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Domestic Partnership

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Tony drifted into consciousness with the most appalling case of cottonmouth. There was smooth leather under his cheek, but it was altogether too squishy to be any part of Steve. No, it was a car seat, and by the growl and vibration, a moving car.

He didn't remember drinking; he didn't remember much about the evening, really. He'd been swearing down the phone at Fury, who'd called to complain about Pepper, and then Steve had wandered in, and he'd - he'd possibly glared at Steve, who'd looked a little hurt. But he was as doggedly persistent as ever, and he'd come round the desk and taken possession of Tony's free hand, undoing his cufflink and rolling up his sleeve. Tony had been distracted by Fury hissing something about background check on the ushers while Steve rubbed gentle fingers over the pulse in the crook of his elbow, and then -

Just before the black sheet of amnesia came down, there had been a brief sharp pain.

A needle.

"You drugged me?" he mumbled, and a familiar hand ruffled his hair. Tony forced his eyes open to find a comfortingly dim light; it was still night time, at least. He looked up at Steve, who flicked a glance down at him with eyes oddly green in the dashboard lights. "I - why did you do that?"

"I didn't feel like an argument." He sounded like that should explain everything, and irritation gave Tony the motivation to struggle up to a sitting position. There was a bottle of water on the dashboard, over the clock that proclaimed it was 02:20am. He grabbed the water, and rinsed his mouth. Steve helpfully tapped the button that rolled down the windows so he could spit, and then laid his arm invitingly along the back of the seat. Tony narrowed his eyes.

"You drug me and now you want to cuddle?"

Steve shrugged.

"Suit yourself." There was a pause. Tony glared out into the night.

"Well?" He said finally. Really, he hated to be predictable, but what on Earth was Steve playing at? Getting attacked by one's fiance the week before the wedding wasn't something he felt able to take in his stride, even if it wasn't entirely unfamiliar territory.

"I was thinking we haven't been spending much time together recently." Steve patted Tony's thigh. "So I thought we could take a drive - "

"We're getting married in eight - " he glanced at the clock. "In seven days, Steve, I think we'll be spending time together then." His jaw was clenching just at the thought of how much work he had to do, he was meeting with the press at nine in the morning and it was going to be four AM at least before they were home -

"But I miss you now," and that would possibly enough to soothe Tony’s irritation except he added, in a disconsolate tone, "Anyway, it's only a domestic partnership."

"Oh, shut up," Tony snapped, and Steve's eyebrows snapped together and he glared sideways at Tony. "It's not enough I'm getting that from Gregory all day? 'Oh Tony, isn't it a shame our parents couldn't be here to see you joined in a second-rate version of holy matrimony. I'm sure they would have been moderately happy for you.'"

Steve's lips tightened a little. Tony tried not to feel guilty; Steve had clearly always planning to get married, not domestic partnered or however the hell you verbed it, but Steve had proposed so he’d just have to live with it. It was just a stupid bit of paper, and there was no need for Tony to feel bad because...

Because he couldn’t give Steve everything he so obviously wanted, Tony admitted to himself, and put his hands up to rub at his temples. But there were other options; he was just being stubborn. Selfish, even.

"Since when do you let Gregory bother you?" Steve broke into his chain of thought, and Tony cast a glance at his profile, the classic brow all scrunched up in a scowl. A scowl of concentration, not anger, like he was trying to pick apart a puzzle.

"Since it's true," Tony thought of his beloved mansion, the view from his office, the city from above at night-time, and took a deep breath. "Look, you know, we can move to New Hampshire or - "

A hand locked firmly onto his shoulder, and dragged him across the seat as easily as a cat with a kitten. He didn't bother struggling as Steve tucked him firmly against his warm, solid bulk.

"New York's our home," Steve said directly into his ear, making him shiver. "And it'll come around in time. We'll get this done, and then in a few years we can get married. Hopefully without you having a nervous breakdown."

"I am not having - "

"I heard you shouting at Monica about flowers the other day."

"I don't care about allergies, her kid wears a buttonhole or her kid doesn't come to the wedding."

"And that stuff about the cake?"

"Those teeny plastic pillars are structurally unsound."

"And you told Clint - "

"Shut up!" Tony hissed, and jabbed him in the ribs for punctuation. "Can we not stop talking about the wedding - "

"Commitment ceremony," Steve interjected, and Tony considered biting him.

"For five minutes?"

"That's what I've been wondering for the past six months.” Tony subsided, and then put his head down on Steve’s shoulder. They drove on, and Tony cast surreptitious glances about him. He didn't recognise the roads; the landscape was green and anonymous.

"Have I been..." he hesitated, and Steve snorted.

"A pain." He squeezed Tony a little tighter. "Why are you so upset about this?"

"I'm not."

"Mm-hm." Steve rubbed his cheek against Tony’s hair, and Tony half-laughed. It wasn’t like any of it mattered, really; he had Steve, and they were both stubborn enough that wasn’t going to end anytime soon. For one thing, Steve was determined not to give the tabloids the satisfaction of seeing their dire predictions come true.

"Well, it didn't exactly work out well last time, did it?" he mumbled into Steve’s neck, and felt him huff in irritation.

"You don't think I'm going to kill you and steal your money, do you?"

"I didn't think you'd drug and kidnap me," he said dryly. "Oh, I don't know. It's been even more of a media circus this time, and I didn't think that was possible. And last time Gregory limited himself to a card and a toastrack. And after - after it all, he sent the same card again, only he'd crossed out Best Wishes and written Condolences."

"Gregory.” Steve didn’t sound pleased, and Tony nodded.

"Just... if anything goes wrong, he'll be insufferable. And it will go wrong. Everything always does. My company will collapse, or Wanda will go berserk and murder us all, or your supersoldier treatment will stop working, or I'll turn into a teenager, or we'll all be kidnapped by aliens to fight tournaments on distant planets for their base amusements."

"Oh, so you wouldn't want me if I stopped being a supersoldier?" Steve turned his head for long enough to glare.

"Of course I would, but we'd be spending the day trying to figure out what was wrong with you, not getting showered with confetti and drinking over-priced Champagne." Tony sighed, and shut his eyes, picturing Gregory's mocking face, and the inevitable headlines, and how did Tony Stark ever think he could manage a successful relationship? "I just know it's going to be a disaster."

"Mm-hm," Steve said again, and pulled into a winding side road, which rapidly decreased into a track.

"Where are we going?"

"To the top of this hill."

"What's at the top of this hill?"

"Nothing."

"Are you determined to be uncooperative?"

"Not all the time," and he set his lips together in the way that meant he was repressing a grin.

The top of the hill, as promised, had nothing, not so much as a tree. In fact, it barely had any grass. Tony got obediently out of the car at Steve's push, and squinted around in the gloom.

"Where the hell are we?"

"It's SHIELD property. We won't be disturbed." The sound of creaking metal made Tony look around; Steve was settling himself on the hood of the car, and he was holding a bottle and two glasses.

"Oh, well done." Tony hopped up beside him and took a glass. "Excellent choice. Pour, come on."

The wine was good, and the heat from the engine was comfortable, and Steve was blocking the wind. When he tipped his head back, he could see an array of stars that were usually almost invisible in the light from the city.

Of course, any night there was cloud cover he could fly above it and see the stars, but there was no need to mention that. Anyway, it was nicer with Steve and without a chatty flight crew in his ear.

"So your plan to calm me down was a romantic picnic?" He shifted the bottle out of the way so he could get closer, and hooked his hand into Steve’s belt. Would calming him down stretch to sex on the car? Tony liked his chances.

"It's not a picnic." Steve ducked his head, and colour spread over his cheeks. "I just... well, I thought, when you just spent so much time - I may have said something to Clint about how, um..."

“I knew you bitched about me with Clint!”

“I wasn’t bitching. Anyway, he said we should just elope to Vegas, he did that with Laura when he decided he couldn’t take all the...” He waved a hand in a sketchy gesture that could encompass anything from bridesmaids to engraved invitations.

"Steve, you know we can't elope." Tony kissed his cheek, then hesitated. "Wait, we're not eloping, are we? We can't."

"No, I - we can't get married in Vegas or anything, because we're both men. They don’t allow it. I looked it all up." He pulled a folded paper from his back pocket, smoothed it out with great care, and passed it to Tony.

Tony peered close, squinting in the dim light, and considered it for a while. Steve’s fingers drummed on the hood, but Tony took his time.

"Don't I have to sign something?" he said finally.

"SHIELD employs the best forgers in the world."

"Thor's a notary public?"

"Apparently so. I didn't ask for details."

"I... see." Tony turned the paper over, then back. It continued to tell him that Antonio Stark and Steven Rogers had registered a domestic partnership in Nevada.

"New York recognises it," Steve added, and Tony nodded.

"So... we've already eloped?"

"Yes," Steve said. "And next Friday, we're just doing it again so our friends can be there. And if it all goes wrong and there's a horrible disaster and the hall burns down and Gregory laughs and laughs, you can just tell him it doesn't matter; we've got our bit of paper."

"Oh.” The image of Gregory's smug face collapsing into baffled irritation in the face of Tony's triumph was almost enough to make him wish things would go horribly wrong on Friday. He folded the paper, and tucked it into an inside pocket. Steve would have copies. He looked up at - at his domestic partner, starlight shaping the curve of jaw and cheekbone, hair a pale blur. They were legally entangled now. Steve would have to hire lawyers to get rid of him. "Well, it can't be a disaster, then. Not really."

"Exactly." Steve’s shoulders went down as he relaxed, and he put up his hand to stroke Tony’s cheek. "I prefer to go into battles with the outcome already established."

"That's why you're my favourite super soldier," Tony said, and Steve tapped him admonishingly on the cheek.

"I'm your only super soldier.”

"But even if I get others, you'll always - ow!"

"You're not allowed any more. That's how this works; you pick one and stick to them." He flicked Tony's nose again, more gently, and Tony grabbed his hand and kissed it.

"I'm think I'm getting the hang of it," he said softly, and watched the shadows at the corners of Steve's mouth deepen as he smiled.