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a time for romance

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Steve never really had time for romance. Not because he hadn't been looking for love or because there hadn't been an opportunity or the right person. But there simply never had been enough time for it. And Steve had a certain notion of how romance was supposed to work. He wanted time to get to know the person, he wanted time to fall in love and time to be in love and built a relationship.

He'd expected to have the time after the war, when there was no longer a need for Captain America to fight and Steve Rogers could built his own life. And although he was a better than average strategist, not even he could have foreseen that one day he'd end up in the future after long years of icy sleep just to go on fighting as Captain America instead of retiring. So, of course, there was also no way he could have foreseen that one day he would end up falling in love with the son of Howard Stark, who at the time that he'd known the father hadn't even been born yet.

And by now Steve had realized that when it came to romance things would not go according to plan. Not when it came to Tony Stark.

Tony lived fast, his mind always on the future, his hands always busy with building things, his schedule full even when things were quiet, never resting, never slowing down and very rarely taking his time. It was infectious and fun most of the time and made him a wonderful ally in the fight against threats the Avenger's faced on a weekly basis, but it made dating him a challenge sometimes.

Good then, that he'd always been good with rising to a challenge.

* * *

Tony knew something was going on when Steve went out of his way to organize things for them to do when they had some time off. Strangely enough it had started with Tony taking him to a baseball game and spending a fun day out without any villains attacking or Tony's fame catching up with them – although Tony had more fun watching Steve being happy than with actually keeping his eyes on the game. Which, Tony admitted, was a nice enough way to spend his time, but for some reason Steve seemed to have gotten it into his head now, that they needed to plan more “common interests”.

He wasn't opposed to finding more things they could do together, apart from saving the world, fighting side by side, dating and having sex – the last being his favorite activity with saving the world coming in a close second. But he was a little worried about it anyway, because baseball wasn't actually one of his interests in the first place and Steve seemed to take this dating thing pretty seriously. Was Steve feeling uneasy with the way their relationship was going?

Had Tony done something to make him feel uneasy?

The next time Steve asked him to stay for their poker night he agreed instead of spending the night over at the Baxter Building to do some real work with Reed Richards, although he already knew it would be a bad idea. Poker and Tony Stark did not mix well.

“You're cheating, Stark,” Hulk growled when Tony won the third consecutive round. Tony could already see the bill for living room renovations come his way.

“You're counting cards, aren't you?” Hawkeye asked from across the table.

Steve looked at him questioningly, and Tony gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, but what did you expect? I told you we'd get more out of a game of chess.”

“I thought you were making a joke, Tony.”

“I wouldn't joke about things like this, Cap.” Not with the Hulk at the poker table.

Steve gave one of his own slightly apologetic smiles to Hawkeye, shrugged and folded his cards. “I think this means we're out.”

“Oh, you can stay, old man,” Clint told him. “It's only the genius who is good enough at this to make it less fun.”

“I said I'm sorry.”

“Another time, Hawkeye,” Steve told him, rising from his chair. The moment Tony followed his example he gently grabbed him by the elbow and led him towards the door. Tony chuckled a little at this show of unnecessary protectiveness. Behind them Hawkeye could be heard muttering: “Love birds.”

Tony felt awkward like a teenager who'd messed up on the first date, which was something he'd never even felt like when he'd been a teenager, until Steve led them up the stairs and into the dark corridor that led to his own room. Another chuckle escaped his lips before he could stop it. All this still feeling like a messed up teenage experience. “I'm sorry, I ruined your poker night with the guys,” he whispered, laughing under his breath at his own joke.

“I wouldn't say you ruined my night,” Steve answered, and bent down to kiss him. “I thought you'd have fun spending time with me and the others...”

“I enjoy spending time with all of you. With you, Steve. I'm just not the best guy to invite to a poker game...”

“I gathered,” Steve said and leaned forward to kiss him and pushed them both into his bedroom.

Tony thought, That went pretty well actually. I should let Steve make the plans more often.

* * *

Steve watched Tony greet another woman in a fancy dress. She laughed too loudly at all of his jokes and was absolutely delighted to meet Steve, but when he didn't engage in any excessive flirting ended up hanging onto Tony's arm again instead.

People around them were watching covertly and openly, curious and happy to gossip and maybe get a picture of themselves with two Avengers wearing fancy tuxedos. He really hated the tuxedo though. He could appreciate Tony wearing a sleek tux, because he simply looked great wearing it, moving with dignity and elegance. Steve on the other hand felt smothered, like the fabric was restricting his movements and suffocating him. He hated it. Hated the fancy dress, the false smiles and the glasses of excessively expensive champagne shoved into his hand at every turn.

He was fingering his tie, hoping to loosen it a bit, when Tony appeared at his side and took his hand in his own, deliberately interfering.

“I thought you'd appreciate a fundraiser for a children's hospital. You like kids. You enjoy helping.”

“I do, Tony. I just feel a little out of my depth,” he admitted, and took a sip of the champagne, maybe to prove that this wasn't so bad.

Tony gave him a lopsided grin. “I hoped this would be a bit like fancy date for you. You always seem to be interested in getting us to do couple things...”

“Less fancy would have worked for me, too. But I'm okay.” He knew Tony could see right through him, but it didn't really matter. They were here together and that was what mattered.

They shared a smile. Then Tony reached for his hand and Steve took it without hesitation.

“I know we've never much talked about this before. But this is my life when I'm neither Iron Man nor the mad inventor behind Stark Industries. I'm a business man and a socialite. It's been my life for as long as I can remember.”

“I knew that before. I read the paper.”

“Every morning, I know. An actual paper one, too.” Tony shook his head in exasperation. “Don't remind me.”

“You fell in love with me,” Steve pointed out, gripping his hand a little tighter.

“That I did.” He ginned, blue eyes twinkling and happy. “Then maybe it's time to tell you that what I love most about events like these is sneaking out to get laid.”

“Hmm,” Steve hummed in agreement. “With the right partner I could see the appeal.”

He didn't have to fake his smile after that, even though he still felt uncomfortable and like he was on display. He could just let the sounds of the crowd around them wash over him, hold on to Tony's hand and pretend they were alone in the room full of people.

Because the only person that mattered to him here was the one with him.

* * *

The team ordered pizza when Tony was still nowhere to be found.

Steve didn't need to ask JARVIS to know where his lover was hiding away. So when the food arrived he took it down to the armory, where Tony was working away on the computer. Tonight he wasn't building it seemed, instead working away at calculations and some schematics, the lab not filled with noise or burned, metallic smells and the latest armor models were silently standing guard around their creator.

Tony didn't acknowledge Steve's presence when he entered. But when Steve put down the food beside him, his head suddenly snapped up. “Hey,” he said, still slightly distracted, his fingers not leaving the keyboard.

“Hey,” Steve echoed with a smile.

“This could really take a while.”

“That's why I brought food. No need for you to come up to the kitchen.”

Tony's smile was thankful and full of fondness. “Thank you.” He looked pale in the well lit lab, that Steve usually thought of as dark and slightly uninviting.

“Can I stay?” Steve asked, usually not staying around for long in case his presence was distracting or obtrusive.

“Of course, you can. But it's going to be boring.”

Steve smiled. “Don't worry about me.” He showed Tony the sketch pad he'd brought along. “Watching you is never boring.”

* * *

For their next date night Tony had decided to take Steve to an expensive French restaurant. Steve had insisted that going out for burgers would have been just as well, but Tony had his own ideas about what a date looked like.

They hadn't even managed to order food though, because just then their Avengers ID cards had sounded and they'd been called to battle in Manhattan. Amora had managed to put Thor under a spell and turn him against the team, leaving property damage and destruction in his wake. It had taken a lot out of them to finally get close enough to Thor to make a difference and bring him back to his senses.

Now every bone in Tony's body ached from being thrown against buildings and pushed into concrete, even after the amazing hot shower he'd just taken. Steve had taken a few punches, but hadn't been seriously harmed. But even he looked bone dead tired now that he was wearing loose fitting training pants and a white too tight t-shirt and was sitting on their lush read living room sofa. Tony didn't even bother with sitting down, just let himself flop down beside Steve, threw himself down to lie half in his lap, and closed his eyes.

Steve, the gentleman that he was, didn't even comment on it, just started to stroke his fingers through Tony's still wet hair.

“That was a hell of a date, huh?” Tony whispered, not really even listening to the background noise of the TV, more focused on listening to Steve's even breathing.

“We knew we'd be dating people with interesting lives when we went into this.”

“We're not dating, Steve,” Tony informed him without opening his eyes, feeling Steve tense a little at his words. “We're in a relationship. We do dates to keep things interesting.”

“But that doesn't mean we can't spend some time together outside of battle scenarios and the bedroom.” Steve shifted around a little to make them more comfortable.

“We are doing just that, Steve, right now. Tomorrow I'll take the afternoon off and you can plan whatever you want. But right now this here feels perfect, thanks.”

Steve hummed, then leaned down to kiss him, softly and very careful. When he leaned back, Tony peered up at him, and he said: “How about a picnic tomorrow, then?”

“Hmm, sounds nice. I love picnics,” Tony mumbled and snuggled a little closer.

Steve picked up stroking again, going back to watch whatever it was he was watching, and Tony let himself slowly drift into sleep, thinking that it would have been nice not to be thrown around like a rag-doll, but that falling asleep with Steve right there by his side would always make up for it.