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“I don’t know,” Steve said, after Tony finished a six-minute ode to The Dude’s beard in The Big Lebowski (a movie that Steve had found confusing and a little boring but was, apparently, absolutely crucial to understanding the 21st century. Steve was starting to think that “absolutely crucial to understanding the 21st century” had started to mean “stuff Tony really liked”). “I mean, I’m not really a fan of beards.”

Tony gave Steve a look of such horror that Steve almost wondered if he’d misspoken and casually mentioned that he’d been tossing puppies off the top floor of Stark Tower.

“You’re not,” he said, “a fan of beards? I mean – but you like my beard.”

Steve tilted his head. “Uh. No, not really a fan of yours, either.”

“Steve,” Tony said, in the calm voice he usually reserved for moments when Steve made some kind of supersoldier-out-of-time mistake, like the time he tried use the remote control to get the microwave to start. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like my beard. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t adore my beard. Did you know my beard alone has averted at least two international incidents?”

Steve kind of doubted that, and shelved it with “Stuff Tony Says That Doesn’t Make Any Sense, But Which I Cannot Immediately Prove Isn’t True.” That particular file was getting pretty big.

“How can you not like beards?” Tony continued. “They’re manly. You like things that are manly. You are kind of the dictionary definition of manly, actually, I heard the 2013 edition of Websters is going to include a little picture of you.”

Steve shrugged. “Old habits die hard, I guess. We couldn’t have facial hair in the service, and considering pretty much everybody was in the service, they were a little out of fashion.”

“A lot of things were out of fashion in the ‘40s,” Tony said dismissively. “Asbestos-free housing. Civil rights. Bikinis. Doesn’t mean they were a bad idea.”

Steve didn’t bother asking what asbestos was; it sounded like the future had taken care of it. “Look, I’m not judging,” he said. “What you do with your face is your call. If you want to walk around looking like you can’t afford to buy razors, that’s your own choice.”

“Like I can’t afford – Rogers, that is low,” Tony said, and Steve bit back a grin. “I can afford razors. I can afford all of the razors, I could buy a razor factory, I might already – Jarvis, does Stark Industries traffic in razors?”

“Not currently, sir,” Jarvis said, and Steve didn’t know the AI well, but he was starting to think that this was the tone that indicated “amusement.”

“Well, let’s look into changing that,” Tony said.

“I know you can afford razors, Tony,” Steve said. “But during the Depression, you know, those were pretty much the only people who had beards. People who had fallen on hard times, harder than most. I didn’t judge then, and I won’t judge now.”

Tony narrowed his eyes. “This isn’t over,” he said. “Jarvis, do we have any milk?”

“In the main kitchen,” Jarvis said.

“Good, let’s go,” Tony said. “I could use a White Russian.”

-

“I think the problem,” Tony said the next day, apropos of nothing, “is just that you haven’t been exposed to them enough.”

Steve looked up from his report. “Haven’t been exposed to what enough?”

Tony scrolled through something on his tablet that was almost certainly not the official SHIELD debriefing file he was supposed to be working on. He would probably take twice as long as Steve to finish his report, even though he insisted that typing it on the holo-keyboard was five times as fast as Steve’s pen-and-paper approach.

“Beards,” Tony said, as if they were simply continuing the conversation that had started 18 hours and 39 lightning-powered killer robots in Central Park ago.

“Beards,” Steve repeated dumbly.

“Mine, in particular,” Tony said. “You spend too much time with me as Iron Man,” and he reached up and flipped the visor closed, obscuring his face, “and not enough time with me as Tony, the bearded Adonis.” He flipped the visor up again and winked.

“Why don’t you just put a beard on the armor?” Steve suggested. “Seems like that would solve a lot of problems.”

“I tried,” Tony said. “Wasn’t aerodynamic. But anyway, exposure therapy. We need to expose you to beards on a regular basis. Maybe you just need to get used to beards being, you know, a thing. An awesome thing.”

Steve shrugged. “If you say so. I don’t think you’re going to change my mind, though.”

“I can be very persuasive,” Tony said, a bit ominously, and Steve turned back to his report, wondering if Tony even noticed the eye rolls anymore.

-

“Have you even been opening my emails, Cap?” Tony asked.

“Of course I have,” Steve said, because that was the kind of white lie that Steve was totally okay with.

“Oh my god, you haven’t,” Tony said. “Do you know how to check your email?”

“I - yes, of course!” Steve said, fighting back a blush even though no one could see it under his cowl. “I’ve done it multiple times, I’ve done it multiple times.”

“But you don’t do it regularly,” Tony accused.

“How are we defining regularly?” Steve said.

“I’ve been putting a lot of effort into those emails,” Tony said. “A lot. And you aren’t even looking at them. Do we need to have a Make Sure Cap Checks His Email Committee? We’re getting a little overloaded here, Coulson already heads up the Keep Cap From Saying Anything Too Anachronistic To the Press Committee - ”

“Hey, it’s been a long time since I talked about President Roosevelt,” Steve said weakly.

“ - and the Get Cap To Throw Away His Socks When They Have Holes In Them Committee, that’s the Widow’s - ”

“I maintain that there is no reason to dispose of perfectly useable clothes, it’s really not that hard to darn - ”

“And now the email thing, as if I wasn’t already busy enough,” Tony said admonishingly. “Exposure therapy, remember? I’ve been sending you pictures of Hollywood’s best beards, you know, Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, Katie Holmes - ”

There was the sound of someone snorting over the comms. Steve had a feeling it was Clint.

“You got something to say about Captain Jack, Hawkeye?” Tony snapped.

“No, he’s got great facial hair game,” Clint said. “But you know we can all hear this conversation, right?”

“Yeah, so what?” Tony said.

“We’re supposed to be on a stakeout, Iron Man,” Natasha said. “Radio silence mean anything to you?”

“It’s been almost three hours,” Tony said. “I don’t think this guy is even here, I think we’ve all been played, now everyone’s going to know that all it takes to get the Avengers out in force is one little threat of biological warfare at Rockefeller Center - ”

“Target spotted exiting the building,” Coulson interrupted, and Steve sighed and swung his shield off his back. “Captain America, you take point.”

“Why does Captain America always get to take point?” Tony grumbled, jumping off Radio City Music Hall and landing, fist down, behind Steve.

“Because Captain America doesn’t abuse the comms to flirt with his coworkers,” Coulson replied. “Usually.” Steve opened his mouth to argue, but then a puff of purple smoke exploded in Rockefeller Center and caused twelve square blocks of Manhattan residents, including four out of six Avengers, to come down with a terrible case of the hiccups, and everyone sort of forgot about the whole flirting thing while they drank whole glasses of water and held their breath and hopped on one foot for the next half hour.

-

“I’m not really sure this is having any impact on my feelings about beards,” Steve said, frowning a little bit as Gandalf led the Fellowship into what was almost certainly a dangerous situation. From what Steve had seen of movies these days, going into a dark cave never worked out for anybody. “I mean, people don’t have beards like that in 2012.” He paused. “Do they? They don’t, right?”

“I want so badly to tell you that Gandalf beards are all the rage this season,” Tony said. “But unlike Barton, I’m trying my hardest to tell you the truth about things and not take advantage of the fact that you were literally frozen in time.”

“You told me last week that Air Force One was based on a true story,” Steve said accusingly. “I spent an hour on Wikipedia trying to find out which president ziplined out of his own plane.”

“Yeah, but think about how much history you learned,” Tony said, way too reasonably.

“The Clinton years were enlightening,” Steve agreed, and Tony choked on a handful of popcorn. “You know, if you grew a beard like that guy, the dwarf? I might like that.”

“Tell me you’re kidding,” Tony said. “Oh my god, please tell me that was a joke.”

“It was obviously a joke,” Steve said, reaching into the bowl on Tony’s lap and grabbing his own handful of popcorn.

“I can’t always tell with you,” Tony mused, watching Steve as he leaned back against the couch.

“I like to keep you guessing,” Steve said, and turned back to the TV.

-

“I want you to know that Coulson authorized me to use force to get you to leave the lab,” Steve said as he walked into Tony’s workshop, a steaming mug of coffee clutched in his hands.

“If Coulson had left Barton’s bedside for anything longer than the time it takes to take a piss, I would respect that a little more,” Tony said, not even looking up from the holographic screen he was working on. The workshop was littered with metal and kevlar, most of it twisted and blackened. On the table next to Tony, a half-built suit of lightweight armor was glinting under a spotlight.

“Phil’s slept,” Steve said, putting the coffee down next to Tony’s hand and just leaving it there. “In a chair, yeah, but he’s slept. And he’s eaten. According to Jarvis, you have done neither. In almost two days.”

“Traitor,” Tony said loudly.

“Apologies, sir,” Jarvis said, unapologetically.

“He’s going to be fine,” Steve said gently. “I know you’re worried about him, but - ”

“I’m not worried,” Tony spat, flicking his fingers and expanding the diagram he was looking at until he was zoomed in on the elbow joint. “I’m working. You know, that thing some of us do for a living?”

Steve swallowed a sigh. “You’re working on armor. For Hawkeye.”

“I’m working on a lot of things,” Tony said vaguely, rotating the image so he was looking at it from behind. “Some of it is armor, sure.”

“Clint won’t wear that,” Steve said. “It’ll restrict his movement too much.”

“Well, when he grows bomb-proof skin, maybe we’ll let him start making those kinds of decisions,” Tony said. “Until then, you know, maybe he could wear something that would stop him from almost getting his face blown off.” Tony started scrolling through the images so fast that there was no way he could see them.

“Nobody expects you to build something that can keep everybody safe all of the time,” Steve said quietly.

“Good, because that’s impossible, the way you idiots throw yourselves into the line of fire at every possible opportunity,” Tony said.

“It would have been worse if you hadn’t been there to pull Clint off the roof after the bomb went off,” Steve said. “You saved his life.”

“His life wouldn’t have needed saving if I’d made it to that bomb and defused it before it went off.”

“Tony, you weren’t anywhere near it,” Steve said. “Clint was doing his job and you were doing yours, there was nothing you could have done.”

Tony looked up at Steve, his eyes angry and dark. “Look, I see what you’re trying to do here, team leader, I get it, I really do, but here’s the thing: I was useless. The suit was useless. Jarvis was useless, no offense, Jarvis, this one’s on me. I was basically a flying paramedic. Next time - ”

“Next time what?” Steve interrupted. “Next time everybody else can just stand back and stay safe and watch you fight every battle all by yourself?”

“No, next time I won’t come home covered in my teammate’s blood,” Tony said. “And the only way I’ll be able to do that is if you just let me work.”

“It’s not your job to protect us,” Steve said. “We’re a team. We protect each other. We - ”

“Cap,” Tony said, and sucked in a deep breath. “This is what I do, okay? This is my job. I build stuff. But here’s the thing, this work I do? It takes time. I’m not used to giving a shit about so many people all at once. I’m used to bothering with two, maybe three people - there’s Pepper, even though she dumped me, not that I blame her, and there’s Happy, and there’s Rhodey, sometimes, when he’s not being the worst best friend ever and stealing my stuff - and now, somehow, there’s all of you guys, and I just, I need to work, I need more hours in the day, so I can finish everything I need to do.”

There was a long pause while Tony stared blankly at Steve and Steve re-organized everything he thought he knew about Tony.

“You know what you really need right now?” Steve said finally.

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “What do I really need right now?”

“You need a shave,” Steve said. He nodded at Tony’s face. “You’re getting pretty… beardy.”

“Seriously,” Tony said flatly. “You’re giving me a hard time about - seriously.”

“Yeah, seriously,” Steve said. “You have a five o’clock shadow three times over.”

“That is really rich coming from you,” Tony said. “Criticizing the state of my beard? You can’t even grow a decent beard, you weird superhuman manchild. You should be jealous. You should be salivating with envy over my ability to grow these whiskers.”

“Oh, I am,” Steve said. “Absolutely salivating. Now go shave, and then get some sleep.”

“Is that an order, Cap?” Tony said.

“Do I need to make it one?” Steve asked.

“You know I’m kind of into that,” Tony said, and Steve knew it was just to make him blush, and he blushed anyway.

“Then it’s an order,” he said firmly, and marched out of the workshop with the welcome sound of Tony’s laughter in his ears.

-

“I have someone from the PR team asking if Stark is converting to Scientology,” Coulson said, pressing one hand to his ear. “Does anyone know if Stark is converting to Scientology?”

“I don’t think Stark would join any religion where he had to compete with Tom Cruise for the title of ‘craziest congregant’,” Natasha said.

“I don’t think Stark would join any religion that didn’t worship him,” Clint said.

All three of them looked at Steve. “I don’t know why you’re looking at me,” he said, holding up his hands. “I don’t even know what Scientology is.”

“Hey, has anyone seen Tony?” Bruce asked, walking into the living room with his arms full of books. Thor followed him in, carrying one that must have fallen off the stack. “I just got a Google alert that he was diagnosed with alopecia. I don’t even know how to interpret that.”

“Alopecia?” Clint said. “What the hell does that even – ”

Clint froze. Coulson’s mouth opened, very slightly. Thor dropped the book he was holding. Bruce pushed his glasses up his nose and squinted.

“Wow,” Natasha whispered, and that was what did it, that was what really scared Steve. He whirled around to see what they were all staring at.

Standing in front of the elevator was Tony. Just Tony. But – there was something –

“Oh my god,” Steve said, and clamped his mouth shut.

His beard was gone.

Completely. Gone.

“You look like a really ugly baby,” Clint said, and then yelped, “Ow!” as someone, presumably Natasha, kicked him.

“Fuck you very much, Barton,” Tony snapped, walking over to the bar. He pulled the stopper out of a bottle of scotch and poured out a couple of fingers. “Christ, can you all stop staring? Jesus, it’s like you’ve never seen a clean-shaven man before.”

“Is there, an, ah, occasion, Tony?” Bruce asked carefully. “For the, uh, the new look?”

“Can’t a guy change his style once in a while without getting a bunch of shit from his friends?” Tony said, taking a sip of scotch. “I say 'friends', but ‘peanut gallery of asshats’ feels a lot closer to the truth right now.”

“Ah,” Thor said, wisely. “There is a fair maiden whom friend Stark wishes to impress.”

Steve felt the bottom drop out of his stomach.

“What?” Tony said, as Clint burst out laughing, and Bruce and Natasha exchanged a look. “What, no. Not at - what could possibly make you think - “

“A man most often changes something dramatic about his countenance when a much-desired lady expresses a preference,” Thor said, and Steve tried not to swallow his own tongue.

“That is ridiculous,” Tony said, running a hand over his face. “Utter bullshit, buddy, I hate to say it, but you’re way off base.”

“Lady Jane requested that I refrain from wearing my hair in a topknot,” Thor said, ignoring Tony’s protests. “Have you seen a topknot on my head as of late? Nay.” Thor shook his head, and his long locks were, indeed, flowing wild and free. “Despite the convenience of that particular style of hair, I shall never again be seen with it as long as Jane should have me.”

“Well, that’s great, Herbal Essences, but I shaved the goatee because it was annoying me, and I hadn’t shaved since 1991, so hey, you know, why not give it a shot,” Tony said, and downed the rest of his scotch in one go. Steve watched the way his throat worked, and felt himself swallow in tandem. “And anyway, Jesus, don’t you people have anything better to do than measure the growth of hair on my face? A team of fucking superheroes and you’re all just sitting around debating what kind of shaving cream I use, get a life.”

“You are the sun we revolve around,” Clint said, holding up his beer. Tony flipped him off and poured himself another full glass of scotch.

“The pizza has arrived, sir,” Jarvis said, and Tony’s newly-naked face was temporarily forgotten in the scramble to set out napkins and cold beers and paper plates and prevent Thor from eating the entirety of the Hawaiian pizza before anyone else got a chance at it.

-

“We win again,” Clint crowed, gyrating his hips in a little victory dance as Thor sighed, picked up the final red cup, and downed its contents in one gulp. Natasha grinned a little hazily and raised her cup toward Thor and Bruce at the other end of the table, rolling a ping pong ball between the fingers of her other hand.

“I do not understand how they continue to best us,” Thor said irritably. “The effects of the alcohol should be greatly hindering their performance by now. I have the tolerance of ten Midgardians, and you, Doctor, are not consuming at all.”

“It does seem like we should have the advantage eight games in,” Bruce pondered, pushing the cups back into a triangle formation.

“You forget that I was raised in a circus,” Clint said, leaning in to press a sloppy kiss to Natasha’s cheek. “And Tasha’s Russian. We both learned to drink early.”

“You also forget that they are trained assassins and are used to working from a distance under less than ideal conditions,” Coulson pointed out from his seat on a barstool positioned at the center point of the table. He was surrounded by empty beer cans and he was still wearing his suit jacket, but his tie had come a little bit loose the last time Clint had pulled on it, and he hadn’t fixed it. It was the most disheveled Steve had ever seen him.

“Do you want to play, Phil?” Bruce asked politely.

“Hoo boy, you do not want to play against Coulson,” Clint said, stumbling - just a little - away from Natasha to lean against Coulson’s shoulder. “He was a Ranger. He will slaughter you at beer pong.”

“You trying to wuss out of a rematch, Banner?” Natasha said, popping open another beer. “It’s 4-4, next one wins.”

“Or, next one who loses calls for first to six,” Steve said, standing up from the couch to join Tony at the bar. “That’s my guess.”

“People who aren’t drinking don’t get to talk shit,” Clint said. “Bring us more beers, beer slave!”

Steve rolled his eyes and pulled two beers out of the fridge, then slid them down the bar. Thor grabbed them and handed them off to the others. Tony was leaning against the bar, typing rapidly on his StarkPhone. Steve wondered, once again, how people from the 21st century got their thumbs to move that fast.

“You gonna play?” he asked Tony, nodding toward the table.

“I haven’t played beer pong since I was in college,” Tony said, slipping the phone back into his pocket. “In fact, most people haven’t played beer pong since they were in college,” he said, raising his voice so that the rest of the team could hear him.

Most people did not recently stop a genetically-modified caterpillar the size of a bus from eating its way through Fenway Park, either,” Clint called back. “As always, we are the exception to every rule.”

“To the victors go the spoils,” Thor said, and poured at least half of his recently opened beer into his mouth.

“Now we need another one for the game,” Bruce said, looking amused.

“Children,” Tony said, but he was barely suppressing a smile.

“So,” Steve said, because Natasha had just turned on her pump-up jam - a song by some gal named Britney Spears about toxic waste, as far as Steve could tell - and no one could hear them over Clint’s singing, “your beard.”

“Oh my god, are we back on this?” Tony said. “Do I need to get the full team’s approval every time I get a haircut now, too? I was going to clip my toenails tomorrow morning, should I send an email?”

“CNN played the video of you getting out of your car on loop for an hour,” Steve said. “Fox got a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to say that you were thinking about going on a mission. This is news, Tony.”

“It’s really, really not,” Tony said. “I just - Jesus, I just wanted to do something different.” He ran his hand over his face again. “I look fucking terrible, don’t I.”

“No,” Steve said immediately. “Not at all. It’s - different.”

Tony raised his eyebrows and took a sip of scotch. “That’s 40’s speak for ‘ugly as sin’, isn’t it? And here I thought you of all people would like it.”

“Because I don’t like beards?” Steve said.

“Well, yeah,” Tony said. “And because now I look more like - “ He cut himself off and picked up the ice tongs.

“Now you look more like what?” Steve asked suspiciously. “Tony. What?”

Tony dropped an ice cube into his glass. “Because now I look more like Howard,” he said casually, keeping his eyes on the ice as it clinked to the bottom of the glass and then floated back up.

Steve swallowed. “You - I - you don’t mean - “

“No, hey, it’s fine, Cap, I get it,” Tony said, leaning against the bar and crossing his arms over his chest, staring out the window at the Manhattan skyline. “I get it. You were friends with him, as much as anybody could be friends with him. And now he’s gone, but hey, if I can look more like him, if that’s what does - if that’s comforting for you, you know, I can do that. I can be that,” he said.

“I don’t want you to look like Howard,” Steve blurted out, feeling a little sick to his stomach. “That’s - I never wanted that.”

Tony raised an eyebrow.

“I’m serious,” Steve said urgently. “I - you don’t even look like him without a beard. I never - I don’t even think of him when I look at you. You’re nothing like him.”

“I’m enough like him,” Tony muttered.

“You’re not,” Steve said. “I liked Howard, but not - nothing like - not like how I like you.” He cringed, but Tony just kept staring out the window. “I like you just the way you are. You - you’re Tony.”

“And they say you’re not the smart one,” Tony said, and Steve elbowed him in the ribs. “Ow, seriously, how are you so bony? You are basically one giant muscle, and yet you have the elbows of an eleven year old girl.”

“Shut it, Stark,” Steve said, and left his arm where it was, just grazing Tony’s shoulder. “I think you should grow it back. You don’t look like you without it.”

“Oh, thank fucking god,” Tony gasped, and Steve laughed. “I mean, I was going to grow it back anyway, the moment I saw myself in the mirror I was like, holy shit have I made a huge mistake. I was not waiting for your approval,” Tony continued.

“Of course not,” Steve said, feeling his stomach flip over.

“It was just an experiment,” Tony said.

“I know,” Steve said.

“A failed one,” Tony said. “A very, very miserably failed one, and I am really regretting that it made it on TV, must have been a slow news day, seriously, even with the caterpillar thing? How is it possible that what’s going on with my face is bigger news than the caterpillar thing?”

“The caterpillar thing wasn’t really that big of a deal,” Steve said, watching as Natasha sank a ping pong ball in the same cup Clint had hit a moment before, causing Clint to wrap her up in a bear hug and yell something about Midgardian victory.

“It would have been a bigger deal if the Sox weren’t so terrible this year,” Tony mused, leaning ever-so-slightly against Steve’s shoulder.

“Beer slave! We need victory beers!” Clint yelled, and Steve just grinned.

-

“I am never going to Italy again,” Tony said, setting his bag down on the couch in his workshop. Steve set his pencil down and looked up. “Jarvis - email Pepper, tell her I am never going to Italy again. Take it off all future itineraries. I don’t care how good of a biotech program we have in Siena, I will never again visit that country.”

“As you wish, sir,” Jarvis said drolly, and, Steve assumed, sent no such email.

Tony turned to Steve. “I’m in Rome, my last day, I’m waiting for my car, which is late, like fucking everything in Italy, apparently, and this guy comes up to me on a scooter, a stupid little Vespa, and grabs my phone - my phone - right out of my hands. Do you know how much secret and borderline illegal Starktech is in that thing? Obviously I have a remote self-destruct code, and you know what, I hope it burned his hands, he’s lucky I didn’t have the suit, really lucky, because he would have been repulsored to the fucking Colosseum, I swear to - what are you doing in my workshop?”

Steve put down his sketchbook. “Jarvis told me you were almost back. Thought I’d come greet you.”

“A week away and you missed me already? I’m honored, and also a little suspicious,” Tony said, pulling up a screen to, Steve knew, check security protocols on the whole tower.

“Actually, everybody else already had plans for dinner, so I wanted to see if you wanted to order in,” Steve said.

“What do you want?” Tony asked, bringing up a hand to stroke his newly-regrown goatee. “And if you say - “

“Italian,” Steve said, grinning. “Italian sounds good.”

“ - I swear to god, I will kill you dead, I will go tickle the Hulk, I will borrow Mjolnir, I will do whatever it takes to kill you,” Tony finished.

“Chinese?” Steve suggested.

“You are a genius, I could eat about a million dumplings. Jarvis - ”

“The usual, sir?”

“You got it,” Tony said. He immediately set to messing up his workshop again; Dummy and the other bots had tidied up while he’d been gone, but it wouldn’t last long. Steve picked up his pencil and twirled it between his fingers, gnawing on his lower lip.

“All right, Rogers, spit it out,” Tony said a minute later. “I’m gonna get old waiting for you to say whatever it is you’re trying to phrase politely over there. If you have something to say, say it.”

“I never meant to make you feel bad about your beard,” Steve blurted out.

“Well, that’s good, because you didn’t,” Tony said, and Steve wondered, as he so often did when he was talking to Tony, if he’d said the exact wrong thing. “So I’m glad that wasn’t your goal, because I’d hate to have to tell you you’d failed at it. You don’t really handle failure well. I think America got that from you.”

Steve let that one slide. “I just wanted to make sure you knew that I don’t actually have a problem with it. I just like giving you a hard time.”

“You like giving me a - Jarvis, did you get that on video? I keep telling people that Captain America is kind of a dick, but nobody ever seems to believe me.”

“Unfortunately I think I may have missed it, sir,” Jarvis said.

“What’s the point of having 24/7 surveillance if you can’t even use it to blackmail your friends?”

“None at all, clearly,” Jarvis said dryly.

“And anyway, even if you did have a problem with the gift to mankind that is my goatee, it’s not like I’m trying to impress you or anything, no offense, Steve, but your style is a little more Grandpa’s closet than I generally go for - “

“Tony - “ Steve began, stepping forward.

“Don’t get me wrong, if anyone can pull off looking like a model even in a button down tucked into khakis it’s you, but I know you own jeans - “

Tony - “

“And anyway, we’re not done with my 20th century beards film fest, we still haven’t watched the A-Team, my facial hair is tame in comparison to Mr. T's, and there’s Hans in Die Hard, and oh my god, Chuck Norris, has anyone told you about him? You could totally take Chuck Norris in a fight, we should try to set that up as a publicity stunt, actually - “

Steve grabbed Tony by the shoulders and cut him off - finally - by pressing their lips together firmly.

“Did you do that just to shut me up?” Tony mumbled against his lips.

“If I did, it clearly didn’t work,” Steve said, pulling back to see Tony staring at him, wide-eyed.

“So, if I keep talking, does that mean you’ll do it again?” Tony asked, and Steve grinned and caught his lips. It was a little awkward, and Steve felt like he had at least seven hands and didn’t know what to do with any of them, but Tony didn’t seem to mind.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks,” Steve admitted, leaning his forehead against Tony’s as they caught their breath.

Weeks - what the hell have you been waiting for?” Tony said. “I know you’re old fashioned, but come on, you’ve been killing me here - “

“Well, I didn’t want you to think I was only kissing you because you’d shaved your beard!” Steve said, rubbing the back of his neck and grinning. “I had to wait until you grew it back.”

“That is - okay, I didn’t think it was possible for you to get any more ridiculous, but I have been proven wrong,” Tony said, punctuating his words with another kiss. “There is no good reason for us not to be doing this, all the time, do you hear me?”

“Agreed,” Steve said, carding his hand through Tony’s hair as Tony pushed him against the workbench.

“God, I thought I was going to have to ask you to a sock hop or give you my letterman’s jacket or something, who knew all it takes to get Steve Rogers to make out with you is growing a beard,” Tony said, even as Steve tried to press as much of their bodies together as was humanly possible. “Definitely gonna keep that one quiet, beards will be all the rage if it gets out that you go weak in the knees for a little stubble - “

“Do you ever stop talking?” Steve breathed into Tony’s ear before kissing his way down to his collarbone.

“Uh, no, I do not, ever, seriously, do you know me at all?” Tony said, gasping slightly as Steve bit down gently just under the collar of his shirt. “Tony Stark, nice to meet you, I like the thing that you are doing currently with your tongue, little forward for a guy I’ve never met, but - “

“Just saying, I can think of a few better uses for your mouth,” Steve said.

“Oh, god, you’re going to kill me, Rogers,” Tony groaned, and Steve just grinned.

-

“Fucking finally,” Clint said a few hours later when Steve and Tony finally made their way back to the living room to find the rest of the Avengers drinking beers and watching some movie about a guy who apparently wore a fedora and carried a whip while exploring the jungle. “God, I was about to lose my shit waiting for you guys to get it together.”

“Are we late?” Steve asked, tilting his head and glancing at Tony. Tony was standing a respectable two feet away, which was about two feet too far for Steve’s liking at the moment. “I didn’t realize everybody was watching a movie, did we miss much?”

“No, he’s talking about how you two finally made out,” Natasha said, never looking away from the screen.

Steve sat down so hard on the couch that Bruce bounced a little bit, and Tony froze in the act of reaching for a beer from the coffee table.

“What?” Steve said, and it was not a squeak, because that would be undignified.

“Oh, yeah,” Bruce said, smirking a little bit at Steve. “Really obvious.”

“How is it obvious?” Steve said. “How is it - in what way is it obvious? I mean - I’m not saying - but how did you - ”

“Smooth, Cap, real smooth,” Tony said, but he was smirking too.

“You have beard burn, dude,” Clint said.

“Oh my god,” Steve said, dropping his admittedly tender face into his hands.

“And Tony looks way too proud of himself,” Bruce said.

“Like, yeah, I definitely just hooked up with an American icon proud,” Clint added.

“It is long overdue,” Thor said, clapping Steve on the back.

“Told you,” Tony said, dropping onto the couch beside Steve, and Steve resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at him. Tony grinned and leaned forward, and Steve thought he was going to kiss him, but instead he just rubbed his face on Steve’s cheek, scratching his skin even more than before.

“Ow!” Steve said, pushing him away and laughing.

“Adorable,” Natasha said.

“Gross,” Clint agreed good-naturedly.

“Not that I am not exceedingly happy for you both, but I would like to see whether or not Whipmaster Jones is able to vanquish these Nazis,” Thor said pointedly, gesturing toward the TV. Thor was very serious about his Midgardian entertainment.

“Nazis?” Steve said with interest, turning back to the TV and settling himself so he was pressed against Tony on the couch from knee to shoulder.

“Oh, yeah,” Tony said. “You’re gonna like this one, Cap. Plus, Indy’s got great scruff.”

“If you say so,” Steve said dubiously, reaching up to touch his burning cheek, and he smiled to himself.