“I can’t get drunk,” Steve reminds everyone ruefully when Thor comes back from Asgard with a barrel full of mead.
Thor waves him off. “Asgardian mead is a fine drink,” he says jovially, “Its intoxicating effect is merely an additional draw.” His smile widens as he pushes a stein into Steve’s hands. “Drink! You will see.”
“C’mon Cap,” Clint wheedles. “We’re not planning on getting drunk. We’ll restrain ourselves, just for you.”
“The drink itself is not what inebriates the drinker. The drink merely adjusts itself to the drinker’s desires: it will not do anything that you do not want it to,” Thor explains.
“See?” Tony chimes in. “Nothing to worry about.”
Steve shrugs because the others are already murmuring in agreement. What the hell? he thinks as he takes a drink and—wow, Thor’s right. It’s delicious. Sweet, but not cloying. It tastes like honey, spiced with something that Steve can’t quite identify.
“Thor, this is great!” he says before taking another long swallow. “You should have brought some by sooner.”
Thor laughs and claps him on the shoulder. “I would not lead you astray!”
The others take it slow, just as they had promised, but all of them had said they have no intentions of getting drunk tonight, so it isn’t like it really matters anyway. Steve’s not exactly sure how the drink works. Bruce murmurs something about gods and magic, and Steve isn’t certain as to just how much either of them apply, but he figures it isn’t something he should bother dwelling on. He eagerly accepts a refill when Thor offers, though the others are still working toward the halfway point.
“Your cheeks are looking a little rosy,” Natasha says, smiling over the rim of her own stein.
Steve huffs and reaches up to touch his face: it feels warm under his fingertips, and he realizes he’s starting to get a little hot under the collar. “Still gets the blood flowing I guess.”
“That’s adorable,” Tony declares, staring avidly. The man leans forward in his seat.
Steve feels the heat in his cheeks grow even stronger, pleased and embarrassed all at once. Over the last eight months he’s developed the worst kind of crush on Tony, and even the slightest bit of attention from the man makes Steve’s heart skip. He takes another drink in an attempt to hide his reaction and to avoid Natasha’s knowing smirk.
They’re arguing about what languages are the most difficult to learn a few minutes later when Steve realizes that not only does he feel warm, he’s also loose and happy. He blinks at the almost empty stein in his hand and then glances up at Thor, a wondering sort of surprise blooming in his chest.
Thor catches his look and he winks back. “Another?” he offers.
“Please,” Steve says, nodding eagerly. He may actually be getting a buzz—the first time since he had gotten the serum. He can’t quite believe it, and he forces himself to rein in the excitement that surges through him.
It’s just wishful thinking, is all.
“Whoa,” Tony says, with a dramatic wave of his hands, “are we gonna have to cut you off, Rogers?”
Sheepishly, Steve swallows the mouthful of the newly-refilled glass he’s already gulped down half of. He gingerly wipes at the wet ring around his lips. “No, no. I’m fine.”
Everyone laughs and he sets aside the stein, chastising himself. What was he thinking? Even if he could, he shouldn’t be getting drunk.
But ten minutes later when he gets up to take a trip to the head, everything wobbles and he grabs a hold of the back of Bruce’s chair to keep from tripping and falling onto his face.
“Steve, are you all right?” Bruce asks, concerned.
The sensation passes quickly, but his hands and feet feel far off. He licks his lips and realizes they’ve gone a little bit numb. Startled, he says, “I think I’m drunk.”
Tony lets out a bark of laughter. “What? Really?”
A sly grin spreads across Thor’s face. “Aye? As I said, Asgardian mead is a fine drink.”
“No shit,” Steve replies fervently, and then blushes at the laughter that his swearing garners.
“Oh my god,” Clint says. “I’m sober as hell and for once I could not be happier. This is gonna be fantastic.”
“I need to pee,” Steve announces.
“Sure you don’t need any help?” Tony calls after him, and Steve’s just sober enough to bite back a reply of: “No, why don’t you come give me a hand?”
Tony falls silent after the remark, but Steve’s too preoccupied with his bladder to think twice about it.
He’s slow on the trip to the bathroom, limbs heavier than normal. He has one hand against the wall to keep him steady as he relieves himself. Then he washes his hands and stares at his own blushing face in the mirror. He can’t tell if his eyes seem dilated or not. He prods at his lips, and grins at the the way they tingle around the edges. He really might be drunk!
“There you are,” Tony says when Steve reemerges in the living room. “We were thinking about sending a search party.”
Steve grins and drops into the empty chair beside him, flinging his arms out when it rocks back on two legs.
“Whoa, watch it!” Tony grabs him and just barely keeps him from tipping over and cracking his skull open.
Clint laughs—and Steve thinks the archer is enjoying this way too much—and paws at his pockets. “Where is my phone? Where is it, oh God. We need to be recording this for posterity.”
“Hi,” Steve says, paying no mind to Clint. He realizes he’s still grinning at Tony, which would be embarrassing under normal circumstances, but he feels so good. He feels light, like he has no care in the world. It’s easy to lean into Tony’s space and drape an arm over Tony’s chair.
“Hi,” Tony replies easily, and his cheek twitches like he’s holding back a smile. Steve finds himself attracted to the man’s mouth, to the carefully trimmed black hairs of his mustache. He reaches up to touch it and then decides midway that he probably shouldn’t and curls his fingers into a fist, dropping his hand into his lap. He looks up again and meets Tony’s gaze. “Your goatee is so precise.”
Is he slurring a little? He can’t quite tell. He’s vaguely aware of Clint repeatedly muttering oh my god under his breath, and then hissing in pain when Natasha and Bruce elbow his side. Thor brings his own drink to his lips, quietly observing as he lounges on the couch.
Tony huffs, and his eyes crinkle. They sort of sparkle when he smiles like that; it’s amazing. Tony is one of the most attractive people Steve’s ever met. “You’re really handsome, Tony,” he hears himself say.
“Oh,” Bruce says faintly.
“Holy shit,” Clint whispers. “I’m sending this to Sam.”
Tony’s eyes go completely round and then Steve watches as his nose turns red, the color slowly bleeding out across his cheekbones until he’s brick red from chin to hairline. Steve beams at him. “Red is a good color for you.”
This time Tony’s eyes nearly bug out and he turns impossibly redder, stuttering, “Uh... That’s—I mean, what—”
“This isgold,” Clint says. “Thor, buddy, I owe you.”
Thor chuckles, a deep, rumbling sound that Steve loves. He twists a little in his chair so he can lean on the table to tell him: “You’ve got a great laugh, y’know?” which makes Thor laugh even harder.
Steve slouches back, turning his attention back to Tony, and pats his thigh—a little too rough, he thinks, but he’s feeling kind of clumsy. “Not as great as yours, Tony. I mean, I can feel your laugh right in here,” he says, and clenches both his hands just above his bellybutton. “It makes me feel so good. I’d make you laugh all the time if I could.”
Tony squirms. “Um. I don’t…”
“So this is what it takes?” Bruce says, amusement in every word. “A few G-rated compliments? You have entire legions of young women—”
“And men,” Thor interjects.
“And men,” Bruce repeats, “raving about how ‘hot’ you are, and ‘you have a great laugh’ is what makes you blush?”
Tony splutters and ducks his head, hiding his face behind his forearms. “It’s not—that’s not what this is... I—”
“Incredible,” Natasha says. “Something new I didn’t learn about you undercover. Will wonders never cease?”
“Aw, don’t be like that,” Steve whines, and then brushes Tony’s hair back from his forehead in what’s supposed to be a comforting gesture. “You should smile. I like when you smile.” He props his chin in his hand, elbow on the table, and uses his other hand to continue petting Tony’s head, fingers carding through his hair. “I like it when you’re working, though, too. When you’re focusing. Oh! And when you talk with DUM-E and the other bots, even though they don’t talk back. It’s cute.”
Tony makes a strangled sound.
“That was cute, too!” Steve exclaims, delighted. “You should do that more.” He can hear their friends laughing and he’s just glad they’re so happy too: he’s sad that they don’t get to be happy enough. “You’re a swell guy, Tony,” he sighs and lays his heavy head on his arms. He’s awfully sleepy and Tony is terrifically warm.
After that, he loses track of things.
Tony very nearly walks right back out of the kitchen when he goes in the next morning and Bruce, Clint, and Natasha are sitting around the counter. Natasha spots him first, and her mouth curls into a wicked grin. “Good morning, Mr. Great Laugh.”
Clint whips around and exclaims, “Hey, you’re back to your regular complexion!”
“Ha ha,” Tony drawls, and drags his feet to the coffeepot.
He can hear Bruce trying and failing to suppress his grin. “It’s sweet, Tony.”
“I hate you,” Tony says indignantly. “I was just—surprised, okay?”
“Sure, Tony,” Clint says, feigning sympathy. Tony resists the urge to throw something at his head.
In the doorway, he hears the shuffle of footsteps and he automatically glances over his shoulder to see who it is. He freezes when he sees Steve, bleary-eyed and clothes rumpled from his sleep. The others are staring, too, waiting for the man’s reaction. Like Tony, they’re probably wondering how much Steve remembers of last night. Thor never said anything about Asgardian mead causing hangovers, nor did he say if it were possible to black out.
Steve rubs his eyes and then peers around at them, smiling drowsily. “Morning, everybody.”
He shuffles over to the coffeepot, and despite the internal voice screaming at Tony to run the hills, he stands there, rooted to the spot, coffee mug hanging empty in his hand.
Steve pours himself a cup, and then reaches over and tips Tony’s up so it’s level before filling it up, too. Then he sets aside the carafe and takes a step forward that catapults Tony’s heart into his throat. Steve’s eyelashes are dark blond and longer than any Tony’s ever seen. They drift up, revealing the bright blue of his eyes.
“You should blush more often,” he says, and brushes his thumb very lightly over Tony’s cheek, a tiny smile curling his lips. “It suits you.”
Tony feels the touch like a brand on his face as lava burbles up under his skin, burning across the bridge of his nose. The kitchen is absolutely silent.
Steve’s smile broadens and he steps back, takes a sip of his coffee, and then sidles back out of the kitchen, humming a tune.
He hears Clint fall out of his chair.
“Fuck,” Tony mutters under his breath. He tosses back his coffee, wishing it were something stronger.
The first note shows up the next day, taped to the door next to the keypad for his lab.
Tony can’t tell if it’s as dirty or as innocent as he thinks, and vacillates between being wildly turned on and being excruciatingly turned on.
The next one is at the bottom of his favorite mug and Tony chokes on a mouthful of coffee when the liquid drains away from the bottom to reveal a sodden piece of paper.
Later that week, while restoring an old Mustang, Dummy brings him a wrench with yet another note attached to it.
As time goes on, the notes increase in frequency. Tony’s glad that Steve’s hidden them in places that Tony is usually alone, because he feels his goddamned face light up like a bonfire every freaking time he finds one.
He’s also glad that Steve’s been acting completely normal ever since it started.
A couple weeks later, he opens his briefcase halfway through a board meeting to retrieve a contract, and underneath the sheaf of paper is another neon blue Post-It. His heart immediately starts pounding. Don’t look don’t look don’t look he tells himself, but his eyes are apparently magnetically attracted to it, because he glances down and his brain has processed the five words before he can stop it.
Within seconds he’s experiencing cataclysmic internal combustion. He slams the briefcase shut with a crack and every eye in the room turns to look at him. Pepper’s eyes narrow with murderous intent.
“So, ah,” he says, frantically trying to get things back on track, “How’s that contract look?”
Afterwards, when the board is milling around nibbling bagels, Pepper grabs him by the arm and hustles him out the door.
“What the hell was that, Tony?” she reprimands, letting go of him.
Tony rubs his arm where Pepper’s nails had dug into his skin.
“Are you sexting during meetings now?” she asks. “Because that is inappropriate behavior and you know it. I’ll have you sent to sensitivity training again if I have to!”
“No, Pep. I—”
She snatches the briefcase out of his hands before he can say anything else and flicks it open deftly. She can’t find his phone, because it’s not in there, but she does spot the note and her brow furrows in confusion. “Tony… What?”
Tony groans and slumps into the corner of the elevator, covering his face with his hands.
“This is…” Pepper frowns. “This is sweet, Tony. Who is it from?”
“Steve,” he says in a voice akin to that of a dying animal.
“Steve,” she repeats, and then her eyes widen. “Steve Steve? Captain America, Steve?”
“Who else would it be, Pepper?”
She tilts her head. “Fair enough. How long has this been going on?”
“A few weeks,” Tony sighs. “Thor brought back some magical mead from Asgard that only gets you as drunk as you want to be, and apparently, Steve was in the mood to get drunk and…” he trails off.
“So Steve got drunk?”
“What’s wrong with that? I can’t imagine Captain America wanting to get drunk enough to strip and dance around the tower.”
“No, it was worse.”
Her eyes narrow. “What did he do? Tony, did he hurt you? Did he—”
“No!” Tony backtracks. “Nothing like that! He’d never hurt me—
“Then what did he do?”
“He told me I was handsome,” he blurts out. “He said he wants to make me laugh.”
Pepper frowns. “I don’t understand. Do you want me to send Steve to sensitivity training?”
“Of course not!”
She looks thoughtful. “So you like this attention?”
Tony’s face starts to creep with heat again. “Yes. No. I don’t know,” he whines.
“I see,” she says, drawn out and thoughtful.
The elevator slows to a halt before the doors slide open, and Tony realizes that Pepper had taken them to the communal floor. Thor’s delighted laughter rings out from the rec room, immediately followed by the sound of Steve shouting, “You son of a two-legged bitch!” which means they’re playing video games again.
“Why are we here?” Tony asks, but Pepper just smiles and ducks out of the elevator before he can stop her. “Pepper. Pep!” he calls out, stumbling after her. “Pepper, wait, what are you doing? Stop! Just hang on a second—whatever you’ve got in your head—just hang on a minute, will you—AH!” He yelps when Pepper abruptly shoves him into the rec room, which gets the other two men’s attention.
“Afternoon, gentlemen,” Pepper says sweetly, and before Tony can escape, she adds: “Steve, Tony thinks your eyes are pretty, too.”
Tony squeaks, horrified, and his face burns up even more.
“Have a nice day!” Pepper says with a bright smile before turning crisply on her heel.
Steve looks at Tony with curiosity, and unwinds his legs before getting to his feet. He approaches Tony tentatively, like he’s a landmine fit to explode. He rubs the back of his neck. “You, um, think my eyes are pretty?” he asks.
Tony swallows, or tries to anyway—it feels like there’s a rock in his throat.
“He thinks all of you is pretty!” Pepper calls out just before the elevator doors close, and the noise Tony makes after is definitely not human. Tony’s surprised that the skin hasn’t already melted off of his face.
“Well,” Steve says, glancing down, hands slipping into his jeans’ pockets, “you haven’t seen all of me yet.”
Tony’s mouth drops open, and Thor starts laughing so loud it shakes the couch he’s sitting on.
Then Steve winks, and Tony’s pretty sure he died in the elevator on the way up, because this is not reality, this cannot be reality. There is no possible way that any of this is happening right now, he clearly must be dead. It’s the only explanation.
Steve wets his lower lip—and God, this is definitely some kind of hell—and then turns and saunters back over to where he was sitting on the floor, against the couch. Tony stares and a very undignified noise escapes his throat because that’s—that’s not the way Steve walks. He would have absolutely noticed if Steve walked with that much goddamned swagger before.
Inside his suit jacket, his phone trills. Still staring at Steve, he pulls out the device and unconsciously unlocks it. It isn’t until his phone rings again a couple seconds later that he manages to drag his eyes to the screen.
He doesn’t even want to know how the hell she knows. Thor slips out of the room with some excuse Tony doesn’t even hear because all he can focus on is Steve, who is fixated on his own phone.
Tony’s knees go a little weak. He hobbles over and folds onto the floor next to Steve. He reaches out, but hesitates. Steve then reaches up to cup his face, fingers light on Tony’s overheated skin, and Tony feels his heart do a loop-de-loop.
“I’d have said something sooner if I’d known,” Steve says ruefully. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out another note, one that is crumpled and evidently worn. Tony wants to ask how long Steve’s been carrying it around, but his breath catches when he sees what’s written on it.
Tony’s eyes flick from the note to Steve’s face, which has taken on a rosy hue as well, and back down to the little slip of paper again. He’s extremely grateful that he no longer has a heart condition because he can feel his heart practically hammering out of his chest.
He must not say anything for a while because Steve suddenly looks worried and Tony wants to punch himself in the face for making Steve feel that way. “Tony?”
“I like you too, y’know,” he says, his breath leaving him in a rush.
Steve smiles then, and when he kisses Tony, the blush spreads to the very tips of his toes.