that Tony had given him. "He gave me this."
It was fairly thick, and he turned it over in his hands, opening it up, and actually looking at the contents. There were... he glanced at them. "This is a... boarding pass for... two first class tickets to Monaco."
"You and Stark?" Bucky asked, looking a bit unimpressed.
"Me and Ian... Memorial Day... that's the F1 race there. Tony will be racing..." He unfolded a thin sheaf of paper and found that was a reservation at a hotel that sounded like it would be expensive, if the words Presidential Suite meant anything. "Pit passes... and... badges for the VIP section for the Stark Motors box."
Steve didn't see how this could have cost less than ten thousand dollars.
"Whoa." Bucky looked down at the assorted items, picking them up and looking at them as though he could confirm their authenticity. "Did he ask you to come to Monaco with him?"
"No." Steve snorted, but sobered a moment later. "It... this was the race his father died in."
"Stark's never placed higher than eighth there," Natasha added. At his and Bucky's confused look she shrugged. "What? I can googlestalk your boyfriend as well as anyone else. A lot of commentators think he's unlikely to ever win there."
Steve ran his hands over the envelope for a moment, and then put all of the assembled items back in it. His first thought was to give it back, to tell Tony that he didn't feel right accepting such a lavish gift, but at the same time... this was Tony asking him to be at Monaco. He wanted to at least talk to Tony about it tomorrow.
"If I'm going to, I need to let the court know." Foreign travel was something he registered with them, for Ian. Even though Zola didn't have any real custody rights, Steve knew better than antagonize him and give him a reason. "Wow..."
He sent Bucky and Natasha home, got up in the morning, took Ian to school, and headed into the office. In the late morning, he went to visit Tony down in his 'garage' before he would head off for his afternoon workout.
"Hey." Tony said, barely glancing up from his work.
Steve considered his options, and then came up behind Tony and kissed his neck, arms around his waist.
"You can distract me like that all day."
Steve smiled into his shoulder. "Thank you, for the tickets and things."
"Do you think you'll be able to come?" Tony's voice was surprisingly light, and nervous. Any doubt that he was calm and completely collected, either about the idea of Steve being there, or the race in general, was gone.
"Are overly extravagant gifts for your significant other just a matter of course with you?" Steve asked, trying to keep his own question teasing.
"I make up for the inattentiveness and grating personality with nice gifts."
"Why did you ask me, Tony?"
Tony was quiet for a long second, before he turned himself around to fact Steve. "Monaco is my white whale."
"I thought that was Le Mans."
"I have two whales, I'm greedy. Le Mans... we'll get there. We always finish, which at Le Mans is a challenge on its own, we place well, our ride is fantastic, our team works together flawlessly." Tony paused, cleared his throat, and actually turned to look at Steve, who backed away enough to keep himself from looming. "Monaco's where my dad died, and he never won it. Maybe not a second white whale, maybe just my personal demon. Don't get me wrong, this isn't me avenging him, he wasn't even that great a father, but it's something I need to do, and you always race better with a posse."
Steve gave him a goofy grin. "Then you'll have a posse."
"To be honest, I was expecting a bit more protestation. 'Tony, I couldn't possibly accept this', 'no, please, Steve, I insist'." Tony reached out and pulled him closer, hands on his waist.
"I thought about it. But, you obviously wanted us there... I just wanted you to ask." Steve continued to grin, and this time kissed Tony on the forehead.
"I want you there." Tony tilted his head up, and Steve rewarded him with a peck on the lips.
"Then we'll be there," Steve promised.
That was actually his first chance to meet 'Uncle Bucky' and 'Aunt Natasha' who were, respectively, a post-Afghanistan War amputee in college to learn design and work with Steve, and a personal trainer. They were both sickeningly attractive, and fit, and he watched, sort of... surprisingly enjoying himself, as Ian worked his way through ball pits and slides and video games... he may even have bribed the kid with a ten dollar bill to get to play some more, which earned him a squeeze of his hand under the table.
"Not exactly your type of place, Stark," Bucky commented.
Tony couldn't help but grin. "No, not really, but I don't have kids, so..." He shrugged. Ian was standing in the middle of a ball pit, arms raised, clear 'king of the world' posturing, so Tony wasn't really surprised when a pair of kids tackled him back into the pit. "I guess this could be my type of place."
That earned him a very enthusiastic makeout session the next day at work, which was what Tony took with him on the flight over to Monaco. Wyche went with him, not that they really needed the lead engineer (under Tony, of course) on site, but it made Tony feel better and Pepper liked to facilitate his race day success.
It was also her way of paying him back for all those years ago. Tony's father had put himself over the wall at Monaco, killing him instantly, the same day Tony was racing the Indianapolis 500. Pepper had kept the news away from him for the hours it took him to get into the car, run the race, and win... but she'd never forgiven herself for the way reporters had swamped him just after... there were still YouTube videos of the moment Tony heard about his father's death, almost eight hours after the fact, on national television.
Head in the game.
"Pepper says you invited your boyfriend," Wyche said, as the two of them looked over the car.
"I didn't call him my boyfriend, that was all Pepper." Although, to be fair, they were definitely... boyfriend oriented. "I also invited his son, who does not know I'm his daddy's boyfriend, so make sure that stays hush hush."
"Monica's going to be pointing them in the right direction, hopefully..." She'd been working out well enough as a PA, so Tony was inclined to keep her. "Probably won't have as much time for them as I'd like."
He was looking over a readout when he caught Wyche looking at him. "What?"
"Just... surprisingly serious," he said, looking back to the readouts. "This isn't like back when I first started dating Pepper and you told me you weren't gonna tell me to treat her right or you'd kick my ass, because she'd kick my ass."
Tony chuckled. "Well... you should see his BFFs. They could probably take me in a fight. Nah... I'm more worried about the kid."
"Kids can be rough," Wyche said.
"No, I just meant the kid would kick my ass if I broke his dad's heart. He's really overprotective. It's sweet." Tony gave Wyche a smile though. "You and Pep still...?"
No polite way to ask if, despite their efforts, fertility eluded them. Tony could ask, though, he was friends with both of them.
"No luck," Wyche said. "We're on round three of IVF."
"If there's anything I can do..."
"Jokes about lending us a hand aside, I'm afraid not." Wyche sighed and continued to check over the engine and the car.
After they spent the morning playing with the car, Tony called Rhodey back in the hotel. "Hola, Buttercup."
The laugh on the other end eased something in Tony's chest. "Hey, Tone. Car make it over alright?"
"I'm fine, thanks for asking," Tony shot back, grinning ear to ear. "Yeah... yeah the car's good."
"Less good." He scrubbed his hand through his hair, looking out over the ocean. "How's Carol? Jittery like prom night?"
"Don't be crude," Rhodey shot back. "She's... well it's not like she hasn't been at Indianapolis before, but, yeah... it's the 500, she's nervous."
Tony hmmmed into the phone, and then glanced down at the track again. "Well... Steve's coming in tomorrow."
"I thought you don't believe in lucky charms, Tone."
"I make my own luck... by imagining how awesome it would be to have victory sex." The two of them hadn't slept together yet, which wasn't so much because Tony - or even Steve - hadn't wanted to. It was more because there was a time and a place, and that place wasn't the back of the car after a Thursday night date. He wanted to do this right.
That was terrifying.
He hadn't wanted to do it right in a very long time, since Rumiko, since... the last time he'd gotten his heart ripped out and stomped on.
Head in the game.
"Yeah, yeah... sorry, million miles away."
"You need anything?"
"Jack and coke," he answered, not really meaning it, but knowing he shouldn't toy with Rhodey like that while he was thousands of miles away. "No, no, not really... just feeling my nerves. Normal pre-race stuff."
They went back and forth for almost an hour, before they headed off their separate ways and he called Steve at home. It was still early in the week, and he heard nothing but Ian being excited - loudly, into Tony's ear - and Steve being his normal adorable self.
"So, how do you feel about Captain Marvel now?" Steve asked Ian during one of the breaks where the kid stole the phone from his father.
"She's still cooler," Ian said. "But you're pretty alright."
Tony could deal with pretty alright, especially if he was going to keep dating Steve, and he had every intention of doing just that.
Steve tried not to take it personally, but with Monica having gotten them so many things to do, there was more than enough to keep them both occupied for a few days. In a lot of ways it was just a vacation, even if he knew they were there for moral support.
Ian loved it. Steve loved it... it was actually nice to get away from it all, to not worry about work or making ends meet, but still getting to enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
His son loved the food. After what Tony had termed 'the sushi debacle' Tony had taken it upon himself to expand Ian's palate with a variety of food. Steve was a simple sort of guy, while Tony was far more... international, cosmopolitan, and a variety of other words that meant 'way more upscale than Steve', but he never made Ian or Steve feel it, just seemed thrilled to share his enjoyment.
They did spend time together, getting a feel for the place, enjoying food... but really Steve's nerves didn't settle until the next evening, just before qualifying, when Tony took them both out for dinner and then a walk along the sea. It was gorgeous, and romantic, even with his son there, and it was really, really worth it when they got back to the hotel, and Ian gave Tony a huge hug around the neck.
"Thanks, for the really good trip."
"It's not over yet," Tony said, ruffling his hair. "Tomorrow there's qualifying, and then after that I'll race... I can't visit tomorrow, though."
"We'll be in the booth," Ian promised, and then he squeezed them together again.
They watched all of the qualifying runs from the Stark Motors booth - Pepper and Carson were there - and Ian happily noshed on whatever food came by. Tony qualified fifth.
"Is that good?" Steve asked Pepper after the final order had been drawn up.
"Better than he usually does," Pepper answered. "Tomorrow is the important day, being up front might be a minus, or a plus, depends if there's an early wreck."
Race day was tense. No other word for it. Steve, Pepper, and Carson were all on the edge of their seat, while Ian - in true pre-adolescent form - waivered between rapt attention and completely boredom. It was, after all, grown men driving cars around a track over and over again.
Pepper sat next to him, and her own tension more than rivaled his own. She pointed out 'the Stark Turn', where Tony's father was killed, and it was easy to see what everyone else must have known: Tony was tentative about it, the rest of the course he was aggressive, he passed and worked hard for his position, but it was easy to pick position off him in that turn, especially easy.
Tony did well though, never dropping below twelfth, and the tension ramped up at the end of the race when Tony pulled into third and started to make an aggressive push for the win.
"Second place is Sasha Hammer, Hammer Racing," Pepper explained. "She's... pretty awful. She plays psychologically dirty with Tony every time they ride."
Steve nodded, watched as they entered the final ten laps. Most of the field had fallen away, some wrecked, some engine trouble, some bad calls that put them laps behind. Four laps...
"This is where she'll make her move."
"Tony's the one behind her, he needs to make a move," Steve protested.
"She's going to make a move. She isn't content to win, she wants to beat him."
Steve was set to protest again, but Carson's nod reminded him that they know Tony far better than him. He shouldn't have been surprised, then, when around 'Stark Turn' she did make a move, picked a line, and then when Tony picked his own to follow behind her, making an attempt to pass, she blocked him, nearly ramming their wheels together.
"Foul!" Pepper said, angry, even though there was no referee to argue to.
Seconds later, Hammer was assessed a drive through penalty, forcing her to drive through the pit at the lower speed.
"That puts her out," Steve said. "Right?"
Pepper nodded. "It does, I'm surprised it was her, not Johnson." Johnson was the one riding out in first. "I suppose there's enough ego that Sasha can't order him to fall on his sword. Tony has two laps to get around him."
Steve sat forward in his chair, and Ian had his fingers threaded through his as they watched the screen, and out the box to the track as a whole.
"He's got a few straights, and a few turns to make a move," Pepper said. "Plenty of chances."
Tony closed the distance between him and Johnson in short order, following close, feinting a few times, or maybe really trying to make a move. Johnson wasn't blocking but he came close a few times.
The second to last lap came and went, with Tony unable to make a move, especially as he couldn't make an aggressive move on the Stark Turn, the last before the finish line.
"Come on, Tony..." Steve whispered, under his breath.
The last lap went slowly, somehow, in spite of taking little over a minute. Johnson was too far out ahead after the ground lost to the Stark Turn for Tony to take advantage of the first straight, and although he caught up on the first turn, he couldn't move there either...
Stark Turn... Steve didn't let himself give up hope, but... clearly Johnson had, because Tony set an aggressive line along the inside while Johnson took an easier line higher up, and Tony popped right under him, mere feet from the finish line, and crossed less than a second and a half before Johnson...
Winning the Monaco Grand Prix.
Their booth was silent, the air so thick that Steve wasn't sure who would say something first.
"WHOO!" Ian shouted, jumping up and whooping again. "Hello, isn't it exciting?! Pshhh, grownups."
The cheers followed, Steve lifting Ian by the armpits and spinning him, and then kissing him on the nose and cheek. "Yeah!"
"Oh my God," Pepper said. Carson leaned in, hand on her shoulder, while Ian spun around more. "Wow... um... we're going to go wide with this. It will get us some great eyeballs for Le Mans in the future too... Wow."
He went through the celebrations, the hugs, the slaps on the back, for the cameras and the news and everything. He gave the canned statements that he somehow felt acutely because this was real, his words were real, his excitement and joy were real.
Tony finally hugged his way through the pit crew, and made it over to Pepper, Wyche, Steve, and Ian, giving them hugs that were only slightly more private.
"Gonna party all night?" Pepper asked, laughing.
"Got plans, yeah." He smiled over at Steve, but then turned back to Pepper. "Throw me at the mercy of Monica now, though. I'll do the press stuff, and then I want to be free."
Pepper snorted. "Alright. I'm going to get working on our Le Mans sponsorship for next year. All eyes on Stark."
"Hey, I could win this year."
"You're riding an Experimental car, pretty sure you can't win even if you win." She kissed him on the cheek. "Now go."
He gave Ian another hug, and then one for Steve. "I... sadly the one benefit to finishing Monaco with my tail between my legs is no one wants to interview me after. I was going to take you two to dinner, but... I think I won't be back to the hotel until at least eight. Eat without me? I'll come after."
The press tour was not small. The win put Tony dangerously close to both a Motorsports and an Endurance Racing Triple Crown - with only Le Mans standing in the way of each - and that was big news, especially since, at only 32, Tony had several good years of racing left him in, and years of experience in ALMS.
He had Monica pick him up some things, and then, finally, far closer to nine, Tony headed up to Steve's room with a rolling cart he appropriated from the kitchen, giving a knock on the door.
Steve came to the door, a few moments later, in the midst of complaining that he didn't order any room service, when the words died on his lips and he gave Tony a smile. "Champagne?" There was actually a frown on his lips, which wasn't attractive, really.
"Sparkling apple cider," Tony said, twisting it to show the label. "I thought Ian could join us. And it's not like I can drink champagne."
They ended up in the living room between the pair of bedrooms that made up the suite. Ian, Steve, and Tony all piled together on a huge sofa, slowly divvying up flutes of cider, strawberries, and oysters... yeah, Tony wasn't known for subtlety. Steve excused himself partway through the setup, and Ian glanced over at him, giving him the most perfect impression of a side eye Tony had ever been witness to.
"Does Dad's girlfriend know you want to eat him?" Ian asked.
"What?" His voice actually full of confusion this time.
Ian snorted. "Dad says that isn't cute when I do it either. Look... you seem nice, but Dad's been dating someone for a few weeks, and I know you like to hang out with us, and that's great, but he's taken."
Tony opened his mouth, and closed it for a moment, reminded himself it made sense for Ian to assume his father was dating a woman, and that it was unlikely Steve was two-timing him, although, all the better to find that out now while he was only disgustingly smitten.
Steve returned, only a moment later.
"So," Tony said. "Ian says you've got a girlfriend, so I can't eat you."
The blush was truly spectacular. "Ian." He sighed, and then sat down next to him, even pulled Ian in for a kiss on his forehead. "I've been dating Tony."
Ian pulled away, looking confused between the two of them, look on his face unreadable. "So... you two... huh. You're not horrible," Ian said. "You can date Dad."
"That last girl was horrible."
Tony suddenly found himself curious about the last girl, but otherwise just took it that Ian apparently approved, which was a major relationship hurdle to be sure. "Well, I'll try not to mess it up too hard."
"You want me to go to bed?" It was barely eight thirty, and the question was a blatant fish to see if Tony wanted him to disappear so that makeouts could happen.
"I want to celebrate my first victory at Monaco with my boyfriend and his son." He held out the flute, one for Ian, and then one for Steve, finally taking one for himself. "Is that alright?"
"Sure." Ian looked at the flute, and then Tony. "Yeah. Yeah that's good."
"Do you like oysters?" Tony asked, taking one and giving it a tiny squeeze of lemon.
"It looks like a snot."
He knocked it back, and swallowed, it was fairly good, and fresh. "Well, try one, you can hate it and then eat strawberries with cream."
Ian carefully picked up one, and glared at it, before giving his own little squeeze of lemon, as Tony had, and he also knocked it back, as Tony had. It took him a moment and he seemed confused by it, before he nodded. "That wasn't horrible. You can have the rest."
Steve laughed, and picked one up as well. "Thank you, Tony... this... is really great. It's just been a great trip, and getting to see you win... you were incredible."
"I don't do that every time." He was still jittery from that last pass, from making that final push the one place that Johnson would never expect it...
"The once was enough." Steve leaned in and kissed his jaw. "Nicely done."
They spent the rest of the evening, Ian excitedly rehashing everything that Tony had missed, other race things, different areas of the track that Tony had only see the outcomes from, not the incident.
"Carol won the Indy500," Tony said. "Great day for Stark Racing. We'll probably be in an ad together for the Resilient. She's a bit of a babe."
Ian stuck his tongue out.
"What? Hey, no worries, Rhodey would kick my ass if I made a move on her." He ruffled Ian's hair. "Your dad's got nothing to worry about."
Surprisingly, that was exactly what Ian wanted to hear. "Alright... I'm going to bed... don't be noisy."
Tony laughed; Steve blushed; he was pretty sure they broke Ian's instructions, but it was... victory sex, first time sex, and... I'm surprisingly in love with this man and that might be alright sex... so if they were a little involved it was probably understandable.
"Good morning, winner," Steve said, and he planted a kiss on Tony's head.
"Good morning, gorgeous." Tony gave a soft peck to Steve's chest. He then tilted his head up to look at Steve. "You're alright, too." And he then kissed Steve as well. Tony was obviously ridiculous in the morning. Something he really should have guessed.
"When do we have to get up to leave?" Steve asked, rolling Tony on his back and then kissing his stomach.
"It's my plane... it leaves when I want it to. Although... Pepper will want to be out of here by noon, business and stuff." Tony whined. "Plenty of time for another round... breakfast... maybe some shower sex...?"
"Bad enough my son has no delusions what went on here last night," Steve answered. It wasn't that he thought his son was some delicate flower, but he would like to leave his son slightly less insight into his father's dating. "He likes you. He likes us dating."
"He was surprisingly alright with me after he realized I wasn't trying to entice you to cheat." Tony grabbed Steve around the shoulders and dragged him up, kissing him on the lips again. "So... this all seems... serious."
Steve felt his throat constrict for a moment, almost like the beginning of an asthma attack, before he realized it was Tony's way of broaching the subject, not backing away. "Hope so."
Tony nodded, tilted his head up so he could kiss Steve's forehead. "Me too. It helped, you know... you being here, knowing you were watching. It helped me push. I knew if it came to a pass, I'd do it in the turn, everyone knows I take that turn too conservatively, so..."
"You were amazing," Steve said, Tony's voice taking on enough nerves that he wanted to soothe him. He kissed Tony's stomach after that, and nuzzled there, earning himself a purr and an arched back. "The race was alright, too."
"Earned that..." Tony ran his fingers through Steve's hair. "Shower? And then... you, me, your son, have breakfast of some sort."
They did end up in the shower together, and Steve definitely enjoyed the bliss of having another person there, next to him, who was very handsy... very, very handsy, and they were more than a bit wrinkled when they finally got out and dried off and dressed and out into the common area.
Ian was there, sprawled back in a chair, eyeing the room service menu. "Oh, good, you're up. I was worried I was going to have to go out and hunt food for myself if you guys were in there any longer."
Tony snorted. "You little sass machine." He went over and took the menu. "What do you want for breakfast?"
Tony, who either wanted nothing to do with parental responsibility, or respected Steve, glanced over at him, and got the nod. "We could get room service, or... I know a place right on the water, it would be perfect. Just..." Tony glanced to him, and then Ian, and then back to him. "I'm hardly a movie star, but people will notice us."
"Is that a problem?" Steve asked, not quite sure he wanted to have that conversation in front of Ian, but he understood the complexities even though he was still a boy.
"Not for me. I usually... have a pair of blondes on my arm, but it's not like people don't know I'm... opportunistic." Tony said the word with a certain amount of loaded disdain, but Steve understood the idea.
"Not for me, then," Steve answered.
"Dad..." Ian glanced up at him, eyes nervous. "What about...?"
Zola, Ian's father. He knew... well Ian remembered the first time he'd accidentally mentioned at a hearing that his father was dating a man, and how much of an issue of it Zola and his lawyer had made, trying to act as though it made Steve sick, or mentally unwell... thankfully all it had done was make it clear the environment Ian would have been raised in with Zola. Mary's exacting will had stood against the rest... even if she had had to give up her own daughter in the bargain.
"It's alright," Steve said, as much as that was his own fear. "You know you can't live your life worrying about what other people think." And he followed that up with a kiss to his son's forehead. "Come on."
Ian stood, and headed to the door, waiting for the adults to catch up.
"I feel like I witnessed something momentous."
"I'll explain later."
They had breakfast by the sea, sitting out on a patio, enjoying... just enjoying being a family. Ian was taking it all fairly well, although there was an even more intense peppering of questions than usual, but it was good.
When they got back to the hotel, Tony went to pack while he and Ian did the same, and when they were packed, and the room checked, all five of them - including Pepper and Carson - got into a car and headed to the airport.
Ian made himself scarce... or more accurately he got distracted by the television that was larger than their living room, which left them in a pair of seats, curled up next to each other.
"Ian's not mine," Steve said, his fingers threaded through Tony's. "I... figured you'd guessed when you saw Mary and my wedding picture..."
"Hey, she could have been a bottle blonde," Tony said. After a moment he smirked at Steve. "I know you aren't."
Steve snorted, but shook his head.
"I didn't even think about it, honestly. I figured... well you don't treat him as anything but yours." Tony waited a moment, before continuing. "Adopted?"
"He's Mary's," Steve said, trying to decide exactly how to phrase it. "He's not mine... and I've always known that. We met just after she decided she needed to leave her boyfriend..." Steve shrugged. It was complicated, it had been from the start. "We got married a little after Ian was born, and it's my name on his birth certificate, or... it was... he had custody of their daughter, Jet, and... when he went to jail for a few months - medical malpractice - Jet met her brother, it got back to him... It was hard."
Steve took a long, slow, breath, head bowed as he tried to put his thoughts in order, tried to figure out what to say.
"Mary was still alive and she was basically able to arrange a custody agreement that we kept Ian, Arnim kept Jet, and thankfully, even though he challenges that agreement with disgusting regularity, it remains intact." Steve felt a hand on his shoulder, and then Tony's lips pressed there, followed by a gentle nuzzling. "Ian knows the last time I had a boyfriend, Arnim made an issue of it, and... he wants to protect both of us."
He waited, and it didn't take long for Tony to wrap his arms around Steve and kiss him on the cheek. "If us being out is a problem, we don't have to be."
"No. I've tried to teach Ian not to be afraid what other people think, and I'm not going to give up being with someone I--" Like. Love. Might want to stay with for the rest of his life. "Care about."
"Nice save." Tony leaned in and then kissed him on the cheek. "I love you, too, you know."
Ian might have found them making out on one of the plane's many couches later, but none of them were going to mention that ever again.
After about forty-five minutes where it was clear Ian was much better at this than Steve, he hooked an arm through both of theirs and dragged them off to actually meet people.
"Whoa," Ian said as he was brought face to face with Carol - and Rhodey, although Tony was sure it was Carol who had earned the 'whoa'. "I'm Ian."
"Are you the one who likes me more than Tony?" She asked.
He nodded, mutely.
"You've got good taste." She held up a hand for a high five. "Carol Corps for life!"
Ian gave her a high five, still looking a bit shell-shocked, but he got through it. Rhodey held up his own hand, and Ian high fived him too. "You've definitely got good taste," Rhodey added, before turning an eye on Steve. "So this is the guy?"
"The guy?" Steve asked. "I... suppose I am." He laughed and put an arm out.
"Daaaad," Ian said, barely a moment later, elbowing him. "You've gotta play it cooler than that."
"Who taught you that, you little playboy?" Steve said, grabbing Ian to his side and ruffling his hair.
Steve worked his way through bashfulness, and embarrassment, to admit that yes he was 'the guy' and for Rhodey to grill him, ask him about his life, his work, and hilariously that seemed to make Steve more comfortable, as though the act of being grilled made it all better. He passed Rhodey's fairly rigorous assessment, and Carol's far more laid back one, and then he took the two of them around to meet a few of the other more important people in his life.
"Henry!" Tony grabbed his friend and pulled him into a hug. "Let me introduce you to Steve and Ian." He gestured, and Henry gave both of them a handshake.
"Is he your brother?" Ian asked, looking up at Henry with a great deal of awe.
He and Henry both laughed. "No, no... Henry is an actor and now he does... counseling." Tony tried to communicate the counseling with his hands. "Uhh... rehab."
Steve got it right away, even if Ian frowned, confused, and Steve probably liked it that way. "So you've known Tony for a while."
"I have." Henry shrugged. "He and I met... when was that? Tony had a biopic come out when he was a teenage racing phenom and I played him, of course, we... were rowdy together."
"But not with Rhodey, the man doesn't do rowdy," Tony said and wrapped an arm through Steve's and relaxed into a hug. "I don't do that anymore."
"I know." Steve pressed a kiss to his forehead. "So you... helped Tony get clean?"
"Tony did that himself," Henry said, immediately, and it made Tony feel just a little better, even as Henry dismissed his own importance in the process. That's part of why he adored Henry. "But, yes, Tony stayed at the facility I run... and finance based on his contributions."
He blushed, Steve gave his waist a little squeeze. If that wasn't horribly embarrassing, Tony didn't know what was. "That's incredible. You do important work. My-- I don't know much about the topic, but I do know it's not as simple as checking someone in and..."
"No," Henry said. "It has to be their choice."
"And on that depressing topic," Tony said... "Ian, you, me, a punch bowl?"
Steve let himself be left there, and Ian let himself be taken away, the two of them carefully getting a thing of punch each and a few snacks.
"So you had something bad?" Ian asked, far too perceptive, around a little cucumber sandwich.
Tony evaluated the wisdom of telling Ian, or staying quiet, and then realized that if anyone might understand, but it wouldn't be too heavy for him, it would be the kid. "Yeah, I... lost my fiancée, I was really sad for a really long time."
"Oh." Ian was quiet for a long time, but then he nodded. "I don't remember my mom much. I was only two, but... I remember dad being sad for a really long time. Do you miss her?"
"Sometimes." The two of them went about their circuit, sipping punch and waving hi at people. "I do care about your dad, I just still love her too."
"That's ok, Dad still loves mom, and he loves Uncle Bucky and Aunt Natasha and me, so you can love lots of different people." Ian took another sip of his punch and then looked over at Tony again. "Pretty sure he likes you a lot, too. All of your friends are making sure that they like Dad... do I get to make sure I like you?"
"Sure." Tony wasn't sure he'd stand up to the kid's scrutiny, but he was prepared to try. "I mean I've never had a kid, and I figure, at the end of the day, it's up to your dad to say what's what for you... but I'll try to be a good... adult person."
Ian snorted. "I guess I'd like a step-dad maybe." Tony caught him side-eyeing him, curious. "Do you want to be my step-dad someday?"
"Someday. I mean your dad and I have been dating... about two months, not that long, really. I like him, I want to keep seeing him, and I like you." Tony put his elbows on his knees looking over at Ian. "What does being your step-dad mean, anyway?"
"I mean, I could be your step-dad, I could do plenty, but... if Dad taught me anything, it was that just because you think you're being a good dad, doesn't mean you're doing what your kid wants or needs." And he'd always sort of hoped that if he and Rumi had had kids, they wouldn't have messed it up as much as their own fathers.
Ian didn't answer. When Tony looked to check, he was looking at Tony funny. "I guess... do... cars?"
"'Do cars', huh? I'll talk to your dad about what might work."
"Oh, and you've gotta love my dad a bunch."
"And me, you've gotta like me."
Ian looked a little surprised.
"Hey, we've gone out loads of times. Steve... your dad wanted to make sure that we got along before he introduced us. You think I invited you to Monaco because I don't like spending time with you?"
"I think you wanted Dad there."
"Of course, but... I'm pretty sure I can't have him if I'm not happy with you." Honestly, they'd almost never started dating because Steve was worried about Ian getting attached to Tony while Tony didn't like Ian. "I mean, I'm not saying it's going to be perfect or I won't occasionally be pretty horrible, but I'm going to try."
Ian leaned in and wrapped an arm around Tony's waist. "Really?"
"Really really." Ian was... a pretty damn great kid, and Steve loved him, and Tony... Tony could see making enough room in his heart for this boy. It was almost easy. "Come on, let's go rescue Henry from your dad."
"Isn't it usually the other way around?"
"I'm pretty sure your dad's the one who's gonna be talking his ear off."
Steve was, indeed, in the midst of an in depth discussion with Henry, and he stole his boyfriend away, with a big hug for Henry, and a 'keeper' from him in return.
He would definitely be trying to.
Bucky and Natasha liked Tony well enough, Ian loved Tony, and Tony never seemed to tire of it, and was spending upwards of three or four nights a week over, many times it included helping with dinner, or sitting with Ian while he did homework.
"Why don't we ever go over to your place?" Ian asked, glancing up at Tony from where he was fiddling with a tablet.
"Well... because my condo, while spacious, has only one bedroom. You'd have an easier commute to Stuy in the morning, but I'm not going to make you sleep on the couch." Tony continued to poke, while Steve worked in the kitchen, chopping up a few things for the night's stew.
No one said anything to that for a while, before Tony cleared his throat and continued.
"I'm looking for a new place... two or three bedrooms and some studio space." Tony didn't add anything after that, but Steve looked over at him, gaping, while Ian seemed to do the same, and Tony was fairly blatantly avoiding looking at either of them. "There's a few on the market... maybe we'll look at them some weekend."
Steve couldn't help the little flare of exasperation, but at the same time it was exactly what he'd come to expect from Tony; he'd asked for his presence at Monaco by giving him an all expenses paid trip, all but asking him to move in by offering to look at condos together seemed fairly normal for him. "I dunno, Tony, moving in would be a big step."
"Moving in? Who said anything about moving in? I'm simply... upsizing... getting a bigger place... if you visit, you visit." Tony continued his manic semi-apology, and didn't stop until Steve arched an eyebrow at him, and then smiled. "Visits would be good."
"I'm sure we could figure something out," Steve answered.
He then caught Ian giving Tony's shoulder a gentle pat, and then foisting a textbook on Tony, which brought him back to 'homework help'. Steve let himself enjoy the warm, fluttery sensation in his chest at watching his boyfriend and his son fit together like they did. Tony was... tentative, but he did try. Even knowing that Ian wasn't biologically Steve's hadn't dampened his willingness to try, and that had happened before with other people Steve had dated.
The two of them were tucked together on the couch, and Steve got to work browning off some beef, taking quick glances at them curled together... it hurt, in this happy, aching way in his chest that reminded him he'd almost crushed this before it started. Tony wasn't perfect, but he tried so hard.
"You should get a place with a pool," Ian said, out of the blue, minutes later.
Tony, of course, just chuckled and fluffed Ian's hair. "I'll take it under advisement."
The quiet went on for a few more minutes, until there was a knock on the door, and Ian sprung up to get it. It wasn't as though they lived in a bad neighborhood, but it did bother Steve, just a touch, more so when it was not Bucky or Natasha who came in, but Jet, looking twitchy and wild and... very likely high.
Steve felt himself tense, and instinctively tightened his hold on the knife before forcing himself to set it down. Jet had only attacked him the once... and that was months ago. He tried not to think about that, about how desperate she got sometimes...
Ian, of course, gave her a hug, even as she looked like she would rather be anywhere else, even if she did put her arms around him in return. Tony stood, and he glanced between her and Steve, question on his face for a moment, but then he settled into a neutral mask - press face.
After the hug broke, Jet rubbed her hands over her shoulders and then glanced around. "So... how are you?"
In spite of himself, Steve smiled. "We're doing fine." Back when she was younger, she had used Steve's home as a refuge from her father, but as she got older, and Arnim became more strict, it had been harder for her to find time. Steve had been so busy contesting just keeping Ian, that he had had little - emotionally or financially - to spare towards Ian's older sister. "Are you alright?"
"I need money." That was certainly blunt. "Ten... ten thousand."
Steve felt his eyebrows rise.
"Eight and a half?"
And Steve sighed, and then rubbed the bridge of his nose. Even if he had that sort of money - which he did not - he knew where it would go, in her arm or up her nose. "Jet, you... you know I don't have that sort of money."
Tony, and Ian both, thankfully remained quiet.
"Have a seat? We can talk... I'm making stew."
Jet glanced around the room, and then sat heavily on the couch. "That's not any help. A few hundred? I need to get out of town if..." She didn't continue.
"Ian," Tony said voice slightly ragged, but he looked over at his son and gave him a very firm look. "Can you go to your room for a bit?"
Steve should have been more annoyed, but instead he was grateful, even more so when Ian picked up his books and gave Jet one final hug before he went back to his room.
"When did you last take something?" Tony asked.
"Sixteen hours." The answer came back, no hesitation. "It's just pills..."
Tony didn't say anything.
"A lot of pills."
"Dad used to..." Jet didn't finish the sentence, and Steve knew how it ended, Arnim had used to give her pills, and after he was almost busted for the narcotics selling he had dried up his own practice and all but farmed his daughter out to continue. "So I had to find another source, so I did... and I was never gonna sell, but..." Jet didn't say anything else.
"Are you on the run? From the police?" Jet shook her head. "Someone else?"
"My dealer. I was just going up there to make up for being a bit behind, but it was definitely the cops, and then they tried to arrest me, but they had to let me go because I didn't have any, but... Johnny wants me to make the money back for him. But dad doesn't give me that sort of cash." Jet rubbed her legs, and then glanced back at Tony. "I just wanna get out."
"Because it's hard?"
"No." Jet was quiet for a long time, but she finally looked over at him. "I just... I'm nineteen... I can be away from him now... I want... I want a life."
Steve saw Tony look up at him, the obvious question in his eyes, whether this was real, one of a dozen different times that she'd shown up at the door, asking for money... it was, really, Jet had been here a handful of times, same state, and every time... every time he tried to help.
He and had spoken with Henry, at great length, last night, not about Tony directly, but addicts in general, how to help... and maybe he'd been thinking about Jet more than Tony right in that moment, too... Steve honestly didn't know if Jet was ready... but he'd be damned if he wouldn't reach out one more time. Steve gave Tony what might have looked like a head nod.
"You like coffee?" He asked Jet, completely out of the blue.
Steve was almost used to it, Tony's non sequiturs, but Jet frowned at him, confused. "Not really."
"Well then you won't be disappointed when the coffee is crap." He stood, and gestured for her to follow, which she did after checking with Steve. "Late dinner?" He asked Steve. "Back in two hours?"
Steve gave a mute nod, not exactly sure where the two of them were heading, but... he trusted that Tony might be a little better equipped to deal with this than him.
"You don't have to say anything," he assured her, taking his own sip of coffee. "Just listen."
They kicked off with a Serenity Prayer, which Tony joined in on almost by rote, and then listened to a few stories that clearly made Jet uncomfortable, but she did listen, and looked around the room as people came up to speak. About halfway through, someone who had been prescribed prescription pain meds came up, and Tony found his hand clung to for dear life, but he let her.
"They should have a list of other meetings," Tony said, towards the end, as the group was breaking up. "Come on, let me get you some real coffee before I take you back to Steve's."
She flipped through the handout while they waited for their orders at a nearby Starbucks - espresso for him, hot cocoa for her, further enforcing that this was a child, and making him even angrier with Zola. "How often do you go?"
"As often as you need." Tony thought about the question a little more. "Back when I first started going, over five years ago, I would sometimes go three times a day if I was feeling tempted. It's just shitty coffee and a place to talk, but sometimes that's all you need."
"How often do you go now?"
"Once every few months. I don't... it's always there, there are days I want to drink, but I usually call my friend Henry, or just remind myself why I can't, why I don't." He considered how honest to be, how much he wanted to put that on a little girl. "Things will turn around. It might take a long time, and you're going to have to work for it, but once you get there, and you don't let yourself fall for the easy road - throwing it all away and saying it wasn't your fault - it's going to start to be a little easier to remind yourself why you shouldn't fall back on bad habits. Remember how you feel right now. It's important not to forget."
Jet nodded, and then took her cocoa and sipped. "I guess Steve helps."
Tony swallowed down a lump in his throat. "Sure, but that can't be the only reason to stay sober, or you won't last long."
They made it home a little more than two hours later, sat down to a quiet dinner, and then Steve offered Jet some sheets, a pillow, and a blanket for the couch, before they headed to bed.
"Do you think she's serious?" Steve asked, stripping off his t-shirt and jeans, leaving just his underwear on, while Tony did the same.
"It's not the sort of thing you can tell overnight. She seems low, but... she also seems scared." Tony sat on the bed, and then tucked himself under the sheets. "That's a textbook time to run, hide... find new depths to reach before you come around. Addicts..."
Tony fell silent, waited for Steve to join him in bed, and then curled up right against his chest, nose pressed between his pecs.
"It can be really hard to let yourself have something good." That was what Tony finally settled on. "If you don't try, if you don't push, if you don't take a risk, then you can't say you failed..." Tony gave Steve a little kiss. "She'll either be here in the morning or not. We'll go from there."
"Tony she owes her dealer thousands of dollars."
"And she'll either decide she wants to try to dig out of that hole, or she'll run. We can't keep her here. I'm not going to check her into rehab tonight, I'm not going to tell her that I have that sort of money laying around in petty cash at my office... You've been here before, haven't you?"
Steve nodded, and then pulled Tony tighter to him. "I try to help... money... child services... but Zola is pretty slippery, and whenever I make a claim against him he comes back with three against me... I didn't give up, but..."
It was Tony's turn to nod, and this time he rolled Steve so he was pinned on his back, with Tony kissing along his chest. "I get it."
The kissing didn't grow any more heated than that, just warm and comfortable, and that was terrifying in its own right.
"Do you ever think about running?" Steve asked, voice soft, playing with Tony's hair and then nuzzling.
"Yeah," Tony admitted. "I'm... I'm not a father, you're my first serious relationship in ages... I don't want to give it up, I don't want to leave, but sometimes the fear that it's all going to come crashing down gets pretty scary."
"Promise me you'll... let me try to work it out with you... when we have problems, please, promise me..."
"I'll try," Tony answered. "I promise."
They curled up besides each other and went to sleep soon after that.
In the morning, the couch was empty and Steve's wedding photo - silver picture frame and all - was gone along with Tony's tablet. Tony tugged Steve into his arms, and he felt the ragged, pained breathing there, against his neck.
"I'm sorry," Tony said. "I'm sorry."
It took Steve long minutes to collect himself, and Tony tried to put aside his own hurt, that Jet still wasn't ready, that she would hurt herself, and Steve and Ian, more before finally stopping her downward descent. "I'll get started on breakfast," Steve said, pushing down the problem, setting it aside to be dealt with later.
"I'll get the paper."
Tony pulled open the door, only to find Jet leaning against the wall, asleep, picture frame and tablet clutched to her chest like a lifeline. He took the paper, and then got down on his haunches.
"Jet?" He asked, softly. "Jet?"
She startled awake, and grabbed at his shirt, fingers fisting and twisting before she finally saw Tony there and relaxed. "... Sorry." He took the frame and tablet when she offered them.
"How far did you make it?"
"The elevator... when I tried to come back I realized... I realized I'd locked the door."
"There's a metaphor there, I'm sure." Tony stood, and held a hand out for her. She had a hard time staggering to her feet, and then she rubbed away what Tony could only assume were pins and needles.
"What time is it?" She asked, rubbing her eyes.
"Breakfast will get you to twenty-seven at least," Tony said, and after she nodded, the two of them headed inside, Jet with her head down, embarrassed. "Look what I found on the stoop."
Steve glanced up, and his face brightened immediately. "Jet."
She took the frame back from Tony and then brought it over to where Steve was working on some eggs. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have taken it."
Steve took it from her, and set it down on the counter without a second thought before dragging her into a tight hug. "It's alright."
Breakfast was quiet, and a little awkward, the theft and attempted flight hung between them, but Tony wanted to give her the chance... and he texted Henry about her, he said they could squeeze her in tomorrow if she came...
"So... I have to be out of town in a few hours," Tony glanced down at his phone, and then pulled out his wallet, tugging out Henry's card, never far away. "This is for Henry Hellrung. He's an old friend of mine, and he runs a rehab facility. You go see him, tomorrow, and he can get started helping you put your life on track."
"I can't afford that..." Jet said. "Dad said... dad said you should control these things on your own, and he wouldn't pay for my weakness."
Tony took a long, deep breath, and then looked over to her. "Well, one, your dad's wrong, there is nothing wrong with needing a little help. Two... two we'll figure out as we go. Focus on getting well, first. Alright?"
His text from Henry, which he got just a bit before qualifying laps, let him know she'd done the right thing: 'You didn't say she was so young'.
"Don't text and drive," his pit boss said, and Tony smiled, before handing over the phone. Qualifying time.
Ian noticed too. "Man, no smooching for you, no homework help for me."
"Sucks, right?" Steve said, before giving Ian a peck on the forehead.
"So... do you wanna move in with Tony? Is it too soon?"
Three and a half, maybe four months, it probably was, but... well Tony hadn't taken them to look at condos, and he hadn't actually asked, so Steve figured he had some time. "I think we'll wait a little longer, but... years and years ago, I fell in love with your mom almost as soon as we met."
Ian tucked himself in under Steve's arm, and they sat like that for a long minute before Steve finally spoke again.
"Are you alright with this? We've never really... gotten this far in a long time." Moving in... and honestly the last time it would have been Sharon moving in with Steve... "I know you seem happy, but I don't want it to be because you might get a pool."
"I like Tony," Ian said, giving a long moment to reflection. "It helps that he seems to like me, but he doesn't act like he's gonna be my new dad... that helps. Some of your girlfriends were way too cheery, but fake."
"And Tony's not fake?" Steve was honestly curiously, because he did put on airs, and he did wear a mask.
"Sure he's fake... on tv, but here he's real." Ian shrugged. "Remember when he won Monaco and they asked him what he was going to do... and he said find a blonde and a brunette, but he meant us."
That was undeniable. "Alright, alright. You don't feel... I'm replacing your mother, or something else disrespectful?" Steve glanced over to his wedding photo, still prominent on the end table, set back in its place after Jet had almost stolen it.
Ian tucked in under Steve's arms, and brought him in for a hug. "I miss her, but I didn't know her. I love her... but you're my dad, and Tony... he's nice, and he spends time with me, but he shares you, and..."
Ian pressed his nose into Steve's arm.
"And a pool."
Steve threw his head back and laughed. "Alright, alright."
A little later in the evening, Tony called, and he and Ian curled up on the couch, a headset each, talking with him. "How'd you do?" Ian asked.
"You didn't watch on TV?" Tony asked, voice feigning hurt. "I got the pole, because I'm awesome."
"Woo!" Ian grabbed the phone and brought it closer to his mouth. "Dad missed you, Thursday is daaaaate night."
"How was karate?" Tony asked, ignoring the mention of date night, and somehow making it even better, as he was more focused in talking about Ian than missing Steve.
Ian talked a bit, and then continued to ramble for a little longer, just about school, about karate, spending him with his friend Bentley, that sort of thing, before he grew quiet for a moment. "Jet called to say she was going to a rehab and that she couldn't talk for a long time."
Tony grunted. "Henry told me... it's so she can worry about herself, not everything going on outside."
Steve felt something in his chest twist, at how much Tony had tried to help Jet, and at how close he'd gotten to succeeding.
"Well..." Ian glanced at Steve, and then back into the phone. "I'll leave you and Dad to get all gooey. Goodnight, Tony."
"Goodnight, Ian... watch me on Saturday?"
Ian hung up, and headed towards the bathroom to wash up.
"He gone?" Tony asked, voice sly.
"What are you wearing?"
"Seriously, I've gotten used to you looking disgustingly attractive in those t-shirts you insist on painting on in the morning." He heard Tony stretch, and yawn in his ear. "Love you, my favorite blond, to go with my favorite brunet. Pepper's got the market cornered on redheads, sorry."
"Love you." Steve smiled, letting himself sprawl on the couch and relaxed.
"You should consider a career change," Tony said. "Race car groupie, kept man... I miss you when it's time to go out of town." He sighed a moment later. "No?"
"No," he answered. "I like being self-sufficient."
"Is that a no to the living together?" Tony asked, and some of the humor was gone.
"You haven't asked."
The line went silent, and then a few moments later, Tony cleared his throat. "Would you like to move in with me?"
Waking up every morning to a tanned and toned body of the man who loved him, dinner prep spent hip to hip laughing over sauce and vegetables, Ian with his own little space where he could grow even more... "I would."
"Ian can come, too," Tony said, as though it was an afterthought, with a laugh in his voice. "And... I... I know it's complicated, but... do you think we should have a third bedroom?"
For Jet. Steve felt a lump form in his throat that he had to swallow down. "If... if you don't mind it wouldn't hurt to have."
"Monica is picking out a few for me, we could look next week."
"After you win this weekend."
"Yes, the money will be burning a hole in my pocket." Tony fell silent again. "No, seriously, what are you wearing? I'm stuck in a hotel wishing I could suck you off."
That got Steve's attention. "I... I... uh... let me get to my room."
"Not feeling it?" He asked, arms around Steve's waist, chin on his shoulder, staring out over the city from a neat little breakfast nook that Steve could have turned into a little art studio.
"I guess..." Steve sighed. "Tony this place has got to cost a lot of money..."
"The realtor didn't tell, did she?"
Steve gave a little huff after that, before he turned to kiss Tony's cheek. "No, but..."
"Steve." Tony pulled him closer, strong muscles around his waist and against his back, a tickle of the tip of his nose against Steve's ear. "We are going to live together. You work all around the area, I work a few blocks away, your son goes to school a little farther downtown..."
"I... we're talking about leaving a tiny little apartment that used to belong to my grandmother... this has to cost a least a million dollars."
Steve was cute when he thought that this could be had for that little. "So, which one is it? Staying with me rent free, or not owning a piece of it?"
"Can't it be both?" Steve's hands rested atop Tony's. "I just..."
That was one thing that had never been difficult with Rumiko, they had been both disgustingly well off, legacy kids... "You can buy groceries."
That won him a little snort.
"You aren't smooching, are you?" Ian asked, coming up to the window and looking out as well. "I'm young, with delicate sensibilities."
Tony dragged Ian to his side and then mussed his hair.
"I like this one." Ian pulled away, giving a little huff as he flattened his own hair back down. "There is a pool, there is a subway stop nearby, and there is lots of food."
"All the important things," Tony said, and he gave Steve a gentle kiss. "Let's eat dinner, discuss our options."
Dinner was lazy, the three of them in some little Japanese place near their last condo visit. Ian had, in the last months, learned to like sushi, and they were picking their way through quite the offering.
"So I didn't like the one with the little corner thing," Ian said. "The bathrooms were weird."
Tony snorted, but he did make a note on his tablet about the bathrooms, because he sort of agreed. "I liked the last one," Tony said, giving Steve a very unsubtle wink. "Whirlpool tub."
"You can Dad can whirlpool on your own time," Ian said, rolling his eyes.
Steve turned a very attractive shade of red after that.
"The concierge is nice," Tony prodded a roll with his chopsticks. "Means it won't be a burden when I'm not home for a few weeks at a time when racing season gets busier."
Ian pouted up at him.
"Doesn't work on me, kiddo. Gotta keep the advertisers happy, and they get cranky when you miss races." Tony sort of found himself wishing he could be around more, which was a terrifying thought, wanting two other human beings around him, wanting to have him around...
Tony had to prod Steve at least a dozen times before he finally admitted that he really had liked the last condo they looked at, and Tony managed to not inform him that it wasn't even the most expensive place they'd looked at.
Steve didn't really mention it again until they were in bed, Tony naked and sprawled on top of Steve, kissing softly down his chest. "Tony you didn't... you don't have to move, you don't have to get some place that's good for all of us, we..."
"If you don't want to move in, that's fine." Tony pressed his nose to Steve's sternum. "If you want to move in, we need a bigger place, and... I'm not moving into a sixth floor walkup."
The hands on his back stilled for a moment, before the resumed their path, teasing at the nape of Tony's neck. "I guess I just... spent so long learning how to stand on my own feet, that it feels..."
Tony nipped against Steve's chest, and then kissed the spot a moment later. Tony understood, at least in some abstract way, what Steve was getting at. He was a race car driver for a team that made its own cars in every league where it was allowed, it was still luck and skill, but that didn't stop people from acting as though he'd had an unfair advantage. "Pepper ran six background checks on you around when we started dating, making sure you're not a gold digger."
"I would never--"
"I'm just saying it cuts both ways." Tony slid down against Steve's chest and then closed his eyes. "Take Ian out, buy him some nice furniture, get started on setting up Jet's room... you can keep the apartment if it makes you feel better, I just... I'm serious about you, Steve. I want to take care of you."
Ian and Jet lingered in the back of his mind.
"All of you."
Steve finally seemed to relax into it, although Tony wasn't going to assume that that meant he was completely fine with it. "Alright."
"Good, now get over here, because I'm going to miss you while I have to go out of town for three weeks of straight racing."
Steve couldn't argue with that, and so he rolled Tony onto his back and started to kiss down his stomach. He could get used to this...
Weirdly, it seemed to make things move faster. Without Steve being entirely aware of the hows, somewhere between a Grand Prix and an ALMS race, Tony became the proud owner of the condo that they had both agreed to. Pepper's PA, of all people, came to drop off three sets of keys, neatly labeled 'S', 'I', and 'J'.
He took Ian over to the new condo after school, expecting to find it devoid of all human habitation... instead they found it...
The master bedroom had a bed in it, not the one that had been there when Tony had bought it, either... there were neatly labeled cards - all in Tony's hand - everywhere. Generally they were labeled 'negotiable' and 'nonnegotiable', with most things labeled 'negotiable'. The entire bedroom set of dressers, end tables, and the bed itself could apparently go if requested. The things that Tony seemed married to were minimal: a chair, a fairly sizable picture of him and his father in front of a racing car from when Tony was much younger... a few pictures of a woman who must have been his mother, a few more of a beautiful young woman, Japanese, probably, if it was Rumiko as Steve suspected...
"Dad, come check out my room!" Ian grabbed him around the wrist and tugged him.
Steve had expected it to not be decorated, but instead he found it almost full... a bed with race car sheets, a dresser that was littered with model cars and model airplanes, a few pictures of old, vintage cars, a few of them with Tony and a few more with Howard, and a few more with racers Steve didn't know, and one of Carol...
Jet's room... it felt odd to think of it like that... was less done up, with just a few paintings hanging on the wall. Steve found each one labeled 'not negotiable, but can be moved' and when he inspected them the signatures were fairly clear: Rumiko Fujikawa...
For a moment he was jealous, that Rumiko had been an artist and Tony hadn't told him, but he shoved it down, viciously. He wasn't replacing her any more than Tony was replacing Mary, and he was also 'guilty' of leaving more than a few mementos of his wife around the house. Tony would be no different.
The den had been done up more as an office, with a computer, a couch, and little else. The nook that they agreed would make a good area for painting had little more than a poseable wooden figure, obviously marking off the space but suggesting Tony had no supplies...
"Wow," Ian glanced around one more time. "I want to live here forever."
The two of them ended up renting a truck and going to IKEA out in Brooklyn to pick up a few pieces to help complete Jet's room, as well as a few little bits and bobs to appeal to Steve's decorative senses. They also swung by the apartment long enough to pack up books, art supplies, and clothes... and they were almost completely moved in a day later... which meant, of course, inviting over Natasha and Bucky.
"I'll bring the beer."
Steve frowned for a moment, into the phone... "Yeah, uh... bring something you like, because I'm going to send you home with it." The lack of alcohol in the house seemed conspicuous, and he and Tony hadn't discussed its presence. There was also the fact that it might serve as a temptation for Jet, to move onto something else less illegal but no less addictive.
The four of them ended up at Steve and Tony's while the IndyCar race was on the TV.
"Where's Captain Marvel?" Steve asked, after a few moments, not noticing the woman's intense red-and-yellow colored scheme among the cars.
"Daaaad." Ian frowned at him. "Are you dumb? Tony, Rhodey, and Carol are racing Le Mans next weekend, and this weekend is free practice and stuff, so they're practicing and making sure the car is good. You're not a very good boyfriend."
Ian then curled under Steve's arm, and for a moment he thought he wasn't a very good boyfriend, because he'd had no idea. Certainly he could have asked, maybe he should have... but his son actually knew where Steve's boyfriend was this week, while Steve hadn't asked.
"I should call him." Ian held up an app that showed the practice was still ongoing. "After practice."
The four of them settled in and watched the race. Steve had never particularly considered himself one for sports car racing, but it was surprisingly relaxing, and sometimes interesting, especially the street courses rather than the ovals, to watch the strategy that went into racing. Tony had explained the various strategies for the different leagues, where pitting, tires, and gas were the make-or-break, and others where skill more came to the forefront, the danger of the untimely pit, and so on.
It was more than a bit of a shock to realize that he had become a racing boyfriend, he knew more and more about Tony's sport, and he was surprisingly nice. He knew that if he'd wanted to, Tony would have just... well he was living in a condo that he knew cost more money than Steve and Ian would have seen in a lifetime, but Steve wanted to continue his art, his work, even if he knew it wasn't necessary.
There was a certain allure to doing his work for no one but himself, but he was far from interested in Tony taking care of him that way. Ian curled up under his arm, snuggling in. Ian he could take care of, though... Steve wasn't too proud to admit he wanted those opportunities that Tony might have opened for Ian, and Jet.
That comfort was incredible, knowing that Jet was in rehab, that she was going to have more help than he could have afforded, and more than Arnim would have been willing to contribute at all.
"Thinking?" Ian asked, looking up at him.
"About how much I love you." Steve pressed a finger to Ian's nose, tweaking it.
Ian wriggled his nose and snorted. "And Tony?"
"You're disgusting," Bucky said.
"If I recall, someone was on me to date him for vicarious reasons," Steve said, eyeballing both Bucky and Natasha, who had the gall to look at him completely innocently in return.
"And it's not like you two aren't gross," Ian said to the pair. "Gross and disgusting and in love."
"Someday you're gonna be gross-disgusting-in love," Bucky answered, leaning in to put a kiss on Ian's forehead. "And I look forward to it."
"Psh!" Ian waved his hand. "Maaaybe someday."
Maybe someday. Steve looked down at his son, over to his best friend, and his best friend's gal, and to the television where his boyfriend wasn't, but the thought was there. He realized that the someday where he could be happy was here, and he dragged his son in and kissed him hard on the top of the head.
"Ack, mushy alert."
Steve snorted into his son's hair.
He and Rhodey and Carol were in Tony's hotel room, eating their way through room service, Rhodey with his arm around Carol's waist and the two of them enjoying steak-for-her and chicken-for-him while Tony poked his way through the salmon.
"Man, you've got it bad," Carol said, smirking over at him while she stole a bite of Rhodey's chicken.
"If by it you mean monogamy, then yes." Tony paused, and then flaked off another bite of fish.
Rhodey snorted. "Come on, it's not like you haven't been inches from married before."
"And look how that turned out." He and Rumiko had been good, happy, comfortable, and he knew that she wouldn't have wanted to hurt him - not then, not like that - but that didn't help keep him from being a little gun shy. "No, no, I get it... he's pretty damn great for me. I love him, his kid's great..."
"But?" Carol prodded.
"No but," Tony answered. "Just fear. Fear of it not working out, fear of it working out."
"No fear next week," Rhodey said, stretching out a leg and prodding him with it.
"Next week, we kick ass." Tony took a deep breath, and looked over at them both. "I know I don't have to remind you, but... really, the most important thing is that we finish. The Resilient is a pure experimental car and it's not like we can win, but we need to prove that the Resilient is just that, Resilient. Stark Motors is putting that bad boy on the street in a year, and we want it to sell like hotcakes."
"Just put out a calendar with your boyfriend on top of one," Carol said. "I'd buy three."
Tony barred his teeth in a pure, feral gesture, which he would usually be above, but he wanted this clear. "Mine."
"Damn," Rhodey said, and then he went back to picking food off of Carol's plate. "Well, at least we know that's serious. I mean, not that 'move in with someone who had a kid' isn't serious, but... wow."
"It's sweet. You make me want to vomit."
He was about to have a snarky comment about Rhodey and Carol's disgustingly adorable relationship as well, when his phone buzzed - vibrated really - and Tony reached over to pick it up. Steve. "Hellooo, handsome."
Rhodey rolled his eyes, and he could almost hear Steve do so as well.
"Hey, Tony. You aren't busy, are you?"
"Nope. Free as a bird."
Rhodey stuck his tongue out, and Tony answered by doing the same.
"What are you wearing," Tony asked, but then he laughed at Rhodey's face. "Sorry, Rhodey's in the room and he's so not on board with this. But he can shut it, because he's got his girlfriend here and you're an ocean away."
He won a laugh out of Steve, and he could almost hear the man shaking his head. Tony didn't mind. "I miss you," Steve said. "I... should have wished you luck, I didn't know it was Le Mans next weekend."
Tony had been sort of avoiding that, avoiding getting to listen to Steve cheer him on. "Well... you know, it's just a race."
Carol and Rhodey wisely cleared out, and Tony made his way onto the balcony of his hotel room to look over the area.
Steve did let out a sigh then. "You know, you're allowed to admit you care, Tony."
"I do. I do care." Tony looked out over the town, lip caught between his teeth for a moment. "Really, next week, the big thing is to finish, to prove the car is what we say it is - green, reliable, fast, sporty - and to do that, we need to go the whole race..."
Tony wasn't sure if they were still talking about cars, and the race, but he took a deep breath.
"You. I care about you, too. I love you." He'd said that already, a few times, but somehow 'care about' was rougher than 'I love you' in some ways. "I want us to work. I want... I want so much."
"Tony." Steve's voice was stern, but thankfully with a touch of humor under it. "You're amazing. We'll work it out. This, we will work. And you'll do great. I saw the Resilient practice times, looking sharp."
"Only you can get away with saying something like that.." Tony loved it. "How's Ian?"
"Thoroughly bribed by the race car bed. Really, Tony?"
"Enh. It was mine. I mean, new sheets, but the frame was all me growing up." Tony smiled. "I'm glad he liked it, though. Didn't know if he was too cool for that sort of thing, yet."
"We got some things for Jet," Steve said, pausing for a few moments. "Are you sure? You... your condo is a lot nicer than my place."
Meaning that Steve was worried about Tony's stuff walking off, which was... kind of him, but not necessary. Very few things, beyond the paintings which were more sentimental than valuable, couldn't be replaced. "She needs a place to get herself settled. I'll help her find a job, and she goes from there."
"Is she doing alright?" Steve asked. "I know she should be coming home soon, I just don't want her to have problems."
"Despite the fact that I dropped her on Henry's doorstep, he doesn't message me with updates. It's a violation of her trust." Tony was sure she was doing fine, at least he hoped she was. Henry knew that Tony would foot the bill, even if that was for a more extended stay somewhere else, and he just wanted Jet to focus on getting sober. "You sound nervous."
"I am. This is the fourth time I've tried..."
"If she stays clean, if she gets her life together, it's not because you failed the last three times, it's just she was ready this time." Tony frowned. "Believe me, Steve, I know." He didn't need Steve thinking he'd somehow failed as a father, or a guardian, or just as someone who could point a child in the right direction. Steve didn't need that guilt.
"I..." Steve paused, waited. "Yeah. You're right."
Tony knew he was, at least on this, and he hated to hear doubt in Steve's voice. Steve wanted them to work, wanted Jet to get sober, wanted Ian to have a good life, and that much was so obvious, yet... "I love you."
"Me too." It would have been underwhelming if it weren't for the enthusiasm in Steve's voice. "Tell me about the race."
He snorted. "It's a bunch of people running around a track for 24 hours. Boring."
"It's not boring to you," Steve protested.
So Tony found himself explaining a bit about the strategy of Le Mans, and how it really didn't matter, as long as they finished, or posted some good lap times, went the distance. This was about demonstrating how amazing the car was, not how wonderful he, Rhodey, and Carol were. "Future, sustainability, reliability, it's the part that really matters."
"You know, I thought that was a line to get me in bed when we first met."
"It was." Tony laughed. "Okay, okay, not a line, just... no, I wanted you, can't lie."
Steve found it funny, he could almost hear him shaking his head on the other end of the phone. "Good luck next week, Tony. I'll... I'll call tomorrow, alright?"
It most came to the front when Ian would hold up some painting or some toy or some... anything with hope in his eyes and ask 'do you think Jet would like this?' and Steve would honestly not know. There was a lot of random crap in Jet's room, everything from stuffed animals to robot toys to some pop art thing he'd gotten at IKEA.
He and the team were finishing up for the night - almost finishing up with the whole project, really - and he found Ms. Potts-Wyche standing at the side of their cubicle space, looking at him blankly.
"What are you doing this weekend?" She asked.
"Uhh... I was going to throw a little party, me, Bucky, Natasha, some of the guys from work, you know... for the race." Which he hadn't been aware of until a few days ago, but he was going to pretend that he was a better boyfriend than he was, and act like he'd known that was coming up.
She gave a curt nod, and then her face warmed into a genuine smile. "Well, we have a little Le Mans tradition of our own, if you would all like to join. We obviously don't send the whole engineering team along, but we like to keep an eye on the runs. There will never be a better stress test of the equipment than 24 hours of raw racing. The Pit keeps us up to date on car performance, we... well, the engineering team anyway, keeps an eye on everything, considers tweaks for later, and gets a little bit buzzed."
Steve chuckled. "That sounds nice."
"Bring your friends. We have the usual NDAs, but that covers your employees, and I'm sure your friends aren't corporate spies."
Steve remembered how Bucky and Natasha had both suggested that Steve go after Tony so they could have vicarious sex with the man. Those two were fairly predictable. "No, I'd say that's pretty unlikely."
"So come. Bring Ian."
Steve had expected almost anything, but it turned out to be a fairly sedate little catered affair, with snacks, full catered meals, and even a few dozen crash cots for whenever the guests got more or less tired. There were also dozens of computers, and tv screens, and what sounded like a radio feed.
"I feel like we're in an astronaut control place," Ian said, tugging at Steve's hand to be let go, and then scrambling over to look and touch at everything.
"You're not wrong," Carson said, giving Ian a fond little look. "Want a tour?"
The two of them ended up, head to head, pointing at absolutely everything, touching everything, playing with everything, and Steve found himself smiling as he picked up a beer and settled into the swing of things, only to have Ms. Potts-Wyche return to his side a few minutes later. He greeted her.
"Pepper, Steve, please. If you're going to be with Tony you need to at least call me 'Pepper'."
She nodded, content with that. "Have you spoken to Tony recently?"
"Yesterday morning." He paused. They had mostly been mushy, and then filthy, and Tony had said he would want radio silence after that and Steve respected that. "He seemed tense."
"It's a big race for him." Pepper seemed to not want to talk about that though, instead glancing over to where Carson and Ian were manning the 'control center'. "Ian... he's not yours, right?"
Steve recoiled, pushing down his anger. Ian was his he had raised that boy every day since his birth and he had struggled for years to keep Arnim's grubby--
"I'm sorry, I just... I meant biologically nothing about you as his father. You are obviously his father." She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I--" Her own chuckle sounded wet, and a little pained. "I suppose I have his idea in my head and that has to be the first to go."
"Carson and I--" She looked down at her hands. "We have been trying to have children for quite some time. I suppose I was looking for--- advice, as a father to a child that's not biologically yours, about the legalities--"
"Legalities aren't my specialty, and you wouldn't want to look at my case anyway. It's more complicated than an adoption." Steve's life was turned upside down every few years by those legalities. "As to the rest... you just love them. Ian is mine. You can't ever think about it any other way."
The two of them spoke, on and off, throughout the day, as the pre-race started, as the cameras started to pick up, as feeds from the pits showed up with Tony, Carol, and Rhodey mugging for the cameras and doing interviews and talking up the beautiful, gorgeous car that they were about to run around the track in for a full day.
Soon after the start time, Steve realized what everyone else there could have told them: endurance racing was not the same sort of non-stop excitement as a shorter race, and there were more likely to be breakdowns than crashes. The first hour or so seemed to be keeping up with the pace, keeping an eye on other cars, and so on, the second hour, there was a bit more excitement, and it was in one such position-jockeying that the Stark Car - currently being driven by Tony - went into the wall just a few yards beyond the pit entrance, took the wall at high speed, and then - internal car-cam showing the response - Tony carefully got the car to an outside wall out of the turn radius.
"Shit!" Ian said, no doubt giving voice to the cuss that was on almost everyone else's lips.
"Learned it from you."
Steve looked at his son, and then at the television feed, and then to Pepper. "Shit."
"It's not completely hopeless," Bucky said, coming up beside him. "Tony's allowed to work on the car, get it back to the pit, if he can do that, they can work on it, get it back out in a few hours, post some times."
"He won't win, though," Steve protested, annoyed by the idea that Tony's shot at victory had been taken again.
"He was never going to win," Pepper said. "We weren't even in the running, the car's completely Experimental, a show car, but it can't show if it can't run around the track. Tony's an engineer - and a mechanic - he'll get it back to the pit if at all possible."
Tony was already out, and working, hood propped up, with some sort of car out on the track behind him with a flashing light to keep people out of Tony's way, hopefully. Steve listened, mute, as Tony carefully ticked off the battle damage to his car, letting the pit know, letting the team in New York know, and letting Steve know if he didn't know that.
Sometime, about a half hour in, Tony let out a particularly annoyed: "Fuck".
"Bad?" Carson asked, chiming in.
"Nah, still salvageable, but... you know, fuck."
"I really should warn you," Carson said. "There are children present on this line."
Ian, of course, rolled his eyes. "Yeah I already know all about Dad, Tony, and that word," Ian said, pure grade-A snark in his voice.
"Ian!" Tony's voice brightened instantly, while Steve found himself flushing a deep scarlet while noticing that absolutely no one seemed to care. "Hey, buddy. You watching me crash and burn?"
"Mostly the crashing, no burning," Ian answered. "Are you going to get back in the race?"
"Trying," he said, and Steve could hear Tony calm. "I mean... trying, you know. We want to get back in the race. It's just hard."
"I have faith in you," Steve said, coming up behind Ian to give his son's shoulders a squeeze. "We're here for you."
"Faith's good, but I could really use some engine coolant," Tony answered back. After another breath, Tony had his head back in the front of the car. "Alright, baby, you can do this."
Tony got the car to limp to the pit, and then get looked over by the garage for another forty-five, before finally getting out on the road again. Tony drove for another five hours before he finally tapped out and Carol took over.
The phone rang less than ten minutes later.
Steve heard the long exhalation and the soft little sigh after that. "Thank you. Thanks for being there."
"Pepper invited me."
"I should have," Tony said, softly.
"Yes." After a few seconds he cleared his throat. "Go take a nap, Tony, or whatever you need. Ian and I will be here when you get back, heroes's welcome no matter how it goes."
The race ended, about twenty-two hours later, Tony back in the car, and all three drivers had posted some amazing times. Steve even patiently listened to the post-race announcing, where Tony dropped the Resilient's name more than once, just to see his boyfriend grinning from ear to ear. He could probably make this 'sports groupie boyfriend' thing work, at least when he didn't have other jobs going on.
"Ms. Potts-Wyche, what will your husband say?"
"Worry about your boyfriend, buddy," Pepper answered, but she kissed him on the cheek in response.
The two of them headed off towards his lab, going over the race in a PR sense, checking what they would need to do going forward, how they would take it to the next level and make Stark Motors an even bigger name. All good things.
"Thinking about Le Mans again next year?" Pepper asked.
"Always." He fell silent, looking out over his collection of cars and then he ran a hand over one. "I can't believe I took Monaco."
"I can." Pepper looped an arm through his. "You had a lot of help getting there, and never underestimate the power of having... someone."
Tony puttered around the garage a bit, running his hands over cars, just getting reacquainted after so long on the road.
"I haven't felt this way in a long time."
"Rumi?" Pepper asked.
Tony nodded. "And that's scary, Pep. The last time I let someone in... She kinda ripped my heart out."
"You'll figure it out. Steve's not the type either, and Ian is good for you."
There was too much going on... and they were only about half way into the season. Normally this would have been the point where he found a blonde for the week, relaxed, spoiled her, drove her around in one of his fancy cars and ate sushi off her abs...
Instead he worked in the shop until after school time, spent a few hours with Ian, and then Happy drove the two of them home and they set to work on Ian's homework.
He might have been disturbed by that, but it felt natural now, and when the two of them headed into the kitchen to work on dinner it felt beyond natural, like he'd just been waiting for the moment to fall in with this family.
"Hey, I need to stay trim and fit for my runs around the racetrack." And Tony had mostly learned how to take care of himself over the past years, and so he got to work on a stir fry, and Ian would mostly like it - especially with the addition of rice - and so Tony was going to try his best at keeping the kid healthy, too.
"Dad texted. He won't be home until later."
Tony hmmmed, and then checked the time. "Well, we can eat, and then head up to the pool and flirt with cute boys and girls."
"Does Dad know how bad a flirt you are?"
In the end, the two of them ended up eating, looking out over Midtown while Tony asked Ian about school. Ian was noticeably distracted by the third mouthful.
"What's up, kid?" Tony asked.
"Just... Jet's coming home tomorrow, right?" He looked over at Tony like he might say 'no', like Tony might say that Jet had to go back on the street, or couldn't live here if she needed.
"Yeah, she'll be here for as long as she needs."
"And Zola can't take her away?"
"She's an adult." As much as Tony knew that didn't mean it was any easier to make good decisions, it did mean that she could leave Zola's influence if she had the willpower for it. "That means she can do as she pleases. Although... your dad will probably want us to make some rules for the house."
After dinner, the two of them made up Jet's bed, and Ian even put a stuffed teddy bear on the sheets - 'from when Jet was littler', Ian had explained - before the two of them ended up on the indoor pool level, set up on chairs, Tony working on his tablet, mostly checking the commentary on his latest race.
Ian sat next to him playing on his DS.
"How did I know I'd find you two down here?" Steve said, coming into view.
Steve came over and kissed Tony on the forehead, followed by Ian.
"There's some food on the stove," Tony continued, and the pair of them followed after Steve heading back up to their apartment.
The three of them had a slow, lazy evening after that, before the three of them curled up on the couch.
"Long day, dear?" Tony asked.
Steve snorted. "Yes."
"Think you might reconsider becoming my kept man?"
"Groooosssss!" Ian said, leaning across Steve's chest and sticking his tongue out at Tony, only to get his hair ruffled by Tony. "Although... maybe that wouldn't be so bad... Dad, you should do that..."
The two of them finally had a few minutes to themselves, late in the evening, curled up in bed after they had stripped down to his boxers and curled up in bed tomorrow.
"We'll be picking up Jet tomorrow."
Steve nodded into Tony's back.
"You alright with that?"
Steve answered by curling his hand against Tony's chest, all but clinging to him. "It's... everything seems to be falling into place, and I want it to work, I want Jet to stay sober, I want Ian to have a good time in school, I want to keep working, I want you to keep winning, and... I've worked so hard, I've put Ian first, I've put a lot of things first, and it's a little unnerving."
"Oh, well... I'm all yours, and we'll make it work."
Tony wished it was that easy, but... he was pretty sure they would try their damnedest.
When Jet came up to their car, hair clean, smile bright, and a huge weight off her shoulders, Tony was fairly sure they could figure it out.