Steve's bootsteps echoed through Stark's skyscraper, making him feel like an intruder in somebody's home. He'd been here a couple times, outside of the heat of battle, but he still wasn't comfortable walking through the place by himself. But Tony had invited him, saying he had something to show him. Steve was here because, well: he had nothing else much better to do. He was low on friends and low on things to occupy his time with, other than exercising, SHIELD missions, and catching up on seventy years of human experience.
“You wanted to see me, Stark?”
Tony rolled out of some corner of his lab on his chair, gesturing expansively. The lights dimmed and holograms (graphs?) sprung up, one cutting straight through Steve's head. Steve stepped aside, trying not too be too jerky or quick about it. This Stark son was all flash and grab, and probably liked making people jump, just like his dad. But unlike his dad, Steve and Tony weren't friends, yet. So Steve wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of startling.
“I know SHIELD says they got some armor for you, but I took the liberty of making some upgrades. See, they're working off classic material physics for your protection. Well, sections of Stark Industries have been looking into metamaterial physics and quantum mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes...”
Steve's eyes went a little bit crossed as he listened to Tony's explanation. From what he could figure, it boiled down to Tony's armor being miles better than SHIELD's. Steve was willing to take him at his word.
At the end of his explanation Tony trailed off, eyeing Steve curiously. Steve shook his head to clear it. Tony was grinning at him. “What, my jargon too much for you?”
Steve shrugged. “A little. It's a lot of technical language I'm unfamiliar with.”
“No problem. When you're in the field the language is easier. Seven years of Latin and Greek helps, too.”
Steve chuckled. Tony's eyebrows went up, a cautious smile creeping at the corners of his mouth. “What? Something funny about Latin and Greek?”
“Nah. Just should have figured it. Back in my day-”
A burst of laughter escaped Tony at that. Steve scowled and pressed on.
“Back in my day, rich kids at boarding schools took Latin and Greek. Or if you were going to be a priest.”
“Not so different nowadays,” Tony pointed out. “Obviously you haven't read my file: I was a rich kid at a boarding school.”
Steve shook his head. “Right. Makes sense.” He nodded at the holographs (grams?). “So you want me to put this new armor of yours through its paces? Try it out?”
Tony grinned. “That's the idea. And then you can trash that garbage SHIELD gave you when you find out mine is so much better.”
“If,” Steve corrected him.
Tony waved a hand. “Technicalities.”
The elevator shut down on Steve and dropped a few inches. Steve braced himself on the side and whispered an angry “Merde!” under his breath. [Shit; French]
A voice came over invisible speakers to fill the elevator car: “Sorry about that, Cap. Had a little security breach. Gimme a minute.”
Steve was already reaching for his shield. “Do you need my help?” He should probably ask, before he started punching holes in Tony's expensive elevator. He presumed it was expensive. It looked expensive.
“Nope, it was nothing. Natasha sneaking in and out, pretty sure.” A pause. Steve waited, still tense. After a long few seconds, Tony announced: “Yup. There she is. Oh, look, she just waved for the camera. Hey, jerk. Thanks for punching a hole in my system. Yeah, there you go. Leave the same way you came in: out a fucking window. There's doors, you know. And elevators. You guys are like having a bunch of children I never signed up for. There's a reason I got a vasectomy when I was like, twenty. Okay, hang in there, Cap. Elevators back online in three, two...”
The elevator started moving again and deposited Steve at the Avengers main floor. Tony was standing there, waiting for him.
“C'est quoi ce bordel, Stark?!You have Natasha locked out?!” [What the fuck, Stark?!; French]
Tony held up his hands defensively. “Only if she comes through the window! Which she did.” Just as quickly as his anger came, it left, and Tony cocked his head at Steve. “What's that, French? You speak French?”
Steve sighed and rubbed his head as he stepped out. He shouldn't be so snappish with Tony. He just still couldn't figure out how they worked, how they fit together on the team. It needled at him. As a peace offering, Steve explained: “Picked it up during the war. Comes in handy.”
“When you don't want people to know what you're saying.”
Steve shrugged. “Turnabout's fair play: I don't understand half the technical words that come out of your mouth.”
Tony had a curious look in his eye, but in the end he just shook his head and shrugged. “Sure. Alright, come on. Before Romanoff decided to screw with me, I had something to show you. SHIELD's training room holding up against you?”
Steve's eyebrows shot up. “Not as much as they'd like.”
“Well, you're gonna owe me big time for this one, Captain Tight-Pants.”
Steve eyed Tony. “I know that reference. Firefly was on a list of top science fiction of the last decade.”
Tony grinned. “Good to see you adjusting so well the the twenty-first century.”
Steve shoved his hands in his pockets as they walked. “Different language, is all. Taking me a little while to get it, but I will. Eventually.”
“Mox,” Tony assured him. [Soon; Latin]
Steve eyed him warily. “But I don't think I'm ever going to pick up... Latin?”
“Good guess,” Tony confirmed. “And no reason you should. You've got enough new languages to learn.”
Steve's shield rang as it bounced off the wall. The sound was cut short when Steve caught it, silencing it. The whole room went still, just Steve's panting breaths filling the space. His hands curled around his shield as his eyes roved over the room, checking and rechecking for potential threats.
“Bravo! Perfetto, bell'uomo!” [Good! Perfect, you very beautiful man!; Italian]
Steve flushed and spun around, shield held in front of him. He tried a cocky smile. “Grazie mille, but I thought you had a gal?” [Thanks a million; Italian]
Now it was Tony's turn to look flustered, but less than Steve might have thought. Tony was always cool, no matter what. “You speak Italian, too? Can you stop being perfect for two seconds?”
Steve shrugged. As Tony drew closer, he lowered his shield to his side. “Little bit. Whatever I picked up in the war. Swear words and dirty words, mostly. And 'dov'ѐ il bagno?'” [Where is the bathroom?; Italian] Steve fumbled out the phrase, knowing his accent was terrible. Still, Tony smiled at the words, and not one of his mocking smiles. A genuine, warm smile.
“Should have figured. How about 'nates tuae moventes pulcherrimae sunt'?” [Your ass is the most beautiful in motion; Latin]
Steve shook his head. “That sounds like Latin. And if it isn't 'in nomine Patri, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti', I don't know it.” [In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; Latin]
“More Latin than most people know nowadays, even the Catholics,” Tony reminded him. “So how'd you like the new simulation?” Tony kicked at a severed robot head on the ground. “Up to spec?”
Steve nodded, wiping sweat-damp hair from his eyes. “Sure was. But the tactics were rudimentary, easy to predict. I think your... uh... the AI? Needs fixing.”
“It's an algorithm,” Tony explained. “I'm not dumb enough to stick an AI into robots trained to attack Captain America. Can you imagine if someone besides me got their hands on them? Vae.” [Shit; Latin]
Steve smiled a little bit at Tony, cocking his head to one side. “Tu me protégerais.” [You'd protect me; French]
Tony smiled blankly at Steve. “Alright, come on, smart guy. We'll go over the footage. Help me train the robots to kill you better.”
Steve nodded, hefting up his shield to follow Tony out. And if he glanced down at Tony's rear in the sweatpants he was wearing, well: didn't hurt a guy to look.
“Mais putain à quoi tu pensais, Tony?! Tu aurais dû m'appeler pour t'aider—j'aurais pu te protéger!” [What the hell were you thinking, Tony?! You should have called me for help—I could have protected you!; French]
Tony blinked at the assault, stopping him in his tracks as he entered the Stark Tower kitchen. “Excuse me?”
Angrily Steve stomped forward and grabbed onto Tony's wrist. Tony looked startled and maybe a little scared for all of two seconds, before Steve yanked Tony into a rib-cracking hug.
“Merde, Tony,” Steve mumbled into his neck. [Shit; French]
Incrementally Tony relaxed into the hug. His arms came up to pat reassuringly at Steve's back. “Hey, uh. I guess you heard about. Christmas. No big deal, I mean. Got that all taken care of.”
“Natasha says you blew up your suits?” Steve asked, pulling back just enough so he could look Tony in the eye.
Problem was, Tony was avoiding Steve's eyes. “Uh. Just. It was a crutch, you know. Getting to be a habit. Bad one. And I'm not an addict, not unless you count booze and sex and gambling-”
“You're coming with me,” Steve told Tony.
Tony squinted. “Uh, what? Coming with you-”
“To a group thing. Fury suggested it. I go... sometimes. Not as often as I should. But-”
“Whoa, whoa, Cap. Back up, hold the phone.” Tony took two steps away from Steve, breaking contact with him. “You want me to go to group therapy? With you? Uh, I guess you didn't get the memo, but Tony Stark doesn't share.”
Steve clenched his teeth. He knew he was angry because he was scared for Tony. It wouldn't be right to take that anger out on him, the very person Steve wanted to protect. But Tony sure made it difficult, sometimes.
“You're coming with me. You blew up your suits, Tony.”
Tony shuffled his feet. “I've still got one. Just in case. Of. Invasion. Or something. And weren't you the one who wanted to see what I could do without the suit? There you go.”
Steve growled at his own words, thrown back at him. “How about you make a deal with me. Something you want, for one meeting.”
Tony raised his eyebrows. “Something I want?”
Steve found himself flushing against his will. “A part ça.” [Except for that; French]
Tony eyed Steve for a long moment. Steve stood steady, just hoping he had something to offer that Tony wanted. He couldn't think of anything, but maybe Tony could.
“Fine. But for every meeting I go to, you have to watch one movie that I pick out.”
Steve frowned. “As long as they're not inappropriate movies.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “No, come on. I'm not an asshole. First up: War Games. Feel free to research it on your own. But it's a wholesome movie about computers and the Cold War. It's practically educational.”
Well, Steve had read about the Cold War. That was definitely a real thing. And Tony didn't look like he was pulling one over on Steve. Maybe War Games wasn't a classic movie, but it wasn't a trick. Probably.
“Okay, deal. War Games for one group meeting.” Steve stuck out his hand. “Shake on it?”
“Sei un rompipalle, Rogers,” Tony said as they shook. [You're a ball-buster, Rogers; Italian]
Steve smirked. He understand that. “Right back at you, Stark.”
“But if my theory is correct, then I can get around the solid state density limitation by using a quantum tunneling effect from the two metamaterials and-”
Steve zoned Tony out. He was manic right now, running on a caffeine and insomnia high that had been going on for nearly two weeks. Two weeks since he showed up in New York and hadn't left. Two weeks since Steve noticed Tony's phone never rang and he never called out. He had his suspicions, but. It wouldn't be polite to ask.
“C'est ta copine, n'est ce pas? Je suis désolé.” [It's your gal, isn't it? I'm sorry; French]
Tony blinked and looked over at Steve. “What?” His voice was raw from talking.
Steve shook his head. “Nothing. Couldn't understand a word you were saying so I figured I'd give you a taste of your own medicine.”
“Right. Yeah.” Tony rubbed a hand over his chin. It scraped loudly over his stubble—he hadn't shaved in a few days, now. “Sure. Hey! Here's a fun game. I'll teach you how to code. Bet it'd come in handy working for SHIELD, you know. If you ever need to do some computer stuff on the fly. There's one universal language, Rogers, and that's mathematics.”
“Sure thing, Tony,” Steve reassured him. “But how about you show me after you get some sleep? I'm beat.”
Tony squinted over at Steve. “I've read your file. You can run on an hour, two, of sleep a night.”
Steve shrugged. “If I need to. But I don't need to. And you don't, either. Come on.” He nodded over his shoulder, towards the door of Tony's lab. “I'll fix you some chamomile tea.”
“Stop hanging out with Bruce,” Tony grumbled. But he followed Steve out, leaning into Steve when he put a hand on the small of Tony's back.
Tony fell asleep on the couch. Steve covered him with a blanket and mumbled “Dors bien” as he shut the lights. [Sleep tight; French]
Light played over the ceiling of his Brooklyn walk-up. Steve cocked his head at it, tracing the way the filtered light danced and flickered. It was alright. Calming. At least it was sunny out. Better than grey and rainy.
The door to his apartment clicked open, then shut. Footsteps of someone in his apartment. Steve didn't move. He'd gotten up and run today. Run for miles. He showered, he ate. He was taking care of himself. No one could blame him for wanting to just... lie. For a while. In his bed.
And an assassin wouldn't make so much noise. So. No reason to worry about that.
“Hey. Pultatio, pultatio.” [Knock, knock; Latin]
Steve stared at his ceiling some more. “Don't speak Latin.”
“You recognize it well enough,” Tony commented. Steve heard him take a step over his bedroom threshold.
“It's like Italian, but sharper. Harsher. You snap the words against your teeth.”
“Those art classes have made you a poet,” Tony commented lightly.
“La vérité est beauté, la beauté est vérité,” Steve replied listlessly. [Truth is beauty, beauty is truth; French]
He rolled over to sit upright, feet dangling off the bed. Tony was hesitating, like he was ready to bolt if Steve said the word.
“Mais parfois la vérité est affreuse et le mensonge est préférable. Et tu es un beau parleur.” [But sometimes the truth is ugly and the lie is better. And you're a beautiful liar; French]
Tony tapped his sunglasses nervously against his thigh. “I, uh...”
“What do you want, Tony?”
Tony's face softened. “To see if I could help. To... Per vedere se volevi che ti aiutassi.” [To see if you wanted me to; Italian]
“You could help me by leaving.”
Tony's jaw clenched, like he'd been struck. But he didn't strike back.
“Alright then. Just... you know where to find me. And uh... Hey, if that new buddy of yours, what's-his-name, flying eagle, wants to buzz the Tower sometime, I bet I can hook him up with some tech that'd make him drool.”
Steve's fists clenched against his mattress. “Thank you. I'll let Sam know.”
“Right. Sam. Duly noted.” Tony saluted Steve awkwardly as he backed up towards the door.
“Tony...” Steve shook his head, trying to clear it.
Steve took a breath, then two. “You know what happened?”
“Got the gist,” he replied airily. “Natasha filled me in on some more. Professional courtesy. I think she was feeling guilty she leaked half my shit to the internet.”
“You know about...”
Steve couldn't say his name. Because his name wasn't even his own anymore. He was Bucky, he was the Winter Soldier... he was both and neither. That's why he was gone—he needed to figure that out, find himself again. And Steve couldn't go on that journey with him.
“I heard some of it,” Tony confirmed quietly.
“Then you know why I want to be left alone for a while.”
“Sure... ma più che altro, so che non dovresti.” [But, more like: I know that you shouldn't be; Italian]
Steve's eyes flickered up to Tony's. Tony was looking right at him, all soft and concerned. It just made Steve feel angry. Unjustly so.
“Just go, Tony? Please? Avant que je ne dise quelque chose que je vais regretter. Avant de te blesser—tout comme je blesse tous ceux qui comptent pour moi.” [Before I say something I regret. Before I hurt you—just like I hurt everyone I care about; French]
“Alright, Steve. Sure thing. I'm out. You... You find me if you need me.”
“Sure,” Steve agreed. The word felt dry on his tongue.
Tony left, door clicking quietly behind him. Steve laid back on his mattress and stared at his ceiling. And wondered what Russian felt like in your mouth.
“On your left!” Steve hollered, laughing as he and Tony flew past.
Sam shouted and banked, his irritation clear in the sharp way he flapped his wings, in the loud whine of his boosters as he changed direction.
“You are not beating me in the air!” Sam yelled back as he fought to overtake them.
Steve adjusted his grip on Tony's armor, fingers latched tight into the hand-holds Tony had made him. The wind whipped over his face, broken by his goggles and helmet. He was glad for the protection, at these speeds. Tony banked hard around a building, trusting Steve to hold on. He did, just fine.
“I thought you told me this guy was good?” Tony teased over the comms.
“He's alright...” Steve replied.
“I swear I'm gonna blast you straight off your rich boyfriend's arm and bust that million-dollar ass of yours, super soldier,” Sam growled.
Steve snorted, a shot of nervousness going through him at the word “boyfriend”. Sam didn't know Steve was interested in Tony... or at least, they hadn't had any kind of conversation about it. But maybe Steve was being less subtle than he thought with the longing glances and cautious movie invitations. Steve had never been so good at subtle.
“Alright, watch this one, Cap,” Tony told Steve. His audio was coming through his suit's external speakers, instead of the comms, so Sam couldn't hear him. “I think I've got a good enough beat on the Falcon's flight capabilities. He can bank and dive, but his climbing thrusters are for shit compared to my rocket boots. I'm going to accelerate ahead towards that building and climb at the last second. He won't be able to follow as close, which means his trajectory will be forcibly at a tangent to ours. If my calculations are right—which they are—we'll gain five seconds on him by the time we clear the building. Got it?”
It was the wind and the adrenaline making him feel bold. Steve grinned at Tony's helmet and replied: “Je ne comprends pas la moitié de ce que tu dis mais j'aime comment tu le dis.” [I don't understand half of what you say but I sure like the way you say it; French]
“Let's do it!” Steve shouted in Tony's armored ear.
With a laugh Tony accelerated them, flying them straight for an upcoming building. Like he said, he pulled up at the last second—a maneuver Sam couldn't imitate. They cleared the building with a whoop and a holler, spiraling up, then down as Tony took a victory lap with Steve on his boot.
When they landed on top of one of the buildings, Steve hopped off Tony's boot and removed his helmet. Tony was doing the same next to him, revealing a happy grin beneath his dark mop of sweat-soaked hair. Steve gave into the temptation to help Tony comb it back, running his fingers through Tony's hair quickly.
“What? Do I look that bad?”
Steve smiled softly. “Tu es beau comme ça. You look that exhausted. Getting too old for this?” [You look that handsome, more like; French]
Tony gasped in hurt, but he was grinning too-big for it to be genuine. He smacked Steve with one of his gauntlet-covered hands. Steve rubbed his shoulder. Ow. “Me old? Come on. The day the centenarian calls me old-”
The roar of his Redwing engines signaled Sam's decent. “Technically I think he's a nonagenarian,” Sam corrected Tony as he landed gracefully on the roof.
Tony rolled his eyes. “What good is having the vocabulary if you can't abuse it?” he laughed. His eyes flicked over to Steve's. Steve just hoped Tony would attribute his flushed cheeks to the wind.
Tony cracked his back loudly, then returned to the pose Steve had set him in. “You know how much this is going to go for at auction?” he asked.
Steve's lips curled up in a small smile. “No, but you're going to tell me.”
“Millions,” Tony replied. “A nude portrait of Iron Man painted by Captain America. There hasn't been this much celebrity in art since Kim hopped on that motorcycle for Kayne's music video.”
Steve's whole face scrunched up. “Please don't compare this to that.”
Tony laughed, whole face lighting up. Steve stopped a moment to watch him. He got to look his fill, right now. With the excuse of examining Tony with an artist's eye.
“And besides: you're not nude. You're just... mostly nude.”
Tony's fingers drummed loudly on his Iron Man helmet, placed strategically in front of his groin. “I'm pretty nude behind here, actually. Need a peek to prove it?”
Steve shook his head rapidly. “No, no. Please, leave the helmet in place.”
Tony grinned. “What? Don't want to see the Iron... iron?”
“Je voudrais, mais sous des circonstances plus romantiques. Et en montrant un peu plus d'intêret pour moi.” [I would, but under more romantic circumstances. And with it showing a little more interest in me; French]
“What was that?” Tony was grinning.
Steve grinned slyly back. “A slight against the Iron iron.”
“Sure it was,” Tony grumbled. But he didn't look put-off in the slightest. He looked pleased.
Steve ducked his head and got back to his paints.
The heart monitor was the first thing Steve heard. He knew that noise, now. Spent enough time in the future getting injured and seeing his friends get injured to have it engraved in his subconscious. But the steady beep... beep... beep was punctuated by something else, this time. A mellifluous noise, waves of beautiful sound crashing gently against the shore of his mind.
“...et j'ai presque dû faire exploser les ailes de Sam pour être celui qui reste à tes côtés, mais je me suis dit que ça ne te dérangerai pas. J'ai monopolizé ton temps, je sais mais, je suis égoïste comme ça. Egoïste et terrifié. Tu sais que tu n'as pas le droit de me quitter, n'est ce pas ? Pas maintenant. Pas quand nous étions près de quelque chose. Je crois que nous étions près de quelque chose? J'espèrais que nous l'étions. J'étais juste un lâche. Comme je le suis toujours. Et tu prenais ton temps. Mais je n'ai pas soixante-dix ans à attendre, alors je pense qu'il est peut être temps pour moi d'être courage-” [...and I had to practically blast Sam's wings off to be the one who stayed with you, but I figured you wouldn't mind. I'm monopolizing your time, I know, but I'm selfish like that. Selfish and scared. You know you're not allowed to leave me, right? Not now. Not when we were close to something—I think we were close to something? I hoped we were. I was just being a coward. Like I always am. And you were taking your time. But I don't have seventy years to wait, so I think maybe it's time I found my courage-; French]
Cracking one eye, Steve let his head roll over towards Tony's voice. “Bonjour, bel homme. Peux tu être assez courageux pour me donner un baiser?” he croaked. [Good morning, beautiful. Could you be brave enough to give me a kiss?; French]
“Steve?” Tony's voice was broken and a little watery, but he was at Steve's side in an instant, hand reaching out to clasp firm at Steve's. Closing his fist as much as he could, Steve squeezed back, trying to reassure Tony that he was alright. Judging by how red Tony's eyes were, he wasn't doing a great job at looking his usual fit self.
Steve closed his eyes and smiled. “Yeah, Tony. Don't worry: I'm alright.”
He didn't see the kiss coming. It was just warm lips covering his own, parted slightly as Tony sobbed. Steve might have been shocked initially, but he adjusted fast enough. He was getting pretty good at adjusting to new situations. He kissed back, mouth opening and making a little approving noise as Tony slipped his tongue inside.
Tony pulled back, but Steve reached up and placed a hand on his neck, keeping Tony close enough so Steve could nuzzle at his face. Tony laughed and leaned forward, knocking their foreheads gently together.
“You can speak French?”
Steve laughed. “Why didn't you tell me?”
Tony pulled back more, expression worried. “I...” he huffed, looking around the room. Like he was deciding if he wanted to lie or not. Steve tried his best to look extra pathetic and injured, hoping it would inspire some honesty from the man.
“I guess I liked the things you said to me when you thought I couldn't understand you.”
Steve clenched his jaw. “If I'd have been braver, I would have said them to you in English.”
Tony shrugged. “Lucky for you, I'm even smarter than you already thought.”
“Lucky for the both of us,” Steve said. He tugged gently at the back of Tony's neck. He wanted another kiss. He was injured, after all.
Tony laughed and leaned in. “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into? Captain Sap over here.”
“You like it,” Steve told him. He tugged insistently at the back of Tony's neck.
Tony was grinning as he kissed Steve, resulting in a thoroughly awkwardly, but thoroughly wonderful kiss. Steve was left smiling so hard that his cheek was hurting—probably cracked cheekbone from the battle earlier.
Tony pulled back long enough to mumble: “Look how good I'm speaking French,” in English, before he dove back into Steve's mouth. Steve laughed when he got it—and it took him a couple seconds to get it, because he was pretty busy with Tony's tongue and all—but Tony swallowed up those noises and went back for more. Steve's hand curled tight in Tony's hair as they practiced their French as long as Steve could before he needed a break.
He was injured, after all. He smiled over at Tony, who was sitting patiently next to him, smiling back and holding tight to his hand.
“Bonjour, bel homme,” Steve greeted Tony as he entered the kitchen. [Good morning, beautiful; French]
“Bonne nuit, bel homme.” [Good night, beautiful; French] Tony leaned down to kiss Steve's forehead as he stumbled past him to the fridge.
Steve beamed up at Tony and watched him fumble half-asleep through the fridge.
“Je parle aussi Français, bande d'idiots,” Bucky grumbled from behind his newspaper. [I speak French, too, idiots; French]
Tony was tucked firm under Steve's arm as they sat on the couch together. Tony's fingers traced little patterns along Steve's thigh, getting higher and higher with each pass. Steve was doing an o.k. job of ignoring it for now, but he wouldn't hold out much longer.
“Et que dirais tu si après ça, toi et moi allions faire notre propre version du 'Seigneur des Anneaux'?” [How's about after this you and I play out our own 'Lord of the Rings'?; French]
“Ca n'a aucun sens,” Steve whispered back. [That doesn't even make sense; French]
“Dans ce cas, par 'Anneau' je veux dire 'ton cul' and par 'Seigneur' je veux dire 'Moi, le mec qui va te défoncer le cul-' [In this case, by 'ring' I mean 'your ass' and by 'Lord' I mean 'me, the guy who will fuck your ass'-; French]
“Aw nuts, you guys! I know those words in every language, come on!” Clint cried out from the opposite couch.
Steve's eyes fluttered shut as Tony nibbled at his neck.
“What if tonight I take you to some fancy restaurant... dinner and dancing... and then after...”
Natasha stalked into the kitchen, making a beeline for the fridge. Steve nudged at Tony. He sighed and pulled away, but not by much. As a kind of apology for his discomfort with public displays of affection, Steve murmured to Tony:
“Et après, on pourrait revenir ici et je pourrais te faire l'amour,” he promised, sweetly. [And then after, we can come back here and I can make love to you; French]
Vegetable smoothie procured, Natasha headed back out of the kitchen. But as she passed Steve, she took the time to say: “Je sais parler vingt-quatre langues et tu penses que je ne comprend pas le français?” [I understand twenty-four languages and you don't think I understand French?; French]
Steve didn't even have time to blush before she was gone. But he sure as heck had time after.
“You're a punk,” Steve told Tony affectionately.
Tony laughed. “Yeah, well, you love me.”
Steve froze, and Tony did, too. Sensing they were on the brink of a relationship crisis, Steve did the only thing he knew how to do: be honest.
“Je t'aime.” [I love you; French]
Tony froze more, if that was even possible. Steve licked his lips nervously. His mouth parted, thinking he might say something else. But then he snapped it shut. More words were not the answer right now.
Eventually, after what felt like an interminable wait, Tony blinked, like he was coming out of a dream. “I... uh...” After a pause, during which time Tony stared angrily down at his lab workbench, he switched to French. “Je... t'aime. Aussi.” [I... love you. Too; French]
“Oh.” Steve blinked. “You don't have to...”
Tony shook his head fiercely, jaw clenched tight. “No. I do. I mean it.”
Just when Steve thought he might start crying, which was ridiculous, he was Captain America, he wasn't going to cry just because his boyfriend (or whatever Tony wanted to call them this week) said he loved him, Bruce wandered over and picked up a tray from Tony's desk. Awkwardly he raised his hand, glancing between the two men.
“Uh, I... You should probably know: I can speak French, too. Spent six months in Forêt de Compiègne hiding out.”
Tony shoved Bruce back to his corner of the lab, avoiding eye contact with Steve. But that was okay. Steve grinned big as Tony got back to work. Tonight, they'd have all the time they wanted to communicate the sentiment without words—French or no.
“...and then that Serpent Society jerk goes down like a hot potato, you should have been there, Thor, buddy.”
Steve frowned over at Tony. “Even though no one got hurt, there was a lot of property damage. We can't expect people to keep supporting us if we blow up someone's Mom and Pop deli every other week.”
Tony shrugged, at ease perched on a breakfast bar stool. “Stark Industries will foot the bill. Some of it. It's not our fault some morons decided to test their mettle against us.”
Steve shook his head. “Just don't go getting a big head, is all I'm saying.”
“Rejoinds moi dans la chambre dans 10 minutes and je te montrerais une grosse tête,” Tony teased. [Join me in the bedroom in ten minutes and I'll show you a big head; French]
“Arrête,” Steve warned. [Stop; French]
Thor laughed jovially and bounced Jane on his lap. “Anthony, I didn't think Captain Rogers would be pleased by you saying such things in front of me.”
Steve almost fell out of his chair. He definitely choked on his orange juice.
From Thor's lap, Jane flipped a page on her iPad as she explained: “It's All-Speak. Thor can understand any language.” She peered up at Steve and smiled sweetly. “And I studied abroad a semester in France.”
“Merde,” Steve groaned as he dropped his forehead to the kitchen table. [Shit; French]
“Come on, Romanoff. What else?”
Natasha squinted at the whiteboard, ticking languages off on her fingers. “Turkish.”
Clint snorted. “What? No you don't. What about that time-”
“O Budapeşte'ydi aptal. Ve Macarcam o kadar da iyi değil.” [That was Budapest, idiot. And my Hungarian isn't as good; Turkish]
Clint deflated. “I know the word 'idiot' in every language, Nat.”
Tony sighed. “Add it to the list, Bruce.”
Neatly Bruce wrote “Turkish” next to Natasha's name.
“Is that every one?”
Steve looked alongside his name. There was English, Italian, French, and German. He was picking up Spanish, too, but not enough to write home about yet. Natasha had the most next to her name, at twenty-four. Next was Bruce, surprisingly. Then Tony, with all of Steve's languages plus some, like Latin and Mandarin-Chinese. Thor didn't count because Thor had a little squiggly infinity sign next to his name. Rounding out the bottom of the list were Jane and Clint, Steve only barely above them. The two of them each had three, though Clint claimed “survival” vocabulary in a dozen more languages.
Natasha took up the pen from Bruce and pointed it at Steve and Tony. “See this list?”
Steve nodded sheepishly. Tony just seemed irritated that Natasha and Bruce spoke more languages than he did.
“If you two want to talk dirty to each other in public, you need to find a language not on our lists.”
Steve held his hands out imploringly. “I wasn't trying to-”
“Fine. I'll teach him Klingon.”
Bruce raised his hand. “mojpu', tlhIngan vISov.” [Actually, I know Klingon; Klingon]
Tony glared at Bruce. “Elvish?”
Bruce shook his head. “No. Never learned it.”
“Awesome. Steve, we're learning Elvish. Mithrandir.” Tony waggled his fingers. “That's the only word I know. I'll learn more. Tonight.”
Steve looked helplessly at Tony. “It's not a real language. And I'm still working on Spanish. And Farsi!”
“Don't care. We're learning every dirty word in Elvish. I'll have JARVIS make a program.”
Steve sighed and stared at the ceiling. “Merde.” [Shit; French]
“We all understood that,” Clint pointed out.
“I know,” Steve grumbled back.