The first time the woman tried to catch Tony's attention, he walked right on by.
They were at one of the Maria Stark Foundation's many charity events. A thousand people talked to him on nights like those; he had a vague memory of her saying something about wanting to talk to him that went in one ear and out the other, but to be honest, he barely even glanced at her as he waved a hand and told her another time, sure, certainly before continuing right on his way. The music had shifted to a waltz, one of the few dances Steve had mastered so far, and Tony wasn't going to stop and chat with manic-eyed fans when he had Steve smiling at him like that from across the room.
Three dances and one closet session later—the irony of which was lost on neither of them—Steve called it a night. Tony had a few more investors' pockets to dig into, but he kissed him goodnight and walked him to the car. It didn't occur to either of them why the press seemed to be taking far more shots of them than usual—if they didn't return home together, Tony always walked Steve out, nothing particularly unusual there—until he went back inside and the same woman from before caught his arm.
"That's Steve's tie."
Tony glanced down. So it was. That explained the extra press shots.
"Huh. Guess so. Friend of his?"
Most people referred to Steve as some variation of Captain Rogers, even after Steve told them just his first name was fine. The Captain America appreciation ran deep, for most. Tony gave her a second look, now that it seemed she might have some connection to Steve; she was small and sort of mousy looking, dressed in an expensive emerald number, and…very, very pregnant.
"We're…close," she replied cryptically, eyeing the crowd of people pressed around them, "Could we talk in private?"
"I try not to make a habit of that, actually." Tony glanced over his shoulder to Happy, positioned just a few yards away. Steve would've told him if any of his friends were pregnant—the guy lived to spread good news like that—and yet she'd said they were close. People lying to get him alone rarely meant good intentions. "The whole 'supervillains constantly trying to kill me' thing, you understand."
"This is actually fairly important." She moved forward as he moved back, grabbed his arm. Tony caught Happy move out of the corner of his eye, but subtly waved him off. She was pregnant, after all, not exactly in any condition for villainous activities. She was probably harmless, just a little over-excited. "Steve hasn't told you about me?"
"To be fair, I've forgotten more people than you'll probably ever know," Tony allowed, "Though you're going to want to take your hand off my arm before my bodyguard removes it for you."
She inhaled sharply and removed her hand, but pressed the issue. "It's about Steve. I'm going to tell the press tomorrow, but I—"
"Is that a threat?" Tony narrowed his eyes. "Historically, not a great move for you."
"No! No, I wouldn't threaten him. I would never." Her tone was a touch too earnest for Tony's comfort. He'd dealt with plenty of stalkers before…had Steve managed to attract one? If anything, Tony was surprised it hadn't happened sooner. Steve was…well. Steve. For all the press that surrounded their relationship, obsessive types weren't the kind to take a hint. "I just…I think you deserve to know before the public. He already knows, of course, we just wanted to keep this between us until the time was right."
She had a strangely idyllic smile on her face now, and Tony knew that look. That wasn't just crazy, that was Crazy with a capital C that stood for a couple hundred cats and collage books of Steve's face cut and pasted into family pictures. Tony'd been there, done that; he didn't envy Steve for it in the slightest. He was also going to laugh at him endlessly, but hey.
"Well, you know Steve." Tony tried his best to tamp down an amused smile. "He's considerate like that."
"Oh, yes, he's just the best. And I'm sorry to be the one to do this to you," she told him, the happy little smile on her face completely contradictory to her words as her hands dropped to her swollen stomach, "But I'm pregnant with Steve's baby, so it's time for his charade with you to end."
Admittedly, Tony's gears sort of stopped working for a second there.
The last nine months between him and Steve had been…exceptional. They'd been together for just over four years and of course they'd been happy, but this last year in particular they'd hit a groove of sorts, struck on a sort of happiness Tony couldn't have imagined for himself just a few short years ago. It was laughable to think Steve could've been having some sort of affair all this time, not only because Tony knew him better than that but because Steve had the poker face of a six year old. It wasn't Steve's baby, obviously, and Tony knew that, so why the hell was it suddenly so hard to breathe in here when she was clearly just insane—
"—just hit it off so well, and when he said he had to have me I couldn't resist—"
Jesus, was she still talking?
"Yeah, right, sure," Tony dismissed her flippantly, "Call StarkLegal, they'll run the paternity test free of charge and they've got his DNA on file, let me know how that all holds up for you."
Then he pushed past her—Christ, he just pushed a pregnant lady, that was going to be in the papers tomorrow—and back towards the exit. Turned out he felt like going home after all. The car was already gone, but Happy, two steps behind him and clearly concerned, turned him by the shoulder.
"Hey, Boss, what the hell did she say to you?"
"Nothing. Call another car, I'm done here."
"Steve's probably still on the road, if you call him I'm sure he'll turn—"
"Just…" Tony shook his head. "Call another car, Happy."
Happy paused, narrowing his eyes at Tony in concern, then over his shoulder at…shit, Tony hadn't even gotten her name. "You okay?"
"Peachy. Get me home."
It took Happy ten minutes to secure him a ride, ten minutes during which Tony envisioned tomorrow's headlines and tried very hard not to look like he wanted to puke as the reporters took shot after shot of him alone on the front steps.
Rogers and Stark Leave Same Time, But Separately; Trouble in Paradise?
Stark Seen Pushing Unidentified Pregnant Woman, Stark Officially Anti-Children
Stark Pukes On Red Carpet, Superhero Returns to Super Drinking
When Happy finally pulled up, Tony waved him out of the driver's seat and took the wheel. It wouldn't make him feel as good as flying the suit would, but a few skid marks might take the edge off a little.
After insisting to Happy that he fine for the sixtieth time in half as many minutes, there was nothing left for Tony to do but go upstairs and crawl into bed and try to get the words I'm pregnant with Steve's baby out of his head. A drink would probably help, but he wasn't entirely certain if he started he'd be able to stop, and the look on Steve's face when he came to bed that far gone was horrible and nothing Tony ever wanted to be the cause of.
He went straight up, ignoring the urge to press the button for the workshop or communal floor and pressing the one for their suite instead. He should tell Steve. He had to, if that psycho really was planning on pulling some sort of tell all to the press tomorrow. Steve deserved a heads up. Tony found him in the bathroom, brushing his teeth. Steve caught sight of him in the mirror and spit out his toothpaste to smile at Tony warmly. There was a spot of toothpaste at the edge of his mouth and the Iron Man pajama pants that had once been a joke were now approaching threadbare in a couple places, but he still looked so damn perfect, everything Tony could ever want and never deserve.
The pregnancy ridiculousness wasn't true. Tony knew it wasn't, somewhat because it was logistically improbable and largely because he just had faith in Steve. He'd had that level of faith in Steve from pretty much minute one, had believed in his ability to make the right calls even when he hadn't liked him, because Steve was good and honest and wasn't even capable of doing the sort of thing the woman had been insinuating. So it wasn't that Tony thought anything she'd said was true, because of course he didn't. It was just…the thought of it, the concept, of kids and a family and future for Steve, the kind of future he deserved, was suddenly so much more real.
It kept digging at him, ferreting out every insecure thing he'd ever thought about himself, about them; that he wasn't enough for Steve, that he couldn't provide enough, that money could make up for a lot but it wasn't enough to turn a house into a home, wasn't enough to make Steve ever consider him as family material. Steve would be an amazing husband and even better father, Tony knew that like he knew Newton's laws because it was basic, was simple and obvious and entirely inevitable. But it was nothing Steve could possibly want to do with someone like Tony. He was barely, maybe husband material, but kids? Contrary to popular belief Tony did like kids, but that didn't mean he belonged around them, didn't mean he was willing to screw them up any worse than life already would. So that was one more thing he couldn't give to Steve, one more thing he was only holding him back from—
"Tony?" Steve touched his shoulder carefully. Tony hadn't even realized he'd walked over. "Are you alright? You look like you're going to be sick. Is that why you're back so early? Sit down, if you don't feel—"
"No, I feel fine, I just…" Tony shook his head distractedly, but let himself be led out of the bathroom anyway. "Talked to a fan of yours, tonight."
"What'd they say?" Steve's concern dipped into disapproval, brow furrowing a little like it always did when he thought people were disparaging Tony, or when Tony was doing it to himself.
"Well, you've got your first Mrs. Rogers." Tony tried for a sarcastic grin as they took seats on the edge of the bed. It fell flat.
"If that was a proposal, it might be the worst I've ever heard." Steve was teasing him, but there was a sort of confused concern still in his eyes that made Tony even more uncomfortable.
"Christ no, I'm not that stupid." That was definitely hurt on Steve's face now, and Tony hastily amended, "By which I mean I'm aware that would be the shittiest proposal in history of the world and even I wouldn't find it funny."
Or be stupid enough to think Steve would ever say yes, but that was another matter.
"Then what are you talking about?" Steve didn't pursue talk of proposals. Tony was grateful.
"You've got your first delusional stalker," Tony clarified, "She came up to inform me our 'charade' together was officially over."
Confusion dipped into anger. "Our what?"
"She's also enormously pregnant." Tony rubbed his hands over his eyes. "Claiming it's yours, of course."
"Tony, I would never—" Steve took hold of his shoulder firmly.
"I know." Tony laughed, though he wasn't certain what he was laughing at. Nothing about this was particularly funny. "Believe me, I know, you're the worst liar I've ever met and she had the manic-possessive eyes of an overly attached psychopath, not hard to put the pieces together there."
"Jesus." Steve dropped his hand from Tony's shoulder, stunned. "Mary and Joseph. And she's actually pregnant?"
"Unless she's wearing a body suit or something." Tony gave a half shrug. "I didn't check."
"Did she want something from you?"
"The pleasure of seeing my face when I heard in person?" Tony shrugged again, voice carefully light. "Hell if I know. She seemed to be under the delusion that you were in this together, that you'd be announcing her pregnancy to the press tomorrow."
"Whatever she told you is a lie at best, a delusion at worst—"
"I know that. Legal will deal with it, one paternity test and the whole issue will be a wash, it's not a problem, I was just warning you." Tony hadn't meant to snap. The very last person in the world he was angry with right now was Steve, but he was frustrated and Steve was near. Steve, apparently feeling the need to further demonstrate his perfection, just wrapped an arm around Tony and hugged him close. "The hell are you comforting me for? She said all this about you, it's your character she's attempting to slander. You get that, right?"
"I get that she intentionally set out to hurt you, at least tonight." Steve kissed his temple.
"I didn't get my feelings hurt, it's not as if I even believed—"
"Alright, so you're not hurt." Steve agreed easily, refusing to be shrugged off. "But you're sure something. Want to tell me about it?"
"Not particularly." At least he was honest.
Steve watched him for a long moment, calm and patient and a little too understanding, before catching Tony's jaw in his hand and turning his head for a deep, lingering kiss. "Why don't we talk about something else, then?"
"Sure." Tony tried to catch his breath. Supersoldier lungs were a hell of a thing to keep up with.
"Why don't you tell me what you really meant when you said you're not that stupid?"
"Why don't we not do this—"
"Or about why every time I so much as hint about the future, you shut me down?"
"It is true." Steve looked so awfully sad now, and goddamn, this was everything Tony had been trying so hard to avoid. "And I just—hinting doesn't seem to work with you, so I'm asking: is it marriage, or is it me?"
Breathing. Breathing was a thing.
"Because if you don't want to get married, I can understand that. Hell, I don't care; you're all I need, Tony. You're everything to me. But if you just—if you want that someday but you can't see it with me, then…then we need to talk about that."
Tony blamed the pregnancy bullshit frying his brain for what he said next.
"You would marry me?"
Steve's face would've been comical under different circumstances. As it was, Tony just kept staring, stunned and a little short on air, watching as Steve's face went from determined to baffled in the space of about half a second. "Would I…? Would I marry you? I've gotten halfway through a dozen proposals to you in the past month alone, what in the hell else could you possibly have thought I've been doing?"
"You—what? No. When?"
"Are you kidding? I've been trying since our anniversary! Just last week, I took you up to the roof, lit enough candles to burn the building down, I brought you roses, I got down on one knee—"
"You tied your shoe!"
"After you went pale as a ghost and started backing away like I was going to push you off the roof!"
"I thought you were proposing!"
"So your reaction was to start hyperventilating?"
"I—you—you would want to marry me?" Tony knew he was repeating himself, but. Christ.
"How is that even a question?" Steve leaned forward, cupped Tony's face again and drew him into a kiss. "Tony, I love you. You're the first person I want to see every morning, the last person I want to speak to every night—"
"Oh my god, you're rom-coming me, you've been watching rom-coms again, what is with you and crappy TV—"
"Don't talk through my proposal, it's rude." Steve was smiling so widely he failed to sound critical at all. He slid off the end of the bed, taking Tony's hands as he went to one knee. Was Tony breathing? It didn't feel like he was breathing. Was he magically asthmatic tonight? "And I'm damn well finishing this one. You're my better half, Tony; you push me when I need it, you support me when I stumble, you fight me when I'm wrong. You made me laugh harder than I ever had at a time in my life when I thought I didn't even know how to be happy anymore. You gave me more than I can put into words. The Avengers gave me purpose, but you gave me a home. You are my home. And if you'll have me, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
Everything in Tony screamed to say yes.
Because he was thoughtless at best and just plain self-destructive at worst, he stood up and croaked out, "I have to go."
He didn't meet Steve's eyes as he turned away, had absolutely no desire whatsoever to see the expression in them. He was doing what was best for Steve, but if Steve's speech was any indication, he wasn't going to see it that way. And how the hell was that fair? In what fucking universe was Tony supposed to be the responsible one?
Steve nearly stumbled over himself to dart forward, off his knee and up to grab Tony by the wrist. "Tony, wait, I'm sorry—"
"It's not fine, I knew you were uncomfortable and I shouldn't have pushed—"
"It's not…that," Tony admitted. Steve tugged him back and Tony let him, let himself be wrapped up in Steve's arms because how the hell was he supposed to resist? It'd been hard enough to try and leave, could he really be expected to let Steve think he didn't want to marry him? "I just—I get that you want to marry me right now, I believe that and I'm—Steve, that makes me so incredibly happy. I can't tell you how happy that makes me, but this is the rest of your life. You shouldn't waste it."
Steve pulled back just enough to take Tony's face in his hands. His expression was angry and hurt but his movements were gentle as always as he tipped Tony's head back, got him to make eye contact. "Is that really what this is? All this time, and we're still stuck on that 'I don't deserve you' bullshit?"
"People don't 'deserve' each other, Tony. I love you, even when you're being as monumentally difficult as you are right now, and you love me, even when I get stubborn or hotheaded or inflexible, and that's all that matters. I'm not perfect, tell me you know that by now."
Tony couldn't help a hint of a smirk. "You are the worst blanket hog I've ever met."
"And you listen to music loud enough to wake the dead." Steve smiled back at him. "I think we can work out a compromise. I want whatever makes you happy, honey. I'm going to love you for the rest of my life; I don't give a damn if we do it with 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs or a team of child-like superheroes and a big ugly tower. I just need you. And if you really don't want to get married, that's your prerogative and I'm okay with that. But if you're only saying no because of some ridiculous, unfounded idea that I'm going to wake up one day, lose my Goddamn mind, and walk out on you, then you're just making excuses."
"So just because you made one of your trademark speeches I'm supposed to…" Tony waved a hand vaguely, cleared his throat. "What? Get all emotional, cry hysterically, say yes and accept whatever enormous rock you're probably hiding oh-so-creatively in your sock drawer?"
"No one said you had to cry." Steve grinned. "And it's in my nightstand. You steal my socks."
"You're such a liar."
"You're literally wearing them right now." Steve was still smiling as he tugged Tony closer again by his tie. "This looks pretty familiar, too."
"We swapped at the party."
"I noticed that."
"Didn't think to mention it?"
"Let 'em talk." And no, no no no, that was totally and completely—
"Cheating, you're such a cheat, we talked about that, using the accent when we argue is absolutely not allowed—"
"Are we still arguin'?" Steve's mouth was just a breath away from his now. "'Cause I thought I heard a yes in there."
"It was sarcastic."
"I'll take it." Steve kissed him, open-mouthed and with the sort of enthusiasm Tony was helpless to refuse.
"What if I don't want to marry you, huh?" Tony asked breathlessly when he got half a second to speak, "You cheated, after all."
"I do that sometimes," Steve all but spoke into his mouth, crowding Tony up against the bed now.
"And you snore," Tony tried, "Loudly. Enough to wake me up."
"Uh huh," Steve mumbled against his lips, nimble fingers making quick work of his tie.
"And you leave clothes everywhere," Tony pointed out as Steve dropped the tie to the floor, started to unbutton his shirt.
"Sure do." Steve punctuated his agreement by pulling Tony's shirt off his shoulders and discarding it as well. He stripped Tony's undershirt off just as hastily, pausing only to leave a few biting kisses along Tony's collarbone.
"You're the only—ah." Tony inhaled sharply as Steve moved to his neck, sucking a mark just under his ear. "Only messy soldier I've ever met, don't even cap your toothpaste—"
"Never was that great a soldier." Steve fingers went to his belt, slipped it out of the loops and thumbed open the button.
"Not great at using the dishwasher, either, always have to hand-wash everything even though you know it makes your hands dry as hell—"
Steve gave an over-exaggerated lick of his palm before he slid it down Tony's pants, giving a few torturously slow strokes before nudging Tony back onto the bed. Tony tripped a bit over his half-off pants, still talking a mile a minute as Steve stripped him out of those as well.
"And you make me go to sporting games I hate and your taste in television is a fucking travesty and you've Rick Rolled me at least fifty times—"
"'Cause I'm never gonna give you up," Steve hummed, "Never gonna let you down…"
"You are such a troll." Tony groaned as Steve's hands worked back over his cock, squeezing tight once before letting go. "And a tease, have I mentioned you being a horrible tease?"
Steve loomed above him for a minute, gaze roaming lazily over Tony's skin without any clear intention of actually touching him again anytime soon. "It's a personal goal to hear you moan it at me at least once a day."
"You're awful," Tony decided. He propped himself up on his elbows, stared up at Steve challengingly. "I don't think I want to marry you after all."
"That's a shame." Steve held up Tony's Captain America socks. "Guess you'll have to find someone else's socks to steal, then."
"Those are my—"
"You giving them to me as a birthday gift doesn't actually make them your socks."
"They were on my feet last."
"And now they're in my hand."
"Fine." Tony tried his hardest to pretend his heart wasn't racing, that he didn't have to actively remind himself to breathe right now. "I'll marry you, then. For the socks."
"For the socks." Steve beamed wider than Tony had ever seen, bright and brilliant and utterly ecstatic.
He finally deigned to join Tony on the bed, letting their legs tangle together as he crawled beside him, stroked a hand up Tony's side as Tony turned to face him. Then Steve just lay there for a moment, watching him with an entirely unrepentant, impossibly sappy expression on his face. Tony supposed he was probably mirroring it. It took about a hundred years too long, but Steve finally stopped trying to absorb him with his eyes and kissed him, long and sweet and entirely perfect.
Truth was, Tony still didn't really believe he'd ever done anything in his life worth keeping Steve. But he believed that Steve believed it, and he believed that could be enough.