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Bits and Pieces

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To be clear, the whole thing was Rhodey's fault.

Yes, okay, technically decorating the board they kept in the front window of Shield Coffee was Tony's job, but he'd been busy that morning trying to convince Bruce, his fellow grad student, favorite chemistry major, and occasional drug dealer, that Dr. Sitwell was in fact secretly a neo-Nazi bent on societal corruption. Bruce seemed to think it had more to do with the fact that Sitwell had marked Tony down on his last test, which was blatantly untrue, but the point was that Tony had been busy and kindly asked Rhodey to do it for him.

This was how the bastard repaid him.

Admittedly, it'd taken him a while to figure it out. He'd been confused by the uptick of people giving him their numbers, sure; between the blocky glasses and unfortunate lacking in the height department, he was used to people either assuming he was a high schooler and ignoring him, or laying on the charm so he would do their homework. But that was fine. Sure, he hadn't had a date in a month or two—or three months and half a week, shut up Rhodey—but he was fine. He was great. He had Rhodey and Pepper and Bruce, and even Dummy when the bastard wasn't spitting coffee grinds at him, so whatever.

He wasn't desperately single.

He also may or may not have spent the past three months pining after the hot blonde art student who spent his afternoons doodling in the corner by the window, but that was between him and his dumb heart, okay? And alright, maybe between Rhodey and Pepper, since they wouldn't shut up about it every time Hot Art Guy came in. Which was pretty much every day now, something that was both awesome and terrifying. Not that Tony did the whole nervous shtick, because he totally didn't. He was smooth. He was charm personified.

Except, apparently, when it counted, because every time he tried to ask Hot Art Guy his name, he either couldn't get the words out or got toomany words out, babbling at the guy about the stupidest shit possible for five minutes while he made him his coffee. To make matters worse, Hot Art Guy was so nice about it, always taking pity on him by the end with a kind smile and a, 'thanks for the coffee, Tony', before taking his drink and heading over to his window. After which, of course, Rhodey and Pepper would needle him about it mercilessly until Nick came out to grouch at them about how this was a respectable coffee establishment and not a high school cafeteria.

Point was, Tony's life was not one that involved a bunch of admittedly super attractive dudes passing him their number over the counter. Had he gotten some new kind of cologne lately? He didn't remember buying anything new. Actually, come to think of it, he didn't use cologne. Was it because he'd showered yesterday? He didn't get around to it very often, he knew, between classes and work and the obscene amounts of lab time he was putting in lately to finish his project in time for grant reviews, but he didn't think he'd smelled that bad lately that one shower would make a difference, he should shower more often—

"Yeah, man, you definitely should." Rhodey wrinkled his nose.

"Was I talking out loud, or were you reading my mind again?" Tony frowned. "We talked about the mind-reading thing, it's creepy, don't do that."

"Like there's anything in your head I don't already know." Rhodey snorted, putting up the two drinks he'd just finished off. "Phil! Melinda!"

"I'm just saying, this is my third number in the past hour. Did I do something different to my hair maybe?" Tony mused.

"Your hair looks like it always does," Rhodey told him as he maneuvered around him to grab another jug of milk for the steamer, "A fucking mess."

"Thanks a lot, asshole—"

"Language!" Nick shouted at them from his office. Hypocritical bastard.

"Whatever," Tony muttered, turning back to his customer, "Double caramel frappuccino extra whip?"

"You know it." Clint handed over a five, looking entirely too pleased with himself for Tony's liking. "So how goes the hunt?"

"What hunt?" Tony raised an eyebrow at him. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Rhodey making a throat-slitting motion at Clint. "What?"

"I was telling Clint, I, uh." Rhodey pushed him to the side. "That I'm going to make his order, today, because I'm the barista who made the wonderful sign outside."

"You want to make his girl drink, you can make his girl drink." Tony shrugged, backing up to let Rhodey take over the order. "He always bitches that I don't give him enough caramel anyway."

"Just because you don't understand my body's need for sugar doesn't mean it's not real." Clint scowled at him.

"You want sugar, buy a candy bar." Tony snorted at him, leaning against the counter. "So what did you mean, hunt?"

Clint glanced over at Rhodey, who shook his head quickly. "Nothing."

"Rhodey." Tony narrowed his eyes at him while Clint darted away to safety.

"I don't know what he's talking about." Rhodey shrugged his shoulders innocently, drizzling an obscene amount of caramel into Clint's cup. "You're the one always saying that guy's crazy."

"He is crazy, I caught him talking to a bird once—but that's not the point, don't distract me from the point—"

"Did you have a point?" Rhodey gave him a doubtful look. "You don't usually have a point."

"I have a point, jerk, and my point is that you're acting all suspicious and I—"

"Oh, look, it's your boyfriend." Rhodey diverted. Tony glanced towards the door as covertly as possible, to find that Hot Art Guy had in fact just entered. He had a friend in tow, the redheaded one who only drank triple shot espressos. Tony was never sure if he should be impressed or terrified of her.

"Go be annoying somewhere else," he hissed to Rhodey.

"Tell him you recommend the special," Rhodey insisted, finishing up Clint's drink and sticking it on the ready counter before disappearing into the back.

"I recommend that you—" Tony paused halfway through what surely would've been a creative and vicious threat when he caught Hot Art Guy's eye. "Uh. Hi. Coffee?"

"Hi." Hot Art Guy smiled, seemingly unperturbed by Tony's complete inability to speak like a normal person. "Yeah. Could I please have a—"

"Hazelnut cappuccino extra shot, right? Not that I memorized—I mean, you order the same thing every day, so." Tony cleared his throat, sufficiently mortified. "Uh. Yeah. Is that what you want?"

"Sounds great, Tony." Hot Art Guy smiled again, saying his name like he always did, like they were just the greatest of pals and coming here was some kind of bright spot in his day. Tony might've wanted to melt a little. Hot Art Guy turned to Scary Redhead. "And one of whatever she wants."

"Oh." Fuck his life. "Right, because she's your girlfriend, of course you have a girlfriend, why wouldn't you, you're smoking—nice, really nice, so you have a terrifying girlfriend who is—laughing. Why is she laughing? I don't think I've ever seen her laugh before, oh my god, I broke your girlfriend I'm so sorry—"

"Oh, no, she's not my—I lost a bet so I owe her a coffee, I don't have one. A girlfriend, that is, not a coffee. I don't have a boyfriend either, for the record, which is more what I'm—I mean, I like both but at the moment I'm interested in, that is to say I like, uh." Hot Art Guy was the one babbling for once. Tony felt like he'd stepped into an alternate dimension. Finally, Hot Art Guy blurted, "I like today's special."

Scary Redhead started laughing harder.

Tony wasn't totally sure how the conversation had jumped from love lives back to coffee. "The raspberry latte?"

"The…?" Hot Art Guy's expression dipped into confused disappointment. "No. I meant, uh…"

"The sign." Scary Redhead prompted to Tony, like that was supposed to make any sense.

"Right," Tony said slowly, "The raspberry latte."

"That's not what your sign says." Scary Redhead chuckled.

"It's not?" Tony frowned, turning to call over his shoulder, "Rhodey, you shithead, what's our special?"

"Language!" Nick called back before Rhodey could.

"Prick," Tony muttered under his breath.

"Heard that!"

"Fine, whatever, you want the special. What's the special?" Tony sighed. Hot Art Guy looked entirely too nervous for ordering a coffee. "I'm not going to judge your coffee taste, promise."

"No, it's not, uh." Hot Art Guy cleared his throat. "You're the special. I mean—that's what's on the board, anyway."

"But you said you liked the special."


An awkward pause stretched out as Tony tried to process what that meant.

"Say yes already and get your ass back to work!" Nick shouted down the hall.

"Um." Tony blinked once, then twice, trying and failing to get his brain to reboot. "To be clear, you're asking—"

"You on a date, yeah," Hot Art Guy finished, quickly adding, "Or just for your number. We could, you know. Text first. Or hang out. I didn't mean to pressure you, or anything, that sign is very misleading—"

"Yes," Tony blurted finally, brain kicking into gear, "Yes. Everything. All of it. Uh. Yeah. Yes."

"Yes?" The hopeful smile returned to Hot Art Guy's face almost immediately. It was strangely gratifying to think that Tony had put it there.

"Definitely yes." Tony couldn't help smiling back. "Though I should probably point out that you've never actually told me your name."

"Steve." Hot Art Guy—Steve—reached across the counter to shake his hand. Anyone else and it would've been totally awkward, but his hand felt nice and warm and Tony was too busy maybe falling in love to mind all that much. "Steve Rogers."