“I’m coming straight to you, because frankly I don’t think anyone else but Romanov is going to be able to take Senator Stark’s antics. You’re assigned to him, and that’s an order,” Director Fury barked. Special Agent Steve Rogers just raised an eyebrow.
“So, what you’re saying is, I’m being punished for being the only one around here besides Natasha who actually follows orders?” he asked dryly. Director Fury glared with his one eye in response.
“Don’t you sass me, soldier,” he said. “The limo is out front. I’m giving Special Agent Romanov the day shift, so get ready for the graveyard shift. Your assignment starts now.” Steve recognized the dismissal and nodded curtly to the Director of the United States Secret Service. He left the office, heading out front to the limo that would take him to wherever Senator Stark was.
If Steve was being honest, he’d have to say that he never would have thought that Senator Stark would run for president—yet here Steve was, on his way to protect the eccentric figure. He got in the limo, wondering just exactly where it was going to take him—did Stark have a mansion somewhere in D.C.? Steve didn’t know—senators weren’t typically his concern, and up to this point he had been one of many agents assigned to the President. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little peeved at having to leave the position. He’d grown close to the other special agents on the same detail—Barton, Romanov, Coulson, Odinson, Banner… He was loath to leave them. At least, he thought, he might see Romanov occasionally, when the Senator required extra protection.
This was, apparently, a day of surprises for Steve, as when the limo stopped, he realized that they were on the lot of an airport. Out the window he could see a small, presumably private, jet. Special Agent Romanov stood at the bottom of the stairs up to the plane, waiting. Steve got out of the limo and removed his sunglasses.
“What are you doing here, Natasha?” Steve asked. Natasha had a look of cold professionalism that he’d seen on her one too many times. It meant that she was pissed off.
“I was informed twenty minutes ago that we would be relocating to New York City,” she said. “Did you know about this?”
“What?” Steve asked. “I haven’t—no one mentioned relocation.”
“I’m a New York senator! Have to live in a New York for parts of the year to stay that way,” a voice called out. Steve looked up the stairs. Senator Stark grinned down at them. Seeing Steve, he lowered his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose. “And who’s Secret Agent Schwarzenegger here?”
“I resent that comparison. I’m Special Agent Rogers, and I’ve been assigned as your nightly protection detail—why weren’t we informed of the relocation?” Steve asked. Senator Stark spread his hands in front of him, palms up, and shrugged.
“It’s not really my fault if Director Fury is a little slow on the uptake,” he said. “But don’t worry about, I’ll have someone fetch your things. Come on up, we’re about to take off.” Stark marched back up the stairs. Steve glanced at Natasha.
“This is going to be a rough two years, isn’t it?” Steve asked, putting on his reflective sunglasses. Natasha just pursed her lips.
“Two if we’re lucky. Six if we’re not,” she said. Steve resisted the urge to sigh heavily, settling for a slightly exasperated expression and a silent prayer of please, God, no, before heading up the stairs and into the plane.
Like Stark, the interior of the plane was all about style. It was all very tasteful and very fancy, with leather seats, a flat screen TV, and even a dining area. Senator Stark sat in one of the large leather chairs, a brandy already in his hand.
“Can I get either of you anything to drink?” he asked.
“Drinking on the job is strictly prohibited,” Steve answered.
“Of course it is, Agent Giggles,” Stark said, rolling his eyes, “but I’m not about to tell anybody, you know, and I highly doubt anybody is going to try and murder me on my own plane unless Pepper’s done a terrible job at hiring pilots, and Pepper never does a terrible job at anything.”
“We’re fine, Senator,” Agent Romanov said. “Thank you for your concern.” Stark just shrugged.
“When you’re off duty sometime then. We’ll all go for drinks,” he said. “You know, you don’t need to stand there, there are these nice leather seats here for a reason.” He took off his sunglasses and squinted. “Did you put your sunglasses on to come inside the plane, Agent Giggles? That’s not how sunglasses work.”
“I’m Agent Rogers. I prefer to stand,” Steve said, irritated.
“The flight attendants will get pretty cross with you about that, I’m just saving you the hassle,” Senator Stark said, sounding a bit annoyed himself, which only further provoked Steve’s ire. What right did he have to be annoyed? It wasn’t like Steve was calling him Senator Slimeball or anything, though at the moment he was sorely tempted. Natasha gently tapped his hand as she moved to sit down. Steve followed her lead, buckling into one of the seats.
For the rest of the flight, the Senator pestered Natasha, which suited Steve just fine. She was much more adept at keeping people happy than he was, managing to laugh and smile and joke along with him, even if that smile never quite met her eyes. Upon arrival in New York City, there was another limo waiting for them.
“Happy!” Stark called out.
“Evening, Mr. Stark,” the driver replied.
“Happy, this is Agent Romanov, and this is Agent Giggles—no, Rogers, right? Sorry, I’m so bad with names,” Stark said. “Agent Rogers, Agent Romanov, this is Happy. Hogan.” Steve was dismayed to realize that his new nickname was likely a permanent development. He wondered how Hogan managed to stand his boss on a regular basis, but Hogan seemed to enjoy the eccentric Senator’s behavior. The feeling appeared to be mutual—Stark sat up front with his chauffeur, leaving the Agents the back of the stretch.
It wasn’t long before they were dropped off in the parking garage beneath Stark Tower, and the Senator took them up in the elevator to the penthouse.
“Welcome to Stark Tower!” Stark said as the elevator opened its doors. Steve was glad his sunglasses were still on so that the Senator couldn’t see how his eyes bugged out of his head. The penthouse itself was the very definition of modern. It was extremely rich, extremely fancy—all around an indulgence. But what really impressed Steve was the view. The skyline from this point was amazing, and one entire wall was made of glass. He gravitated towards it unconsciously.
“You live here?” Steve couldn’t help but ask.
“’Course I do, Agent Giggles. I’ve also got another place here in New York, a place in D.C., a place in Malibu, and a place in Dubai,” Senator Stark said, looking amused.
“Of course you do,” Steve echoed, but Senator Stark’s mouth curled down in a frown. I didn’t mean that how it sounded, Steve thought, but before he could say anything, Stark was talking again.
“I’ve got apartments beneath this one—you can each take one since we’ll be in New York a lot. I travel extensively and frequently, so you should always keep a suitcase packed and your passport on hand,” Senator Stark said. “Like it here or hate it, that’s your choice, but your time will be easier if you just enjoy it.” Steve guessed that comment was directed at him. He raised an eyebrow, which he knew would peak out over his sunglasses.
At that moment, a professionally dressed woman waltzed inside from the elevator, her arms filled with papers and documents, chattering on about Senator Stark’s responsibilities.
“You both can go—just ask the ceiling where to go, JARVIS will tell you—I know how that sounds don’t look at me like that—JARVIS will tell you where your rooms are,” Senator Stark said, waving his hand. “This is Pepper—we have business to discuss. Pepper, this is Agent Romanov and Agent Giggles—Rogers.”
“Are you making up nicknames for your security detail? Tony, not everyone finds that endearing,” Pepper chastised him. Senator Stark just waved her off.
“I said his name eventually didn’t I?” he said.
“It doesn’t matter. And anyway I have about a million and six things that I need to discuss with you—” Pepper said, launching into that very discussion. Natasha, who was assigned to the dayshift, took the elevator down. Steve waited politely next to the elevator, hands clasped behind his back. Neither Pepper nor Senator Stark paid him any mind, which was how Steve was used to things being. It was more comfortable that way. But about an hour later, Senator Stark looked over and stopped talking.
“Have you been standing there this whole time?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” Steve answered.
“Why?” Senator Stark asked.
“I’m assigned to the night shift, Senator. I would usually be stationed outside a door, to offer privacy, but seeing as the elevator appears to be the door, this is the most strategically sound place to be,” Steve replied.
“No one is going to murder me in my own tower, Giggles. You can take the night off,” the Senator said.
“Negative, Senator Stark. I receive my orders from Director Fury. I have been commanded to take the night shift,” Steve said. Senator Stark made a face and rolled his eyes.
“Well, let me know if you need a refreshment at any point, Agent Giggles,” Senator Stark said. Pepper shot Steve a look of what was probably sympathy but possibly also exasperation, before continuing her previous discussion with her boss. Late at night they finished. Pepper kissed the Senator’s cheek before exiting out the elevator, and the Senator headed—not to bed, as Steve had expected, but also into the elevator after Pepper had left. Steve stepped inside silently with him.
“I’m not going to sleep,” Senator Stark told him. “Are you going to sleep?”
“Negative, Senator Stark. I have been commanded to take the night shift,” Steve repeated. The Senator looked at him—more accurately, he seemed to examine him. Steve resisted the urge to move away from his gaze. “Is something puzzling you, sir?”
“Yeah, I don’t remember inventing androids, so I’m wondering which of my competitors did,” Senator Stark said, poking Steve in the arm.
“Not Hammer Industries. Their tech is worthless,” Steve replied. He’d seen its very uselessness when Stark Industries had stopped contracting with the military. It hadn’t been pretty. There had been many times when he’d cursed Tony Stark, the unreliable genius playboy inventor who had stopped his company’s weapons production after suffering captivity in Afghanistan. The green movement might be a worthy cause, but Steve hated to see his boys get taken out because of inferior tech. The Senator just laughed.
“Oh, so you do have a sense of humor? Good to know. And no, you’re right, it wouldn’t be Hammer industries. Justin Hammer couldn’t invent his way out of a paper bag,” Senator Stark said. Steve declined comment, but he couldn’t agree more.
When the elevator stopped, they were in a vast workshop. There were cars along the wall, and, in the back, some type of metal suit in the back. Well, everyone did say that Stark was crazy. Steve stood by the elevator and waited, prepared to be in for a long night before Natasha would come to take over for him in the morning. But that was all right. Steve didn’t sleep much, anyway.
The routine never changed much for Steve. He had the shift from seven in the evening until four in the morning, at which point Agent Romanoff relieved him. If that time was not spent watching Senator Stark at work in his lab (and having to tolerate the music that drowned out every thought in his head), it was usually spent outside the senator’s bedroom. He had a new girl every few nights—or a new guy, on a few memorable occasions.
During the day, Steve spent his time out and about in New York. He liked to go to Central Park and sketch, though sometimes he perused local cafes to do the same thing. He was actually quite glad to be in New York—it was his home, after all, and occasionally he’d go and just walk around Brooklyn. But he’d only done that once thus far. It made him think of Bucky, and he didn’t want to think of Bucky.
This went on for a month—Steve sketched in the days, and watched the mad scientist at night—sleeping, of course, in the early morning. He wasn’t super human, after all. Steve remained silent, and at night he could tolerate his charge. He didn’t try to engage him in empty conversation or insult him or develop new nicknames for him (though, unfortunately, Agent Giggles had stuck), and instead worked in his lab, occasionally talking to himself, or to JARVIS (which, Steve had discovered, was an omnipresent AI), but never to Steve. At least, not until the thirtieth day. Stark put down a shiny rim for the car he was working on—a hot rod that Steve had to appreciate—and just looked at the Agent.
“You’ve been here a month and I know nothing about you. Do you know how creepy that is? You stand there, every night, and watch me work behind those sunglasses of yours—which, by the way, is weird and disturbing because you shouldn’t wear them inside—and I don’t even know your first name. I can’t even google you, Giggles,” Senator Stark said, exasperated.
“I’m Special Agent Steve Rogers,” Steve replied. “My first name is Steve. Does that make you more comfortable, Senator?”
“No, not really. Don’t call me Senator. It’s Tony, or just Stark if you have to,” Stark said. He picked the rim back up, examining it before starting to attach it. “So where are you from, Giggles?”
“Brooklyn, sir,” Steve said honestly.
“Huh. Did you vote for me?” Stark asked. Steve couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not. He shrugged.
“My political preferences have nothing to do with the way I conduct my job,” Steve said. Stark grinned.
“That’s a very polite and evasive ‘no’, Giggles,” he said. He finished attaching the rim. “I’m not about to fire you for it. Can I ask, in the interest of demographic research—why not?”
“Because you stopped weapons production,” Steve replied. Stark frowned.
“Seriously?” he asked. “That was your criteria? Guy stops making death machines, clearly he’s not senator material?”
I didn’t mean that how it sounded, Steve thought, but instead he said,
“My political preferences have nothing to—” Stark cut him off.
“Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time,” he said, irritated.
Stark didn’t ask him any questions the rest of the evening.
He did, however, have questions for him the next night. Steve was, for once, sipping coffee on the job. He was gratefully that Stark would not be able to see his eyes through his sunglasses—he knew from the mirror earlier that they were red with bags underneath. He hadn’t slept hardly any last night. Well, last morning. Too many nightmares, all about Bucky. Always about Bucky.
Tony stood in his workshop as per usual, but as Agent Romanoff left and Steve entered, the senator turned down the obnoxiously loud music to a dull roar and looked at Steve squarely.
“I googled you, Giggles. I thought your name sounded familiar. Captain Steve Rogers—awarded the Medal of Honor for single handedly rescuing two hundred men from captivity. Quite impressive, Captain,” Stark said, for once sounding respectful.
“It’s Special Agent, now,” Steve corrected. “And I was just doing my duty.”
“Au contraire! The Medal of Honor is only awarded for going above and beyond the call,” Stark said. Steve shifted uncomfortably.
“I only did what any of my boys would have done,” he said. “What was right.”
“You mean what was batshit insane,” Stark said. His hands worked over a holographic display, changing around bits and pieces on a model of a big metal suit. “Flying into enemy territory, dropping down, infiltrating the base—You ever seen a psychiatrist, Rogers? Someone with a death wish that big should probably get evaluated.”
“You’re physically incapable of being polite, aren’t you?” Rogers stated more than asked. “I’d figure someone with that big of an ego could use a psych eval more than me.” Stark just laughed.
“Oh, getting snippy, eh, Giggles? Is that all you can come up with, from all that rage you’ve bottled up the past month? Come on, big guy, think I can’t tell you hate my guts? Want to take me down a peg or two? Just try, I dare you,” Stark said, lazily putting his fists up. “Come on, big guy, show me what you’ve got.”
“I’m on duty,” Steve said flatly. It took every ounce of self-control he had not to rise to the challenge, not to knock that smirk off Stark’s face—but even if he wasn’t on duty, it wouldn’t be right. Stark might have been in good shape—excellent shape, really—but he was still just a twig compared to Steve. He’d be too easy to snap.
“Sure, sure, soldier boy,” Stark said, moving back to his holographic model. “But one of these days, I’m going to catch you off duty, and you’re not going to have that excuse anymore.”
“When that day comes, I hope you’ll be ready for it,” Steve replied.
“Oh, I will be. Will you?” Stark asked, but he didn’t seem to expect an answer.
Months passed with sparse conversation between them. Steve watched over him at night, and as the campaign really got off the ground, accompanied him with Agent Romanoff to press conferences, meetings, and the like. He was glad for the change of scenery; he didn’t get out much. Still, there was one event he was not excited for.
“A…ball?” Steve asked, looking at the flyer Stark handed him. It was Steve’s time off. He’d just emerged from his room, freshly showered after a nice workout in the gym, only to be immediately confronted by the senator. Steve was just glad he caught him at the door—he had no doubt that Stark would happily have burst in while Steve was changing, or in the shower. The man had no shame and seemed to be wholly unaware of it as a concept.
“Ball. Dance. Shindig. Whatever. Lots of people. Lots of booze. Should be fun,” Stark said. “You do know what fun is, don’t you, Giggles?” Fun for you, Steve thought with a sigh. For Stark it meant a night of getting drunk and dancing and schmoozing with beautiful A-listers. For Steve it meant an uncomfortable evening shoved into his military dress uniform as he did his best to watch the crowd and keep his charge safe.
“Sure, Senator Stark,” Steve said, not in the mood to fight or snark back.
“You’re free to bring a guest, as well. You’ve got to have some girlfriend who’d love to get all dressed up and go dancing,” Stark said.
“Nope,” Steve said. He didn’t even bother to say that he couldn’t bring a girl even if he wanted to because he was working which did not seem to be a concept that Stark completely understood. Oh sure, Stark worked all the time—he worked around the clock, really, but he never ceased to play, either. He drank while he came up with new inventions, played angry birds while he sat in meetings—he couldn’t sit still for more than two minutes. Being completely, 100% devoted to a task did not seem to be within his capabilities.
“No? Boyfriend? We’re all about equal opportunity here at Stark Industries,” Stark said.
“I’m well aware,” Steve said dryly. It would have been difficult not to notice given Stark’s recent proclivity for men. Months ago, it had been women he’d brought home most often, but recently it was al men. Handsome men, too, Steve couldn’t help but notice, not that Tony would go with anyone who was less than model gorgeous. Stark just frowned at him again, and Steve realized his mistake.
I didn’t mean that how it sounded, Steve thought, but before he could correct himself, Stark was speaking again.
“Not one of those either then, huh? It must be because you’re an android,” he concluded. Steve rolled his eyes. “Be ready by seven!” With that, Stark wandered off. Steve looked at the flyer again and sighed. At least, he figured, Natasha would be there with him.
“Twenty on that big, muscle-y dark haired guy over in the corner,” Steve said to Nat via his earpiece. Natasha was on the other side of the ballroom, looking gorgeous but deadly in a backless green dress and strappy silver stilettos.
“Handsome, but, no, he’s been favoring blondes lately. I’ll put twenty on the lean blonde with the movie-star smile at three o’clock,” Natasha replied. Steve looked around until he spotted the one she must have meant. The man attracted looks from men and women alike, and there seemed to be almost a line forming of people who wanted to dance with him. He was magnetic, but so was Tony. And if it was one thing that Steve knew, it was that two magnets were just as likely to repulse each other as attract.
“Fine. And if neither of us are right?” Steve asked.
“We add money to the pot for next time,” Natasha proposed.
“Done,” he said. Perhaps it was improper to bet on who your charge would bring home to sleep with next, but he didn’t honestly think Stark would care even if he knew. Besides, he and Nat had to have something to do while they wandered around the ballroom, trying to avoid invitations to dance. Stark at the moment was dancing with a Victoria’s Secret model and looking like he was having the time of his life. Who knew, maybe he and Nat would both be wrong—maybe he’d bring home a woman.
“Are you as bored as I am?” Steve asked a good while later. He was getting dizzy just watching everyone dance.
“More so,” Natasha said. “How about you and I take a dance?”
“Oh, we shouldn’t it’s—”
“—a ball, the Senator will be fine for two minutes without us watching him like hawks,” Natasha said, and her voice was suddenly louder. Steve turned around to see her sauntering up. She held out her hand and, well, who was Steve to refuse a beautiful lady? He took her hand and walked with her out onto the dance floor. He was a terrible dancer, but Natasha didn’t seem to mind, and at least he managed to avoid her feet. It was fun, getting to twirl her around for a few minutes. She was bold and brash and inhumanly graceful—a real treat to watch. And he was just happy to be doing something other than watch his charge flirt with every human being in the vicinity. The song ended and they parted with smiles—but that smile faded when Steve realized he couldn’t see Tony anywhere.
“Nat?” Steve asked.
“I’ll try his cell, you sweep this floor,” Natasha said, whipping out her own cell phone while Steve swiftly made his way through the crowd and out into the hall. Despite it being one of Stark’s homes—Stark Manor, to be precise—Steve had never been in it before. Nevertheless, he knew the layout well. He walked quickly down the hall, checking room as he went. Empty. Empty. Empty.
“He’s not picking up,” Nat said. Steve swore under his breath.
“I don’t see him anywhere here eith—” Steve stopped as he heard a muffled groan.
“One minute,” Steve said quietly. He slowly drew his gun from the strap on his ankle. Another groan, louder this time and yes, that was definitely Senator Stark. Steve inched toward the nearest door, where the groans came from. Quickly he opened the door, one hand still holding out his gun. The door to the coat closet flew open, revealing Stark—but his face was not one of pain, rather ecstasy, and it was obvious as to why—the naked man on top of him as well as his own naked self was a big hint. Tony let out another moan as the naked man sucked on his neck, but then he opened his eyes and saw the Agent.
“S-sorry,” Steve spluttered. “I uh, I thought—” The naked man on top of Tony was slowly starting to turn, not quite comprehending what was going on, too caught up in a haze of lust. Steve shut the door quickly before he could gain any more consciousness. Steve pressed a finger to his earpiece.
“I owe you twenty bucks,” he said. Natasha just cracked up with laughter.
Unfortunately, Steve’s job required that he keep an eye on the billionaire genius playboy senator at all times, so Steve uncomfortably stood outside the door as the senator, uh, finished what he started. Steve’s cheeks and ears grew increasingly red at the sounds coming out of the coat closet. Eventually the two (now, thankfully clothed) men emerged from the closet. The blonde at least had the decency to blush, but Stark just winked suggestively. Steve did his best not to turn any more red, but he was not particularly successful.
“Just couldn’t resist staying and listening, huh, Giggles?” Senator Stark said. Steve raised an eyebrow.
“Had to stay. Believe me, I’d rather be about anywhere else. You know, Agent Romanoff and I are not your parents. You do not have to sneak away from us while we’re distracted and slip off to have sex in a closet—which is ridiculous, by the way, you have like five bedrooms on the way here—if you want to refuse security detail, you’re welcome to it, but I have to say it’s highly unadvised,” Steve said. The blonde slinking away slowly did not escape his notice. Stark rolled his eyes and huffed.
“I did not slip away, you and Natasha were dancing, is it my fault that at that precise moment I was being dragged away for some closet sex? How could I interrupt you two when I was so certain Natasha was pulling that stick from out your ass?” Steve laughed.
“Oh, Stark, I think this is a poor time for you to be discussing sticks up asses,” he said, genuinely amused, but Stark only got more mad.
“There’s nothing wrong with it, Captain High and Mighty,” Stark said heatedly. “And I’m pretty sure I can take care of myself so I think you might have a point—what do I need with a security detail? You don’t do anything but stand outside my door and judge me from a distance and I sure as hell don’t need that. So you can consider yourself dismissed, Agent Rogers.” Stark turned on his heel, storming away, but Steve, frowning now, followed.
“Senator, I didn’t mean—”
“Goodbye, Agent Rogers,” Stark said, waving him off and never once turning back to look at him. He followed Tony down the hall anyway. He wanted to tell him that he hadn’t been judging him from afar—but hadn’t he? He knew the man well enough superficially, but what did he actually know about him? He could recite his coffee orders, could predict how long he’d be in his lab and what he’d be working on based on his mood that day, he could anticipate now what quips he’s use and references he’d make—but what did he really know? And yet here he was, making bets on who he’d sleep with next. Wasn’t that a judgment from afar, even if one in jest?
“Stark, I really didn’t mean that the way it must have—” Steve tried, but Tony was quick, and they had already reached the ballroom once more. The music was loud, and so was the crowd, and it would be difficult for Steve to be heard as he chased the eccentric Senator through the room, so he didn’t try. He just concentrated on weaving in and out of the crowd, but Stark eluded him, and then he went one place that Steve couldn’t follow—he went up to the podium. As he walked up the steps, the music slowly stopped, and the people began to clap. Steve snuck around to the side of the stage, watching his charge carefully from the side.
If there was one thing Tony Stark was both fantastic and terrible at it was public speaking. He was absolutely magnetic, and Steve had always found it impossible to turn away from him when he spoke to a crowd, even before Steve had become his personal bodyguard. Yet, he was terrible at public speaking as well. He spoke too quickly, used too many pop culture references, and had no reservations about using swear words or being crass. Still, in some ways Steve admired him for it. There was an honesty in his communication that could not be denied.
Stark went on about how he was so glad everyone could turn up for the night, making jokes about particular people in the audience, about himself, about all of them collectively…Steve wasn’t really paying much attention. He was watching the crowd, mostly looking for Natasha. Several times he thought he had found her, but it turned out to be another red head, who was moving through the crowd. Finally he spotted Natasha near the back. She was talking to a reporter Steve knew well from her dogged attempts to rattle the Senator (who was completely unshakeable). Steve hated reporters. Realistically, he knew they were just people doing their jobs, so Steve did his best to hate their occupation and not the people, but he didn’t always succeed, and the reporter Natasha was dealing with was one of the few he personally disliked. He’d scared away more than one reporter with a frightening look in his time with Senator Stark. Stark never seemed to mind.
A flash of movement caught his eye—it was the redhead again, moving, ever so swiftly, towards the front of the crowd. He saw a flash of something else, too, and Steve Rogers didn’t hesitate. He rushed forward, bowling people in the crowd over and tackled the redhead—the redhead with a gun. He hardly heard the gasps and shrieks around him as he first shoved people and then drew attention to the armed woman. He had no choice but to take her down from her front, and she struggled as Steve pinned her arm to her own chest and began to wrench the gun from her grasp. But the woman was strong, stronger than Steve had anticipated, and for half a second she wrested her arm and the gun away from his grasp. He heard it go off, heard the crowd screaming, but his one and only focus was to disarm the woman, which he managed after a few more seconds, at which point Natasha showed up, a pair of handcuffs at the ready. Her face was white, which Steve didn’t understand. Natasha always kept a cooler head in a crisis than even he did—but that was when he noticed the blood. Natasha cuffed the woman, but there was blood on the floor. It took a minute for it to register with Steve, but he concluded that the only way there could be blood in that particular spot on the floor was if it came from him.
He wasn’t sure when or how it happened, but suddenly he was looking up at the lights on the ceiling. They were beautiful lights, all soft and yellow, with a shiny chandelier in the center of the room.
“Rogers? Oh, Jesus—Pepper call an ambulance—Rogers, talk to me,” Senator stark commanded.
He was bleeding all over his military uniform. Peggy would be so mad.
Bucky wouldn’t mind though. Bucky would laugh and tell him that only he would manage to get a bullet hole put through his dress uniform.
“Rogers? Christ, he’s not responding—help me get the jacket off—”
Natasha wouldn’t say anything at all, she’d just send his coat to the cleaners, he was sure. She’d expect them to patch the hole, too, and they would, all because of the look she’d give them.
A sharp pain drove Steve back into his body even though his head still swam. He must have cried out because suddenly the Senator was looking at him with a wide-eyed panic he’d only ever seen on his boys as they stood over a doomed compatriot on the field…was he dying? Was this what dying felt like? It was painful.
“Steve can you talk to me?” Natasha asked him. “The ambulance is on the way, Steve. You’re going to be fine.”
Steve knew exactly how many times he’d said those same words to a man who died minutes later. It was five.
“Oh, come on, Giggles, lost your tongue again?” Senator Stark asked.
What should a dying man say? What should his last words be, he wondered?
“I didn’t mean it how it must have sounded,” Steve said. He was surprised by how much effort it took to speak.
“Water under the bridge, Giggles,” Stark said. Was his tone softer, or was Steve losing consciousness? The ceiling lights began to blur. Was he moving? “Giggles?”
The lights were so bright, so pretty, like the lights of a Christmas tree. He loved Christmas. It was the best holiday, and he loved the lights. So many lights.
There were never many presents under the tree, but Steve was grateful for what his mother managed. He was grateful that it was one of the few days of the year when his parents were guaranteed not to fight, his father was guaranteed not to be drunk, and for one day of the year, they could pretend that everything was perfect. And of course, later, Christmas with Bucky always had been. Where was Bucky?
The lights blended into one, and then there were no more lights at all.
The first thing Steve was aware of was a dull ache in his gut. He grunted and opened his eyes to darkness. There was only a faint blue glow in the corner of the room. Steve squinted, it was the Senator, absorbed in his tablet.
“I got shot, right?” Steve asked. His voice was hoarse, his throat dry. Stark looked up abruptly.
“Oh, good, you’re awake. I thought you were a goner, Giggles,” Stark said. Steve chuckled, but found that it hurt, so he stopped.
“It’ll take a lot more than a little bullet to take me down,” he said with much more confidence than he really felt. After all, it was a bullet that had taken down Bucky with ease, and he was no greater a man than him. “What’d you stick around for?”
“It’s not just me,” Stark assured him. “Natasha is around here somewhere, making calls. She’s trying to find someone for you.” Steve’s eyebrow’s knit together in confusion.
“Who?” he asked.
“Bucky. Got another name for us? Because that’s not much to go on. We’re thinking maybe it’s a nickname?” Stark said, his voice lilting upwards in a question as he looked, puzzled, at his tablet. Googling, Steve thought.
“Oh,” he said, caught completely off guard. Bucky was such a private thing, these days. No one he knew anymore knew the name, knew about Steve’s life before D.C., before becoming a Special Agent. “Yeah, it’s a nickname but—where did you even get that from?”
“You said it right before you passed out. You asked us where he was,” Stark said, looking at him intently now.
“I know exactly where he is,” Steve said, with a small, sad smile. “Arlington. Perhaps my question was more existential than you thought. I was dying, after all.”
“Oh,” Stark said, putting down his tablet. It still glowed and illuminated his face from his lap. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m the one who brought it up. Apparently,” Steve replied.
“Did you…did you want to talk about it?” Stark asked. Steve noted with amusement that the man looked horribly uncomfortable—about as uncomfortable, Steve figured, as he himself did around weeping women.
“Not really,” Steve said, sparing the man. What could he say about it, anyway? What was there to talk about? Bucky was his best friend. Bucky was his lover, his partner. Bucky was always laughing, always cracking jokes. Even out on the front, Bucky just laughed. Bucky was under his command. Bucky was dead.
“You’re still a bit of an enigma to me, Giggles,” Stark said, rising from his chair. He didn’t look relieved, as Steve thought he might have. He looked troubled.
“I guess there are some things you can’t google,” Steve replied. Stark laughed.
“You’re right about that,” he said. He started to walk towards the door. “I’ll let Natasha know that you’re up. Is there anyone else I can get for you? Anyone I can call?”
“Not unless you’ve a direct line to the Great Beyond,” Steve said with a laugh, but Stark’s troubled expression only deepened. “I mean, there’s no one. Thanks for uh, checking in on me, I guess.”
“I know you’ll tell me it’s just part of your job. I know it was nothing personal, for you, that you’d have done it for anyone you were protecting,” Stark said seriously, “but you saved my life. You took a bullet for me. I’m not going to forget that.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say I’d do it for anyone,” Steve said. Stark stared at him. “I’d think twice about taking a bullet for Justin Hammer.” Stark laughed. Steve smiled.
“Glad to know I haven’t quite sunk to that level just yet,” Stark said sardonically.
“Not just yet, Senator Stark, but I’ll let you know when you have, you can be sure,” Steve said.
“It’s Tony, Giggles,” Stark said, rolling his eyes.
“It’s Steve, Tony,” Steve replied. Stark looked at him for a moment, considering. Then he held out his hand, and nodded.
“Steve,” he said. Steve took the offered hand.
“Tony,” Steve replied.
They shook on it.
Steve recovered from his wound with a speed that would have been astonishing had he not been used to it. After just two weeks he was back on the job, guarding the elevator door inside of Tony’s lab. He was still a bit sore, but it was nothing Special Agent Rogers couldn’t handle. He watched Tony fiddle around with some holographic modeling of something that looked like a mechanical arm for a bit in silence, as per usual, when to his own surprise he found himself speaking.
“Would that be for amputees?” he asked. Tony looked up, startled. Steve wondered if Tony had forgotten he was there.
“No,” Tony replied. “It wouldn’t be.” Then Tony grinned. “Why, you have some crazy fetish or something?” Steve just rolled his eyes.
“Not a fetish. Just some friends who would be interested if you were, that’s all,” Steve said.
“Right,” Tony said. He looked at the design thoughtfully. “It’s not something I’ve thought of before, but, maybe, with existing technology in the biotech field…” Tony trailed off, lost in thought. He messed with the holograph some more. Steve figured that was the end of that, but Tony spoke up again moments later. “Have you ever met my best friend?”
“No, my other best friend.”
“No, my other one.”
“I have no idea to whom you are referring,” Steve said honestly. He’d never seen Tony interact candidly with anyone but those two.
“Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes. Rhodey. I guess I haven’t seen him for a while, he’s been overseas,” Tony said.
“Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes? I do know him, actually. Good man,” Steve said. And he was. He was a good man, easy going, always good for a laugh. Steve had met him twice: once with Bucky, once without. That seemed to be the way Steve measured things in life, now: with and without, before and after.
“He is,” Tony agreed. “He’s a good soldier, too. He takes everything in stride. He’s always laughing. You know, when I first met you, Steve, I figured you just had a massive stick up your ass. You were too serious. You oozed a straight-laced attitude I didn’t think still existed and you couldn’t take a joke.”
“Thanks,” Steve said, more amused than annoyed.
“I figured you just had a stick up your ass,” Tony continued, “But I was wrong. Rhodey lets me forget, sometimes. Because he’s always laughing, and even as serious as he can get, he can take a joke. So he lets me forget that soldiers don’t always laugh, and the ones that don’t have a good reason not to. I just hope you know that sometimes laughter can help.”
Steve couldn’t think of any words that fit, and even if he could have thought of them, his throat was too tight to speak. A moment passed, and Tony averted his rather intense gaze, returning to the holograph. Steve could have left it there, but for some strange reason he was compelled not to. He felt like Tony had offered him something important, and he felt like he should do the same.
“I had a friend who laughed, too,” Steve said. Tony looked up, his arm still surrounded by the blue of the holograph he was manipulating. “Never stopped, really. He was always cracking jokes, like it was his job. But that wasn’t his job, of course. His job was to be a soldier. His job was to listen to my command. He did that job well. I was the one who didn’t do my job well enough. He wasn’t still laughing when he died.”
Tony turned off the holodeck, and the blue lights disappeared. He walked over to the mini kitchen area of the lab, going straight for his coffee maker. He put in new grounds and filled the pitcher up with water. He turned it on, and then turned to Steve.
“What happened?” Tony asked.
“We were defending the base from a pretty large scale attack. It shouldn’t have been that difficult, honestly. We’d set up landmines all along the perimeter, and their weapons weren’t particularly long-range. They had to get up close to do any real damage, and getting up close involved getting blown to kingdom come by those landmines. So we were mostly just waiting them out, taking out enemy soldiers who came through the few gaps we had in our perimeter. Since we knew where the landmines were, we didn’t worry about soldiers coming from those directions. We knew they’d be taken care of.
“It was that assumption, my assumption, that did it. One of the landmines didn’t go off and a single man got through. I heard a couple of shots go off from the wrong direction, so I turned around and took him out, but it was too late. Bucky had been shot in the chest three times. He bled out as I held him, and my boys staved off the attack.”
“You loved him,” Tony said. He sounded almost surprised. Steve guessed that he hadn’t seemed the loving type during all this time with the Senator.
“I couldn’t tell you how much,” Steve replied simply. Tony looked at the brewing pot of coffee, and then turned it off.
“I could go for a burger right now. You want to go for a burger?” Tony asked abruptly.
“There’s this great little place out in Brooklyn, open all night, it’s called Joe’s—very original name—it’s been around since the thirties or something and there are no better burgers anywhere,” Tony said. He clapped Steve on the shoulder as he pushed the button for the elevator. “You like burgers, right? Who doesn’t like burgers? That would be more than un-American, it’s inhuman.”
“I doubt vegetarians much like burgers,” Steve interjected as the elevator door opened. He and Tony walked through together.
“Veggie burgers, Gig—Steve. There are veggie burgers. There are even tasty veggie burgers—in California,” Tony said.
“Just in California?”
“Just in California. Please don’t tell me you’re vegetarian, otherwise I’m going to have to break out the jet, and I don’t think Pepper or the pilot would be too thrilled about that, not to mention Joe, what would he do without my business? Then again Joe probably isn’t alive anymore, unless he named his kid Joe, and his kid now runs the place, and his kid will run the place after him in a never ending cycle of Joes—”
“I’m not vegetarian,” Steve said, watching the rambling senator with interest.
“Well, good. The Joes will be thrilled. Good for the Joes.”
“Good for the Joes.”
Tony Stark was much more fun to be around than Senator Stark, Steve had decided. Which, to be fair, probably had a lot to do with the fact that Steve Rogers was much more fun to be around than Special Agent Steve Rogers. Steve still spent plenty of time watching Tony in the lab, but now those hours were often filled with conversation—and when they weren’t, when Tony needed to think, Steve had loosened up enough to permit himself to draw on duty.
There was only one elevator, after all.
Not all of Steve’s time on duty was spent in the lab, however.
“You play any sports?” Tony asked, lifting up his welding mask and shouting over the impossibly loud music.
“What?” Steve called back. Tony rolled his eyes and turned down the music.
“I said—you play any sports?” he repeated. “You have to. You’re too in shape not to.”
“Well, in high school—”
“You were quarterback,” Tony guessed. Steve laughed.
“No, no, I wish. Bucky was on the team, but not me. I was a scrawny little thing. Late bloomer—extremely late. I didn’t start really growing until my senior year,” Steve explained. He could see the disbelief on Tony’s face. He could only shrug. “Don’t ask me how it happened, I haven’t got a clue. So I didn’t play anything in high school, and in college…it seemed kind of late. It takes more than just muscle to play most sports, it takes technique, and I didn’t have any. I joined the intramural basketball team, though.”
“Basketball! Perfect!” Tony said. He dropped the welding tool on a workbench and threw off the mask entirely. “How about we play a bit? There’s a court on the eighth floor.” Steve blinked, caught off guard as Tony walked over and jabbed the button for the elevator.
“I mean, I have a body guard shaped like Superman, I should really take advantage of that don’t you think? Never have anybody to play with. Well, Happy, but he likes boxing and—well, don’t get me wrong, I like boxing, but I just hate to beat him up on a regular basis,” Tony said.
“Hogan’s a champion boxer,” Steve said, bewildered. Tony threw an arm around Steve as the elevator opened and steered him inside.
“Yes, yes, and that’s why I just can’t stand to hurt his pride so often,” Tony said. “I am a philanthropist, after all. A bleeding heart liberal—can’t bear to see someone so wounded—”
“He beats the crap out of you, doesn’t he.”
“Every damn time.”
Steve sat outside the door to Tony’s bedroom, drawing. (Wisely, Steve had put headphones on. The cheap earbuds he usually used had proved unsatisfactory and so he’d finally broken down and bought noise-canceling headphones, having been reassured by JARVIS that the AI would alert him if anything inside the bedroom was amiss.) Usually, Steve found himself drawing Bucky. Over and over again he’d draw him, in every pose and with every conceivable expression. But lately he’d found himself drifting away from his favorite subject. It was because it was easy, Steve told himself—it was easy to draw Tony, because he was usually there to see. He drew Tony working in the lab, Tony playing basketball, Tony drinking coffee, Tony in a meeting (playing on his stark phone), Tony talking to Pepper—because that was what he could see, Steve insisted silently.
But today he still found himself drawing Tony, almost absently, and despite the fact that Tony was not in sight. There was just something…magnetic about the man, Steve thought. Something intangible but compelling. Charisma was probably the right word for it, but Steve thought there must be more to it than that. He wasn’t just charismatic, it was something in the eyes, something at once strong and vulnerable, a deep honesty that Tony had (for both good and ill) buried in those eyes. Steve took off his headphones, looking towards the door.
“Oh, oh, Tony, Tony--!”
Steve put the headphones back on quickly, and looked back at his drawing. He felt himself turn a bit pink as he looked at it. It wasn’t that Steve had drawn anything dirty. He hadn’t drawn his charge in the nude, or anything, or on a bed, or in a compromising pose. He’d just drawn his face, with special attention to those eyes. But the drawing felt particularly intimate, almost more intimate than a nude picture would be, and certainly too intimate for a Special Agent and a Presidential Candidate. Steve shut the sketchbook and resolved to listen to music for the rest of the night.
“You have to watch it,” Tony said stubbornly.
“I don’t want to.”
“You have to. How have you not seen it? What kind of childhood did you have?”
“I don’t want to watch it, Tony,” Steve said.
“It’s Star Wars what is wrong with you.”
“It’s just a movie and besides, I already know the ‘big twist’ it’s been quoted a million times—”
“Well yeah, Steve, you encounter spoilers when you neglect to watch an iconic movie series that premiered thirty-four years ago—”
“I’m not that into sci-fi—”
“I’m making JARVIS play it anyway and I’m going to sit right here so you’ll have to watch me watching it so there.”
“Tony?” Steve asked gently. Tony had been sitting in the same spot, not working, not messing with anything, but sitting still, for five minutes, staring at the naked circuitry of some gadget or other.
“There was an attack today on US troops,” Tony said.
“Well, we are at war,” Steve said, but Tony looked so very serious.
“It was a bomb. A very good bomb, and it killed US soldiers,” Tony said.
“Awful things happen in war, Tony,” Steve said, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion. “Is Rhodey ok?”
“Rhodey’s fine, he was nowhere near it—do you know what kind of bomb it was, Steve? It was a Stark Industries bomb,” Tony said.
“How did they get hold of it?”
“They must still have some in reserve. My former partner—Obadiah Stane—he was double dealing under the table. I had no idea until he ordered the hit on me that got me kidnapped,” Tony said. Steve’s gut twisted.
“…what?” Tony waved him off, getting up and pouring himself a cup of coffee.
“It was years ago—but it was my fault. I should have known. Should have had a better grip on my company. Shouldn’t have been making weapons in the first place. That’s why I switched to the green movement, to clean energy, because I saw what happens when those weapons end up in the wrong hands,” Tony took a long drink of the coffee. He set it down and poured another mug, handed it to Steve. “And now, years later, other people are still paying for my sins.”
“Somebody’s always making weapons, Tony. If it wasn’t your bomb, it would be Hammer’s, or one from some other country,” Steve said.
“If it was Hammer’s, it would have malfunctioned and no one would have gotten hurt. That’s why that landmine didn’t go off, wasn’t it? HammerTech? You never miss an opportunity to take a jab at them,” Tony said, returning to his workbench and picking up some special tools Steve couldn’t name. Steve was surprised that Tony was so perceptive.
“You can’t fault yourself for making effective weaponry, Tony,” Steve said.
“What was the brand name on the gun that shot down your best friend, Steve? Was that HammerTech too? Somehow I doubt it. Is that why you didn’t vote for me?”
“I didn’t vote for you because I thought you were an irresponsible, unreliable lout with questionable motives for running,” Steve said, irritated. “And I was a bit mad you’d stopped making weapons, because HammerTech, the only stuff we were left with, is crap as you know and our boys were getting their asses kicked out there for a while.”
“Because the other guys had Stark weapons.”
“It isn’t your fault, Tony, and I was wrong to blame you for it,” Steve said firmly. Tony stared at his gadget, obviously still lost in thought, probably unconvinced. But Steve didn’t know what else he could do. He took a sip of coffee, a bit awkwardly.
“So it wasn’t a Stark weapon, then?” Tony asked, still looking at his gadget, speaking more quietly than Steve had ever heard the obnoxiously loud senator speak. Steve wasn’t one to lie, but for once he swallowed his compunction for honesty in a fit of kindness.
“No, Tony. It wasn’t.”
“What are you drawing?” Tony asked, not even looking away from the computer screen that held his attention. “You’re always drawing. When are you going to show me something?” Steve hoped that the blush he felt didn’t actually show on his face. It probably did.
“I uh—it’s nothing,” Steve said. “Just uh—”
“Is it nudes?” Tony said. Yeah, he’d definitely seen the blush. “Tell me it’s nudes. Tell me it’s porn, that would be hilarious—you drawing porn—”
“Or is it a girlfriend? Tell me you’ve got one of those. You have to have one by now it’s been…what, a year since I asked you last? It’s of your secret girlfriend, isn’t it?”
“It’s a nude of your secret girlfriend—”
“It’s Bucky,” Steve said quickly, just to shut him up. His face was growing hotter by the minute, and the drawing in question was most decidedly not of Bucky. And while it was also most decidedly not a nude, well, the muscled, bare arms and the subject’s expression seemed rather suggestive to Steve, in retrospect.
“Oh,” Tony said. He shut up, and Steve decided only to draw when Tony couldn’t see him do it.
“So no secret girlfriend, huh?” Tony asked, hours later.
Steve threw a pencil at his head.
“Tony, I know we’re in Vegas, but please do not send a girl to my room again.”
“I should have clarified yesterday. I also meant, ‘Tony, I know we’re in Vegas, but please do not send girls, singular or plural, up to my room again.’”
“I think I need to speak with a lawyer any time before I speak to you to hammer out the logistics, Tony. I know we’re in Vegas, but do not send people, in general, up to my room. I spent half an hour last night comforting a male stripper having a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ conversation, and I never want to go through that again.”
Tony did nothing but laugh.
Steve thanked the Lord that they only had two more days left in Vegas.
It had been almost two years that Steve had been assigned to the crazy man—two years (well, a year and six months, really, given that they both spent the first six at a cool distance) of three AM hamburger runs, of games of HORSE on the basketball court, of heated debates about movies and surprisingly less heated debates about politics, of touring the country in swanky hotels as the campaign picked up pace—and of waiting outside bedrooms, as usual.
And now, tonight, it was the decisive night. He waited in a room with everyone involved with the Stark campaign, a glass of champagne in his hand, completely full. Steve stared out over the sea of people, listening to the excited chatter and always keeping one eye carefully trained on Tony.
“This could be our last night,” Natasha observed. Steve hadn’t even noticed that she’d been standing beside him, but Steve thought that had more to do with Natasha’s skill set than his own negligence. Probably.
“Could be,” Steve agreed.
“You’ll miss him,” Natasha stated.
“Not as much,” Natasha said with a shrug. “I’ll be glad to get back to D.C. either way, to see everybody all together again. I haven’t seen Clint much these past few months.” Steve often forgot that Natasha and Clint were an on-and-off item.
“Right,” Steve said. “I guess it will be nice to get the whole group together.”
“If he loses, you’re going to be wearing that face for months, aren’t you?”
“That kicked puppy dog face you’re making right now.”
“I am not—I don’t have a kicked puppy dog face.” Natasha just raised an eyebrow. Steve knew he was blushing, so he looked away, back out towards the party. He could see Tony slowly slipping away from the crowd, heading out onto the balcony. No one else seemed to notice. “I should go—” Steve made his way through the hoard, doing his best to ignore the reporters on the large screen televisions, all speculating and making predictions. He headed out onto the balcony. It was freezing cold outside, and every breath Steve exhaled came out in a cloud. Tony was the only one out there, with both forearms resting on the railing as he looked out at the skyline. Steve joined him there.
“There isn’t a better view anywhere in the city,” Tony boasted, but by now Steve knew that he wasn’t just boasting. Boasting was also Tony’s way of appreciating what he had.
“No, probably not.”
“It’s why I moved here permanently from Malibu. This view. When you look out, it’s like you’re flying, don’t you think?” Steve looked out over the skyline. Tiny people dotted the sidewalks, and little pinpricks of lights from streetlamps and cell phones were so far away they were almost like stars set against the inky black of the pavement.
“It’s a great view,” Steve said. They stood in silence for a minute, an oddity for Tony. “Are you nervous?”
“Nah,” Tony said. “I’m Tony Stark, of course they’ll elect me. How could they not? Just look at me.” Steve flashed him a small smile before looking back out at the skyline.
“Of course,” he said.
“So you’ll be on my team in D.C., right? Heading up security?” Tony asked.
“I’ll continue to be an agent of the Secret Service. I’ll continue to be on your guard, if I can be. But heading things up—that’s Fury’s division,” Steve said. Tony seemed satisfied by that answer, so Steve left it at that. “You’re really sure you’ll get elected?”
“Of course—why, are you nervous for me? That’s adorable, big guy,” Tony said with a laugh. Steve tried to smile but was less than successful. “You really are, aren’t you? Well, even if I don’t get elected, what’s the worst case scenario? You go back to D.C. Aren’t you excited to go back?” Tony looked at him with a look Steve knew all too well—it was the same look Tony got when he looked at fancy gadgets he hadn’t made, like he wanted nothing more than to take it apart and see how it worked, because something about it puzzled him.
Steve scratched at an itch on the back of his neck.
“I…yeah, I mean, of course. I’ll be happy to see my other co-workers again. Natasha’s happy that she’ll be able to see Clint more often,” Steve said.
“That is the least enthusiastic response I have ever heard,” Tony said.
“It’s kind of cold out here. Aren’t you cold? We should probably get back inside.”
“Hey, being evasive is my thing. So, what, you’d rather stay in New York? I guess that makes sense. You grew up here, didn’t you? But there’s nothing here for you. No girlfriend—unless you have a secret girlfriend—no family you’ve told me of, no job after this year, no friends, you never go anywhere, Steve, or do anything, so why would you want to stay in New York if you don’t have any friends here?” Tony asked. Steve put his hands in his pockets. It really was cold outside. Tony’s face was red from the chill, and Steve knew his own must be, too. Tony didn’t let up on that look of his. But then, in the whole time Steve had known him, Tony had never really let up on that look.
“I—well—I kind of…I kind of figured that I had one,” Steve replied, looking Tony squarely in the eye despite his urge to stare at the ground. Tony blinked.
“Right, Tasha came with you. But—”
“Tony, you asshole, I meant you,” Steve said, rolling his eyes. It took the other man a second, but gradually he caught on.
“You—you’d rather stay in New York even if I don’t win the election?” Tony asked. “Why?”
“Because we’re friends. Aren’t we? And I’d miss you,” Steve said. He shrugged.
“I need to get you a girlfriend. Seriously, and more friends, then you’ll regain your senses,” Tony said. “I think you’ve been alone too long, Giggles.”
“I really don’t swing that way, Tony,” Steve said. “But you might be right. I have been alone too long.” Steve Rogers noted somewhere in the back of his brain that staring so intensely at the man he was sworn to protect probably violated some ethical code somewhere, but he no longer cared. Something seemed to dawn on Tony then, and that look he’d had magically changed as something finally clicked into place.
“You don’t swing—so—wait—Bucky was—”
“My boyfriend. Yes. I thought I’d gotten that across.”
“But you sent the boys back too!”
“I sent you guys, too, but you sent them back,” Tony said, almost sounding like he was complaining.
“I still don’t understand why you sent strippers to my room,” Steve said.
“You have a very limited concept of ‘fun’,” Tony retorted. “All right, fine, so I need to get you a boyfriend so you can gain a little perspective.”
“Oh?” Steve asked, raising an eyebrow. “Do you have anyone in mind?”
“Well, no, not in particular, not at the moment, but—”
“Well, good,” Steve said. “Because I think I do.”
“Oh? Really? Well that’s—hey, I mean, congrats—” Steve pulled Tony close with one arm wrapped firmly around his waist.
“He can be kind of slow, though. I don’t think he’s gotten the point,” Steve said, a small smile playing on his lips at Tony’s dumbstruck expression. Baffling a genius—now, that was an entertaining pastime Steve could get used to.
“Really? Well, you should—you should probably make sure he gets the point,” Tony advised him.
“I probably should,” Steve agreed, and, with that, he lowered his lips to Tony’s.
Their lips might have both been cold, but that did nothing to stop the searing heat of the kiss. It was more than just a kiss—it was a revelation, and a celebration, and just as they broke apart for air, an impossibly loud cheer went up from inside.
“I think you just won the election, Mr. President,” Steve said.
“I think I just won something better,” Tony replied. Steve smiled, and Tony pulled him down into another kiss.