“Courting,” Tony said, as he paced his living room, circling neatly around the couch before spinning on his heel and circling in the other direction. Pepper noted that he never managed to pass by the crystal decanter of Scotch without taking a swig. From the decanter.
“Courting is the key,” Tony continued, “because he’s an old-fashioned guy, right? So there has to be a certain finesse involved. I can do finesse. I am the king of finesse.”
Pepper racked her brains to try and come up with a guy who Tony knew who could reasonably be described as “old-fashioned.” Not anyone he was interested in, anyway, except--
“Oh, Tony,” Pepper said, unable and unwilling to keep the exasperation out of her voice, “Steve? Really?”
“Don’t you oh-Tony-Steve-really me,” Tony said, hitting the decanter again on his way by. “I know, Pep. I know.”
“Is he even gay?” Pepper asked helplessly, because seriously? Not that it had ever stopped Tony before. Hell, professed lesbianism hadn’t stopped Tony before.
“Of course!” Tony said, blatantly, falsely offended. “He is 100% gay...ish.” He crossed his arms, a total tell. “He is reasonably gay enough,” he said, after a moment’s pause. “Satisfied?”
“Tony, you didn’t do something stupid,” Pepper said, stalking toward him, her heels sinking into the carpet as she moved, “like tell Steve that being gay is just the thing to do in 2012? Hmm?”
“Pepper, you wound me,” Tony said, gently resting his hand on his arc reactor.
Three Months Earlier
“Being gay is just, you know, the thing to do,” Tony said. “It’s a new era.”
Steve looked up from his iPad, which he’d taken to surprisingly fast. He still didn’t seem to quite get social media, but he was a Google whiz. Tony might have expected him to be all “guns and ammo” and “the government rocks!” but he mostly looked at museum sites, browsing their collections. “Even in the Army?” he asked, glancing at Clint.
Clint was checking over his bow in the corner, giving Tony the eye. “Yeah,” he said reluctantly. “It’s cool, even in the army. It’s not like,” he shrugged. “Some people care and some people don’t, but it’s not like it used to be.” He smiled briefly at Steve and then kept giving Tony that completely unwarranted death glare.
“Huh,” Steve said. Tony beamed at him. “It’s not like I can date,” Steve said, turning his attention back to the lines of the Rodin sculpture filling the screen. “I’m property of the U.S. government.” His mouth turned down and twisted, just for a moment. “Nice to know I have options, though.”
Tony beamed so hard at him that he thought his face might break. “Options!” he said, delightedly. “Exactly!”
“Stark, did you just make Captain America come out?” Clint asked from the corner, one hand on his bow. “Christ, never mind the suit. It’s your mouth that’s the deadly weapon.”
“I know,” Tony said, happily, watching the way Steve’s neck was getting redder and redder. “It’s one of my best features.”
Tony wasn’t a guy who sent flowers. He had staff to keep track of appropriate birthdays and injuries and babies and who sent tasteful bouquets as the occasion warranted, but he wasn’t a sending-flowers kind of guy. And he couldn’t really imagine walking up to Captain America with a sweaty bunch of roses, though he could imagine how red Steve would turn if he tried it, which made the idea almost tempting.
But, with the look on Steve’s face right now? This was better.
“This is...”Steve swallowed, then looked around, taking it all in. “Amazing.”
“Well, I know your last trip to the Alps wasn’t exactly a barrel of fun,” Tony said. He gestured to Happy, who went back into the jet and came out with a soft, black case.
Tony turned back to admire Steve, who was standing on the edge of an Alpine meadow, flowers tumbling down the hillside in a riot of red, yellow, and purple. The sky was blue and clear, framed by purple and white mountains jutting up as far as the eye could see. It was breathtaking, remote, and completely, completely private.
“You brought me out here just to see this? Steve was staring at him, a small crease between his eyebrows. “Is this an apology for the thing last week?”
“Please, I never apologize,” Tony said. He held out his hand and Happy gave him the case. “Here. I thought you might be inspired.”
Steve took out the sketchbook and pencils, smiling widely. “Tony! Really? For me?”
“According to my dad’s notes, you were quite the artist.” Tony wasn’t sure if that made him sound like a creepy stalker, but he’d gone and read up on everything Howard had written about Steve as soon as he was found. Tony hated dealing with unknown elements.
Steve was staring at Tony again, his head tilted to one side, and sometimes Tony forgot that Steve was smart, that he was a wiseass kid who’d always been the brains, not the brawn.
“Just when I think I have you figured out,” Steve said, finally, “you go and do something like this.”
“I contain multitudes,” Tony said archly, putting his hands in his pockets and rolling up on his toes. “Do not judge a book by its private jet and all that.”
“It wasn’t the jet,” Steve said, laughing under his breath as he settled on a rock, sketchbook in his lap. “It was that beard.”
“I beg your pardon, there is nothing wrong with my beard--”
Static burst out of the radio in the jet, just as Tony and Steve’s phones went off.
“Tony-- Cap-- get your asses--” Natasha’s voice echoed through the quiet of the meadow. Tony could hear explosions and screaming behind the static.
They were in the jet and in the air before Steve could even grab the radio. His face hard, he leaned onto his knees, the transmitter cradled in his hand. “Natasha. Give me your location.”
“Clint and I-- can’t hold--”
“Location!” Steve barked.
“Chicago!-- You’ll see us, just hurry--”
“Do we need to get the suit?” Steve asked, pulling his own suit and shield from the bag he always brought with him when he traveled.
“Got a spare,” Tony sighed.
Next time, he promised himself.
After the flowers, Tony went for wine. He knew Steve couldn’t get drunk, but who didn’t like a little fine dining? And there wasn’t anything wrong about Steve’s taste buds, other than the fact that Steve had been eating war rations, army rations, and S.H.I.E.L.D. cafeteria slop for way too long. The guy deserved a nice night out.
A private dining room might have been too intimidating or obvious. Or, if you went by what Pepper said, which Tony did not, “Desperate.” Instead, Tony had gotten tickets to this charity wine tasting dinner thing put on by Sam Dascino, the newest, hottest, celebrity chef. It was an intimate affair of the stupidly rich, which wasn’t Steve’s thing at all, but they were in a museum garden, which meant there were plenty of secluded alcoves. And Tony thought maybe he'd spotted a gazebo. It was private enough, and Steve seemed to be enjoying himself, trying all the appetizers and asking Tony questions about where certain foods came from. It was almost perfect.
What Tony hadn’t counted on was Thor.
“I don’t understand how you can just taste wine,” Thor said, in as quiet a voice as he could manage. “In Asgard we have large golden goblets that you could bathe in! This tasting is a cruel custom.”
“This is why I didn’t want to bring you,” Tony said, sighing, mentally calculating how much tonight was going to end up costing him in damages. “Just so you know.”
Thor had overhead Tony talking up the whole thing to Steve when they were in HQ. He’d popped his head in the training room and said that he wanted to learn more about Midgardian food and culture, which was secret guy code for, “My girlfriend is away at a conference and I don’t know what to do with myself,” but of course Steve had leapt on it, inviting him along. The only benefit to the entire situation had been watching the two of them get fitted for tuxes. Tony had thought he was going to have to bring his tailor some smelling salts.
Thor strode over in the direction of the buffet table. “If Dr. Foster were here,” Steve said, almost apologetically, with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
“Yeah, taming the wild beast, I know.” And it would have been more like a double date, which might possibly have ended in Tony getting to first base. Possibly. As it was looking now, they'd be lucky to get out of there without making? a scene--
“Why is this food so small?” Thor was standing over a terrified waiter, holding his tray of mini quiches over his head. “Do you mock me?”
“Time to go,” Tony sighed.
“So the thing is,” Tony wasn’t sure how to proceed, now that he was actually face-to-face with Steve. He’d given up on romance and flowers and courting. He was just going to be direct, Tony Stark-style.
Tony leaned on the wall next to where Steve was leaning, reading a mission report. He let his hand brush past the exact spot where Steve’s crisp, white t-shirt met his tanned skin. He could see, this close up, where the goosebumps raised up across Steve’s arm. He’d seduced countless women and men, just like this.
Except, with Steve smiling down at him, his eyes wide and curious and really blue, Tony couldn’t quite find the right words. Steve didn’t give a shit about Tony Stark, playboy billionaire and he sure as hell wasn’t impressed by Iron Man. Tony’s usual tricks weren’t going to work here. “Let me get in your pants,” seemed kind of crass, and “Do you want to get dinner?” was just what they did three nights a week anyway.
“So,” Tony repeated. “You’re you and I’m me and we-- Well, I’m me, right?”
“Right,” Steve said slowly, frowning.
“But the issue is, right, that we could be so much more.” Tony put on his most charming smile, charming smile #17, the one with the eye twinkling.
“Like Captain America and Iron Man?” Steve asked, looking confused.
Out of nowhere, an arrow came flying down the hallway, pinning Tony’s sleeve to the wall.
“Motherfucker!” Tony yelled. “Barton, you asshole!” He yanked and the side of the arrow cut into his forearm, breaking the skin.
“Whoops,” Clint said, completely deadpan, melting out of the shadows at the end of the hall. “Must have missed.” He crossed his arms, staring Tony down.
“But what were you aiming at-- Tony, are you bleeding?” Steve pulled the arrow out of the wall and tossed it to Clint without looking at him. He pushed up Tony’s sleeve, his strong hands tracing the curve of Tony’s arm, which should not have been enough to get Tony hard, but there you go.
“I’ll get the first aid kit,” Steve said, hurrying off to the kitchen.
“You want to explain yourself, Barton?” Tony asked, rubbing his arm. “And don’t give me that ‘I missed’ crap.”
“You were crashing and burning,” Clint said, cleaning off his arrow. “I was saving you from yourself, you’re welcome.”
“I was not--” Tony said, completely offended, then remembered how badly he had been, in fact, crashing and burning.
Clint whistled long and low, ending with a dramatic crashing sound.
“Thanks,” Tony said.
“Anytime,” Clint replied amiably.
Tony headed off to the kitchen to find Steve.
“I mean it, Stark,” Clint called. “Anytime you want to get shot, I’m your guy.”
Four: Captain America
“What the hell was that?” Steve tossed his shield on the lab table, sending it skittering into some very delicate equipment.
“Destroying my lab?” Tony asked, wrapping his hand slowly in thick, white gauze. “My, how mature. Aren’t you old enough to be my father? Seems like you’d be beyond that now. Just a thought.”
Steve ignored him. “What. The hell. Was that.”
“Oh, you mean me getting the bad guy and saving the day? That?” Tony was exhausted, he was nursing a cracked rib and second-degree burns on his right hand and he was just done with this sanctimonious crap.
“No, I mean the bullshit heroics, Tony. Without notifying the team--”
“There was no time!” Tony slammed his hand down, forgetting about the burn. He didn’t let Steve see him wince. “There was no time,” he repeated calmly, ignoring six-plus feet of angry Captain fucking America bearing down on him.
“I don’t care,” Steve said, getting into Tony’s face. “We are a team and someone could have been hurt -- you could have been hurt--”
“Amazing how you think that means something,” Tony murmured. He wasn’t sure how Steve got this idea that Tony had any sense of self-preservation. It was normally charming, but not at the moment. “You know, I think I like you better out of your suit.”
“And I like you better in yours,” Steve snapped, grabbing his shield and storming out. He put a crack in the bulletproof glass door as he left.
Five: The Hulk, with a guest appearance by Dr. Banner
“Here’s the thing,” Tony said, calmly ignoring the two tons of Hulk howling and stomping behind him. “I keep trying to tell you something, and we keep getting interrupted.
Steve wasn’t listening. He was staring, white-faced, over Tony’s shoulder. He took a step back. “Are those restraints going to hold him?”
“Are you seriously suggesting that I didn’t test these out in the lab? They’ll hold a herd of African elephants.” Tony smiled at the Hulk, who roared in his face, blowing Tony’s hair back. “Settle down, big fella.”
“I don’t think Dr. Banner is going to like this,” Steve said, taking another step back. “Did you tick him off on purpose?”
“You know, so many people get angry with me and I don’t always know why,” Tony said tapping his chin. “I vote jealousy. Anyway! The thing. That I want to talk to you about.”
Hulk smashed his fist into the floor and it heaved under them and they stumbled together
“You know what, fuck it, short version,” Tony said, reaching forward to pull Steve into a kiss. He got a glimpse of Steve’s wide, shocked eyes before their mouths came together. Tony was expecting a chaste kiss, or maybe a hand to his chest, pushing him away, but instead Steve froze, then opened his mouth, one hand pushing gently on Tony’s lower back to bring him closer.
He kissed like...well, like Steve. Open and earnest, giving everything and demanding more. Tony was expecting to be the seducer, but he found himself stumbling back, overwhelmed and beyond turned on. He braced his hands on Steve’s shoulders, wishing he was in the suit -- those extra inches would come in handy.
“Tony,” Steve whispered against his mouth.
“Mmmm?” Tony was trying to calculate whether it would be faster to get to Steve’s quarters or to disable the cameras in the room, but Steve’s hands wandering down his back kept messing up his math.
“Isn’t it kind of quiet?” Steve asked, pulling away slightly.
They both turned to find Dr. Banner, naked, the restraints draped limply around him, his knees drawn up and one hand draped over his eyes.
“Just so you know,” he said. “I hate you both right now.”
They were in Steve’s quarters, Steve sitting on his bed, leaning back on his elbows, his back touching the wall, his t-shirt riding up to show just a sliver of skin. Tony dropped to his knees and licked right there, his tongue tracing the line between cloth, skin, and the hard leather of Steve’s belt.
Steve shivered and dropped his head down toward his chest. “Tony,” he said quietly. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“Neither do I,” Tony said, swallowing tightly. “But I hope you’ll stick around.”
“I—“ Steve started to say, but was interrupted by loud, insistent knocking.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Tony said.
Steve opened the door to Agent Coulson, who didn’t even raise an eyebrow at Tony being all disheveled and horny in Captain America’s room. “Gentlemen,” he said. “We have a situation. If you’ll follow me?” He looked at Tony again. “Make that ten minutes. On the roof.” He turned and walked briskly down the hallway.
“I have a situation in my pants,” Tony called after him, but Steve pulled him inside, laughing.
“Later,” Steve promised. “But first we save the world.”