Spider-Man popped his head over the edge of the roof of the garage, and found himself staring at Tigra's feet. She was sprawled out on the roof like... well, like a cat basking in a sunbeam, gazing down into the yard.
"Hey, you don't have fur on the soles of your feet," he said by way of greeting, and Tigra peered round at him and smiled.
"Of course not. Have you come to hang out with me?"
"Sure, what we doing?" Spider-Man crawled over and flopped down beside her, looking to see what was holding her interest. There was a half dismantled car in the yard; Tony was peering into it, and Cap was standing beside him, holding three wrenches, a pair of pliers, and a roll of duct tape, somehow managing to make it look as if being Tony's wrench-minion was vital to the security of the nation. He wasn't wearing his costume, but his shield was within hand's reach. Tigra propped her chin in her hands, and let out a gusty sigh.
"I have such a crush on Cap," she said fervently, and Spider-Man nodded agreeably. He could do girl-talk.
"I have a definite man-crush on Cap."
"He's just so lovely. I want to curl up in his lap and be petted." Her nose wrinkled. "I bet he'd never rub my fur backwards."
"Sometimes he gives me a manly slap on the shoulder and says 'Good work, Spidey!' and I feel all inspired and a little bit swoony."
"I could listen to him talk for hours, his voice is just - mmm." Her tail waved slowly, like a column of smoke, and Spider-Man groped for something suitable to say.
"He let me try on his cowl, once," he said after a moment, and Tigra looked appropriately impressed. "I think it smelled like patriotism. And leather."
"He does smell nice, doesn't he?" she said, and then added, "I am sooo jealous of Tony."
"Yeah, I - what? Tony?" He looked at Tony, who had managed to get a big grease stain over his nose, and then back at Tigra. Nothing about her perfectly groomed fur and artfully tousled hair suggested she wanted to be filthy and elbows-deep in a dead car.
"If Cap looked at me like he looks at Tony, I think I might just die." She rolled over onto her back and flopped her arms out into space, claws popping out and back as she stretched, and then she sighed gustily. "Those eyes."
"What?" Spider-Man looked down at them again. Tony was lecturing Cap, tapping his wrench on various parts of the engine, and Cap was - he wasn't even looking at the engine, he was staring at Tony, all serious eyes and manly jaw and - okay, the way he was leaning in, the sheer intensity he was devoting to what was a very boring monologue about camshafts, as if Tony was telling him the secrets of the universe - "Cap has a crush on Tony!" he said, surprised. It was like a 3-D picture - once he'd seen it, he suddenly couldn't imagine how he'd missed it.
"A man-crush?" Tigra scrunched her head round for a better look, and Spider-Man shook his head firmly.
"Not a man-crush. A crush crush."
"What?" Her eyes swiveled towards him, then back towards Cap, then back towards him, and Spider-Man waved his hands vaguely. When that didn't seem to clear it up, he tried words.
"I have a man-crush on Cap. That means I follow him around and I'm particularly stupid in his presence. I don't want to kiss him or anything. But Cap? That is definitely a crush-crush. He wants kisses." Spider-Man nodded. Suddenly, an awful lot of things made perfect sense.
"Cap and Tony kissing?" Tigra stared down at them. "That would be - oh, they'd be adorable." She clasped her hands together.
"But Tony has hundreds of girlfriends," said Spider-Man. "So I guess it's not going to be."
"But it's Cap," Tigra protested. "He's - I mean, look at him!" They both looked at Cap, who was directing a look of serious contemplation at Tony's rear as he bent over the engine. Tigra let out a little purring sigh as he shifted his weight and leaned against the car, jeans stretching tight over his muscular thighs. Spider-Man had to concede that though he didn't want kisses, even he might go for a little bit of cuddling with Cap. Tigra's expression suggested she was thinking along similar lines, although possibly closer to an R-rating. "Does Tony not like guys?" she said doubtfully.
"I think he does," said Spider-Man, "I mean, he said Johnny Depp was incredibly hot."
"But that's Johnny Depp. He doesn't count."
"If Johnny Depp doesn't, neither does Cap," said Spider-Man. Tigra nibbled on her lip.
"I guess," she conceded. "So what's stopping them? They'd be such a cute couple."
Tony straightened up, and glanced up at Cap. They were so close together, they had to be breathing each other's air. Cap was giving him that very intense look again, and Tony smiled back at him easily. Then he turned away and wandered over to the sink to wash his hands, and Cap - sagged a little, and for a moment he looked sad.
"Oh," said Tigra. "Oh, poor Cap. Tony is mean." Her tail switched, lashing against Spider-Man's legs.
"Tony's not mean," said Spider-Man. "He just... well, maybe Cap's just not his type." Tigra glared at him.
"Yeah," said Spider-Man. He gnawed on the thumb of his glove. "Maybe he doesn't realise Cap likes him? I mean, I hadn't noticed."
"We should tell him, then," and Tigra sat up, apparently ready to leap right down and play Cupid. Spider-Man caught her wrist, visions of hideous embarrassment dancing in his head.
"No! We can't do that. We need to be more - subtle." Tigra stared at him expectantly, and he realised he was now expected to come up with a plan. He looked around, hopefully, but no distraction or solution presented itself. The end of Tigra's tail began to twitch. "We could - "
"You know, maybe instead of telling Tony, we could just hint. He's a smart guy, right?"
"Oh, yes," said Tigra. "That would be much better. I heard him say he had paperwork to do this afternoon; you can talk to him then."
"I can? I guess I can."
"I like Cap," said Spider-Man brightly, and Tony nodded absently, paging through a report. Something didn't seem quite right with the November figures, and he had to sign off on the new wing designs, and Spider-Man had apparently decided it was a good day to socialize. "You like Cap too, right?"
"Of course I do," said Tony, not looking up. At least conversing with Spider-Man wasn't usually very challenging; he was used to pitching his ramble for a Hulk-level of understanding. "Everyone likes Cap."
"But you like him especially."
"What?" said Tony, glancing at him. Spider-Man was sitting on the wall, staring at him with peculiar attention, as if he were looking for something.
"Did you ever think Cap might be lonely?" he said earnestly.
"Lonely?" Tony shut the report. "Steve's not lonely." He'd spent the morning with Steve, and he'd had given every sign of being blissfully contented with his lot in life. Steve always seemed happy. He was the happiest person Tony knew.
"You guys spend a lot of time together, of course," said Spider-Man. "But you know, I was thinking. Romantically. I mean. He should date. Right?"
"Well, he - " Tony hesitated. It wasn't as if Steve didn't date. He'd been on four dates during that thing with Batroc, and wasn't that a lesson for Tony not to go away on business trips? "Steve's perfectly capable of dating if he wants to," he said. "I mean, he's - " he considered a number of adjectives, and discarded them all as not up to the job. "He's Captain America. And when he's not being Captain America, he's Steve. Who wouldn't want to date him?"
"He is pretty awesome, isn't he?" said Spider-Man brightly. "Handsome, charming, brave, uh... patriotic..."
"You're not writing him a personal ad," said Tony. "Wait, you're not writing him a personal ad, are you?" He gave Spider-Man a long look, and Spider-Man shook his head vigorously. There was no need for anyone to arrange dates for Steve, and if Steve did need help, he had a best friend who was very experienced in the dating arena and happy to help. Interfering little Spider-People were completely unnecessary, and would probably end up sending Steve out with a supervillain or - or someone just not good enough for him. Some of this must have shown in his expression, because Spider-Man flattened himself close to the wall, managing to look apologetic even through the mask.
"No, no. Gosh no. But you agree that any person with sense would want to date Cap, right?"
Tony stared at him. Spider-Man sat perfectly still, the huge blank eyes of his mask somehow fixed on Tony.
"I don't know what you're up to," he said finally. "But I will be watching, you understand? No interfering in Cap's love life."
"Of course not," said Spider-Man, and Tony nodded, and opened the report again.
Tigra was waiting for him in the hall. It was pleasantly conspiratorial to be dragged into the closet, although he did wish she'd watch the claws.
"How did it go?" she said urgently.
"Well, I think maybe he suspected I was up to something," said Spider-Man. "He's pretty sharp, is Tony. But I think I carried it off."
"So do you think he'd want to date Cap?" said Tigra, and Spider-Man nodded.
"Oh yeah. He was all about how awesome Cap is. So now it's just a case of... bringing them together."
"Oh, how hard can that be?"
"I'm sure we can think of something," said Spider-Man. "We're superheroes. We're good at making plans."
They considered. Tigra tapped her foot. Spider-Man cracked the door for light so he could check his watch. Only five minutes had passed, but it seemed much longer.
"We should get expert advice," said Tigra. Unfortunately, Storm was out on a date. She'd have her communicator, of course, but Storm took her romantic life very seriously, and got quite testy when interrupted.
"We should get amateur advice," said Spider-Man, and they went to the kitchen, where Logan was eating Jan's secret emergency supply of chocolate.
"Beer," said Logan firmly, after an explanation. "Give them a few drinks, leave them together. Don't touch my beer, though."
"Are you sure?" said Tigra doubtfully. "Can Cap even get drunk?" She looked at Spider-Man, who considered.
"I don't think he can," he said finally. "And he wouldn't make out with Tony while he was drunk. He'd say it was taking advantage."
"Lock them in a room together, then," said Logan, and that seemed to have possibilities, but Tigra made a tutting noise.
"That's for enemies. They're already best friends, after all."
"I'm out of ideas," said Logan, and shrugged. Spider-Man sighed, and webbed up a little piece of chocolate. It wasn't like Jan didn't have stashes all over the house.
"Let's ask Bruce," said Tigra brightly.
"You need to approach the matter logically," said Bruce. "What does Tony like?" Spider-Man riffled absently through the pile of papers on his desk. Quantum physics, molecular biology, transmutation of elements, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. He put them down, and resolved to ensure Bruce got out of the house more.
"Cars," said Tigra. "Girls. Spaceships. Russian spies." She picked up a glowing green crystal, and Bruce frowned and plucked it out of her fingers.
"I'm not sure liking girls is going to be much help," said Bruce.
"His armour? Flying too fast? Being clever?" said Spider-Man, and Bruce nodded, steepling his fingers and looking over his glasses at them.
"I guess it's a start. So how can we make Cap seem like armour?" There was a pause. Spider-Man drummed his fingers. Tigra stared at Bruce. Bruce looked at his computer. Spider-Man had always assumed scientific genius reeled in the ladies - look at Reed Richards! And Tony, for that matter - but somehow, this didn't seem like a good plan.
"We could paint him red and gold," said Spider-Man after a while, and Tigra giggled.
"There you are," said Bruce. "I'm sure..." his voice trailed off. Perhaps he was picturing Cap decorated with red paint. Spider-Man was, and he couldn't see it getting anything but laughter from Tony. "It might work?"
"Are you sure about this?" said Tigra, and Bruce shrugged.
"I don't really date much." There was another pause. Bruce tapped away at his keyboard, apparently ready to ignore them until they left, and Spider-Man cleared his throat.
"That must be annoying," he said, and Bruce gave him a surprised look, fingers stuttering on the keys.
"I guess, a little."
"Here's Tony, going on dates all the time, and Captain America besotted with him, and here's you, all alone in your lab."
"He's not really - " Tigra began, and Spider-Man pinched her arm. "Um, not really - a dating kind of guy? No dates for Bruce." She shook her head sadly.
"All alone," said Spider-Man. "Unappreciated."
"Neglected," said Tigra. "Mocked."
"Mocked?" said Bruce indignantly, and Spider-Man nodded, eyeing Bruce's hands, clenching on the edge of the desk.
"Oh sure. Like, uh, the Abomination, I heard he was making all kinds of jokes - "
"Hulk?" said Spider-Man, and Hulk looked up at them from the chair he was reducing to to tiny fragments.
"Why Tigra and Spider-Man on top of books?" he said, big green face crumpling in confusion, and Tigra huffed.
"Good question. Hulk, how would you get Tony to date Cap?"
"Hulk will make them hug," said Hulk, and crushed his hands together as an example. His knuckles cracked. Tigra winced.
"I'm not sure - "
"Well, it's the best plan yet," said Spider-Man, and patted Hulk on the head. "We'll save it for plan B, big guy."
"Did you really think the Hulk would have good romantic advice?" said Tigra, and Spider-Man shrugged.
"Well, it was an improvement on Bruce's," he said, and Tigra rolled her eyes.
"Let's ask Jan," she said.
They went out the window, and scaled the wall to Jan's room. Tigra knocked on the glass, and Hank opened it and looked out
"What are you doing in here?" said Tigra as she scrambled over the sill, which probably deserved some kind of award for Questions With Obvious Answers. Hank blushed pink.
"I just came over to see... well, I have some experiments - I wanted a sample of Jan's blood..." he pointed at the medical kit on the nightstand, and Spider-Man shook his head.
"Wow, is that the best you can do?" he said. Blood samples, really. The Hulk probably had better lines. "Okay, we're not asking your advice."
"Advice about what?" Hank said, looking affronted.
"Advice about getting Tony to date Cap," said Tigra, and Hank raised his eyebrows.
"Cap and Tony? Huh." He assumed his Thoughtful Scientist face, which involved scrunching up his face and stroking his chin. "Well, you need to take a logical approach," he began, and Spider-Man sighed.
"Forget we asked." He sat down on Jan's bed, and looked around. Something seemed to be missing.
"Where is Jan, anyway?" said Tigra. That was it; even Hank should be able to do better than this. Maybe she'd been scared off by the needles. Hank shuffled his feet.
"Well, I - I dropped. The blood sample. On her lap."
"Ewww," said Tigra. "Seriously, how did you ever get Jan to date you?"
"I... " Hank picked up a vial of blood and held it up to the light. Then he put it down again. Spider-Man and Tigra continued to stare expectantly, and finally he shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not entirely sure," he admitted.
"Sure about what?" said Jan from the doorway. "What's happening?" She tipped her head inquiringly, and Hank gave them a panicked look. Tigra leapt to the rescue like an Avenger should.
"We're setting Cap and Tony up," she said, and Jan clapped her hands.
"That's wonderful! How?"
"We were hoping you'd have an idea," said Spider-Man.
"Oh, of course. Hm. I know! Cap should rescue Tony from terrible danger," said Jan firmly. "Preferably from an evil romantic rival. That's the way to a girl's - I mean, a person's heart." She batted her eyelashes at Hank, who gave her a besotted, if slightly worried, smile.
"Does Tony have any evil romantic interests?" said Spider-Man and Tigra waved her hands.
"The girl he took out to dinner on Thursday was wearing Paris Hilton perfume."
"Eww," said Jan, eyes wide, and Spider-Man shook his head.
"I don't think Cap will rescue Tony from bad perfume."
"So we need a person who's romantically interested in Tony, who can pose a danger to him, who Cap can defeat without too much trouble." Jan frowned, twisting a finger in her hair.
"That's not hard if we make sure Tony can't get to the armour," said Spider-Man, and Tigra nodded.
"I could steal his communicator."
"But who?" said Hank. "We can't expect Tony to go out on a date with Morgan Le Fay or Ultron."
"A guy would be best," said Jan. "Cap feels bad about hitting women, even evil ones. And it'll show him that Tony doesn't mind dating guys."
"I know!" said Spider-Man, snapping his fingers, and they all looked at him. "I'll ask Johnny. Villains are always trying to hit on his sister, her little black book looks like a rogue's gallery."
"Well, that's that," said Jan, and glanced pointedly at the door. "Now, Hank wants some blood samples - "
"Oh, I've got enough - " Hank began, and Spider-Man rolled his eyes. Really, Hank was useless at times.
"We'll just be going," said Tigra, and made an encouraging gesture to Jan that made her giggle.
"So, uh," said Tigra, and Tony hummed absently. He held out a hand for the wrench, and then looked up, frowning, when it didn't appear. Tigra was staring down her handful of tools, apparently fascinated,
"Wrench," he said, and she gave him a wrench. "No, the other one." Steve never gave him the wrong wrench. Tony scowled, and looked around, vaguely expecting Steve to appear.
"So," said Tigra, and Tony hummed.
"Have you seen Steve?" he said, and there was a pause. He looked up. Tigra was staring at him, her bright green eyes wide.
"You miss Steve?" she said, and Tony frowned.
"He..." knows which wrenches I use he wanted to say, but that wasn't fair to Tigra; she couldn't be expected to know. He wasn't sure how Steve always knew. "He's usually about. Helping."
"I think he had a thing," said Tigra vaguely, and Tony was aware of faint affront, that Steve had a thing, more important than handing Tony his wrenches. Spoiled, he was spoiled. He sighed.
"The blue wrench," he said. "Mind your - " her tail snapped back, away from the hot metal. "Careful, this is a workshop, it's full of potential injuries. Really, you should be wearing safety gear."
"You're not. Steve doesn't."
"Well, that's..." When had Tigra started calling him Steve? Only Tony called him Steve. Then, Tigra was very fond of Steve. She'd even managed to nip in ahead of Tony and get the seat next to him at the meeting last week, and he'd spent the whole time drawing funny little pictures to make her giggle. "Ow! Shi- ow!"
"Oh my God!" Tigra pounced on him, and spun him towards the sink, and shoved his hand under the cold water. "Is it serious?"
"No," he said between gritted teeth. "Just a little burn." He tried to pull loose, but Tigra's delicate wrist and slim fingers didn't shift. Stupid superpowers.
"You have to keep it there for five minutes," she said, and Tony made an irritable noise.
"Really, Tigra, I think - " she gave him a worried look, sharp little teeth biting into her lower lip, and Tony sighed again. She was only trying to help, after all. She was trying hard to fit into the team and make friends. Look at her giving up her afternoon to come and sit here in the workshop and hand him wrenches. It was sweet, really. He smiled, and she smiled back.
"So," she said. "I was thinking." She swished her tail. "I actually, I kind of had a favour to ask."
So that was it. Was this what Spider-Man had been hinting at? Tony had a sudden conviction that if she was going to ask for help getting together with Cap, he was going to bounce her out on her striped tail like Tigger.
"See, it's Spider-Man," she began, and Tony raised his eyebrows.
"Isn't he a little young for you?" he said snidely, and she looked surprised.
"Oh, gosh, no. Not like that. He's like a little brother. But he's friends with Johnny Storm."
"Who's also too - "
"Who's friends with Reed Richards - "
"Who's dating Sue Storm. Commend your soul to God; I hear she's - "
"And he's got a friend coming in from out of town," she finished.
"Well, I'm sure he's perfect for you." Tony scowled at her, but she didn't notice, already rambling on.
"Well, that's what Spider-Man said, but apparently he likes science and engineering and armour and things, and I'm not very interested in that kind of thing," she said.
"Well, I don't see why you have to date your little brother figure's friend's sister's boyfriend's friend. I don't see why you'd even have to - "
"Because Reed promised Sue he'd take her out before this friend was coming in, and then Johnny promised Reed he'd occupy him so Reed could take Sue out, and then Spider-Man promised Johnny he'd help, and then Spider-Man asked me," said Tigra. Tony considered that. It seemed logical, and it didn't involve Steve in any way. Probably Spider-Man had been looking to set Steve up with this friend from out of town; Tony could congratulate himself on nipping that in the bud, at least. Steve wouldn't want to go on a date with someone who was only interested in science and armour and things, it would bore him to tears. Tony scowled down at the burn on his hand, which seemed unreasonably painful.
"So what do you want me to do?" he said ungraciously.
"To go out to dinner with him and talk to him about science," she said, as if it were a perfectly natural request, and not a dreadful imposition. Then, if he said no, they might go to Steve after all, and Steve was far too nice to refuse them.
"When?" he said, and Tigra bounced on her toes, eyes lighting up.
"Tigra - " he said, and she batted her eyelashes, assuming a pleading expression.
"Please?" she begged. "Spider-Man says Johnny says that he's really smart, I expect you'll have lots to talk about." Tony sighed. He did like meeting new people. And hey, maybe they'd be cute.
"Oh... fine. I suppose so," he said grudgingly, and Tigra squeaked with glee and planted a noisy kiss on his cheek. She was a sweet girl, really. Tony managed a smile, and patted her on the shoulder.
Spider-Man trailed Captain America up the steps, smiling widely. Best afternoon ever. People had acted pleased to see him. No one had even attempted to arrest him. He was going to have to come up with more excuses to get Cap to hang out with him.
Tigra intercepted him at the front door.
"So did it work?" said Spider-Man, and Tigra grinned.
"No problem. You?"
"Yup. Apparently this guy really wants to meet Tony, so he - " They turned at the sound of footsteps, and Tony raised his eyebrows at them.
"Okay, then. You two owe me, you know that?" he said, and Spider-Man nodded fervently.
"Very grateful," he said nervously, and Tony's eyes narrowed a little, suspicious, but then Cap reappeared, and Tony turned to smile at him.
"Hey," said Cap, and looked Tony up and down, clearly appreciative of his extremely nice suit. "Off somewhere?"
"Hot date," said Tony lightly. "I should get going, don't want to be late." He knocked his fingers against the star on Cap's chest, then dodged round him. "Bye!"
"Oh. Uh, bye," said Cap, and stared after him like a dog that wasn't being taken for a walk. Even the little wings on his cowl seemed to droop. Tigra grabbed Spider-Man's arm and pulled him into the foyer.
"All right," said Tigra breathlessly. "Tony's gone, and I took his communicator, so he won't be able to call for his armour."
"Awesome," said Spider-Man, and they sat down on the stairs. Cap's shadow was still visible on the hall floor. They watched, for a while, but Cap didn't seem to have anything to do but stare at the place he'd last seen Tony.
"Poor Cap," said Tigra eventually. "How soon can we tell him?"
"Uh," said Spider-Man. Now the moment was almost here, it seemed more and more awkward. "Tell Cap what, though?" he said, and Tigra tilted her head, puzzled. "Don't we need to be sure that there's actually evil afoot? We can't just tell him that Tony's date might be evil."
"Oh, good point." Tigra tapped a claw on her lower lip. "Um. I didn't think of that. Well, I guess if he tries something evil - " she looked down at the communicator in her hand. "I guess he won't call."
"Right." Spider-Man bit his lip. This was seeming more and more like a flawed plan. Cap and Storm were quite firm about the communicators being absolutely essential, and that they should never be left behind. If they found out he and Tigra had deliberately stranded a teammate without a communicator - with a supervillain, no less - a teammate with no superpowers, even - "Okay, maybe we could go spy on them. Keep an eye out for villainy."
"How evil is this guy, exactly?" said Tigra. "He's one of the Fantastic Four's villains? They're all thinky types, right? Is it the Mad Thinker?"
"Johnny said he was definitely evil, but really into science and armour and stuff," Spider-Man said, digging inside his costume for the piece of paper with the full name on it. What was the Mad Thinker's real name? "He's a foreigner. Uh, Victor von Doom sounds pretty evil?"
"Victor von - wait. Isn't that Doctor Doom?" Tigra's eyes widened.
"Uh - " Spider-Man stared down at the piece of paper, feeling his heart plummet. "I - guess it would be?"
"Oh my God," said Tigra. "We've sent Tony on a blind date with - oh my God! He's - Tony's in terrible danger!"
"What?" said Cap's voice from the doorway, and Tigra clapped her hand over her mouth. "What's happened?"
"We sent Tony on a date with Doctor Doom!" said Spider-Man, and Cap's mouth dropped open.
"You - why?"
"He's in town," said Tigra feebly. "And, uh - Reed wanted to keep him occupied?"
"Well - " Tigra cast a panicked glance at Spider-Man, who flailed his hands. "We - didn't realise - "
"Well." Cap rubbed at his temple. "Well, Tony's fully capable of taking care of himself. He's got his - " He looked down at the hand Tigra extended. "Why do you have Tony's communicator?"
"He - forgot it," said Tigra very quietly, and Cap's eyes narrowed. He put his hands on his hips, and stared down at them and Spider-Man suddenly realised that sweet, good humoured, tolerant Captain America was actually really scary. Tigra let out a tiny squeak that suggested she'd come to the same conclusion. After a long, simmering moment Cap spoke.
"I want the truth. Now."
Victor von Doom: definitely evil.
"I really thought it was going to work," Spider-Man whispered as they followed Cap and Tony back into the Mansion, and Tigra nodded.
"When Cap swung across the restaurant on the cable, and smashed that Doombot - "
"And grabbed Tony - "
"Clasped him to his manly bosom," sighed Tigra, and Spider-Man gave her a suspicious look. "What? It was just like a romance novel. I could have sworn they were going to kiss." They trailed up the steps into the hall, and Spider-Man cringed at the sight of Cap and Tony standing side by side, glaring at them.
"You two," Cap said curtly, and jerked his head towards the library. He put out a hand to intercept Tony when he stepped forward . "I'll handle this." Tony's eyebrows shot up.
"I was the one who - "
"I'll explain later," said Cap, and shook his head when Tony started to protest. "Please?"
"Fine," said Tony grudgingly.
Spider-Man glanced back over his shoulder as Cap shut the door, and met Tony's glare. Then he looked up at Cap's face.
We are in so much trouble.
Fortunately, retrieving Tony unharmed had taken the edge off Cap's anger. He looked more tired than anything.
"Peter. Greer," Cap said, and they both cringed. "I do appreciate you meant well, and I'm touched at the efforts you went to. But sometimes people need to work things out for themselves."
"But you're not!" said Tigra indignantly. Cap rubbed a hand over his face, sighing, and Spider-Man looked down at the table. There was a light flashing on the telephone; Tony was trying to eavesdrop. After a moment's hesitation, he caught Tigra's eye and jerked his head. Her eyes narrowed, and then he saw the end of her tail edge up over the side of the table. There was a faint click, as the receiver slipped out of place; Spider-Man coughed loudly to cover the noise, and got a suspicious look, which was good, as it let Tigra settle the receiver. The open line was silent.
"Greer - " said Cap finally, and she interrupted.
"We just want you and Tony to be happy," she said clearly.
"Tony's not - interested in me like that. He's my friend, and I'm not going to ask him for more than that. I'll get over it. But that's not - "
"Your crush on him," said Spider-Man helpfully, nice and loud, and Cap sighed again.
"Yes. But it's still not - "
"What?" came Tony's voice through the telephone. "Steve!"
Cap's eyes dropped to the telephone, and then he looked up at Spider-Man. Spider-sense didn't so much tingle as electrocute, and Spider-Man was clinging to the ceiling before he'd had time to think more than gonna die now. Cap was on his feet, holding his shield, and for a horrible second Spider-Man thought he was going to throw it. Then Tony burst through the door.
"Out," he said, and Tigra and Spider-Man both leapt for the door, colliding and rolling out into the hallway. The door slammed shut behind them, narrowly missing Tigra's tail.
"Do you think it'll work?" she whispered breathlessly, and Spider-Man shook his head, trying to find somewhere to put his hands that wouldn't be a bad touch.
"If it doesn't, I think I'm dead. I - "
"Oh!" Tigra darted forward, and grabbed the receiver that lay abandoned on the desk. Spider-Man hunched over next to her.
"Why didn't you say anything?" said Tony indignantly. Steve scowled and folded his arms across his chest, a vision of affronted righteousness. Tony noted the way his shoulders moved under the scale, and considered what that would look like without armour, or indeed clothing, in the way. Contemplation of this exciting thought almost blocked out Steve's excuses.
"I didn't want to make things awkward. Our friendship means so much to me - " Pathetic excuses. The only thing better than a friend was a friend you could have amazing sex with. That probably wasn't quite the right thing to say to Steve, though. Friendship, right.
"It means a lot to me, too. I wouldn't let something like this ruin it," Tony said in his most sincere and understanding tone, the one he used on the Board when he'd done something terrible to the share prices.
"Then we're okay? We can just... forget this?" His face was so imploring that Tony opened his mouth to assure him they would never speak of it again. Fortunately common sense, or maybe his libido, commandeered his vocal cords.
"Hell no," he said, and Steve scrunched down as if he were trying to retreat inside his costume, like a turtle. "What - why do you - " Tony paused to arrange his thoughts. "Uh, crush? Talk."
"Well you - you just - " He'd never seen Steve look so flustered. It was - cute. Steve was cute. Tony examined the thought, and found it good. "Honestly Tony, you know you're attractive. You never have any trouble getting dates."
"Yes, but you're Captain America. I hardly think you've been bowled over by my pretty blue eyes."
"Well, they are pretty," said Steve, and blushed when Tony laughed. "You're clever. And funny. And charming, and so passionate about the things you believe in. I want to be one of the things you're passionate about. I just, whenever you look at me like that, I want to kiss you." Steve looked at his feet, and Tony suppressed the urge to tackle him to the ground and give him a thorough demonstration of 'passionate'.
"Like this?" Tony said softly, and took a step forwards.
"Uh - yeah." Steve looked up at him, and his voice wavered a little. "Tony, please - don't tease me."
"I'm not," and the scale clinked when he pressed in close. Steve's eyes shut before their lips met, and Tony had to take a moment to look at him, lips slightly parted, little nervous frown on his brow. After a second, one eye opened, and Steve looked at him doubtfully; Tony grinned, and kissed him.
His mouth was warm and tasted of cinnamon gum and slightly of blood, probably from where he'd been smacked into a wall earlier, so Tony kissed him as gently as possible. Steve's hands came up to touch his face, cool leather, and then he scrabbled his gloves off and pushed his bare hands into Tony's hair.
Tony could kiss Steve in the workshop, and at breakfast, and when they met for lunch - the thought of all the time he could spend kissing Steve put a bubble of happiness in Tony's chest, and he had to choke back a snicker, because he didn't think Steve would appreciate it if he started giggling.
Finally, Tony eased back, slow, because Steve kept chasing his mouth and Tony couldn't refuse that confused frown he got when Tony tried to pull away. Finally he broke away to take a deep breath, and Steve apparently acknowledged the need for oxygen as a valid excuse to stop kissing, and rested his forehead against Tony's. His hands were warm on Tony's neck, and his eyes were shut, and he was smiling. Tony's eyes were crossing trying to make it out, but it was a good smile, a happy smile.
"You should have said something," Tony said, and watched the smile widen.
"I should have," said Steve docilely. "We're, uh. Do you want to go on a date?" A cautious look, as if he wasn't quite sure that was the right thing to say, and Tony grinned.
"Lots," he said. "As many as you like." Too late to go out now, but they could go out tomorrow, and then - how many dates before - he thought of Steve curled round him in bed, eyes sleepy and satiated, hands on Tony's body, and he shivered.
He reached out, and nudged the receiver back into its cradle.
Tigra dipped the brush into the water, and passed it up to Spider-Man, who began scrubbing at a new patch of graffiti.
"You could help more," he said, and Tigra blinked up at him.
"I can't reach," she said reasonably.
"I'm getting water in my spider-suit," he said, and Tigra's eyes crinkled in the way that meant she was trying not to laugh.
"Still, it was worth it," she said. "Aren't you happy for them?"
"Thrilled," he said sourly. "You know what, in future Cap can sort out his own love life. I can't believe he made us do community service." He sighed, and settled back on his heels, parallel to the ground. "Maybe we should just demolish the wall."
"Hmm," said Tigra absently, rocking the bucket with her foot. "You know, Spidey, Bruce seems awfully lonely sometimes. Did you ever think - " she let out a banshee shriek as cold water poured down her neck, and Spider-Man leapt back as her claws sliced at the air.
"No, no, and no again," he said, and Tigra pouted at him.
"Spidey," she said coaxingly, and he raised the brush threateningly. "Have you ever thought about dating Bruce?" and she darted away with a cackle as he threw the brush at her.