"Steve," Tony said, sounding halfway between exasperated and amused at Steve's expense, "I really don't think Luke and Jessica need a chaperone."
"Peter and MJ are going to be there, too," Steve told him. "Go put on whatever people wear to go clubbing."
Tony frowned slightly. It wasn't the frown he worn when he had a headache, though -- Steve had been watching carefully for that one over the past week, while Tony recovered from the computer virus that had come so close to killing him. "What kind of club are we talking about?" Tony asked, giving Steve a narrow-eyed, suspicious look. "Because I'm not wearing eyeliner and I don't think you'd look good in glitter."
Glitter? Steve very carefully decided not to contemplate why one would want to wear eye make-up and glitter to a night club, much less why Tony would know about it. "It's a jazz club," he said instead. "MJ told us at breakfast that she was going to be singing there tonight. If you'd actually been at breakfast instead of at work, you'd know."
Tony had stayed home from work the first two days after their return from the Savage Land, and his first day back, he'd humored Steve's insistence that he actually eat before leaving. Then he'd started sneaking out while Steve was out running, claiming that consuming anything other than coffee before nine o' clock was barbaric and heathen.
If this had still been the old Avengers, that would have gotten him a five minute lecture on the importance of good nutrition from Thor, who had not only been proud of being both barbaric and heathen, but had also been a doctor in his civilian guise. Well, that, or Hank McCoy would have told him that people who skipped breakfast were however many times more likely to die young than people who didn't.
This wasn't the old Avengers, so when Tony didn't turn up at the breakfast table, Danny Rand had taken his seat, and no had commented on it except Jarvis, who had frowned and sent a tray down to Tony's office. No one had commented on the fact that Danny was wearing one of Luke's t-shirts and Jessica Jones's bathrobe, either. It was probably time they all stopped pointedly not commenting and just got him his own chair.
"I had to reschedule a lot of things while I was sick," Tony said, sounding slightly defensive. "I'm still catching up." He sighed, looking away and running one hand through his hair. "Jazz club."
"You like jazz," Steve pointed out. He'd kind of been looking forward to this, to the chance to go out somewhere with Tony, now that they were officially together.
Tony smiled ruefully and shook his head. "Just as long as there's not swing dancing."
Steve grinned. "You're just jealous that you're too tall for me to slide you between my legs and flip you over my shoulders."
"Just so you know," Tony said, his tone conversational, "if you ever do that with Jan in public again, Hank and I will begin plotting your demise. It will involve poisonous insects and lasers."
Everyone had been entirely unreasonable about that, although in retrospect, now that Steve knew that Tony had wanted things between them to be serious from the beginning, his objections made a lot more sense. "Just because Hank can't dance…" Steve began.
Tony raised his eyebrows. "That wasn't dancing, Steve," he said dryly. "It was extremely athletic sex performed to saxophone music. And for the record, going to a jazz club isn't the same thing as going clubbing, for which you should count yourself lucky."
"Sex performed to saxophone music" was a gross exaggeration. Steve rubbed at the back of his neck with one hand, and said, "It's in a club. What's the difference?"
Tony's lips twitched. "Clubbing tends to involve more sex and recreational drug use."
"So did jazz." Why did people always assume the past had been innocent and dull? Steve would see Tony's men going to nightclubs in make-up and glitter and raise him one Harlem drag ball with men in ball gowns. Not that Steve had ever been to a drag ball, but they'd existed, and it was the principle of the thing.
"Yes, but they hadn't invented ecstasy and black lights then."
"Black lights?" Steve asked.
Jessica Jones and Luke Cage came into the hallway, both of them dressed to go out, as was Steve. Peter had already left, and Jessica Drew was presumably getting ready to go right now. Tony, whom Steve had found tearing apart a Quinjet engine, was the only one not dressed for a night on the town.
"Ultraviolet spectrum lights." Tony gestured at his crumpled white dress shirt. There was a small oil stain on his right cuff, Steve noticed. "They make white clothing glow."
"I think MJ has better taste than to go onstage at that kind of a place," Steve said. Or at least, he hoped so. "Look," he went on, "just go put on whatever people wear to go to jazz clubs these days. This is going to be a team bonding experience."
"Oh good." Jessica Drew walked out into the hall. She was wearing a very red, very tight dress, and the four-inch heels on her equally red shoes left little dents in the carpet. "The last establishment we had a team bonding experience at won't let any of us come back."
"Yes," Jessica Jones said, "but this time Danny's not coming, and if he was, we'd know better than to let him drink."
"You know that wasn't his fault," Luke objected. "He would have been fine if that place had served food."
"I'll go put on a shirt that doesn't have oil stains on it," Tony said, making it sound like the concession it was. Disheveled and grease-stained was a good look on him, and he knew it.
"You make it sound like such a chore," Steve said.
Tony arched an eyebrow. "I thought you liked rumpled dress shirts with oil stains on them."
Steve could feel his face heat. He still wasn't used to the idea that they could mention that they were together so openly and casually. Ending the secrecy had been Steve's idea, but it was still… new.
Tony smirked at him, which only made Steve's ears burn harder, and then turned and sauntered off down the hall.
Steve had never heard MJ sing before; given that she'd had several small parts on Broadway, it shouldn't have been surprising that she was good. Peter had told them all at great length about how wonderful she was when he'd proudly announced tonight's performance at breakfast every morning for the past three days, but he wasn't exactly an unbiased witness.
She had the right kind of voice for jazz -- alto instead of soprano, and slightly husky -- and Steve enjoyed listening to songs he remembered from before he'd gone into the army, but this time in a setting that was refreshingly free of cigarette smoke.
Even Logan, who had been lurking at a corner table when they'd arrived, a bottle of beer in one hand and his cowboy boots on the table, had refrained from actually lighting a cigar, settling for grinding an unlit cigar stub between his teeth in a manner that reminded Steve of Nick Fury.
In order to avoid ruining Logan's attempt to pretend that he was only at the Blue Note by accident, Steve and the others had sat down at the table next to his, rather than actually with him. Peter stared dreamily at MJ, Jessica Drew waved away the stream of free drinks various men kept sending her, and Steve leaned his shoulder against Tony's, sipped his coca cola, and pretended it was nineteen thirty-nine.
Tony was a reassuringly solid and healthy presence at his side, and for a few moments, Steve was able to forget that just a week ago, in the Savage Land, he had watched Tony burn his armor to slag because he couldn't wear it anymore and hadn't wanted to leave it behind. That was when Steve had really begun to believe that Tony was dying. It had come much closer than Steve liked, but everything was fine now. Better than fine.
Tony loved him, and now he knew that Steve loved him as well, and if he wanted to lean against Tony in public, or put his hand on Tony's thigh or his arm around Tony's shoulders, he could. So he put one hand over Tony's, on top of the table, and squeezed it gently, and slide the other onto Tony's leg, just above the knee.
MJ finished her set and left the stage, coming to sit next to Peter. "So how did I do?" she asked, as the band started to play dance music.
"You were awesome," Peter said.
"You were good," Jessica Jones confirmed. "Very good."
"I'm thinking of booking you for the next charity performance I have to sit through." Tony grinned, using the hand that Steve wasn't holding to slowly turn his mostly-empty glass in a circle, making the quarter inch of coke at the bottom swirl around. "They're usually incredibly boring, but you would make it bearable."
MJ grinned proudly, obviously pleased.
The band switched to a slightly more up-tempo song, and Luke nudged Jessica Jones. "You want to dance?"
"Only if you can keep up," she said.
Steve watched them head towards the club's tiny dance floor. Even on the extremely slim chance that he could get Tony to agree to dance with him, he thought wistfully, it would attract too much of the wrong kind of attention. This was supposed to be MJ's big night, not the night the New Avengers ended up in every tabloid magazine in New York.
"Want me to get you another drink?" Tony offered, indicating Steve's empty glass. Almost before Steve could say yes, he had scooped up both his and Steve's empty glasses and was up and walking towards the bar. "Coke, right?" he asked over his shoulder.
Steve nodded. He didn't even consciously think about not ordering alcohol when Tony was around anymore, which probably should have been some kind of clue that things between them had been more serious than Steve had realized for a long time. He didn't mind; he'd always liked coca cola. During the war, you could get it on all the American air bases in England, and it had tasted just the way it did at home. He liked M&M's for much the same reason -- the army had put them in C rations, and when it was cold and wet and you'd just walked ten miles in ankle deep mud listening to the Howling Commandos bicker with each other, you were really grateful for those pathetic little pieces of candy-coated chocolate.
"Oh damn," MJ said. "I meant to ask the next person who went to the bar to bring me water."
Steve glanced over at Tony, who had reached the bar by now, and felt a small pang of guilt. Tony hated going anywhere near a bar, offers to fetch drinks notwithstanding, something Steve knew perfectly well, and should have remembered. He ought to have volunteered to go himself, as soon as Tony brought it up.
"I'll get you one," Peter offered. "Mineral water or water, water?"
Tony was talking to the bartender, and only someone who knew him very well would have been able to read the discomfort in the set of his shoulders, and the way he kept looking away. A tall, blonde woman in a very low-cut dress was standing next to him, leaning towards him with one arm resting on the bar, which was probably calculated to give someone standing where Tony was a perfect view down the front of her dress.
Tony said something to her, and she laughed and flicked a piece of hair back over her shoulder.
"No," Steve said. "You stay here. I'll get it."
"Thanks," MJ said, smiling up at him as he stood. "Can you ask them to put lemon in it?"
"Sure," Steve told her, his gaze still on Tony and the woman in the red dress. "One water with lemon coming up."
He came up behind Tony, the ambient noise of the room masking his footsteps, and slid an arm around Tony's waist. Tony turned and looked at him, a faint look of surprise on his face.
"I thought I'd help you carry the drinks back to the table," Steve told him. Then he turned to the woman. "Hi," he said, smiling politely. "I'm Steve." It never hurt to be courteous.
Tony arched an eyebrow, looking amused. "Because two glasses of soda are so very heavy."
Explaining that he had come to rescue Tony from the proximity of alcohol would sound silly. "MJ wanted water with lemon. That's three glasses. And anyway, I was just trying to be polite."
The woman looked from Steve to Tony, her eyes finally settling on the arm Steve still had wrapped casually around Tony's waist. "Ah, sorry," she said, to Steve. "I should be going now. I think I see my friends waiting for me."
Steve gave her another polite smile. Then he asked the bartender for a glass of water with lemon.
A few moments later, he and Tony started back for the table, Tony with a glass of soda in each hand, and Steve with MJ's water. Steve surrendered his hold on Tony, but kept one hand on the small of his back, guiding him toward the table.
Steve grinned. The bartender hadn't even batted an eye. Maybe they should come back here sometime. Or maybe not. Tony's back muscles felt hard and tight under his hand.
"I can get the next round of refills," he said.
"Thank you," Tony said, and Steve could feel him relax slightly. He'd never understood Tony's apparently need to continually test himself, either around alcohol, or by continually pushing himself past his limits.
"Or we could leave," Steve offered. "MJ's finished her set."
"We could always go home, and I could put the shirt with the oil stains back on," Tony said, glancing over to give Steve a suggestive smile.
"That sounds like a good plan to me," Steve said, grinning more widely.
"You really were awesome," Peter said. "I liked the second-to-last one best, the slow one."
"I don't think I lived up to Ella Fitzgerald, but it's good to hear that I didn't mangle it." Then she paused, an amused little smile appearing on her lips, and elbowed him in the ribs, nodding for Peter to look behind him.
Peter glanced back over his shoulder to see Cap and Tony coming back to the table. Cap had one hand on the small of Tony's back, and was wearing a big, goofy grin. Tony was looking over at him with the same sort of through-the-eyelashes look that Felicia Hardy always gave Spiderman, except he managed to do it without the creepy semi-stalker vibes.
"Wow," Peter observed. "That's really not subtle."
"Neither was the way Cap ran off that blonde over by the bar," MJ said, the amused smile still playing over her lips. "I guess they're not bothering to keep things in the closet anymore."
Luke and Jessica dropped back into their seats as the band started playing a new song. Jessica Drew raised her eyebrows at them, and indicated Cap and Tony with her chin.
"How long have you known?" Peter asked MJ. "I've known since we busted that Hydra installation in the Savage Land," he added; he still felt faintly proud of figuring things out on his own, before the two of them had started the really obvious things like flirting in public.
"It took you that long?" Luke said. "The rest of us figured it out two days after we joined the team."
Luke could just be screwing with him, but Peter doubted it this time. He sounded too amused for that. Everyone had known this was going on but him? "And you didn't tell me?" he asked MJ, in what was hopefully an injured tone.
"I didn't think I had too," she said dryly. "They were practically sharing a room. Not to mention clothing."
"So?" Peter said. Clothing didn't prove anything. It was just… clothing. And Cap and Tony definitely had separate rooms. "Daredevil sleeps in his law partner's t-shirts."
Everyone stared at him. Steve and Tony, who had reached the table just as Peter was finishing his last sentence, were also staring at him.
Right. Matt was officially Not Daredevil again. On the other hand, everyone at the table knew his identity perfectly well. "Oh," Peter said, "are we still pretending we don't know? Fine. I mean Matt Murdock. Matt Murdock, who is in no way secretly Daredevil, sleeps in his law partner's t-shirts."
Everyone was still staring at him.
"What?" Peter asked. He'd just essentially announced that he knew what Matt slept in. Surely none of them could actually think… "I only know what he sleeps in because there was this one time when we'd been fighting Tombstone and Matt had broken ribs and a concussion and I was helping him get ready for bed because he's blind and stuff and the concussion was screwing up his bat sonar thing."
"I always figured there was something going on there," Jessica Jones said, more to herself than anything else.
"But Matt's married." The protest slipped out before Peter could help it.
Luke and Jessica Jones look at him.
"Oh. Right." Peter made mental note to avoid asking about kinky lawyer threesomes next time he saw Matt, no matter how tempting it might be. He didn't really want to know; Matt just turned really entertaining colors when you asked him personal questions. On the other hand, Foggy Nelson, Matt's legal partner and possible fellow kinky lawyer threesome member, might hear him and actually answer. Foggy was good at answering questions you didn't really want to know the answers to, and also liked seeing Matt turn colors.
"How is that any of our business?" Cap asked. He stretched as he sat down, laying one arm over the back of Tony's chair. Again with the subtlety and lack thereof.
"It ain't," Logan announced, dropping his evening-long pretence that he wasn't there with them, wasn't listening to them, and didn't know them. "Spidey here was just giving us a demonstration of why it took him until now to figure out that you two have been sleeping together for the past two months."
Couldn't Logan have kept pretending?
"Almost six months," Tony corrected casually, "minus the nine weeks after the team broke up, before we put the new one together."
Cap went red. Even his ears went red. It was almost awe-inspiring; Peter hadn't even known Captain America could blush.
"Oooh, six months," MJ said, in the tone of voice she used when she was being evil. "That's an important anniversary. Peter got me flowers and took me to the top of the Empire State Building. It was very romantic until the Vulture attacked us."
Cap was now wearing the slightly hunted look of a man currently counting backward in his head to try and figure out when it was going to be exactly six months after he and Tony had gotten together.
"Five months, two weeks, and three days ago," Tony said, without turning to look at Cap.
Cap gave Tony a very sappy grin, and Peter's illusions about his team leader's coolness were just being shattered all over the place tonight. Well, except for the part where he'd apparently been having secret sex with Tony for months without the Daily Bugle or any other press outlet finding out about it, which Peter supposed was kind of cool, and certainly took skill.
"Thank you," Cap told Tony.
Tony smiled at him again -- not the smug, through-the-eyelashes one, but a soft little smile that was funny to see on Tony Stark, billionaire playboy -- and the band started playing another song.