"So," the woman purred, feeling Steve's bicep through his suit. "What do you say to rescuing me from the ennui of high society, soldier?"
Steve tried to move back discreetly. The plan was foiled when he let out a surprised grunt as she groped his ass. He gave her a disapproving glare as he removed her hand, noting the ring on her finger as he stepped back again. She had to be in her sixties, and Steve wondered how anyone thought he was a prude with her level of shamelessness going around.
"No, thank you, Ma'am," he said politely. "I believe your husband might be looking for you."
"Nonsense," she said, batting her eyes as she stepped closer again. "He only cares when I spend his money, and he's in Vienna for a week. I could show you a wild ride."
Steve stepped back again, trying to avoid her over-powering perfume that nearly had him gagging. "No, thank you," he said just as politely as he had the first time. "But I would appreciate it if you stopped propositioning me after I've already told you no. If you don't stop, I'll have to escort you off the premises."
"I'll let you escort me where ever you like, baby," she said, her hand this time going down for Steve's crotch. Steve neatly side-stepped her.
He'd been about to take her wrist to keep her from attempting again when Happy was suddenly beside him, looking very official with his security badge. "That won't be necessary, Captain Rogers. I'll make sure Mrs. Fairfax gets home safely."
Steve was hard put not to show his relief at this. "Thank you, Mr. Hogan."
Happy and another security guard were leading Mrs. Fairfax away when she shook them off with a huff. "We'll see if I ever give to the Maria Stark Foundation causes again," she said as she stalked off.
Steve winced. That was the exact opposite of the reason he and the other Avengers were here tonight, and now people were staring. Still, at least it was him and not Natasha attracting the creepers tonight. Natasha took entirely too much pleasure in leading creepy men off and doing things that made Steve shudder to think of, and Tony had asked them all to play nicely tonight.
"Don't worry about it, Cap," Happy said, motioning for the other security guard to follow her as he walked back to Steve. The people around them who had been staring went back to their drinks. "She's been banned from all SI and Maria Stark Foundation events, but she manages to find and bribe a rookie every so often. We keep an eye out for her harassing people. Even the boss has had trouble getting her to lay off. You can press charges if you want, and SI will foot the bill. I know Natasha likes to, and that should have all been on camera."
Steve was about to reply when he saw another middle-aged woman making her way towards them with a determined glint in her eye. She probably wouldn't be as bad, but Steve was done with middle-aged women right now. "I'm going to be in the garden if anyone needs me."
Happy smiled knowingly before giving him a sloppy salute. Steve was not ashamed of his strategic retreat. There were only so many high society women (and a few men) he could take in one hour, and he'd reached that limit when Mrs. Fairfax had groped him.
Stepping out into the garden was enough to relax the tension out of his shoulders. Steve pulled in a breath of the air, breathing in the scent of flowers on a summer's evening. He could still read the signs politely asking the guests to stay out of the gardens in the sun's amber light as he ducked under the rope blocking it off. This was Tony's childhood home, and he had told the Avengers the mansion was open to them just like the Tower was and that they could go where ever they wanted. So Steve didn't feel too badly as he followed the path through the hedges to watch the sun set.
It was a pretty garden most people never saw, no doubt kept up by highly paid gardeners. It was a pity Tony barely came out to the mansion. It felt like a waste, only to use the mansion for charity dinners and the like. Even the staff of the Maria Stark Foundation only came out occasionally. Still, he could understand if Tony didn't have a lot of happy memories here. The inside of the house felt more like a hotel lobby than a home, and he didn't think that was just because the Foundation moved in. Tony had remarked as they came in that things hadn't changed much, and the house was very, well, stark.
Still, Steve was willing to enjoy the garden while he was here. He found a little bench hidden away in a small alcove and sat down among the rhododendrons and the irises. He could still hear the party behind him, but it was quiet enough that he could pretend he didn't need to go back for at least a little while.
He closed his eyes, just letting the scent of the flowers cleanse away the smell of Mrs. Fairfax's horrible perfume. He could just stay out here. Clint would probably find him and drag him back to suffer with the rest of them eventually, and he did believe in the cause, but he could pretend for just a little while that he didn't have to...
"You think you can fly faster than me?"
Steve started, looking around. He didn't see anyone in the alcove, but that sounded like Tony's voice. It was coming from the other side of the hedge.
"Yeah, no. Not impressive. I can hit mach three in the suit and you're what, not even doing a mile per hour right now?"
Definitely Tony. Tony had been there at the start of the gala to kick things off, but Steve realized he hadn't seen the other man in a while. He stood, walking towards the sound of Tony's voice and peering around the corner. Who was Tony talking to?
"Still not impressed. Not efficient. And I know a thing or two about cocoons. You aren't half as special as you think you are." Tony was walking along the smaller hedges, looking at the flowers. In the dying sunlight, Tony looked warm and open despite the mock scowl on his face. His smile seemed softer, and it looked like there was dirt on his hands and knees. This was a new side of Tony he hadn't seen, and Steve was willing to watch a little while longer.
"Hey, no, come back," Tony said. "Scale wings are cool, and you've got interesting aerodynamics!"
A small butterfly came into view, orange and black. Monarch, Steve's mind supplied, recognizing the type immediately from his childhood. They used to be everywhere this time of year, but Steve hadn't seen many in this time. He blinked. Tony was talking to a butterfly?
"Yeah, you're a beauty. Orange and black are fantastic colors. I should do an armor in those. And look at those gorgeous eyes. I'm sure if I were an insect, you would be irresistible."
Correction: Tony was flirting with the butterfly, lacking any of his normal polish around women. Steve was completely and utterly charmed, even if the butterfly wasn't. He stood there, not wanting to interrupt the moment.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure Dr. Pym stays inside," Tony said, winking down at the butterfly. "Though he likes ants better. No accounting for taste. But I could take you someplace nice. We could go to Malibu or Mexico. Just you and me, honey, and I'll show you some real flying."
Steve stifled a laugh, feeling a little guilty for not coming forward. The butterfly flew along the bush, slowly bringing Tony closer to him anyway. He supposed he'd be found out soon.
"Monarchs like Mexico, right? Don't blame you. Nice beaches, good food. I'll treat-"
Tony went completely still as the butterfly flew towards him in an unhurried way. It landed on his nose, and Tony looked like he'd stopped breathing.
Steve felt his fingers twitch. Tony was back-lit by the setting sun, a look of pure delight on his face. Tony's smile was almost blinding in it's brilliance, even with the sun competing behind him. Steve didn't think he'd ever really seen that expression on Tony's face, and he wanted nothing more than to draw it and capture a little bit of that joy for himself. He hadn't wanted to draw a person this much since he saw Peggy in that red dress when...
Steve felt his heart rate speed up as his breath caught in his lungs and his ears burned. He watched the butterfly slowly spread its wings, partially obscuring Tony's eyes. And wasn't that something? Strange that it took a butterfly to see what was right in front of him this whole time.
Steve wondered what to do with this revelation. If he retreated and fell back, he could come up with a plan, but impulse and a quickened heart rate made him take a step forward and he didn't know if it was the noise or something else, but the butterfly took off.
"Hey, you don't have to-" Tony started, stilling again when he realized Steve was there.
It was too hard to see in the orange glow of the setting sun, but Steve could have sworn there was a light blush on Tony's face before he turned away. He cursed the lack of real light, because that was something Steve realized he was interested in seeing.
"Hey, Cap. Escaping the party already?" Tony leaned over, critically taking one of the irises between his fingers as if he were looking for imperfections and not hiding his embarrassment.
"Needed a break after Mrs. Fairfax," Steve said.
Tony cursed quietly. "I don't care what Pepper says, I'm installing JARVIS here to keep her out. And probably a restraining order. I take it Happy took care of her?" Steve nodded at Tony's question, but before he could say more, Tony was straightening out and moving past Steve. "I should go take care of-"
Steve grabbed hold of his wrist, not tightly, but firm enough to let Tony know he wanted the other man to stay. "Cap?" Tony said, looking at him uncertainly.
Tony didn't try to pull his hand away, which Steve took as a good sign. Steve wondered for a moment if this was a good idea before deciding there was no reason not to. If he had time to think, he might over-analyze. "Stay a little longer? I'd like to talk to you."
Tony nodded and Steve let go of his wrist. He took a deep breath to steel himself. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. "You're popular with the butterflies," Steve said to stall a little, just enough to give him time to figure out what to say.
"It's natural charm," Tony said, finding his footing. "Everyone wants a piece of me. Why? Looking for some advice on how to woo members of the family Papilionoidea?"
"More looking to woo a genius," Steve replied, stepping into Tony's space as Steve congratulated himself on the line. Much better than Tony's attempts at flirting with the butterfly had been.
"Steve?" Tony said, though he didn't move away. His eyes were wide in surprise, and Steve thought that he heard Tony's breath hitch.
"May I kiss you?" Steve asked, figuring being direct was probably his best course of action.
"Why?" Tony asked, taking a step back.
Steve fought down the wave of disappointment. "Figured the butterfly had good taste. But if you don't want to, then I... That's okay too."
Tony just looked bewildered. "You want... Sure?"
"Not very convincing there," Steve said dryly.
"You can," Tony said firmer, though he didn't move back. He didn't quite lose the baffled look either. Still, Steve was willing to come to him, and he slid one hand behind him to rest on to the small of Tony's back, the other reached forward to tilt Tony's chin the fraction of an inch higher needed for Steve claim his lips.
He kept it simple, without tongue. It wasn't like Natasha's words had stung or anything, but Steve was not going to mess-up his first kiss with Tony. He could always do more research later. He kept it short and sweet, lingering on Tony's lips only a second longer than he thought he should have.
"You call that a kiss?" Tony said indignantly as Steve pulled away.
There was just no winning.
"To get more, you have to agree to let me take you on a date," Steve said, improvising. He was definitely going to google kissing tips when he got home that night.
"You want a date?"
"I'd like more than just one, but a date's good enough to start with," Steve said.
Tony looked at him, his mouth slightly open in a way that Steve had to resist leaning in and kissing. "Why?" Tony asked.
"Why not?" Steve replied. "I like you and think you're attractive. Even the butterfly agrees with me. You're a good catch."
Tony sighed, closing his eyes. "I'm never living this down, am I?"
"It was cute," Steve said, feeling a fond smile on his face. "And I'd like to be the one to make you smile like that again, if you'll let me."
"You're a sap," Tony said, but Steve definitely wasn't imagining the blush this time. "Alright. You'll get your date."
Steve felt his smile widen at this, and he laughed a little nervously as a blush of his own crept up his face. He had a date. Now he just had to not screw it up. "Tuesday at seven, then?" That should give him enough time to come up with a plan of action, because asking Tony out might have been impulsive, but he wanted the date to be well-planned. Considering Tony was a billionaire who went on plenty of dates, Steve would have his work cut out for him.
"Yeah, that works," Tony said quietly. Then he moved away from Steve, brushing the dirt off his hands and frowning slightly when he realized that wasn't going to work.
"What were you doing out here?" Steve asked, curiosity getting the better of him.
"Making sure everything was in order," Tony said absently, glaring at the dirt on his knees. "Mom loved the garden, so it needs to-" He cut off suddenly.
"We should be getting back," Tony said, abruptly changing the subject.
Steve let it go. There would be time to chase after that later, when Tony was ready. He offered his arm to Tony. "We could go back together?"
Tony looked at him, not taking his arm. "You know what people will say, right?"
"That I like my fella dirty and disheveled?" Steve said.
Tony gaped at him a moment before replying. "I was going to say that you tumbled me into the bushes, but it sounds dirtier when you say it. But Steve, people are going to talk, and it won't be nice things."
Steve shrugged, still holding out his arm. "It'd last a week before we were found out anyway. I don't care what they say, Tony. I want you, not them."
Tony hesitantly stepped forward, linking their arms. "Don't say I didn't warn you," Tony said, but he leaned against Steve's shoulder.
He could have this. He could have this, and while Steve had no idea where this would take them, it would be his. And he had the feeling it was going to be one hell of a ride, but he wasn't going to let that stop him.
Then he realized another perk. "Besides, if I have you on my arm, it'll stop anyone like Mrs. Fairfax from coming on to me."
Tony laughed, a bright sound that made Steve's heart clench. "Strategic as always, Cap."
"I have to be crafty if I want to steal you from the butterflies."
Tony scowled and Steve kissed him on the nose where the butterfly had landed. He was glad to see the look of wonder from earlier replacing the scowl. Steve was going to cherish that smile no matter how long this lasted.
"Come on, Cap," Tony said, a gleeful look in his eyes. "Let's go scandalize the presses."