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Apple Bottom Jeans (And Other Love Songs)

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Steve ends up in the room next to Tony’s by accident.

It’s just…well, it’s a good room, isn’t it, with a view that shows the city skyline; it’s not the skyline Steve remembers, not by a long shot, but it’s still kind of nice to see. There's lots of natural light filtering in--better for drawing, a happy departure from the dark, sparse rooms at SHIELD headquarters--and there's a big, comfortable looking bed against one corner of the room. Like everything Tony owns, the whole thing screams ridiculously expensive, but it's at least more muted that usual.

Tony’d vanished down a staircase the minute they’d gotten into the house, said “Go pick a room, whichever you want, Jarvis’ll kick you out if it’s occupied,” to the team over his shoulder as he went. Since there hasn’t been a computerized scolding yet, Steve figures he’s probably good. He drops his duffel bag on the bed to claim it, surveys the whole thing one last time, and goes back downstairs, not seeing the point in lingering. After all, it’s just a room.

He doesn’t actually realize it’s the room next to Tony’s until that night, when they walk the same path upstairs, curve around the same corner, duck down the same hall. Steve stops at his own door and Tony stops at the one just beyond it, turns, stares at Steve for half a second, and then grins and says, “Hey, neighbor,” like it’s the best joke he’s ever heard.

“Uh, hey,” Steve says, grinning hesitantly back. Tony can be volatile, sometimes, when he’s tired, jumping from pleasant to snappish and closed off in seconds. Steve doesn’t quite know him well enough yet to know all the cues, but he’s pretty sure showing any kind of discomfort here would qualify. “You don’t snore, do you? I kind of had enough of that in the service.”

Tony laughs, head tipped back, throat exposed, and oh, god, there it is again, this…this thing that just crops up when he’s around Tony, the sudden, fierce combination of affection and want. Steve swallows, swallows again, shakes his head to clear it.

“The walls are soundproof," Tony says, a smile in his voice, "you’re good. Night, Steve.”

“Night, Tony,” Steve says, and if he takes advantage of the knowledge that he’s in a soundproof room to jerk off hard and fast against the wall, no one has to know about it.

The thing is, it’s Tony’s house; there are speakers everywhere, embedded in the walls, completely invisible. Steve’s kind of thrown by it at first, but like all of Tony’s crazy technology, he adapts to it quickly enough. Jarvis tells him the weather in the morning, and after the fourth time Steve doesn’t spring out of bed in attack mode; when Fury calls, the phone rings everywhere, out of the ceiling, the walls, and Steve can stand in the middle of the room while the empty air briefs him. It’s bizarre, but then again, everything about the future is bizarre; why, just the other day, the television in the SHIELD lobby had played a commercial for some sort of…food blending device the size of Steve’s hand.

(“Oh my god,” Steve said, “that’s incredible,” and Tony stared at him like he was crazy for a full minute.

Seriously?” he demanded eventually. “Seriously, are you serious, you didn’t bat an eyelash at the Quinjet, the armor was just a big metal suit, I can’t get you to understand the cultural significance of Youtube and you still think there’s a guy answering questions on the other end of Google—I know you do, Steve, I know you think that!—but you are impressed, after all that, you know me and you are impressed by a Magic Bullet?”

“It chopped that whole onion in three seconds!” Steve said, because it had.

Tony didn’t speak to him for two days. The future was definitely strange.)

Case in point: on the first morning in his new bedroom, he wakes up to the sound of…drums. They’re not loud, just insistent, an off-key vocalist singing over them, and he looks around for the source of the noise. Eventually he finds it, three long, thin slits in the wall by the ceiling, invisible unless you’re really looking for them.

Steve sits back down on the bed, congratulates himself on hunting down one of the speakers, and thinks about telling Jarvis to turn the music off. He thinks better of it, though, and bobs his head along to it a little; music in the future is as odd as everything else, but for whatever reason, he finds the sound kind of nice.

It takes him three days to figure out that it’s a shower vent, that’s it’s Tony’s shower vent, and even then he only realizes it because he hears a familiar voice snap “Oh, fucking hell, Jarvis, kill the code a sec, I’ve got soap in my eye,” in the middle of some song about apple bottom jeans.

He’s not proud of his deductive skills (or the fact that he stays in his room, listening, until the music cuts off and the singing stops).

Steve really does have every intention of letting Tony know right away that the walls are not as soundproof as he imagines; lies of omission are still lies, and Steve’s an honest guy. But he kind of…likes it, doesn’t he, waking up to Tony’s choppy baritone and the bumping backtrack of music he’s never heard before, bobbing his head along with it while he dresses, and anyway he’s sure Tony will be mortified when Steve tells him. Steve doesn’t want to embarrass the poor guy any more than is necessary, so he tries to wait for a good moment, when a teammate isn’t hanging around, but they’re kind of hard to come by; a day turns two days turns into a week, and Steve’s heard falsetto notes and vocalized renditions of guitar solos and some hideously overwrought tune about Romeo and Juliet.

“Tony,” he says finally, on Saturday morning, following a rendition of a slow, sad song he feels quite certain he shouldn’t have heard, “I have to talk to you.”

“So talk,” Tony says, bent over one of his repulsor boots on the living room floor. “Why aren’t you talking? This isn’t the kind of talk where I’m going to have to stop working, is it, because I mean, unless you’re planning on shooting me in the face or something they’re pretty much all the kind of talks where I don’t have to stop—”

“I can hear you,” Steve blurts, “in the shower. In the mornings. I’m sorry, I should have told you sooner, I just didn’t want to...and then you...and there were Sorry.”

Tony’s hands still, just for a second; then he looks up, gives Steve a long, slow smile. “Oh yeah? Huh, you know what, I guess the venting in there would connect through, I hadn’t thought about that, learn something new every day--so what do you think, am I American Idol material?”

“You’re already an American idol,” Steve says, confused, “there are action figures and stuff, that’s not the point—”

“No, the point is I’ll have to start putting some effort into it,” Tony says, and rips a cable out of the boot cheerfully. “Or, I mean, I could fix the vent problem, that wouldn’t be that hard, but I don't love squeezing into the walls and I can't trust contractor near all the wiring--but I’m guessing if you waited this long to tell me, it can’t drive you too crazy, right?”

“Uh,” steve says, “well, no, it’s…it’s fine. I don’t mind it, actually. You’ve got a nice voice.”

Tony beams at him. “If I call Simon Cowell, will you tell him that? Like, pull out the Captain America card and then tell him , there’s money riding this whole—retraction thing, and—no, you know what, scrap that, he wouldn’t even take your word for it, god, one time, one time I compare him to Gordon Ramsey and he tells Page Six I sound like dying cats when I sing, do you know how embarrassing that is, see if I ever take him skydiving again—”

“Tony,” Steve says, because this is sounding suspiciously like the kind of rambling he tends slips into when he’s trying to hide something, “seriously, I’m sorry. I should have—”

“Seriously,” tony says, “it’s fine, no worries, none at all, except the Cowell thing, that's a worry, but just for me, you're all set.”

He looks…oddly gleeful, which usually means explosions are on the horizon. Steve sighs and lets it drop.

The next morning, he wakes up to Sinatra.

He does Ella Fitzgerald, then Nat King Cole, then Bing Crosby, then Glenn Miller; on the sixth day, Tony sings “Cheek to Cheek” and Steve corners him in the kitchen, because he keeps waking up hard and he can’t take it anymore.

“Hey, big guy,” says Tony, giving him a weird look. “Are you...looming...for a reason?”

“You don’t have to sing stuff I like,” Steve says. “It’’s your house, it’s your shower, I don’t need you to do that.”

Tony, instead of looking embarrassed or contrite or relieved or any of the things he should look, grins at Steve like he's Christmas come early.

”So you did notice,” he says, grabbing an apple and tossing it into the air. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed retro week myself, getting back to the basics, I can dig that, but it was mostly for your benefit, I’m not gonna lie—”

“You can’t just,” Steve says, frustrated, and Tony cocks his head, grin slipping into an expression Steve can’t quite decipher. Something between intrigued and hopeful, maybe, with a hint of confusion in it.

“I can’t just what?”

Steve thinks of Tony’s voice warbling over the sound of running water, easy and familiar, and sighs. “Nothing. Never mind.”

He doesn’t get used to it; he wants to, but he can’t, not really. It’s still Tony every morning, a little different every time but Tony all the same; Steve feels like he has parts of him he wasn’t meant to take, for all Tony's perfectly aware Steve can hear him. He’s utterly unselfconscious about the whole thing, cracks jokes about it, asks Steve if he’s got any special requests, and Steve wakes up each morning aching for him. His fingers twitch with the urge to get out of bed, walk the three steps next door and kiss him silent, and then he has to go downstairs to breakfast and smile, calm, like everything's fine.

It's not music Steve knows all the time, but there’s no repeat of the song about the apple jeans, none of the rough, noisy clatterings Tony plays down in his workshop. It’s always slow, easy enough for Steve to follow--ballads, mostly, and some of what is apparently Sinatra's later stuff--and while Steve doesn’t get used to it, he catches himself bobbing his head, humming along, more mornings then not.

A month after they move into the mansion, Tony and Clint vanish mid-mission, drop off the radar, and there’s a terrible couple of hours where everyone’s sure they’re dead and Steve can’t think, can’t breathe, until the call comes in, Clint’s voice, bitchy and just a little unsteady, giving their location. SHIELD sends a pickup crew (“Not you lot,” Fury says, looking at the remaining Avengers, “you’re too invested, this is cleanup, we’re not going to make it personal--Hulk, if you in particular could please calm it the fuck down,”) and Tony saunters into the living room three hours later, freshly debriefed and sporting a black eye, like he wasn’t gone at all.

“Miss me?” he says, and well, look, Steve’s a rational man under normal circumstances but he can’t help it, he just can’t, and his hand’s on Tony’s arm, dragging him into the hallway, before he can think about it.

“Well, I guess that’s a yes,” Tony says. “Are you going to yell at me, because Pepper already yelled at me and I’d like to make the point that this is at least 45% Clint’s fault, okay, and 54% Magento’s fault because, I mean, really, so that only leaves like 1% of the blame for me and I think, if I may, that we can just agree to call that a margin of error—”

“God, shut up,” Steve says, “shut up, Tony, do you have any idea,” and he kisses him, of course he kisses him, how could he not kiss him.

“Oh,” Tony says into his mouth, and then, “Oh,” and then, “Wait, wait, stop, what, I’ve been serenading you for two weeks and all it took was the right kind-of-sort-of near death experience? Oh my god, this is worse then the thing with the Magic Bullet, we’re superheroes, this shit happens all the time, you mean i could have just waited around—”

“Serenading me,” Steve repeats, slow, and Tony throws his hands in the air.

“Well, yeah,” he says, “what the hell else did you expect me to do with the knowledge that you could hear me in the shower?”

As it turns out, having someone else in the bathroom with him doesn’t stop Tony from keeping a beat.

Steve smiles against his hair, bobs his head along with the music, and closes his eyes to avoid the soap.