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It's Not Perfect, But It's Ours

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“Tony…Tony are you even paying attention?”

Tony snapped back to reality to see a very annoyed Pepper standing in front of him. He sheepishly smiled up at her, but she just rolled her eyes and continued. Since being rescued from Afghanistan, Tony started a foundation with the purpose of giving back to the world. Each year The Maria Stark Foundation awarded grants to several different organizations, and today was the day that they would offer a grant to a Brooklyn clinic specializing in art therapy.

Tony was always excited to work with the grant recipients; he just hated all the boring meetings that led up to actually giving out the grants.

“So…what do you think?”

 Pepper asked, looking through a few papers.

“Sounds great!”

Tony stated, a little too enthusiastically. Pepper narrowed her eyes over the papers in her hands.

“I just asked you what time you want to schedule our meeting with the art clinic and your response is ‘sounds great’?”

“…yes?”

“Tony, you need to take this seriously! I get that meetings and paperwork aren’t your thing, but that’s basically all running a business entails so you’ll have to learn to deal with it.”

“Can’t I just pay you more to deal with it for me?”

Tony asked, giving his best award winning smile.

“Oh honey, not even you have enough money to make me agree to that.”

The smile on Tony’s face quickly melted into a frown that brought a chuckle out of Pepper. She just shook her head and gathered her things. As she made her way out she stopped one last time in the doorway.

“Try to read up on the Shield Art Therapy Clinic before noon tomorrow. We’ll be meeting with Mr. Barnes and Mr. Rogers at one.”

Tony groaned internally as he opened one of the files on his desk. Who knew giving away your money would involve so much work.

 

Tony sat in the conference room tapping away at his phone; all he wanted was to get this meeting over with. It wasn’t that he didn't like getting to present these awards, it’s just that it took forever. Those on the foundation board, including Pepper, thought that an hour and a half long presentation was necessary for the recipients to learn about receiving this grant. If Tony had his way, this whole thing would last five minutes and take place at a bar. Unfortunately, no one else seemed to like that idea. So here Tony was, mentally preparing to be bored out of his mind when two men walked in. He first saw the brunet as he approached the table, but behind him was a tall muscular blond. The two made their way around the table, shaking hands and introducing themselves. The brunet stood in front of Tony and extended his hand.

“James Barnes, nice to meet you.”

“Tony Stark.”

Tony introduced himself while shaking James’ hand. The blond moved in front of Tony, and gave the most dazzling smile he’d ever seen.

“Mr. Stark, it’s so nice to meet you. Thank you so much for this opportunity!”

Tony took in everything he could about this man’s face; the way his smile was kind of lopsided, the way his hair was styled, and how blue his eyes were. It took a moment for his brain to kick-start again, but when it did he extended his hand and tried to remember how to speak.

“Please, call me Tony, and you are?”

“Oh, uh I’m Steve Rogers, head therapist and owner of the Shield Art Therapy Clinic.”

Tony couldn’t take his eyes off the man in front of him. He knew he shook Steve’s hand for far longer than was necessary, but the man’s hands felt so good resting in his own. It wasn’t until Pepper cleared her throat that he realized just how awkward this was. He took his seat, as one of the board members began the presentation. Tony had never been more alert during a meeting in his entire life.

He tried his hardest to listen to the presentation, but his eyes always landed on Steve, who was diligently listening to the speaker, slightly beaming with excitement. Tony couldn’t help but let his mind wonder about who Steve was; in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to know everything about Steve. He was aware of how irrational his thoughts were, but he didn’t much care. All that mattered was the muscly blond, who was simultaneously the hottest and most adorable person Tony had ever seen, sitting mere inches from him.

At some point, Tony felt as though he was being watched, but instinctively he assumed it was Pepper. The only looks she ever gave him were laced with disapproval, so he learned to ignore the feeling long ago. Just for good measure, Tony decided to briefly tune in to the presentation. The speaker had just started talking about the advisor that the foundation would assign to conduct check-ins at the clinic when a thought crossed Tony’s mind. Without even thinking, he interrupted the speaker.

“I will personally be overseeing all matters involving The Shield Clinic’s grant.”

The room fell silent, save for Pepper nearly choking on her water. All eyes in the room fell on Tony, as he began to register what he’d just said. Tony was a man of very few regrets, and this was no exception. He raised his eyebrow and gave a ‘something wrong?’ look to the woman speaking. Clearly not sure what to make of this, she just smiled at James and Steve.

“Wonderful, now that Mr. Stark has volunteered to be your advisor, we can move on to what the check-ins will entail.”

Tony let out an inaudible sigh of relief. Somehow this half assed plan to insert himself in Steve’s life had worked. All he needed was to make it through the rest of the meeting and he’d be good. He decided that actually paying attention would be best, but when he finally pried his eyes from the presentation, he locked eyes with Steve. Tony shot the blond a small grin, to which he received a puzzled yet warm smile. They sat there looking at each other when he heard the speaker ask in a very firm voice

“Mr. Stark, is there anything else you’d like to add?”

Both Tony and Steve practically jumped. Looking around the room, careful not to actually meet Pepper’s eyes, Tony settled on the speaker and shook his head.

“Nope, I think you covered it all.”

He could almost feel his skin burning with the need to get out of that conference room. Half of it was Tony just needing to get away from the intensity of the room, but mostly he just wanted a head start to hide from Pepper. As the meeting wrapped up, James and Steve made their final rounds, shaking hands before departing. When Steve finally took his hand, Tony could detect a slight blush on his face.

“It was nice to meet you Mr. Stark, and I look forward to working with you soon.”

Before he could even get a word out, Steve and James had left, which was Tony’s cue to take cover from Pepper. He knew her well enough to know that she would never reprimand him with others around. This gave him exactly one minute to flee the conference room, and take refuge in his office until lunch.

Tony tried to move as quickly as possible, and with his office in sight he was almost home free. He had the door behind him and almost fully closed when he noticed Pepper standing at his desk.

“What the hell was that?!?”

Tony looked from the red head to the door.

“How the hell did you get here before me? Have you mastered teleportation because if you have…”

“No! You do not get to redirect the conversation here. Now explain to me what just happened.”

“Well, my dear sweet Pep, that was an unnecessarily long meeting. Water?”

Tony asked, grabbing a bottle from the mini fridge encased in his bookshelf. Pepper just pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.

“I swear to god Tony, if you don’t answer my question I will find a way to have you blacklisted from every store that sells coffee in the entire country.”

The look on her face told Tony she wasn’t even sort of kidding.

“Alright, fine. So I agreed to oversee their grant, so what?!”

“So what? Tony, your job is to make mile stone visits throughout the year, not oversee the entire thing.”

“Well what’s wrong with me wanting to get a little more involved?”

“We’ve been doing this for five years now and today is the day you just decide to get more involved?”

“I’m not so sure I like what you’re implying.”

“And I’m not so sure I like you trying to use this foundation as a dating service.”

Tony knew it was a long shot that Pepper wouldn’t catch on to what was happening. Still, he didn’t much like his intentions being questions.

“How are you so sure I’m trying to date anyone? Maybe I’m just really interested in art therapy.”

“Oh please, you’re as transparent as glass Tony. You have the hots for Steve; I saw the way you were looking at him during that meeting.”

Tony tried to give his best innocently puzzled face, which just made Pepper roll her eyes.

“Seriously, listen to me when I tell you, do not get involved with Steve. Promise me you won’t.”

Tony knew she was right, mainly because Pepper was always right, but that didn’t mean he had to like it one bit.

“Anthony!”

She said, when she got no response.

“Yes, Virginia , I promise.”

Tony got some small pleasure out of using Pepper’s actual name, after she’d just used his. She just gave a small smile.

“You are an actual mess, I hope you know this.”

“Yeah, I’m aware.”

No matter how hard he tried to act annoyed and upset, Tony knew Pepper could tell she’d gotten her message across.

“Well I’m going to go get some work done, but this huge binder is for you.”

Pepper seemingly pulled a six-inch thick jam-packed binder out of thin air, and loudly dropped it on Tony’s desk. He looked up at her, terrified as ever.

“What the hell…is this?”

“Well if you’re going to oversee the grant we’ve given Steve’s clinic, here’s everything you need too know about your visits.”

Tony could tell that Pepper loved every minute of this. She always found the misery that paperwork caused him amusing. He sheepishly reached out to touch the binder, a look of disbelief firmly planted on his face, Pepper made her way to the door.

“Have fun preparing for your first visit this Friday.”

She said cheerily over her shoulder. Tony was positive that this binder would be the death of him. He sighed heavily, pulling the material closer, asking over and over what he’d managed to get himself into.

 

“Hey guys! How’d the meeting go?”

Natasha asked, stepping aside to let Steve and Bucky into the apartment. They’d both been so excited to return with news to share with Natasha and Sam. Since the four of them opened The Shield Clinic, they had been waiting for a chance like this to come along. Now that they finally had more funding, they couldn’t wait to start putting it to good use.

“Well, they gave us money, which was to be expected…”

Bucky said, loosening his tie as he grabbed a beer from the fridge and plopped down on the couch next to Sam.

“But let me tell you about the craziness that went on between Steve and Tony Stark!”

Steve could feel his face heating up as all eyes were on him.

“I swear Bucky, I will kill you if you go on with this story.”

“Excuse you, there will be no killing of my fiancé. We already put a deposit down on our venue, so I need him alive, please.”

Natasha said, popping open a can of soda. Steve just sighed, knowing that there was no way to prevent this from getting out.

“Thank you Nat! Anyway, we walk into this place, and I swear to you, Stark’s jaw almost hit the floor when he saw Steve. He couldn’t take his eyes off of him the entire time! And get this, Stark agreed to personally oversee everything that we do with the foundation.”

“Looks like someone’s got a little crush on our sweet Steve.”

Sam said, trying to hold back his laughter at Steve’s obvious annoyance.

“Whatever, Bucky is clearly exaggerating. His jaw didn’t drop, he wasn’t looking at me the whole time, and him being our advisor is nothing. I’m sure he’s done this before.”

“Judging by the reactions of everyone in the room, I’d be willing to bet it’s the first time he’s ever volunteered to do this.”

Buck stated with a small grin. Steve would be lying if he said he hadn’t noticed the visible shift in his attitude when the two met. But he wouldn’t go so far as to say that the man had a crush on him.

“Look, he doesn’t have a crush on me, ok?”

“Whatever you say man. Just promise us you won’t get involved with the guy and ruin this chance for us.”

Steve couldn’t believe Bucky was asking this of him. Out of everyone, Steve though that his best friend would know him better than that. He swallowed down the slight hurt he felt at having his intentions questions, but gave a small smile anyway.

“I won’t get involved with him, don’t worry. All you need to worry about is me kicking your ass.”

Bucky looked to Steve with a raised brow.

“Did you not hear the lady? She said you can’t touch me.”

“She said he couldn’t kill you, actually.”

Sam chimed in. Bucky looked to Natasha for some support, but she just shrugged.

“Sorry, but Sam’s right.”

“Thanks for the support guys.”

Bucky muttered under his breath as he jumped to get a head start away from the huge blond chasing him.

 

  

Tony could feel his heart beating a mile a minute as he stepped out of his car. Here he was standing in front of The Shield Art Therapy Clinic, for a walk through of the facility and he was nervous. Ever since their meeting, Tony couldn’t get Steve out of his head. He knew he had to pull it together, but the thought of seeing the blond filled him with more excitement than he’d care to admit.

Tony stood outside of the facility just admiring the whole thing. He gathered that Steve and his friends were able to take this old rec center and turn it into something great, with what little resources they had. As he stood there taking it all in, he heard faint footsteps approach him.

“She’s really somethin’ huh?”

He heard from behind him. Tony turned, with a small smile on his face, knowing who had come to stand with him.

“Well fancy meeting you here Steve.”

“Ha, yeah. What are the odds, right.”

The blond said, returning the smile.

“Sorry if I kept you waiting at all Mr. Stark, but please follow me, and I’ll give you a tour of the place.”

Steve walked towards the front of the building, fishing for what sounded like keys in his pocket. Tony slowly followed after him, admiring Steve’s back.

“I’ll only come in under one condition.”

The shorter man stated.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

Steve asked, turning to look at the man behind him.

“You stop calling me ‘Mr. Stark’.”

Steve seemed to consider this as he opened the door.

“I think I can manage that.”

The smile on Tony’s face grew wider as he followed Steve inside. As they walked in, they were greeted by a large waiting area.

“So…this is the waiting room. We basically left it exactly how it was when the place was the Johnson Rec Center.”

Steve said, running his hand over the front desk area. Tony looked around taking in the minimalist design.

“Is there any reason you decided to decorate so minimally?”

Tony inwardly cringed at how judgmental his question sounded. Steve either didn’t notice or chose to ignore it.

“Well initially, it was because of the money. We didn’t have much to really make this place look the way we would have liked. But with all the different kids we see and the various triggers they have, we figured this might actually be best.”

The two stood there silently for a moment taking in their surroundings and each other. Tony couldn’t quite overlook the dark blue sweater Steve was wearing, and the amazing things it did for his arms.

“So…how does this whole thing work? I mean I know I’m going to show you around but is there anything in particular that you need to see or that I need to tell you about?”

Steve asked, moving closer to the brunet.

“Well, I’ll be honest with you, there was a whole binder full of paper work that I needed to complete and questions I had to ask during this visit. I left all of it at the office, because I’m in charge and I say fuck that!”

Steve gave a small smile, which somewhat surprised Tony. Looks like he had finally found someone who appreciated his rebellious side.

“So I guess just take me around the place, and afterwards we can talk about what makes this place tick.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

 

The two found themselves in the small room that had been deemed the cafeteria. Once they had completed their tour of the facility, they decided to stop for a snack.

“Sorry we don’t have anything more than this.”

Steve shrugged, handing Tony a styrofoam cup of coffee and a Nutrigrain bar.

“This is practically all I survive on anyway, so it’s fine.”

Steve took a seat across from the brunet and took a sip of his water. Tony studied the man in front of him for a long moment. He had had his fair share of infatuations in his day, but never like this. Tony wanted to pick the man’s brain and learn everything about him, while he had the chance.

“So, obviously, I was forced to read your file…”

“Forced?”

Steve asked looking up at him.

“You should know by now that I hate being told what to do and I hate any kind of paper work.”

Tony said taking a bite of the Nutrigrain bar.

“If you hate that stuff so much, why do you run a company?”

Steve asked, chuckling.

“For one, I make Pepper do literally almost everything. I just show up, build things, and look pretty. But I’m the one asking questions right now. You’ll get your chance soon enough.”

“Alright, ask away.”

“Well, I read that you and James started this place together. How’d the two of you meet?”

Tony paid close attention to the slightly sad smile on Steve’s face.

“Me and Bucky…we go way back.”

“Bucky?”

Tony asked, confused by the name.

“Oh yeah, uh James. His middle name is Buchanan, so his nickname is Bucky.”

Tony slowly nodded, signaling for Steve to continue.

“His dad and my dad owned a garage together, so we’ve basically been friends our whole lives. When my parents passed away, his family took me in.”

Tony wasn’t sure whether or not to ask what happened to his parents. When Steve didn’t volunteer the information, he took that as a sign to move forward.

“Did you guys go to college together?”

“Yeah, we did. Bucky’s a year older than me, so I just kind of followed him. He majored in psychology and I majored in art during undergrad, but we both studied clinical psychology in grad school. That’s where we met Natasha and Sam. By the time we graduated, we were all dead set on starting this clinic, and here we are today.”

Tony took in all of the information he had been given. The clinic wasn’t very far off the ground by any means, but they had accomplished so much with so little.

“How old are you?”

The question fell out of Tony’s mouth before he had time to consider it. Steve just chuckled.

“Are these the type of questions that were on all that paper work you left at Stark Industries?”

“Probably not, which is another reason why I left it there.”

“So if I answer this, do I get to start asking you slightly invasive questions?”

Tony took the last sip of his coffee, and frowned into his cup.

“You can ask whatever you want, as long as you make me another cup of coffee.”

Steve plucked the cup out of Tony’s hand and walked into what seemed to be the kitchen. He returned not two minutes later with an actual mug instead of the tiny cup from before.

“God bless you.”

Tony said, practically snatching the mug into his hands.

“Twenty-seven.”

Steve stated taking his seat.

“Huh?”

“You asked how old I am. I’m twenty-seven.”

“Oh.”

This was slightly surprising for the genius. Steve looked young, but he seemed so mature. Tony had gotten so used to being around people older than him that it was always a surprise to meet someone younger.

“So, now it’s my turn to ask the hard hitting questions.”

Steve rubbed his hands together with a mischievous look on his face. Tony was slightly worried about what the blond might ask.

“Let’s start with…how old are you?”

“Really? It’s your chance to have a no holds bar, anything goes Q+A with Tony Stark and you ask a question that Google could easily answer for you?!”

The younger man just shrugged.

“Thirty-two.”

“Really? How are you so successful at such a young age?”

Steve seemed genuinely shocked by Tony’s age, which was a pretty big ego booster for the genius.

“Again, this is another question that Google could answer, but I graduated from MIT when I was seventeen, and I’ve been running Stark Industries since I was eighteen.”

“You…graduated college at seventeen?!”

Tony was officially loving every minute of this. If this was how Steve would react to every new bit of impressive information about him, they would need to start spending a lot more time together.

“I feel like I should show you my car or something so you can be thoroughly impressed by the entire package that is Tony Stark.”

Steve’s eyes seemed to light up with excitement that he didn’t want to display. Once he realized he had given away too much, he sat back, crossing his arms before he shrugged.

“I mean, if you want to, I’ll take a look at it.”

As the two made their way out to the parking lot Tony couldn’t help but wonder how a grown man could be so adorable.

 

“Tony this is…this is amazing.”

Steve said, taking in the sight in front of him. He told himself that he would just look at Tony's car back at the clinic and that would be that. It was a brand new Audi R5 for goodness sake. There wasn’t a single person Steve knew who would let him live it down if he passed up the opportunity to see this car, so he went.

They looked the car over and Steve drank up every little detail that he could. When they started talking about cars in general, Tony turned to him, clearly surprised.

“How do you know so much about cars?”

“Oh, well when I was younger my dad used to let me help him work on cars at his shop.”

Steve said, head under the hood looking at the engine.

“I’ve got quite a few cars, even some classics, back at my place if you want to come take a look.”

“Only if you let me take one for a ride…”

The statement slipped out of his mouth, and he could feel his cheeks heating with embarrassment.

“You pick the car, and we can go wherever you want.”

Steve’s head shot up from under the hood. The look on the brunet’s face told him that this, in fact, was not a joke. Steve wondered what his friends would say about this. The man giving their clinic a substantial amount of funding was inviting him over to his house to look at cars. Everything in his head screamed that he shouldn’t agree to go, but Tony looked kind of cute with that smug look on his face. Steve took a deep breath and smiled.

“I’ll follow you there.”

 

They stood in Tony's underground garage, looking at one of his classic cars.

“This is a ’68 Camaro Tony… ”

Steve said in disbelief.

“I’m fully aware.”

The older man said around a small laugh.

“My dad would have given his left arm for one of these. Hell, he probably would’ve given his arm just to work on one of these.”

Steve said, lightly running a hand over the black car. He could only imagine how he looked standing there, but at the moment, he didn’t much care.

“You’re more than welcome to take this one for a drive.”

Tony said, jingling the Camaro keys in front of him.

“Honestly, I couldn’t.”

Steve said. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t want to drive the car. He just couldn’t let go of the feeling that he shouldn’t be there.

“Well at least take a seat in the car for a second.”

At this point, Tony was opening the driver side door for him. Steve stepped inside and silently marveled at the interior.

“So, your dad was into classic cars?”

Tony asked taking a seat on the passenger side.

“Classic cars and motorcycles. It was his dream to have a small collection of his favorites. He was actually saving up to buy a Triumph motorcycle before he died.”

Steve thought back on the day he found his father lifeless in his bed. It was a Saturday, which always meant Steve got to go to the shop to help out. The ten-year-old ran to wake up his dad, but when the man wouldn’t move, Steve knew something had happened. Later they found out that all his years of smoking had caused him to have a heart attack in his sleep. It was weeks before Steve could sleep a full night without checking to make sure his mother was still breathing.

“You ok there, Rogers?”

Tony asked, with a look of concern on his face. Steve shook the thoughts of that horrible day out of his mind, and gave a wary smile.

“Yeah, I’m…I’m fine.”

“You ready to take this baby for a spin? Don’t try to tell me that you don’t want to, because you and I both know it’d be a lie.”

Steve looked at the brunet, and saw something there. He couldn’t quite place it, but he knew he couldn’t just blow this off.

“Can I take a rain check for next time?”

Tony’s face lit up in a way that made Steve’s heart flutter, though he wasn’t exactly sure why.

“Yeah, next time…sure.”

Tony all but whispered.

“Alright, well I should probably head out now.”

Steve said, stepping out of the car. The brunet was at his side immediately.

“Well…thanks for giving me a tour of your clinic. I guess I’ll let you know when I’ll stop by for another visit.”

The blond looked down at the man in front of him and smiled. Some part of him wanted nothing more than to stay and learn everything there was to know about the genius. But as he waved goodbye and made his way out of Tony’s mansion, he couldn’t help but remember the promise he’d made to his friends. Maybe not getting involved with Tony would be harder than Steve thought.

 

  

Two weeks had gone by since Tony had come for his first visit at the clinic. As much as Steve hated to admit it, he hadn’t been able to get the brunet off of his mind during the entirety of those two weeks. Even now, as he was setting up the painting area for the session he was leading with Sam, he couldn’t help but wonder why Tony had seemingly taken an interest in him.

“Hey Sam, can I pick your brain about something?”

Steve asked, turning to look at his friend.

“Sure, shoot.”

Sam said, as he set up another easel.

“What do you think about Tony Stark?”

Sam promptly looked up from the task at hand. He looked Steve square in the eyes, but soon gave a small smile and sighed.

“Look man, I’ve never met the guy, but I’ve heard a lot of things…”

In a second, Steve’s heart sank. He wasn’t sure what answer he had expected, but this definitely wasn’t it. Sam quickly scrambled to finish his thoughts.

“All I know is that the man was kidnapped and nearly lost his life. Now he has a bright blue thing in his chest that keep him from dying. He’s been through more in the last ten years than anyone goes through in a lifetime, and the first thing he decides to do after coming home safely is to donate a good chunk of his money to people. He could have shut himself off from the world, but instead he decided to help make it better. He’s a good man’s Steve, I’d just be careful about going after someone who’s giving us funding.”

Steve could feel his face getting warmer.

“I’m not interested in ‘going after’ Tony. I just wanted to know what you thought of him.”

“I’m a lot of things, Steve. Smart? Sure. Sexy? You bet your sweet ass I am! But I am no fool my friend. I can tell when you have a crush, and boy do you have a crush on Stark.”

Steve silently prayed for any distraction to come, and when he heard a knock at the door, he thanked God as he went to greet their guests. The blond was a little more than shocked when he was faced with someone other than the children they’d be teaching.

“Tony?”

“Well hello to you too!”

The genius said, smiling up at the man in front of him.

“What are you doing here?”

Tony pushed past the taller man to see what he had been up to.

“Well I figured I would stop by and see if maybe I could sit in during one of your sessions today. I don’t know much about what art therapy sessions are like, so I figured I’d come and see.”

Steve looked from Tony to Sam. He could see his friend trying to stifle a laugh from where he stood. He just smiled back at Tony.

“Let me guess, you left all the paperwork for this at the office.”

“Oh, there was nothing to fill out for this. I’m actually fairly certain I’m not supposed to be doing this, but what’s life if you don’t live a little, right?!”

Steve shook his head, and laughed. The more he talked to Tony, the more he learned just how much the man loved marching to the beat of his own drum. It was a quirk that the younger man found unbelievably cute.

“You can stay, but nobody just sits in for free. If you’re going to be here you’ll have to help out.”

Tony just grinned up at Steve, as he brought his right hand to his head in a salute.

“Yes sir, captain sir.”

 

Days like this were what Steve looked forward to the most. As the class of fifteen Autistic children filed into the art room, his heart began to beat just a little faster. Nothing gave him a rush quite like bringing art and music to the lives of those who had so few outlets in life. As the children all go seated, Steve stood at the front of the room with a smile on his face.

“Hello everybody, welcome to the Shield Clinic! Today, we’re going to work on making paintings of some of your favorite things. Are you guys excited?”

Steve asked the elementary aged children.

“Yeah!”

They yelled with excitement.

“Alright! My name is Steve, and these are my friends Sam and Tony. We’ll be here to help you all make the best paintings you can, so let’s get started!”

The three men spread out, passing out aprons, paint and painting supplies to the children. Steve quickly pulled Tony aside while Sam helped the kids get ready.

“It might be a little easier if you watch us before you try helping with this project. Some of these kids can be a handful your first time around.”

Steve knew how hard this job could be sometimes on people who had never spent time with this many impaired children. He carefully considered the determined look on the brunet’s face, and somehow knew this would be a great session.

Steve returned to the front of the room to begin conducting class. As he looked around at the kids getting started, his eyes fell on Tony. He was glued to the side of a little boy who kept offering various paints to the older man. Steve caught himself staring a little too long, so he focused his attention elsewhere, and so it went.

As the class continued, Steve found himself always circling back to Tony. The older man was staying out of the way for the most part, but it was obvious that he was dying to help however he could. At one point, while looking fondly as the genius praised one of the children’s paintings, he and Steve locked eyes. It took a moment for the younger man to smile before looking away. This wasn’t the time or place for whatever it was that Steve was thinking; he kept trying to remind himself of that as he tried to keep his mind on wrapping up the rest of class.

When the children were finally finished with their session, Sam offered to see them out, leaving Steve and Tony to clean up alone. The two men shuffled around quietly before Steve finally broke the silence.

“So…how’d you like this session?”

He asked, somewhat nervously.

“Well, I would love to tell you, but I’m kind of hungry at the moment. I could tell you how much fun I had over lunch!”

Steve was slightly taken aback by how nonchalant Tony was. Though Steve wanted nothing more than to spend more time with the genius, he knew it was a dangerous situation.

“Listen Tony, I just don’t think this is a good idea.”

“What, getting food? Steve, food is a necessity, an awesome one at that. It’s always a good idea.”

The blond couldn’t help but crack a smile at that.

“Us being friends and hanging out…I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.”

Tony looked up at Steve with a smirk on his face.

“We’re going to be spending quite a bit of time together throughout the next year. I feel like me randomly stopping by whenever I want would be a lot less awkward if we were friends.”

“You do make a valid point…”

Steve said, pretending to consider this.

“Would it make you feel better if I said hanging out with me is now a required part of being a grant recipient?”

Tony asked in a joking manner. Steve knew it wouldn’t take much to convince him, but it didn’t hurt to know that the genius wasn’t willing to give up on this.

“I guess if I’m contractually obligated to, I’ll go to lunch with you.”

A huge smile broke out on Tony’s face.

“Don’t sound so sad about all of this. I’ll have you know some of my best friendships have stemmed from people being forced to spend time with me.”

“Should I assume your worst friendships were between you and the people who wanted to be around you?”

Steve asked, making his way toward the door. He didn’t think it was possible, but the brunet’s smile grew wider.

“See, we’re already off to a great start!”

 

Tony had no idea what he was doing. If he was being honest, he spent a good percentage of his life not knowing what he was doing. So this…thing with Steve was no exception. He had stuff to do, a company to pretend to be in charge of, yet he skipped out on that to paint with some kids. He might have been able to get away with it, if he explained to Pepper that he was just learning about the clinic. But she’d see right through that. She knew Tony well enough to know that any excuse Tony had for coming to the clinic, no matter how reasonable, was just an excuse to see Steve. It was this fact, knowing that no matter what reason he gave for ditching work he’d still get in trouble, that led Tony to ask Steve out to lunch. If he was going to get chewed out for this, he might as well make the day worth it.

As the two men sat outside waiting for their gourmet personal pizzas to arrive, Tony thought back on his recent encounters with the man sitting in front of him. He was grateful that the Stark foundation grant had brought them together, but he hoped for a day when they could see each other for reasons besides the grant. As their waitress delivered their food, Tony noticed the look that Steve was giving him. The second they locked eyes, the blond looked down at his plate. The genius couldn’t help but smile at that.

“So…what is it that made you want to be an art therapist?”

Tony asked around a mouthful of pizza. Steve seemingly choked on his food at the question.

“Excuse me?”

The blond asked, taking a drink of his coke.

“Sorry to blindside you with such a ridiculous question?”

Tony asked, thoroughly confused by the young man’s response.

“No, it’s ok. It’s just…this isn’t something I talk about very much.”

Steve said, seemingly refusing to meet Tony’s eyes. They sat there silently for a moment before Steve continued.

“My mom had a stroke about a year or so after my dad passed. It didn’t paralyze her, thank God, but it caused her to suffer from Vascular Dementia. It wasn’t so bad at first, she’d have trouble getting around and her muscles became much weaker, but we were able to manage for a while. We actually thought she was getting better, when her condition took a turn for the worst.

“It started with memory loss; small things at first, then the important things. I came home from school one day, and it took me almost an hour to convince her that I was her son. When her aphasia set in, and she could barely communicate, her doctor suggested we take her to art therapy.”

Tony could visibly see how hard it was for the younger man to recount this part of his life. He wanted to assure the man that it wasn’t necessary to continue, but before he could even open his mouth, Steve went on.

“On some level, part of me knew that art therapy wasn’t going to heal her completely. At that point, she had lost the ability to walk on her own. I didn’t have hope for much improvement, but it was amazing to see the changes that art therapy brought to her life. She took painting classes once a week; they not only helped improve her mood, but they helped with her hand coordination. In a matter of months, she was able to feed herself again.

“The most amazing thing was that her therapists were able to teach her how to speak again, through music. The last month of her life was a gift I never thought I would get. Every day during lunch I would visit her; we’d talk about life and laugh about old memories I’d thought were lost to her. In the end, it was another stroke that ended my mom’s life, but I promised her I would live my life doing what her therapists did for us.”

Tony couldn’t help but notice the way Steve’s voice broke towards the end of his story. He tried not to look as the younger man wiped at his eyes. He wanted nothing more than to fix this somehow; make this less sad. But Tony pressed on, digging to learn more.

“How old were you during all of this?”

“I was eleven when my mom had her first stroke, fifteen when she passed away.”

They sat in silence for what felt like years. This simply would not do for Tony.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I lost both of my parents in a car crash when I was ten so you know…I know how much it sucks.”

Tony internally cringed at just how horrible his last statement was. As he worked over an apology in his mind, the sound of laughter startled him. He looked up to see the blond trying, unsuccessfully, to suppress his laughter. When he saw the confused look on Tony’s face, Steve finally offered an explanation.

“I appreciate the effort Tony, but you’re pretty horrible at trying to console people.”

“I will have you know that I am amazing at consoling people.”

Tony said, pretending to be much more offended than he really was.

“Oh ok, sorry. You don’t suck at consoling people, just me.”

Steve said, around a small laugh. It felt good to see that smile back on his face. Tony figured now was as good a time as any to ask his burning question.

“Is there any way I could help during more sessions?”

Steve looked at him, genuinely considering the question.

“You really had that much fun today?”

Tony took a moment to think back on not only the session from earlier, but also their time at lunch too.

“Yeah…I really did. I usually don’t get a chance to be so hands on with grant recipients, but I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.”

The smile that Tony received from the younger man warmed his heart. He wished that he could freeze this moment and save that smile forever.

“I’m sure there are a few classes that you could help out with…but I’m gunna need to cash in that rain check for driving your Camaro. If I’m going to be forced to hang out with you and let you help around the clinic, I’ll need to start getting something out of this too.”

The brunet couldn’t help but laugh at that.

“Well, I was going to ask you back to the shop to show you some of my mind blowing tech, but I guess we could just take a drive instead.”

“…or both.”

Steve offered nervously.

“I guess if I’m holding you as my friend-hostage, both would be ideal.”

The pair of them sat there, grinning like idiots as they finished their lunch. Tony didn’t care how much trouble he’d be in with Pepper for any of this. In that moment, he knew that Steve was worth it.

 

   

It had only been as week since that first day that Tony sat in on a therapy session. In that short amount of time, Steve felt his feelings for the genius grow stronger. It was a bold move on his part to invite himself over for the drive, but he couldn’t bring himself to regret it. Once they arrived at Tony’s mansion, they looked at a few of his (rather impressive) robots and a few things he was working on in his spare time. Then they took the Camaro out on the town.

At first Steve had no idea where to go. He wanted to make that evening last, for more than one reason. Once he got behind the wheel he just drove, his body seeming to know where they were headed before his mind did. During the ride the two men talked about the little things, argued over music, and just enjoyed each other's company. Once they had reached their destination, Steve felt his face grow warmer. They were at his favorite park, where there was an area overlooking the city.

“Why’d you choose this place?”

Tony asked taking in their surroundings.

“I come here to draw sometimes when I need to clear my head. My dad and I used to come up here when I was younger, so I figure what better place to being his favorite car than here.”

It was after that statement, with much convincing from Tony, that they sat on the hood of the car and just watched the world go by in peace.

 

Steve thought back on that evening as he nervously walked through the art room triple checking everything.

“You would think we were expecting a visit from the Lord himself with how nervous you are.”

Bucky said, taking a bite of an apple as he walked into the room.

“Really Buck… you’re eating now? The kids will be here shortly, and Tony will be here any second now.”

Steve stated, making sure every easel had a full set of drawing supplies.

“Oh, sorry, I forgot Tony  is coming. Better make sure I look good enough for when Sir Start arrives.”

Steve stopped in his tracks and sent a glare across the room to his best friend.

“Don’t be a dick, ok. I just want to make sure everything goes smoothly.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Bucky murmured under his breath as he quickly finished his snack, As if on cue, Tony walked into the room.

“Knock knock.”

He said, removing his sunglasses. Steve looked up, and felt his heart begin to beat just a little bit faster. The man in front of him looked good… really good. For a man who wore suits that were worth  more than Steve could imagine, he looked absolutely amazing in just jeans and a t-shirt. Steve’s brain slowly started working again as he remembered the small gift he had for the brunet.

“Oh, we got you a Shield staff shirt. We figured if you’re going to be helping out on a regular basis, it’d be best if you looked like the rest of the employees.

“Plus we wouldn’t want to to ruin your nice clothes. I’m sure that shirt is worth more than what I make in a month.”

Bucky said, retrieving the shirt from the supply closet.

“I bought this shirt for $10 at Macy’s…”

Tony whispered to Steve. The blond just chuckled and shook his head as the genius took his shirt from Bucky. To Steve’s surprise, the man just changed his shirt right there. Steve’s mouth went dry for a moment as he quickly glanced at the tanned firm stomach that peeked out from the wifebeater Tony wore under his shirt. Their eyes met for a brief second, as the brunet pulled his new shirt on. Before either man could say anything, the kids for that day’s session began to file in.

As Bucky worked on getting the kids settled, Steve moved past Tony, his breath hitched as the older man brushed against him. If he didn’t know any better, Steve would have sworn Tony was doing all of this on purpose. He quickly shook the thought from his mind, reminding himself that no matter what they were there for these children.

This group always held a special place in Steve’s heart, because he knew what it was like to be in their shoes. Every kid in that room had lost both of their parents. As part of their group therapy, they would come to the Shield clinic to use drawing to help them heal. When Tony first asked to help with their sessions, Steve knew that this would be perfect for him. Those who knew the pain of losing the most important people in their lives seemed to have an unspoken bond. The second he saw Tony interacting with the small group of kids, Steve knew he was in trouble. Whatever feeling he was harboring for the older man was growing into something that the blond didn’t dare to name. He couldn’t believe the amount of care Tony took, assisting the children who needed help. But what really got to him was how the brunet was continuously drawn to one patient who was seemingly having a difficult time.

“Hey sunshine, what’s the matter?”

Steve heard the older man ask, crouching down next to the young girl.

“This is just so hard. I know that I’m supposed to find a way to put my sad feelings on this paper, but I don’t know how to draw them.”

“Well, how about I sit with you. I’ll get my own piece of paper, and we’ll figure this out together.”

The girl sheepishly nodded, as Tony moved to gather drawing supplies. He caught Steve’s eye, and the younger man couldn’t help but extend a small smile filled with gratitude, adoration, and every other emotion Steve couldn’t quite pin point.

As he continued to walk around, giving encouraging words and lending a hand to the kids who needed it, Steve continued to exchange smiles and glances with Tony. It all seemed so familiar, and yet so new; something had shifted between the two of them. It may have had something to do with their drive the other day, or just being there together to help those kids, but there was no mistaking the change in the air. It was nearly impossible for Steve to concentrate on anything else during the session. By the time they had wrapped up class, Steve was nearly beside himself hoping that Tony would ask him to lunch again.

“Well, I should head out, I’ve got a lot to take care of at Stark Industries.”

The brunet said, once the kids had cleared out of the room. Steve felt the smile fall from his face at that. Seeing the saddened look on his face, Tony scrambled to fix what he had unintentionally ruined.

“I’m free for dinner tonight though...if you wanted to talk over today’s session.”

Steve felt like an idiot for being so transparent, but he couldn’t help but eagerly jump at the chance.

“Well I’m sure you have a report to complete about your visit, so it’d probably be best if we met up.”

The two stood there somewhat awkwardly, before Tony made a move to leave.

“Alright well… I’ll see you tonight at 7 then, my place?”

“Sounds good”

Steve watched as the older man left the room. The second Tony was gone, Bucky shoved at the blond’s shoulder.

“What the fuck was that?”

He asked in a tone that indicated that he meant business.

“What are you talking about?”

Steve asked, spinning to face his friend.

“That shit between you and Stark during today’s session. The fuck was that?”

Buck was obviously upset, but for the life of him, Steve couldn’t figure out what he’d done. Despite the endless internal struggle that he was dealing with, Steve did try not to display his feelings, or he thought he had at least.

“That look you gave him while he was changing his shirt, and the fact that the two of you were making eyes at each other during the entire session.”

“Making eyes… how old are you?”

Steve asked, surprised by the old phrase

“Don’t try to change the subject Rodgers…”

Steve winced slightly at the use of his last name. Bucky only referred to him as ‘Roger’ when he was really upset.

“I asked you when this all started if this would be an issue. You promised me that this wouldn’t happen.”

“Buck, nothing’s happened. Nothing has changed.”

“Like hell it hasn’t. Sam told me that you two went to lunch the last time he came by, and you practically disappeared for the rest of the day. You’re letting this guy have run of the place, to just come and go as he pleases, and for what? It’d be a lot easier to just give him what he wants and be done with it.”

“What are you trying to say?”

Steve asked, narrowing his eyes.

“You know this man’s reputation Steve, don’t be so dense. A guy like that is only interested in one thing. So if you’re gonna fuck then just get it over with, but don’t drag this clinic, our patients or our friends into this.”

Bucky spat out. It took a moment for Steve to realize the weight of his friend’s statement. But once it settled on him, anger washed over him.

“I’m only going to say this once, so listen good. Don’t you ever question whether I have this clinic’s best interest at heart. Shield means more to me than you’ll ever realize, and the last thing I need is for you tell me how to conduct myself.”

“Somebody fucking has to, you’re making an ass of yourself. Walking around here making goo-goo eyes at Stark like you’re a lovesick puppy. What are you going to do when he loses interest after the chase is over?”

“Fuck you.”

Steve spat out with more venom behind his words than he’d ever had before.

“Excuse you?”

Bucky asked, not backing down.

“You don’t know a thing about Tony. He’s a good man, which should be evident enough by the fact that he’s funding this clinic for the next year. You have made no effort whatsoever to get to know the man who is so generously giving us this gift. I don’t know what the stick up your ass is all about, but you need to get over it.”

“I wouldn’t have a stick up my ass if you would stop falling for guys who aren’t right for you.”

Steve’s expression softened at that. Bucky was the first person he came out to back during his first year of college. He knew that Bucky wanted nothing but the best for him, but his need to be so overprotective often caused them trouble.

“Look, you’re like my little brother, ok? I can’t just have you running around swooning after every guy in a nice suit. I want you to be happy but you’ve got to stop going after guys who are only going to hurt you.”

Steve wanted to defend Tony until he was blue in the face. Lord only knows why, but he needed Bucky to see the genius the same way he did. He wanted to fight for this, but deep down some part of him knew that his friend meant well. Steve stepped forward and wrapped his arms around the man in front of him.

“Thank you.”

He muttered.

“You’re…welcome?”

Bucky asked, thoroughly confused.

“Thank you for always being the annoyingly over protective older brother I never really asked for. I appreciate your concern, but you’re eventually going to have to trust me and the choices that I make.”

Steve pulled away, smirking at his friend.

“Yeah, ok…whatever.”

Bucky said, lightly punching the blond’s chest. Steve gave a small laugh, attempting to dodge the second punch aimed at the same spot and made his way out of the room. Their arguments had always ended this way. Neither of them really finalizing anything, just going their separate ways. As Steve made his way towards his office, he heard Bucky mutter one last thing.

“It’s not you I don’t trust…”

 

Tony strolled into his favorite restaurant almost 30 minutes late for his lunch date with Rhodey. He walked up to a table to see his friend, visibly upset.

“Well hello there, mister grumpy face.”

Tony said taking a seat.

“Don’t give me that crap.”

Rhodey muttered.

“Whoa whoa, what is that attitude for?”

“You do realize you’re half an hour late, right? And when I called Pepper to ask if you were on your way, she was a little less than pleased to find out that you hadn’t been with me the whole time.”

Tony stopped, midway through buttering a roll, at Rhodey’s statement. He had intentionally left out certain details when he informed Pepper of his lunch with Rhodey. The biggest detail being that he was making an hour and a half long pit stop to help out at Steve’s clinic.

“Any chance either of you would believe I was in really bad traffic?”

Tony asked with a wary smile. When the man in front of him held his stern look, Tony sighed.

“Look, I’m sorry it’s just…”

“It’s just what, Tony? Pepper’s told me all about your current crush, and this needs to stop. You can’t go around pretending that you don’t have a ton of responsibilities anymore. Thought you would have realized that after everything that’s happened.”

This was the type of conversation that Tony had grown used to. Whenever his friends were upset with or disappointed in him they would mention ‘everything that’s happened’ which was the nice way of saying ‘getting kidnapped in Afghanistan’. He knew they meant well, but that didn’t change the fact that these exchanges were so frustrating.

“When are you guys going to stop holding this over my head?”

Tony asked quietly, his question obviously catching his friend off guard.

“Are you kidding me? Neither of us are ‘holding this over your head’. We almost lost you Tony, thank god we didn’t. But we don’t want you to just squander away your second chance on misguided mistakes.”

“Since when did my choice in friends classify as misguided mistakes?”

“The second you decided that you want to date said friend who you’re also giving a large sum of money to.”

Tony pinched the bridge of his nose while he took a deep breath; reminding himself that all of this was coming from a place of concern.

“I’m not sure what exactly you and Pepper think is going on, but Steve and I are just friends. I go over to the clinic to help out sometimes, what’s the issue with that?”

“The issue is that you barely know this guy…”

“I know him well enough to give him a huge grant.”

“That’s your problem Tony, you think that you have to know someone to donate to them. You don’t. This kid is doing something great for this community, but you don’t know his intentions with you. You could be nothing but a bank account to him.”

At that point, Tony snapped.

“I did not go through the hell I experienced in Afghanistan for this. Yinsen didn’t give his life and I didn’t work that hard building this arc reactor just to live my life in fear of people. By your logic I shouldn’t befriend anyone ever again.”

“That’s not what I meant…”

“But that’s what you said.”

Rhodey gave a frustrated sigh.

“There’s a difference between living your life and being reckless for the sake of feeling alive.”

Tony knew they would never see eye to eye on this, so he decided to take a different approach.

“I don’t want to keep arguing about this, so I’m going to say this and be done with it. I appreciate that you and Pepper are looking out for me, but at some point you guys will have to realize that I’m an adult. Steve is a good man, with good intentions. You don’t have to like it, but I need you to respect the fact that he’s my friend.”

Rhodey considered the man in front of him before shrugging and shaking his head.

“I guess you’d just do whatever you wanted to do anyway, so there’s no point in trying to stop you. But just…be careful ok?”

“Careful is my middle name!”

“Are you sure about that? Because the amount of explosions you’ve had in your lab would indicate otherwise.”

Tony stuck his tongue out, as he picked up a menu. Though he knew Rhodey would drop the subject of Steve, he couldn’t help but notice the look of concern and disappointment plastered on his friend’s face.

 

“I don’t even understand what you’re telling me right now.”

“I don’t like Twizzlers, Tony, this is hardly something out of the ordinary.”

“There’s nothing ordinary about this. Everyone likes Twizzlers.”

Steve found himself giving a small laugh as he took another bite of his Chinese takeout. He sat on the couch of Tony’s living room preparing to watch some horror flick.

“Look Steve, I bought you these Twizzlers so you had something to snack on while we watched the movie.”

“I have actual food here, why do I need to snack on anything? Besides, I don’t remember agreeing to eat gross candy when I agreed to be your friend-hostage.”

Steve said taking a swig of his coke.

“This is what I get for trying to be a hospitable host.”

Tony replied with a huff as he took a bite of the Twizzler he had in hand.

Steve took a moment to really consider everything. Despite having Bucky’s words from earlier ringing in his ears, he couldn’t help but swoon over the man in front of him. He had been trying, unsuccessfully, for weeks now to pretend that he didn’t feel anything for the brunet. But Steve quickly realized that he’d be better off letting things play out however they were meant to. So it was in that moment, while listening to Tony ramble on about what constituted as the best movie time snack, that Steve decided to go with whatever the world had in store for them.

 

  

In the month that they had been spending time together, this thing that Tony and Steve had between them had managed to blossom into an amazing friendship. At first, they would make excuses to see each other, and for a while, it seemed as though they only ever worked on things pertaining to the grant. That was the only bulletproof excuse that they could use to spend time together, until even that didn’t hold up. It took only a few days for their friends to see right through their rouse, and after that, things seemingly got easier.

They were free to spend time together whenever they wanted, but they fell into a routine. Most nights they would watch terrible horror movies over takeout at Tony’s. Every so often, though, they would spend a quiet night in at Steve’s where he would make a home cooked meal. In such a short amount of time, Steve and Tony had become closer than either of them ever expected. Most days, Steve felt as though he and Tony were dating. He took it upon himself to pick up after the genius, to scold him about forgetting to eat, and to encourage him with projects that gave him difficulties. He hated to admit it, but more often than not, Steve would daydream about what it would feel like to hold the older man’s hand or to kiss his lips. He never acted on any of his fantasies, but as the days went on, he found himself wanting to ask Tony what exactly they were.

Steve decided, after he and Tony had fallen asleep together during a movie, that he would ask his burning question the next time they brunet paid a visit to the their clinic. As luck would have it, today was that day. Tony had showed up to assist with the therapy group for the orphaned children, and Steve was a complete wreck. His heart was beating a mile a minute, and all he could focus on was Tony. Sam was gracious enough to take over leading this session when he saw how scattered his friend was. Once the session was over, Steve practically cornered Tony.

“Hey… so uh….”

The blond stammered, rubbing the back of his neck. Tony just gave him a puzzled smile.

“Do you want to come over later tonight? We can start the Paranormal Activity films if you’d like.”

Steve took a moment, and sighed. He was internally kicking himself for getting so worked up over this.

“Yeah Tony, that sounds great.”

The older man gave a wide smile before heading out. As Steve looked on after his friend, he couldn’t help but think of how great it would be to call Tony Stark his.

Tony sat through yet another meeting with the Maria Stark Foundation board. Today’s topic was the annual recipient gala, where all those who’d received grants for that year, as well as businesses in the area attend. The genius was itching to get out of that room. The sooner he got home, the sooner he could see Steve which, these days, was all he really cared about. Tony had no idea what to call whatever he and Steve had, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t absolutely love it.

“What do you think Mr. Stark?”

One of the board members asked, looking at him hopefully. Tony looked around the room searching for any indication of what was going on, but just shrugged and gave a smile.

“I think it’s great!”

The woman’s face broke into a beaming smile as she called an end to the meeting.

“Great meeting today everyone. See you all on Saturday.”

Tony froze at that, the gala was in five days, and he had managed to completely let that slip from his mind. He was freaking out internally, when Pepper approached him.

“You had no idea the gala was this weekend, did you?!”

“Yes….?”

Tony asked, not sure how to answer the question, Pepper just rolled her eyes and handed him a thin folder.

“I’ve placed an order for your suit, you have a fitting on Thursday, and you have an appointment to get your hair cut after work Friday. Got it?”

Tony gently hugged the woman in front of him.

“I’d be lost without you. ”

“Obviously. Now try to get something done before you leave tonight.”

Pepper said over her shoulder as she left the room. Tony couldn’t help but think of how lucky he was to have a friend like Pepper, when a thought crossed his mind. He needed a date for this gala, and he had the perfect candidate in mind.

 

Steve sat on Tony’s couch wringing his hands in his lap as the brunet laid out two boxes of pizza on the table. Every time he managed to muster up the courage to talk to Tony about where they stood, he’d look at the man and lose all of his confidence. With a slice of pizza in hand, the genius turned toward the younger man.

“What’s up? You’re acting all weird.”

Steve froze, feeling his face grow warmer.

“I um…well I wanted to talk to you about something.”

As he spoke, it seemed that a light went on in Tony’s mind.

“Ah, that reminds me, I know you’re going to the gala this weekend, so I was wondering if maybe you wanted to be my date.”

The blond sat there dumbfounded for a moment, taking in the hopeful look on Tony’s face. Steve gave a small smile before he nodded his head.

“Tony, I would love to be your date on Saturday.”

“Really?! I mean...yeah, great. Awesome. So what was it you wanted to talk about?”

Steve’s face fell as he remembered what his intentions were when he came over. Though it wasn’t a definitive answer, Steve took Tony’s asking him to the gala as confirmation that he and the older man were on the same page. Steve wracked his brain for anything else to bring up.

“I wanted…to talk about…your questionable pizza topping choices.”

“Questionable? Excuse you, there is nothing questionable about anything I like.”

Tony said, taking an exaggerated bite of his pizza.

“Well I guess you did just ask me to the gala with you, so clearly you have some good taste.”

The older man looked Steve up and down before giving a flirtatious grin.

“Well, you’re not wrong.”

 

Tony was on cloud nine the next day as he made his way into work. Somehow, Tony had gotten lucky enough to have Steve agree to be his date Saturday. The brunet was unsure of whether Steve felt the same way about him, but now he was sure of it. Come Saturday night, Tony was going to ask the younger man to take their relationship to the next level, and he couldn’t be more excited about it. When the car came to a stop, Tony was a little more than puzzled. He had subconsciously driven to the Shield Clinic. Though he really did need to get to work, he decided to just stop in and say hi to Steve. As Tony walked through the clinic, he overheard the blond’s voice. Not wanting to interrupt, he opted to eavesdrop. It sounded as though Steve and whomever he was speaking to were walking towards him. Tony took care to hide in one of the classrooms as the younger man and a brown haired woman walked by. As they approached Steve’s office, the pair of them stopped.

“I really can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done.”

The woman said, looking up at the man in front of her.

“Really…it’s nothing.”

Steve said, giving her a warm smile. The woman stepped forward to wrap her arms around the blond.

“Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without you, Steve. I love you.”

As the woman rose up on her toes to press a kiss on Steve’s cheek, his face took on a slightly pink hue.

“Love you too Peggy.”

Tony’s heart sank in that moment. He waited for Steve and ‘Peggy’ to leave before he made his way out of the clinic. He didn’t know how to feel about what he had just seen. As Tony made his way to work, he could feel everything slipping away. All that he had wanted was crashing down around him, and this was a pain Tony was not sure he could cope with.

 

  

Tony sat at the bar, knocking back yet another drink. Ever since he found out about Steve’s girlfriend, he had been more than apprehensive about attending the gala with his date. He picked Steve up from his apartment right at 6:30, and dammit if the blond didn’t look the cutest that Tony had ever seen him. He wore a dark blue suit that fit every inch of his body like a glove. Tony wasn’t proud of the whimper that escaped his lips as Steve stepped in his car. But if the younger man noticed, he didn’t call attention to it.

Tony tried to put on his best smile and act as excited as he could, but he knew that Steve could tell that something was off. They tried to make small talk on the short ride to the gala, but Tony just couldn’t muster up enough energy to keep up with Steve’s cheery conversation.

Once they arrived at the gala, Steve went to mingle with the other grant recipients, while Tony headed straight for the bar. His intention was to grab a drink or two then make the rounds, playing the part of the happy philanthropist. But by the time he had finished his fifth whisky sour, it was obvious that Tony would be spending the night drowning his sorrows.

Tony spent the next hour watching everyone around him enjoy themselves as he wallowed in self-pity. It hurt knowing that he let himself fall so fast for someone who was so obviously not interested. He couldn’t help but wonder if he was so desperate for love and affection that he had just ignored the signs that Steve was already taken. Tony’s pity party was interrupted when someone took a seat next to him.

“Well this is awkward. The gala host shouldn’t also be the gala wallflower.”

Tony cringed at the voice beside him. He turned and looked the man up and down.

“Justin Hammer. I’d say it’s nice to see you, but not even I am a good enough liar for either of us to believe that.”

“Oh come on Stark, I get invited to this thing every year, can we finally just bury the hatchet?”

“I’m pretty happy with where the hatchet is now, so…no to that, but thank you.”

Tony turned to leave, when Justin quickly jumped in front of him.

“Can we at least act civil towards each other for one night? How ‘bout I get you a drink?”

“How ‘bout you get me a drink then leave me alone?”

Tony usually wasn’t so abrasive when interacting with Justin, but he had a nice buzz going and couldn’t manage to drum up the energy to care at this point. Justin just laughed off the comment as a bartender appeared with another drink.

“For you.”

Justin said, placing the glass on the countertop.

“Now would be the part where you leave.”

Justin just looked at Tony, that slimy smile plastered on his face as he placed a hand on Tony’s shoulder.

“Enjoy the rest of your night, Tony.”

The genius watched as Justin crossed the room and wrapped his arm around some leggy blonde in a short dress. Tony couldn’t help but think how attractive the woman was, save for the creepy weasel standing beside her.

“Hey there stranger.”

Tony spun around to see Steve sitting beside him.

“Oh uh…hey.”

The pair of them sat there silently before Steve cleared his throat.

“This mansion is amazing.”

“Yeah, we use it specifically for charity events. Pepper thinks it’s crazy that I’ve furnished every room in this house, but what’s the point of having billions if you can’t furnish a house you don’t even live in.”

Steve chuckled as he played with the glass of whatever Justin ordered.

“You’re more than welcome to that drink.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’ve had more than enough for the both of us tonight.”

Tony studied the slightly worried look on the blond’s face, and suddenly felt a surge of guilt. His hurt feelings and bruised ego weren’t the younger man’s fault. Despite his hopes for a relationship, being shattered, Tony reminded himself that Steve was still his friend, and that would have to be enough. As Steve took a sip of his drink, Tony smiled at him.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you drink alcohol before.”

Steve took another sip, before nodding with a smile.

“Well I’ll have to invite you the next time Sam, Bucky, Natasha and I go out. Drunk Steve is something that everyone should experience at least once.”

“Oh, is that right? What can one expect from drunk Steve?”

“I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that a lot of horrible singing happens, as well as a lot of giggling.”

Tony laughed as the younger man polished off his drink. He considered the man in front of him, and felt foolish for how he’d handled the night. Having Steve in his life, whether as a lover or a good friend, was more than what he felt he deserved. Tony promised himself that he would never take any relationship he had with Steve for granted again.

 

Everything started happening so fast. Not thirty minutes after Steve had sat down with him, Tony found himself straddling the blond with his tongue practically down the man’s throat. Tony had no idea what was going on, one minute they were talking, the next they were leaning on each other walking down the hallway looking for a quiet place to sit and talk. It seemed as though all the alcohol had hit Tony the second the pair of them stood from the bar, so when Steve shoved him into the nearest bedroom and started kissing the life out of him, the genius went with it.

As they sat on the bed making out, Tony could feel Steve’s rather impressive erection through his pants. The brunet shamelessly ground down on the man below him, and elicited the most delicious moan he’d ever heard. Steve quickly made an effort to remove Tony’s suit jacket and shirt, but he made a desperate whine when his efforts got him nowhere.

“I need this off of you…now.”

The younger man said tugging at Tony’s clothes. He stood and quickly shucked his shirt and jacket, gracelessly. Before he reclaimed his seat, he watched as Steve stripped down to nothing but his boxers. Tony nearly landed on his face as he attempted to remove his pants. Luckily, when he stood up, Steve was laying down, feet hanging over the edge of the bed and firmly planted on the floor, with his eyes closed. Tony gingerly sat himself on Steve’s lap and marveled at the cock sitting so close to his.

“God, I bet you taste amazing.”

“Go ahead and find out.”

Tony looked up, shocked at what Steve had said.

“Wh…what?”

The brunet stuttered.

“I said go ahead and find out. You’re more than welcome to put my dick in your mouth if you’d like.”

Tony’s mouth went dry. A lot of things happened when he got drunk, but he’d never hallucinated or imagined conversations like this before.

“I…is this really happening?”

Steve sat up on an elbow, and looked the older man up and down. When Tony continued looking on in disbelief, the blond rolled his eyes and flipped them over. Tony landed on the bed with an audible ‘oof’, as the younger man smirked down at him.

“Well I could fuck you straight into next week if that’d help you believe that this is really happening.”

Steve whispered before kissing a trail down Tony’s jaw and neck. It took a moment for Tony to remember to breathe, and without thinking he just blurted out the first thing that came to his mind.

“We don’t have a condom…”

Steve looked at Tony seriously for a moment before raising an eyebrow. Tony nervously shrugged and the blond dropped his head.

“Ugh, fine. We’ll just work with what we do have.”

Without any warning, Steve slid down Tony’s body, removing the man’s boxers and promptly swallowing him whole. A choked off moan escaped Tony’s mouth as he felt the warm wet heat around his cock.

“Fuck Steve, you feel so good.”

Tony uttered as he felt Steve’s tongue circled around his head. The brunet made the mistake of looking down to see Steve at work, and almost regretted it immediately. The blond was looking straight up at him, hair disheveled with spit slick red lips wrapped firmly around the dick in his mouth. Tony had to pull Steve up for a kiss immediately, for fear that he would come solely because of the scene he had just witnessed.

Steve kissed Tony as if his life depended on it. They kissed until they were both gasping for air, and when they separated, their eyes met. Tony watched as Steve’s gaze drifted down towards the arc reactor.

“I bet this would look absolutely amazing with my cum all over it.”

Steve stated absentmindedly, as he traced the metal. Tony couldn’t help but moan at that.

“God I would love to draw you like this, splayed out and ready. Willing to let me do whatever I wanted with you.”

Tony was jerking himself at this point. The dirty talk coming from the younger man made him eager to find his release. Almost immediately, Tony felt something swat his hand away from his erection.

“If anyone is going to get you off, it’s going to be me.”

Steve said in a stern voice that made Tony’s cock twitch. He was desperate to come, and shamelessly started rubbing against the leg between his own. Steve gently grabbed both of their cocks in hand and gave an experimental tug. Both men moaned in unison at the amazing sensation.

“Shit Tony, your dick is amazing. I could do so many things with this dick.”

“Like…ah…like what?”

Tony asked, bucking up into the hand wrapped around him.

“I would swallow you whole just like…before…”

Steve began to thrust in earnest to meet each down stroke of his hand.

“I would open up my throat for you and choke on your cock, all while working myself open.”

Tony couldn’t help but utter a whine at that last statement.

“Mm…then what?”

He asked, willing himself not to come, not yet.

“Then…ah…I’d ask you to fuck me. I’d ask you to completely wreck my tight hole with your amazing cock and pound into me over…ah…and over until I came all over my hand.”

At that, Tony came, a strangled ‘Steve’ leaving his mouth. He came back to just in time to see Steve come, brows knit together with the most pleasure-filled smile on his face. Tony looked on in amazement as the blond licked his fingers clean of their mess. He was not proud of the sound he made upon witnessing such a site, but Steve just let out a single laugh before rolling on to his back.

“That was…”

Tony said, trying to regain his breath.

“Yeah.”

Steve finished for him. Tony wanted to say something else; he hated to leave things there. But before he knew it, his eyes were too heavy for him to hold open. Anything they needed to say could wait until morning. Tony chose to give in to sleep.

 

Steve woke up the next morning feeling groggy and slightly sick. He slowly surveyed his surroundings, and became increasingly alarmed as he realized he had no idea where he was. He shot up in the bed, and turned to see a completely naked Tony sitting next to him. The look on the older man’s face led Steve to believe that he was just as confused.

“What’s going on?”

Steve asked himself cradling his head in his hands. He took in the state of the room, as well as both his and Tony’s lack of clothes, and almost immediately jumped out of bed.

“Whoa there Steve.”

The brunet said, rubbing his head.

“Don’t ‘whoa there’ me, you asshole.”

Steve spat out, as he stumbled around locating his clothes.

“Is everything alright?”

Tony asked, seemingly sobering up at Steve’s serious tone.

“Really, Tony this was low, even for you.”

Steve was having more trouble dressing himself than he wanted to let on. He just needed to make himself decent enough to get home.

“What? What the fuck are you talking about?”

Steve shot a look at the older man, not quite meeting his eyes.

“You drugged me.”

“Excuse me?”

If he didn’t have the genius’ attention before, he sure did now.

“I know the signs, Tony, and I know you drugged me.”

Steve made his way to the door as best he could, nearly collapsing in the doorway. When Tony made a slight move to help him, Steve spun to avoid him.

“Don’t you dare fucking touch me, ever again.”

Steve spat through clenched teeth. He didn’t know how, but he needed to get out of this mansion. Steve didn’t care if he had to crawl home; he just needed to put as much distance between himself and Tony Stark as possible.

 

 

It only took a few minutes of stumbling around for Steve to realize that he wouldn’t be able to make it home. Part of him just wanted to collapse and hope that someone would come to his aid. Another part of him couldn’t bare to look at anyone after what had just happened. He remembered how nervous he felt, the night before, when Tony arrived to pick him up. He remembered his heart skipping a beat as he first laid eyes on Tony in his suit. Steve even remembered the sinking feeling he had as Tony seemingly avoided him for a portion of the night. What he couldn’t remember, no matter how hard he desperately wracked his brain, was how he ended up completely naked and in bed with Tony.

It pained Steve to think of how someone he trusted, who he was falling for, could do something so despicable. The more he thought about it, the more overwhelmed he felt. Steve finally had to stop to collect himself. Leaning against a wall at the corner of the street, Steve realized that he was on the verge of breaking down. He took in the area around him, and realized he was only a block away from Sam’s apartment. Knowing that he was so close to a safe haven, Steve willed himself to keep it together for just a bit longer.

When he finally made it, he began to shake. It took everything he had to make it this far, and all Steve wanted was to sleep. He raised his hand to knock at the door in front of him, and a surprised look came across Steve’s face as he saw a flash of red hair. Natasha looked Steve up and down, her concern evident on her face.

“Oh my God, Steve are you ok?”

He wanted to be strong enough to tell her what had happened, but he couldn’t find the energy to push himself, physically or emotionally. When he did open his mouth, all that came out was a sob. Steve finally let everything go, as he fell to his knees and cried.

 

Steve woke up feeling sore but not nearly as drained as he had when he had first arrived on Sam’s doorstep. After he cried his eyes out, surrounded by an utterly confused Sam and Natasha, Steve practically passed out the moment he curled up on the couch. As he sat up, Steve noticed that Bucky had joined them while he was asleep. The second his friends realized he was awake, they swarmed around him.

“Steve, what the hell happened to you?”

Bucky asked taking a seat at Steve’s feet. He wanted to spit everything out, but he could barely look anyone in the eye. Several seconds of silence went by before Steve finally spoke.

“Can I uh… can I talk to Natasha alone?”

“Steve, you just showed up here looking like hell, cried, then practically blacked out for hours. It’d be nice if you let all of us help…”

Bucky stated, making Steve shrink in on himself further. Natasha placed a hand on the brunet’s shoulder before giving him a stern look. Bucky sighed but stood to follow Same to his bedroom. The second they were alone, Natasha looked over Steve’s face.

“You were drugged weren’t you?”

“How could you tell?”

Steve asked, slightly amazed.

“With all the counseling we’ve done, I’ve learned to notice the signs. First of all, is everything… are you ok physically?”

Steve winced a little at that. He had been through this before with other students during college. He knew exactly what she was asking him.

“I um… nothing hurts. other than my entire body but that’s mainly because of the walk here.”

“Do you remember anything?”

“I remember the beginning of the night, and waking up this morning.”

“Were you alone?”

Steve hadn’t noticed Natasha slowly inching closer. As he let everything sink in, his head fell into his hands. Natasha rubbed his back soothingly, as she waited for a response.

“I woke up in bed with him. Neither of us were wearing anything, but once I realized what happened I got out of there as fast as I could… How could I have been so stupid? How did I let this happen?”

“Hey, you didn’t ‘let’ this happen to you, Someone that you trusted drugged and took advantage of you. That’s hardly your fault.”

“That bastard did WHAT?”

Steve and Natasha both turned to see Bucky storming back into the living room.

“Bucky…”

Natasha said in a stern voice.

“No, don’t ‘Bucky’ me. I told Steve to stay away from that guy, and this is the shit that happens. I don’t care how much money Stark is giving us, I’ll fucking kill him for this.”

“James… Outside, now.”

Natasha dragged Bucky out of Sam’s apartment, making sure to grab her keys and her bag on the way out.

“You ok?”

Sam asked, cautiously taking a seat on the couch.

“Bucky’s right you know.”

Steve practically whispered.

“How so?”

“Everybody told me to stay away from him and I just wouldn’t listen. I guess this is what I get for being so stupid.”

Sam gave a heavy sigh, as he slid to sit on the floor in front of Steve.

“Choosing to see the best in people doesn’t make you stupid, and you know that.”

“I just… I wish I had seen this coming.”

“With guys like Stark, you never would have seen any signs. You saw what he wanted you to see.”

Steve considered Sam’s words. Some small part of him wanted to fight this. He had become so smitten with Tony in the previous weeks and he wanted to believe that that man was real. Sadness washed over Steve as he began to realize that the Tony he knew probably didn’t exist. Sam seemingly noticed the change of emotion in the man in front of him. He reached out to gently grab Steve’s knee.

“Look, why don’t you just relax, and I’ll make you lunch.”

Steve took in Sam’s smile and gave a small nid. He couldn’t help but to think how lucky he was to have such good friends. He knew he would need their love and support to help get him through the mess he had gotten himself into.

 

“Tony, I told you to back off, I told you to stay away exactly for this very reason, why couldn’t you just listen to me?”

Pepper yelled, pacing back and forth in front of Tony.

After waking up that morning in bed next to Steve, Tony felt confused, but happy. Once Steve stormed out of the room, claiming he’d been drugged, Tony couldn’t think straight. He called for Happy to pick him up and practically crawled up the steps to his house. Tony just wanted to sleep off his hangover, but Pepper came barreling in only 20 minutes after he got home. Question after question kept flying Tony’s way about the gala, and when he finally opened up, Pepper practically exploded. The worst part was he hadn’t even told her about what Steve accused him of doing.

“I just… I’m sorry Pepper, ok?”

“You’re ‘sorry’? Ugh, Tony that isn’t going to cut it today”

“Listen, there’s more to this than what I initially told you.”

“Wonderful.”

Pepper said, visibly upset with the topic at hand. Tony didn’t know how to tell Pepper, let alone anyone else about this. He could barely wrap his head around everything that happened, so how could he expect that of anyone else?

“I um… I’m not really sure how to say this, but Steve uh…”

“Just spit it out Tony.”

Pepper said, around an exasperated sigh.

“Steve thinks… he thinks I drugged him.”

Pepper sat there for a long moment, eyes gone wide at what she had just heard.

“Did you?”

She asked barely above a whisper.

“NO! I told you, I was drowning my sorrows because I found out he a girlfriend. I’m not trying to go after him, and besides I would never do that to anyone.”

“Do you think he’s lying? Maybe to get more money out of us?”

Tony had never given her a more outraged look in his life.

“Don’t even go down that road. Steve would never do anything like that.”

“I’m just trying to figure this whole mess out! We know you didn’t drug Steve, but what if he goes public with this? Our stocks will plummet for sure, and who knows what this disaster will do to Stark Industries or the foundation for that matter…”

“I don’t care.”

Tony all but whispered.

“Excuse me?”

Pepper asked, looking Tony right in the eyes.

“I said I don’t care. I don’t care how many people stop buying Stark Industries products and I don’t care what the tabloids are going to say. The only thing I care about is that I took advantage of Steve when I thought he was in control. I hurt the one person who has been a constant ray of hope in my life since the mess in Afghanistan happened. That  is all that matters to me, Pepper. Not how low our stocks get or how much money I lose. I hurt Steve and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make this right.”

Pepper raised her hand to her forehead, shutting her eyes as she sighed.

“Look, it may seem as though I don’t care about what happened to Steve, but trust me… I do. I can’t imagine what he’s going through right now. But I wouldn’t be a very good friend or CEO, if I didn’t worry about what this means for the company and, more importantly, you”

“I know you mean well…”

Tony said, holding his head in his hands. He was surprised to feel a hand on his knee, and when he looked up, he saw Pepper sitting beside him.

“This isn’t going to be easy, but we’ll figure this out, you just have to let Rhodey and I help you.”

The sheer look of terror on Tony’s face might have been considered comical if not for the situation at hand.

“Oh no… no! We cannot tell Rhodey about this.”

“Oh calm down, he was going to find out anyway. But if we’re going to get to the bottom of this, you know we’ll need his help.”

Tony let all of this sink. On one hand, he was grateful for friends like Pepper and Rhodey. But on the other hand, he never wanted for them to have to bail him out of a situation like this.

“Do you think things will be ok in the end?”

Tony asked in the smallest voice that had ever left his lips.

Pepper gave him a sad smile as she soothingly rubbed his knee.

“Honestly Tony, I’m not sure this is something you can work your way out of.”

 

 

It had been three days since the gala. Three days since Tony got to see Steve’s smile, hear his voice, and touch his skin. During the entirety of those three days, Tony had worked tirelessly to figure out who had drugged Steve.

During the first day, all he had to work with was a list of the staff on hand from that night. He did vigorous background checks on everyone, but nothing suspicious turned up. On the second day, Tony had the bright idea to cross-reference the staff and the gala attendees, but unfortunately he came up empty handed again. It wasn’t until day three when Tony was able to get his hands on the security tapes that any progress was made. He was on his fifth time watching the tape when he heard footsteps behind him.

“How long have you been down here?”

Tony didn’t have to turn around to know that it was Rhodey.

“Uh…this is day three in the workshop.”

“And how much sleep have you gotten?”

“Would you be mad if I said none?”

Tony couldn’t take his eyes off of the video playing in front of him. He didn’t want to miss anything that could have been vital information. Suddenly, he felt himself being swung around, turning to finally face his friend.

“Tony, look at me, you need to rest. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by working yourself to death over this.”

“I have to figure this out Rhodey. I owe it to Steve to put everything into this.”

Rhodey sighed before taking a seat next to Tony.

“At least let me help, I’m sure you could use a fresh set of eyes at this point.”

A weak smile spread across Tony’s face as he turned back around to the tape. He had several different angles playing at once, trying to see as much of the night as possible. The pair of them sat in silence taking everything in, until Rhodey made an interested sound.

“Find anything?”

Tony asked, looking over at the screens in front of his friend.

“Well this guy takes an order from Hammer, then on his way to make the drink this guy here says something to him and ends up making the drink. Then the original guy who took the order hands the drink to Hammer before he…”

“Before he what?!”

“You were the target all along.”

Rhodey could see that his comment went right over Tony’s head, so he rewound his portion of the tape to explain everything.

“Why did Hammer order a drink for you?”

“He was trying to be a friendly weasel.”

“Alright, that in itself was sketchy enough, but you never mentioned that the drink was ordered specifically for you. Was it the same as what you had been drinking all night?”

“Well…yeah…”

“So let’s assume Hammer asks the bartender for another of whatever you were drinking, but specified that it was for you. This guy, knowing it’s your drink, comes out of nowhere, makes it, and lets the original bartender deliver it…”

Suddenly, everything clicked.

“I was sitting there alone. No one could have known that Steve would come over…God, I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner.”

Tony said raking his hands through his hair.

“Rhodey, we have to go talk to both of those bartenders. One of them was hired to drug me and we need to find out why.”

“We will, but first you need to sleep.”

“But Rhodey…”

Tony whined. A yaw escaped his mouth almost immediately, validating Rhodey’s demand.

“Listen, go get some rest. I’ll find all the information I can on these two so we can hit the ground running when you wake up.”

As Tony made his way to the couch in his workshop, he felt a surge of hope. They were finally on their way to finding some answers. He just hoped that whatever they found, Steve would be able to forgive him for all of this.

 

Despite everything, Steve had really enjoyed the time he had spent at Sam’s. Of course he missed the patients from the clinic, but if he was being honest, it was nice to have a chance to finally breath. Steve tried his hardest not to think about the events of the gala, but when Sam left for work, Steve found himself wondering about Tony. Even with all that had happened, he missed hearing about what crazy things the older man got himself into. Whenever those kinds of thoughts popped into Steve’s mind, he would feel a sudden wave of sadness wash over him as he remembered that the Tony he knew didn’t exist. It felt as if he was mourning the death of a friend when he thought of the man he had grown so close to.

Before he could get too deep in thought about the turn his life had taken, Steve decided to make dinner for himself and Sam. Cooking was always an outlet for Steve, so he just threw himself into the task at hand. Without realizing it, almost two hours had passed while Steve was preparing dinner. A smile crept it’s way onto his face when he heard Sam come in as he was putting the finishing touches on their meal.

“Well this is a nice surprise.”

Sam said, rounding the corner to look into the kitchen.

“Yeah, I figured if I’m gunna stay here any longer, I might as well start earning my keep.”

“What did you make?”

Sam asked, helping Steve set the table.

“Chicken fried steak, baked potatoes, green beans, and homemade applesauce.”

“I might have to marry you, if it means I’ll get meals like this every day.”

“Oh please, you couldn’t handle all of this if you tried.”

Steve said around a laugh, taking his seat at the dining table. The two of them sat in silence as they enjoyed their food. Steve noticed that Sam kept giving him a look.

“Something wrong?”

Steve finally asked after a few minutes. It took a while for Sam to actually answer, but it looked like he was struggling with whether or not to continue with his thought.

“I haven’t heard you mention Tony or what happened at the gala since the day you got here.”

Steve literally froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. This wasn’t a conversation that he wanted to have, especially not now.

“Sorry I caught you off guard, it’s just you and I both know it’s not good for you to internalize this.”

Sam tried again.

“This isn’t exactly the easiest thing to talk about, especially because I’m not all that sure what happened. I think I know when he drugged me, I just don’t know why. I mean he picked me up, we got to the gala, he stayed glued to the bar all night until I went to talk to him.”

Steve said, resting his head on his hands clasped under his chin.

“You know you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to figure out why he did this. As hard as it is to accept, you might never know what the reason behind his actions are.”

“I think the most frustrating part about this, aside from being taken advantage of, is the fact that he didn’t need to do this. I’ve had feelings for Tony for a while now, and I really wanted a relationship with him. I’m not saying all that happened at the gala would have happened on day one, but we would have gotten there…one day.”

Steve took in the sad look on his friend’s face.

“I just can’t believe someone who’s trying to do so much good for the world could do something this terrible.”

Sam said, shaking his head. Steve finally picked up his fork and continued eating. It was hard enough to talk about what Tony did, but Steve just couldn’t let go of the things he had wanted. Trying to convince himself that his Tony was gone would be difficult, but convincing himself that he could get over the feelings he had for Tony was something Steve wasn’t sure he could do.

 

Once Tony had woken up, he and Rhodey made their way to find Garret, the bartender who made Tony’s drink at the gala. Finding him was harder than they expected, but once they did, he broke in a matter of minutes.

“Who hired you to drug Tony?”

Rhodey asked, grabbing Garret by the front of his shirt.

“Justin Hammer.”

The man spat out, almost in tears. Though he had no idea what Justin’s plan was, he was able to tell them that he woman who accompanied Justin to the gala also had a role to play in this scheme.

Tony couldn’t quite believe that all of this was happening to him. Justin was a bottom-feeding rat, but this was low even for him. This time around, finding Justin was the easy part; getting him to talk was a different story. None of their threats seemed to work, until Rhodey mentioned the evidence they had.

“When the world sees the tapes from the gala and finds out how long you’ve been planning this, you can forget ever selling any of your shitty gadgets to the military ever again.”

Justin went pale at that, and within seconds, he was spilling his whole plan.

“I figured hiding in plain site would have made it harder for you guys to pin this on me…But my plan was to spike your drink with GHB, and have my date convince you to take her back to your place. She was supposed to sleep with you, if need be, to try to get anything about Stark Industries out of you then scour your house for any information that looked important. Obviously, it wasn’t my intention to have you give the drink to someone else.”

Justin said, giving a shrug and an apologetic smile. Rhodey practically had to carry Tony out of Justin’s hiding spot to keep the genius from punching him.

Though Tony couldn’t quite understand why his rival had chosen such a stupid way to get one over on him, he was glad he finally had an explanation for Steve. If he had his way, Tony would have found Steve and straightened everything out right then and there. But Rhodey warned against it.

“Remember, he has no idea that you had nothing to do with this. Just give him a little time to heal before you throw all of this at him.”

As badly as he wanted to right this wrong, Tony knew he had to listen to his friend. Steve deserved a chance to work through this without Tony possibly making things worse. So he promised he would wait, with the hope of regaining Steve’s trust and friendship getting him through yet another day.

 

   

Tony waited as long as he could to try to talk things out with Steve, but after sitting on the new information he had for an entire day, the genius could feel himself starting to lose it. He knew that his restlessness was being caused by selfish reasons; he didn’t care what the outcome of their conversation was, he just wanted to see Steve again. So here he was, sitting outside of the Shield Clinic waiting for his chance to make things right.

After sitting there for what felt like all day, Tony quickly realized that Steve wasn’t there. When he saw Sam walking out of the building, he figured then was as good a time as any to ask for help. He jumped out of his car and started after Steve’s friend.

“Sam! Hey Sam, wait up.”

Tony said, practically running. As he saw the look on Sam’s face, he braced himself for a physical confrontation.

“You’ve got some nerve showing your face around here Stark.”

“I know, just…please hear me out. I didn’t drug Steve.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you didn’t.”

Sam said sarcastically, crossing his arms in a huff.

“If you didn’t do it, then who did?”

“Justin Hammer.”

“Justin…wait, what? Why would a guy who is your competitor drug Steve?”

Sam asked, seemingly letting his guard down, if only a little.

“I can explain that to you on the way, but I need your help getting to Steve.”

Sam looked at Tony warily. If he was being honest, the older man was very surprised that the conversation was going as well as it had. But none of this meant a thing if he couldn’t talk to Steve. Sam looked him over before giving a sigh.

“Look, I’ll take you to him, but if he says he doesn’t want to talk to you, you’re gone. Got it?”

“Yes, of course.”

Tony said, feeling endlessly grateful as he led the younger man to his car. Before they stepped inside, Sam gave Tony a serious look.

“I want you to start at the beginning and tell me everything you know about what happened at the gala.”

 

After their conversation at dinner a couple days before, it seemed as though Sam went out of his way to make sure Steve had a distraction during the day while he was at work. Part of him wanted to feel a little embarrassed; he didn’t need to be coddled or babysat. But if he was being honest, it was nice to start getting back in the swing of things. The first day, he asked Steve to look over some of the therapy session plans they had for the next few weeks. And now, he found himself playing cards with Natasha on her day off. The pair of them were having a great time, laughing while trading stories about Bucky, when they heard a knock at the door.

“Sam didn’t say he was expecting anyone.”

Steve said, puzzled. Natasha just shrugged and went to answer the door. Steve sat at the table, looking through his cards, and jumped when he heard Natasha yelling.

“What the hell are you doing here?...Sam why would you bring him here?”

Steve sprang up and bolted to the door to see Sam and Tony standing at the door. Everybody froze as they looked at the blond. Tony was the first to make any move toward him, and when he did, Steve took an exaggerated step back. He could see the hurt in Tony’s eyes, before he looked away.

“Steve I…I’m sorry to just show up here but I needed to talk to you.”

“There is nothing we have to discuss. I thought I made it clear the last time I saw you that I didn’t want to see you again.”

“Please just let me explain everything. You don’t ever have to speak to me again once I leave, but you need to hear this.”

He looked past everyone else, eyes landing on Sam.

“Did you hear his story before you brought him here?”

Steve asked, willing himself not to look at Tony.

“I did, but I wanted to give you a chance to decide if you wanted to hear it.”

He didn’t want to admit it, but the fact that Sam had brought him this far meant that he had a good explanation for his actions. With a sigh, Steve looked Tony dead in the eyes.

“Follow me.”

He said, leading them to Sam’s home office/spare room. They sat down at the large computer desk before Steve opened his mouth to speak.

“You said you wanted to talk so…talk.”

“Alright well…I just need to start off by saying I am so sorry…”

“I’m not going to sit here for just an apology. Get to what you wanted to say.”

Tony flinched at Steve’s harshness, but continued.

“I didn’t drug you. I know I shouldn’t expect you to believe this, especially considering what happened after the gala, but I didn’t.”

“Then who did?”

Steve asked, obviously skeptical.

“Justin Hammer. His intention was to drug me, in some hair brained scheme to get important information about my company.”

Steve didn’t know what to think about this. He had about a million questions to ask, but he had no idea where to start.

“How did you find this out?”

“Well, I knew I didn’t do it, so I had to find out who did. Hammer hired a bartender to slip GHB in my drink. When we found him, he gave us all we needed to confirm that Hammer was behind this.”

“Did you come here expecting me to forgive you on the spot and go back to how things were?”

Steve asked, refusing to look up at the man in front of him.

“Of course not, Steve. I just…I know what it’s like to have someone use your body in a way you never consented to…”

The older man said, tapping on his arc reactor.

“Tony…”

Steve said, with a sympathetic look on his face.

“No, it’s ok. I just…when this happened to me, I spent a lot of time wondering why me. I know what it’s like to feel that it was your fault that someone took advantage of you. I just needed you to know that this wasn’t because of anything you did or didn’t do. This was my fault, and for that, I’m sorry.”

Steve wanted to say something, but he had no idea what he was feeling. Part of him was glad to know that Tony hadn’t been behind this. But he couldn’t let go of the fact that they had slept together.

“Thanks for giving me the chance to explain myself.”

Tony said, standing and moving to the door. Steve wanted to ask him to stay, but he couldn’t manage to get the words out of his mouth. As he watched the brunet leave, he felt his head spin. He had so much to think about, but all he could manage to do was move to what had become his bed. He lay there with his eyes screwed shut, trying to force himself to sleep. These days, sleep was the only real escape he had from his thoughts. As he lay in bed, wide awake for the rest of the night, Steve realized just how much he needed that escape now more than ever.

 

  

It had been almost a week since Tony had told Steve everything. He wasn’t too sure how he thought that conversation would go, but he could honestly say he was happy with how things turned out. That he left Sam’s apartment without a black eye was enough to put him in a good mood. But the fact that Steve actually heard him out strengthened his hope that he could fix what he broke between them.

Tony had thought through almost every aspect of repairing his and Steve’s friendship, except for the waiting. It was up to Steve now to decide whether or not he ever wanted to speak to Tony again. Of course the genius hoped he would, but he had no idea if or when that would happen. He tried going through his everyday tasks, reminding himself that this wasn’t up to him so worrying was useless. But as he became more and more anxious over this, he started sleeping less.

Today, Tony had found himself wandering around his workshop, just picking things up and putting them down. He couldn’t even remember the last time he got more than thirty minutes of sleep. Part of him was sure he was just hallucinating most of what he was seeing, which is why when he picked up his phone to see that Steve was calling, he couldn’t quite believe it.

“Hello?”

He asked, warily.

“Hey Tony. I uh…I was wondering if you wanted to get some coffee or something.”

Tony took the phone away from his ear to look at it questioningly.

“Is this a dream? Is this actually happening right now?”

The small chuckle that came from the other end of the phone was enough to bring Tony out of his stupor.

“Yeah…yeah this is real. Meet me at the shop down the street from the clinic in an hour.”

“Sure thing Steve. I’ll see you then.”

As Tony hung up, he couldn’t help but smile down at his phone. In a matter of an hour, he’d get to see Steve again. As he made his way through the workshop, he stopped and looked in a mirror. If he wanted to have any chance at getting his friend back, he was going to have to clean himself up quite a bit first.

 

Steve sat at the coffee shop, wringing his hands as he waited for Tony to show up. He wanted to be confident about the decision he’d made to speak with the genius but he couldn’t help but feel nervous. When he told his friends that he was ready to talk to Tony again, he caught hell from Bucky about it, while Sam and Natasha offered to support him no matter what. To ease everyone’s nerves, Steve agreed to let Bucky come with, as long as he sat a considerable distance away.

So here he was, sitting halfway across the store from Bucky, waiting for Tony to arrive any minute. When he finally saw the brunet, he felt his heart start racing.

“Hey.”

Tony said, taking a seat across from Steve.

“Hey.”

The pair of them sat there in silence for what felt like ages, until Steve worked up the courage to speak.

“So…I’m just going to lay everything out there ok?”

He waited for Tony to nod before he continued.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you told me about Justin Hammer’s plan. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of everything; I mean I was glad to know that you didn’t drug me. But the fact that…we ended up where we ended up still bothered me. I don’t even remember how we got from the bar to that bedroom. And speaking of the bar, why were you drinking so much that night?”

Steve could see how uneasy his question made the older man, but he knew that Tony wasn’t going to run from this.

“I uh…on Friday before the gala, I stopped by the clinic just to say hi, but I heard you talking to your girlfriend.”

“My…who?”

“Your girlfriend, Peggy. It’s a little embarrassing to say this, especially because you’re seeing someone, but I’ve had a not so secret thing for you for a while now. I was upset the night of the gala, so I drank way too much to try to get over my bruised ego.”

Steve couldn’t help but burst out in a laugh. The slightly offended look on Tony’s face helped him get over his fit of laughter.

“I’m sorry to laugh, but Tony…I’m gay. I mean I did date Peggy once, but that was before I came out. She’s just a really good friend, and her brother comes to the clinic with the older group of kids with autism.”

As everything sank in, an apologetic look made it’s way to Tony’s face.

“God, I feel like a total idiot. I should have just asked you about it instead of assuming and making an ass of myself. Can you ever forgive me?”

“Look, I called you here to tell you that I can’t work past what happened until I learn to forgive you. I know none of this would have happened if you knew I wasn’t in control of my actions, but this is still a lot to deal with. I’d like to eventually get back to where we were, but that will take some time.”

“Steve, take as much time as you need. The friendship we had was important to me, and I’ll do anything to help get us back to that.”

Steve gave a small smile as he shook his head.

“I think you’ve misunderstood me. I don’t just want a friendship with you Tony; I want to try an actual relationship with you. I mean, we are really going to have to work to get to where we were before, but it’s obvious that we both have feelings for each other. So I’m willing to put the work into this…if you are.”

The smile that spread across Tony’s face was enough to calm any doubts that Steve had.

“I’d like that.”

The older man said, smiling even harder.

“Great…good! Alright well I have to get back to work, but um…I’ll call you tomorrow?”

Steve asked, practically beaming as he stood from his seat.

“Sounds great.”

Tony said, looking up at him. He couldn’t find it in himself to walk away, until he felt Bucky pulling him out of the store.

As Steve waved goodbye to Tony, he felt something inside himself that he feared he had lost after the gala. He knew it would take some amount of time before he could look at Tony without thinking of what had happened between them that night. He knew that there were both bad days and even worse days ahead of him with this. But knowing that the Tony he had fallen for all those months ago, the one he thought he had lost, would be waiting for him on the other side of this was enough to get Steve through anything.

  

 

 Epilogue

 

Tony would be lying if he said the past nine months of his life had been anything short of amazing. After meeting Steve in that coffee shop to talk all those months ago, things only got better between them.

It started out slowly, just short phone calls and text messages throughout the day. But after one particularly rough day at work, Steve called to talk for nearly three hours. It was hard not having these talks in person, but Tony made a point not to push Steve through anything he needed to heal. So Tony set aside a few hours every night just to talk to Steve.

When they finally did meet up in person, it was for a ‘group date’ to Coney Island. Steve brought the whole gang from the clinic while Tony brought Pepper and Rhodey. The genius couldn’t help but feel that there was some amount of tension in the air, until Bucky pulled him aside for a friendly chat.

“This is the only second chance you’re going to get. If you hurt Steve in any way again, I will fucking end you. We clear?”

“Very.”

Tony agreed, slightly terrified.

“Alright then. Be good to him Stark.”

The pat Tony felt on his back startled the hell out of him, but he smiled anyway. That little talk was as good as a blessing from Bucky, and with that, Tony knew he and Steve were headed in the right direction.

It took another month for Steve to finally ask Tony on a solo date, and another month before the blond had agreed to come over for take out and horror flicks again. When they had finally gotten back into the routine that they had established when everything was so new, Steve sprung a surprise on the brunet with a kiss goodnight. Tony felt like a kid again, with how excited he was with such a small gesture. But any progress, big or small, was always welcome.

The day that Steve called to ask for a meeting with Justin Hammer was a day Tony never thought he would see.

“I need to face him.”

Steve said, drawing small shapes on the older man’s legs as they lay across his lap.

“If you think you’re ready, I’ll set something up.”

Tony agreed, and scheduled a meeting with Justin.

When they arrived at the conference room, he felt nothing but nervousness for the man he had become so fond of. But as he witnessed Steve’s bravery while confronting Justin, something bubbled up inside of Tony that he couldn’t quite control.

“I love you.”

He said as they made their way out of the Stark Industries building.

“What?”

Steve asked, more than completely off guard.

“I know that this is all too soon, and you don’t have to say it back but…”

Tony was cut off by the most amazing kiss anyone had ever laid on his lips. As Steve pulled away, he stopped to rest his forehead on Tony’s before whispering

“I love you too.”

It wasn’t long after that that Steve started introducing the older man as his boyfriend, and wasn’t that something, Tony thought. He never in his wildest dreams thought he would hear those words out of Steve’s mouth, in reference to him. Tony thought then that he knew what it meant to feel complete, but he had never been more wrong in his life.

The night that Steve told Tony to bring a change of clothes when he came over for dinner was the same night that they made love for the first time. Tony usually hated that phrase, ‘making love’, but there was literally no other way to describe it. They were passionate, they took their time, and they made sure to show just how much they loved and needed one another. It was after that night that Tony finally understood what it meant to feel blessed.

 

So here they were, nine months into the best thing to ever happen to either of them, standing side by side at Bucky and Natasha’s wedding. Every single guest in attendance was practically doubled over laughing at the pout of Tony’s face as he held Natasha’s bouquet. Despite his lack of standing with the gaggle of women who actually hoped the bundle of flowers would come their way, the bouquet somehow landed in Tony’s hands.

“Well, I guess we know who’s next in line.”

Bucky said, clapping Steve on the back.

“Eh, I don’t know if we’ll be next in line, but I definitely don’t hate the idea of spending forever with you.”

Steve said, wrapping his arms around Tony. As he tilted his head upward for a kiss, Tony couldn’t help but let his happiness truly wash over him. What he and Steve had was far from perfect, and he was more than ok with that. He had no idea where life would take them, or what the world would throw their way. All Tony knew was that he was excited for what the future had to offer, and he couldn’t imagine facing it all with anyone else.