Steve may have a bit of a crush.
In his defense, there are very few people on the planet that could resist Tony Stark’s charm—the man practically oozed charisma, and had practiced from a young age to learn to charm people into the exact kind of reactions that Steve was feeling now.
It didn’t help that Tony considered him a friend—one of his very best, or so Steve had been told. Steve was determined to do everything within his ability to honor that friendship and not take advantage. After all, it was just a crush—a quiet, non-obtrusive thing that had been sitting in the back of his mind for the better part of a decade—and Steve had never intended to do anything that may jeopardize that friendship.
But then, he’d started to wonder. What if the lingering glances, the mornings spent sparring and nights spent in the library that meant so much to Steve, had been just as important to Tony? What if the only reason Tony had never shown any interest, was because Steve hadn’t either?
Then, the Jack of Hearts showed up at the Mansion, and the ensuing explosion had been more far-reaching than any of them could have possibly anticipated. He had funerals to attend, hospitals to visit, and there had been too much to do and not enough time—thousands of things more important than talking to Tony about...whatever this was.
Then the Avengers had disbanded, and Steve had seen very little of Tony since.
It was strange, how a disaster as large as the escape at the Raft could lead to something that seemed so… right. Living in the tower, with the rest of the Avengers and Tony, was the best thing that had happened to them in a long time.
It was only one night into moving into the Tower that Steve caught Tony in the kitchen, pajama pants hanging low on his hips, half-asleep and nibbling on a bagel. It hit him as hard as any punch he’d ever taken, and thank God Tony was too asleep to notice how dumbstruck Steve must have looked.
Steve was stupidly, hopelessly, in love.
That presented a different problem entirely. It was one thing to hide a harmless crush, and another thing entirely to be secretly in love with one of his closest friends. He needed to tell Tony— to be honest.
Which was how Steve found himself hovering outside of Tony’s bedroom, mulling over his options.
Tony wouldn’t think any less of him, certainly.
And it would be dishonest otherwise.
He should tell him. The very worst thing that could happen would be… that Tony would take the news badly, perhaps avoid him a little more, distance himself...and admittedly that thought made a sick sense of hurt coil in his stomach. Steve shook himself. Tony wouldn’t react that way, though. Steve knew him better than that.
He should tell him—
Steve nearly leapt out of his skin when Peter dropped down from the ceiling.
“Cap!” Peter said. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, I was just—nothing,” No, he was obviously doing something standing in front of Tony’s bedroom. Nothing sounded too defensive. “I…training? Training! I was going to ask Tony to spar with me,” Steve decided, willing himself not to blush.
Peter cocked his head. It was hard to tell what he was thinking with his mask on, but for a moment Steve was sure that Peter didn’t believe him, that he knew exactly what Steve had been doing and it had nothing to do with training, and that he was going to call him on it, tease him about it or worse, remind Steve that he needed to be realistic, because this was Tony Stark they were talking about—
And then the moment passed.
“I think he’s in his workshop,” Peter offered cheerily, planting one foot on the wall and walking up it diagonally, as though he was simply strolling down the hallway.
“Thank you, Peter,” Steve said quietly, and watched Peter saunter off toward the elevators. Steve mulled the idea of hunting Tony down in his workshop over for all of a moment before returning to his room, locking the door, and digging out his sketchbook.
When he wandered into the kitchen a couple hours later, he found Peter, MJ, and Jan leaning over the table, murmuring in low voices. They cut off abruptly when they saw him, their silence telling. Steve could feel his ears burning. Then again, while Peter looked like a deer caught in the headlights, the girls just greeted him easily. Steve figured that he was probably imagining things.
Really, he should have known better.
The strap on Steve’s shield broke three times in as many days.
Tony chided him for not being careful enough, and Steve did feel a little bad about wasting Tony’s time with it. He was pretty sure it wasn’t his fault, though—he wasn’t handling it any differently, heck, he wasn’t even using it all that much—but he had no other explanation for what would cause a brand new leather strap to snap so easily during regular training.
He was a little concerned that the next time the leather snapped would be in battle, but Steve couldn’t really bring himself to care, because new straps meant a couple of hours spent with Tony in his lab, just the two of them, making sure that the shield’s weight and balance was just right.
MJ invited the entire team to the opening night of her show. Of everyone, Steve had been the only one to agree outright (aside from Peter, of course). Most of the team was busy. Tony, with some impressive convincing on MJ’s part, was talked into coming straight from a thirteen hour flight from Japan to see her show. Steve didn’t know why it mattered so much to her that Tony saw her show when she didn’t seem to mind when the rest of the team couldn’t make it, but Steve wasn’t complaining.
They were settled into the fifth row, Steve and Tony seated together, with Peter a few seats down. The show was called The Secret Garden, and it was beautiful...and nice while it lasted.
Tony fell asleep part way through the first act. Steve had felt a little bad—it was rude to sleep through MJ’s show—but Tony had to be exhausted, so Steve just inched closer and allowed Tony to use his shoulder as a pillow.
Tony didn’t wake up until the Rhino put a hole in the theatre between Rows P and Q. They took care of him easily, despite the pandemonium it caused in the audience. The headlines the next day read “Spider-Man Attacks Theater, Terrorizes Opening Night.”
MJ didn’t even seem fazed.
Jan had always been extremely expressive, even at two inches tall. She crossed her arms, cocking her hip to the side as though putting all her weight onto one foot, despite hovering six feet off the ground.
"Hank and I had reservations at Jean Georges, but now we can't go," Jan said. She muttered ants under her breath, rolling her eyes like that explained everything. "Anyway, that place is really hard to get into, and it'd be a waste of a reservation if we just canceled, so why don't you take it?"
"Me? Why not Peter and MJ, or...anyone else?" Steve asked.
"They're busy," Jan said quickly, then, before Steve could get a word in: "All of them."
"I don't have anyone to go with," Steve protested.
"Take Tony," Jan suggested.
Steve was pretty sure that Jean Georges was the type of fancy place with romantic music and candlelit dinners. "I'm not sure that's—"
"Why not? He's probably forgotten what the sun looks like by now, and anyway, if you don't force your scientists outside for some fresh air every now and again they might fuse with the lab bench," she said sagely, a little smile quirking her lips. "Trust me, I'm a veteran Lab Widow."
Steve tried not to let on to how the phrase 'your scientist' had affected him show on his face. Instead he tucked his thumbs into his pockets, just to have something to do with his hands, and shrugged. Tony had been down in his workshop for a long time. (That actually sounded...nice. It wouldn't have to be a date. They could just go as friends. Tony wouldn't mind that. They went out to eat all the time.) "Okay, sure," Steve said.
"Great!" Jan beamed. "The reservation is in your name. Oh! You can wear that suit I fitted for you—"
"Uh, why is it in my name?" Steve asked.
Jan blinked at him. "Um, because...I called to change it? Earlier, when I found out Hank and I couldn't go...Yep," she said, popping the 'p'. Steve squinted at her suspiciously. "Okay, have fun! Wear the suit!" she added quickly, flying up a little higher to clear the top of Steve's head before zipping down the hall.
Dinner was...good. The atmosphere was just friendly enough that Steve didn’t have to feel guilty about having alternate intentions, but not so firmly friendly that he was ready to give up hope, either. Tony flirted like he breathed—that was absolutely true—but he was also wore his heart on his sleeve, whether he knew it or not, when it came to what he wanted.
That, alone, was enough to keep the disappointment at bay when Tony didn’t even bother to ride the elevator up with Steve when they got back, already rushing off to his lab.
Jan made a sad noise when Steve came back upstairs alone, but when he asked what was wrong she just patted him on the arm and wished him goodnight.
Steve found the Avengers in the living room, each of them huddled in piles of blankets barely distinguishable from each other. He could hear someone in the kitchen, and judging by the head count on the couches, it was mostly likely Jan or Clint.
Tony was buried under a proverbial mountain of blankets on the couch, and he glared in Steve’s direction when he walked into the room—not at him, but as though he wanted Steve to pity him, or at the very least ask why he was upset.
Steve had a pretty good idea already. The living room was even colder than the rest of the tower, like walking through a wall of icy air. Steve shuddered.
"What on Earth..." He tucked his hands under his armpits and shuddered. "Why is it so cold?" Steve asked. He could actually see his breath. Indoors.
"Clint put an arrow through the thermostat," Peter offered.
"An exploding arrow," Tony grumbled, "because he's a walking disaster."
"It was an accident!" Clint called from the kitchen. He didn't sound very sorry, and the claim lost a little of its credibility by the disturbing sounds of pots and pans clattering around, and what was probably a glass breaking. Steve would have been concerned, but he was fairly certain he'd heard Jan in the kitchen too, and he trusted that she had things under control.
"A walking disaster," Tony repeated. He pulled the mound of blankets he was under a little higher up his chin. "The top twenty floors are like a tundra. There was frost on my shower this morning, Steve."
"Can't you fix it?" Steve asked.
"Did you miss the part where I said it was an exploding arrow?" Tony asked. He squinted in the direction of the kitchen, and then added, "I ordered the parts."
Clint and Jan chose that moment to emerge from the kitchen, carrying two silver serving trays dotted with steaming mugs of cocoa.
"See? It'll be fixed in no time. No harm done," Clint said. He plopped the tray down on the coffee table, and a little bit of cocoa slopped over the side of one of the too-full mugs. "Besides, a little bit of below-freezing temperatures never hurt anyone."
Jan handed a steaming mug to Steve. "It seemed appropriate," she said. Steve thanked her and turned to hand the cup to Tony, who reluctantly withdrew his hands from where they were burrowed in the blanket to accept it. Steve grabbed another mug for himself from Clint's tray before settling down on the sofa next to Tony.
Tony made a little pleased noise and leaned into Steve’s side.
"Oh my god, Steve, you're like a furnace," Tony said, scooting closer. Steve shrugged. His body had always run a little hot, a result his meta-human metabolism thanks to the serum. Tony probably knew that, but it didn't seem to dissuade him from wriggling his icy fingers into the space between them.
Steve cleared his throat, trying not the squirm at the touch. He wasn't going to blush. There was absolutely zero reason for him to blush right now, no matter how easy it would be for Tony's fingers to slide up beneath his shirt or migrate downward, because....because they were not going to do that, because that was just Steve's imagination running away from him again. So there.
If anyone asked, his cheeks were just a little pink from the cold.
Steve took a sip from his mug to distract himself, and then almost spit it out again. The cocoa really was awful, watery with little chunks of undissolved powder floating on top that suggested Steve should have taken the one from Jan's tray after all. Steve gave Clint a disbelieving look, but he was drinking the swill like he didn't see anything wrong with it. MJ sniggered and took one of Jan's mugs. Steve put his arm around Tony (well, around the back of the couch) and smiled fondly, pleased when Tony just shifted closer.
And then Steve glanced up and caught the pleased look that Jan and Peter exchanged, the triumphant smirk Clint shot them both. He bit back a sigh. He’d let this go on long enough.
Steve caught Peter in the hallway after the movie, and it earned him the same deer-in-headlights look he’d gotten the other day.
“Peter,” Steve sighed. “I know what you’re doing.”
“Uh—what?” Peter asked, feigning innocence, like Steve didn’t have decades of experience seeing through feints like that. His voice went up in pitch when he added, “What am I doing?”
“Listen,” Steve sighed, “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but this is between Tony and me.”
Peter slumped. “It was… Jan’s idea?” he offered.
“I don’t doubt it. And you can tell her and everyone else that they need to mind their own business, please.”
“We were just trying to help,” Peter offered.
“Yeah, I know,” Steve said, “but you have to realize that if all of you were smart enough to pick up on the fact that I’m in love with Tony,” Steve said quietly, “then Tony must have picked up on it by now, too.” Steve crossed his arms in front of his chest, defensively or trying to look stern, he couldn’t tell anymore, “and he’s obviously not interested… so, just... Leave it be.”
“Uh,” Peter said eloquently, and for a moment Steve thought he was going to say something—maybe that he thought Steve was angrier than he was—but then Steve noticed that Peter wasn’t looking at him, but over his shoulder, and—
With a sinking sense of dread, Steve turned to see Tony frozen in a doorway, a glass of lemonade raised halfway to his lips. “I’m just gonna—leave you two—to it—” Peter said, nearly sprinting for the exit.
Steve nearly followed him. That seemed like a marvelous plan of action right about now, with Tony still frozen in the doorway, looking unsure. Instead, he ventured.
“How much did you hear?”
That seemed to shock Tony into motion, and he was across the living room, dropping the glass and his tablet on the coffee table in half a breath, and for one horrible moment Steve’s mind flew to worst-case-scenarios (Tony will hate him for lying, they’ll fight, maybe worse—) and then Tony was kissing him.
Steve had half a moment to be surprised before his hands flew up, almost on their own accord, and gripped Tony tight by the waist, kissing back with all his worth.
“I didn’t think—” Steve began, and Tony looked ready to scream with frustration.
“I can’t believe I wasted all that time,” he scoffed, and as though reading Steve’s mind. “Of course I’m interested, Steve,” he touched a finger to Steve’s shoulder, and as though speaking to himself, said, “How could I not be?”
“Everyone’s going to hear about this,” Steve said.
“Everyone’s already heard,” Tony said, kissing him again. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bugle had pictures tomorrow morning.”
Steve huffed, and brought a hand up to frame Tony’s chin, gently, with finger and thumb. “Well, we’d better give them something to write about.”
Tony grinned, and leaned in, “If you insist.”