Tony usually didn’t go for coffee shops. He preferred his own brew over that of the mass produced stuff that they sold in Starbucks or other coffee chains (he didn’t really know of any besides Starbucks). Occasionally he got coffee at airports or relied on the manners of the people hosting him for business meetings, but usually he stuck to the brew from his own coffee machines.
Which begged the question as to why he was standing in the middle of a quaint coffee shop only a few blocks away from his tower in New York.
Ah, right, he’d been kicked out of the workshop and barred from entering it again by JARVIS, who had agreed with Pepper when she said that he needed to get out and see the sights.
Tony had issues with that phrase because he was fine. He didn’t need to go out into the middle of the city and “interact with other people because that’s what people do.” He had JARVIS and the other bots to interact with, and they were enough, even if they weren’t exactly fleshy or bled red. JARVIS didn’t bleed, and he was sure that if he tried, Dummy would bleed black. Or oil.
It wasn’t really something Tony tended to think about.
In any case, he wanted coffee, and he’d been kicked out of his own tower to get some. He was also not supposed to go back until five o’clock, so now he was left wondering what to do after he got his coffee.
Mulling over his options, Tony squinted up at the board that cheerily listed all the caffeine confections this place offered. He thought it was rather weird that several of them had names like The Thigh Strangler!, Coffee Cupid, and Captain America Special.
It wasn’t what one expected from a coffee shop called SHIELD, though Tony had no idea what he’d expected from a place that capitalized its entire name like it was shouting at the top of its lungs.
Sighing as he approached the counter, Tony thought he’d chance the Big Green Rage Monster coffee. Just because he was kind of peeved at Pepper and JARVIS.
Of course, that was just about the time he got a good look at the barista who would be taking his order, and all words died in his throat.
The barista – Steve, according to his name tag – was drop dead gorgeous, with arms to die for, beautiful blue eyes, a sharply angled jaw, tousled blond hair, and a killer smile that was slowly losing its shine the longer Tony stared at him without saying a word.
“Er, sir?” Steve prompted, the edges of his smile slipping.
Blinking, Tony forced himself back into a state of coherence where he could actually use words and not just stutter like a fool. He pulled out his wallet for lack of anything else to do, blurting out his coffee order and handing over the credit card to pay. When Steve asked what name should be called out, Tony didn’t even think before saying “Tony.”
Steve scrawled it over the cup in dark black (with an absolutely gorgeous artistic style, Tony noted rather abstractly).
It took Tony a bit longer than it should have to shuffle out of the way for the next person in line, his attention caught on Steve. He didn’t really care if he was caught staring; propriety had never really been his thing, no matter how often Pepper had lectured him on keeping up a clean PA image.
Steve went through two more customers, flashing each of them his blinding million-dollar smile before a red-haired barista gave Tony his order, raising her eyebrows at him meaningfully in a manner he didn’t really care to look further into.
Instead, he went to a table in the corner and sat down where he could have a clear view of Steve. So that he wouldn’t look like a complete creeper, he pulled out his phone.
He wasn’t completely dense as to the ways of the world. He just didn’t care most of the time.
Ten minutes later, Tony finally ended up taking that first sip of his coffee, taken aback by the fact that the coffee was…hot. As in spicy.
Who the hell put chili in coffee?
Double checking the menu, Tony realized that it was written there in fine print under the name. In bright green. How had he missed that?
Keeping the coffee off to the side, Tony leaned back in his chair, tapping absentmindedly at his phone while occasionally glancing up at Steve to see him doing his job.
It was an hour later when Tony realized that he’d just spent sixty minutes and 3,600 seconds occasionally sneaking glances at the amazingly hot barista and that he hadn’t done a thing other than look.
This was a disaster.
Of course, Tony being Tony, he didn’t let his revelatory thought from the previous day bring him down. He went back the moment he could get away with claiming a lunch break, leaving Pepper blinking after him in owlish confusion because Tony willingly going out? Without someone pushing and prodding him into it? Tony could admit that it was uncharacteristic of him, too, but how could he help it?
He really wanted to ogle (admire, admire, okay?) Steve from afar. Because he had no doubt that a guy like Steve was either straight or already had a partner stashed away wherever he lived.
And despite popular notion, Tony wasn’t so stalkery that he’d looked up Steve and found his house. That would be too creepy even for him, and he liked the mystery of imagining where Steve lived.
Probably an apartment, and judging from the faint accent Steve carried, he was from Brooklyn. That opened up a heap of options for Tony to draw from, as long as he remembered that there was no way Steve could afford the more expensive apartments there.
Steve didn’t take Tony’s order this time. It was the red-haired woman this time, and she gave Tony a sly smile when he ordered something that didn’t contain chili. He didn’t suspect why she might’ve smiled at him until Steve was handing him his coffee with a cheerful smile and bright eyes that had Tony just nodding dumbly and standing there like an idiot for all of five minutes with a hot coffee container in his hand.
It wasn’t until this guy with dirty blond hair and a mop asked him if he was all right that Tony jolted into awareness long enough to find a table and sit down, still clutching his coffee and wondering what he’d gotten himself into.
Because this was getting ridiculous, and it was only the second day.
Peeking at his calendar, Tony wondered if he could get away with sneaking out a third time tomorrow.
“Hey, Steve,” Bucky said from where he was refilling the sugar containers, “it’s that guy again.”
Steve definitely did not immediately turn around and look. He did not. No, he carefully finished wiping down the espresso machine and then, slowly and very casually, turned to see one Tony last-name-unknown standing there and giving his order to a visibly amused Natasha. This time there was a red-haired woman accompanying him, dressed in a sharp outfit and wearing killer heels since there was no way she’d be several inches taller than Tony otherwise.
The woman had her lips pursed in disapproval, her brow furrowed as she said something in a low voice to Tony, who just brushed her off with a dismissive hand wave that had her rolling her eyes.
“He’s looking at you again,” Bucky said, nudging Steve in the side.
“He’s got a girlfriend,” Steve said under his breath, all too aware of the way Tony was staring at him. It sent shivers of heat and excitement down his spine, even if he should know better.
From his well-fitting business suits and snazzy phone – the latest StarkPhone out there, according to Bucky – Tony was a successful businessman who could snag anyone he wanted to. Whatever interest he had in Steve would pass quickly enough, and it’d be all the better for Steve if he didn’t get attached or let his hopes rise.
Because then he’d be screwed. He got attached way too quickly and too deep.
“Eh, I don’t know about that.” Bucky hummed in consideration, bumping Steve’s hip as he handed over the whipped cream that Clint was gesturing for at his station. “She’s too classy for him.”
“She’s not too classy—” Steve started objecting indignantly, only to shut his mouth when Bucky grinned at him, eyes flashing playfully. “She’s not too classy,” he repeated eventually, jaw set obstinately.
“Whatever you say,” Bucky said cheerfully, sliding over a freshly made drink and straw to the young college-aged woman waiting. “He’s staring at you.”
Steve couldn’t help but glance over to confirm Bucky’s statement, only to meet Tony’s brown eyes. He looked away practically instantly, all too aware of the scarlet blush heating his cheeks.
“You’ve got it bad,” Bucky informed Steve far too happily. Then he left to give Natasha a smooch on the cheek and take over the register.
Sighing, Steve admitted in the privacy of his own head that he really did have it bad. And it had only been three days since Tony had first ordered Bruce’s signature coffee. Steve hadn’t even spoken to him beyond taking his order.
He was absolutely pathetic.
“You are being completely ridiculous,” Pepper informed Tony for the twelfth time since she had hauled Tony out of the coffee shop after only thirty minutes of staring at Steve.
“I am not,” Tony said, aware that he was all too likely sulking. “I am being perfectly reasonable.”
“So you haven’t gone into that coffee shop specifically to ogle that young man?”
“I don’t ogle,” Tony said indignantly. “I admire.”
“You ogle,” Pepper said, unimpressed. “That was definitely ogling going on in there.”
“There was no ogling going on,” Tony protested, shoving his sunglasses up his nose and almost poking himself in the eye. “I was just admiring someone’s really nice assets.” That smile, good Lord.
Pepper made a skeptical sound, easily keeping pace with Tony as they headed back to the tower. “Okay, fine,” she finally conceded as they headed into the lobby. “He’s extraordinarily handsome, and he has quite a smile. That doesn’t mean you should stare at him over your coffee and ignore your work.”
“I thought you wanted me to get out,” Tony said, looking at her over the rim of his glasses.
“Oh, I do.” Pepper snatched the glasses off his face before he could protest. “Wearing these indoors makes you look like a dick.”
Tony snatched the glasses back, putting them inside his pocket. “Then why the judging glare? I’m getting out. I’m interacting—”
“Staring at a man who serves you your coffee is not interacting,” Pepper said. “That’s creepy.”
There was really nothing Tony could say to that because it was true.
“Please tell me you haven’t looked up where he lives.”
“I’m not that creepy,” Tony said, sighing disgustedly as the elevator doors opened and let them off at his office. “No, Pepper. I’m sure he’s in a very lovely relationship with someone just as disgustedly perfect as him.” Which was looking to be the guy with the metal arm who had been grinning and whispering to Steve the entire time today.
Pepper stopped dead, staring at Tony with a peculiar expression on her face.
Tony stared back at her, confused. “What?”
The only thing he got was a quick head shake and a small smile he didn’t know how to interpret. “Oh, nothing.” She picked up a heavy file on her desk and smacked it into Tony’s chest. “Your paperwork, Mr. Stark,” she said far too cheerfully for a woman wielding a file that weighed several pounds.
Tony grabbed hold of it before it could fall to the floor. “I thought we were phasing out of paperwork.”
“So you can hack into everything and mess around with the terms?” Pepper raised her eyebrows. “I do know you.” She shoved a pen into Tony’s face. “I expect at least half of that to be signed by tonight. The rest can be done tomorrow.”
Staring down in dismay at the thick file that he was holding, Tony mentally wondered if he could get away with maybe only doing a third. Or maybe he could do two-thirds and sneak off to SHIELD tomorrow to definitely not ogle Steve.
Steve was very sadly not at SHIELD the next day, but there was a dark-skinned guy with a small goatee and sweet grin taking Tony’s order instead. His name card said Sam, but Tony wasn’t really interested because Steve wasn’t there. So after he ordered he slunk out of the coffee shop, just a bit peeved at the fact that he was so ridiculously upset about a little thing like not seeing a guy he barely knew.
Instead of going back to his office like he really should and avoiding Pepper’s knowing and disapproving eyes, Tony just wandered around, nursing The Thigh Strangler!, which had a sharp minty bite to it that he liked. It was an hour later before he headed back to his office, resolved to not go back to SHIELD again because it was getting completely ridiculous.
He was a grown adult who did not pine over complete strangers with beautiful smiles.
He did not.
(He totally did, damn it.)
“You have a date tonight,” Pepper said a week later as she handed Tony an espresso.
“No, I don’t,” Tony said, not looking up from the latest blueprints R&D had come up with.
“Yes, you do,” Pepper said. “Seven o’clock. I made reservations and picked out your clothes. JARVIS will make sure you don’t forget. He has my permission to soak you.”
Now Tony looked up at her, bemused. “He doesn’t have a hose.”
“Dummy does.” Pepper pointed to Dummy, who was waving around a fire extinguisher with far too much exuberance. Tony had definitely not given him that.
“Where did he get that?”
“I gave it to him,” Pepper said. She poked Tony in the chest, right in the dead spot where there was nothing but a mass of scars from the heart surgery several years ago. “You will not be late,” she said. “This is important.”
Rubbing at his chest, Tony stared after her as she left him to his work. “How is a date important?” he called after. “You never like it when I date!”
“That’s because they’re one-night stands, not dates!” The elevator doors closing cut off anything else that she might have said.
Frowning, Tony tilted his head back to look at the ceiling. “Who’s it with?”
“I have been ordered not to say, sir,” JARVIS said blandly. “You currently have ten hours to prepare yourself for it. Would you prefer to finish working or lie in bed and stare at the ceiling?”
“I don’t remember programming you with so much sass, JARVIS.”
“I do try, sir.”
“You have a date tonight at seven,” Natasha told Steve as they opened up SHIELD. “Dress nicely.”
Steve frowned at her. “I’m not going.”
“Oh, you are.” Natasha checked the register. “We put a lot of work into this, Rogers. You are not messing this up.”
“You put a lot of work on setting me up on a date?”
“Dating’s hard,” Natasha said bluntly.
“You’re dating Bucky. How’s that hard?”
“In so many ways.” Natasha winked at him before Steve could realize what he had said.
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Steve made a face. “I didn’t need the imagery, thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Natasha brushed past him, patting his cheek. “Sam’s going to get you dressed for it. That leather jacket isn’t going to cut it this time.”
“I am a grown adult,” Steve told her, trying to hold onto any sense of control that he had here – which was absolutely none at all. “I don’t need your help to get dressed.”
“Right. Which is why you’re not wearing khakis and plaid like a grandpa.” Natasha raised an eyebrow at him. “Need I remind you who pulled you into fashion in the twenty-first century?”
Steve was all too aware that he was sulking, but he couldn’t stop it. “I’m not wearing skinny jeans. I refuse.”
“That’s okay,” Natasha said pleasantly. “There’s a nice pair of black jeans that accentuates your ass rather nicely.” She pinched said ass a second later, getting an outraged yelp from Steve.
Grumbling, Steve set up the machines for the day. “Why the hell did you even set me up? I don’t want to date.”
“Your mouth says one thing, your eyes and longing sighs say another. Don’t think we haven’t noticed you sighing over Mr. Mysterious since he started coming in here.”
“He’s not coming anymore,” Steve said, not wanting to admit that she was right. He’d missed Tony the last week, and he hadn’t been looking. Really.
“There are other fish in the sea,” Natasha assured him, which wasn’t something Steve needed to hear because he knew that. It just didn’t really register emotionally.
“I don’t want to fish,” Steve said, sighing.
“It’s okay,” Natasha said. “Just smile and you’ve got them in the bag. Can I have the whipped cream?”
Steve handed over the whipped cream, shoulders slumped as he considered the date that he was being sent off on tonight.
At least he wasn’t wearing skinny jeans.
It was only thanks to JARVIS and Dummy actually dousing Tony with the fire extinguisher that he ended up in the restaurant Pepper had booked. It was a pizzeria, nothing particularly fancy or upscale. He wondered just why Pepper had booked anything in this place; it wasn’t as upscale as he was used to.
Slowly tearing apart the paper napkins, Tony stared down at his glass of water, wondering if it was technically possible to drown himself in it before his date showed up.
It might start it off on a poor note, but then Tony wouldn’t have to suffer through Pepper’s idea of a good match. As she didn’t usually interfere in his love life (or lack thereof aside from one night stands that Tony snagged for himself), he had no idea what she was doing here. It just wasn’t her style, and he was flying blind.
Absentmindedly rearranging the torn bits of the paper napkin into the numerals of an equation, Tony almost missed his date arriving. He looked up several seconds later, only to do a double take upon seeing Steve.
Steve looked just as dumbfounded, his mouth open in surprise. “It’s you?”
“Uh…” Tony’s mouth went bone dry, and he fumbled, taking hold of his water and downing a large gulp. Yep, he was completely classy. “You here on a date?” he managed.
“Yes.” Steve still looked faintly disbelieving even as he sat down, taking the menu from a far too amused waitress with a twinkle in her eye. “You?”
For lack of nothing better to do, Tony opened his menu. “How much do you wanna bet our friends set us up?” He knew Pepper had been acting suspiciously the last week, but then he hadn’t bothered to look into it the way he normally would have, too busy telling himself not to go to SHIELD.
“That’s a sucker bet,” Steve said, lips pulling into a tentative smile. “Not one I’m willing to take.”
Once again, Tony was rendered speechless by that smile, one he hadn’t seen before. And he wanted to see all of them. All the time. No matter what they were.
“So, uh,” Steve started slowly, “I don’t think we ever introduced ourselves. I’m Steve.”
“Tony,” Tony said automatically, running on pure reflex. It was only by the grace of his tongue stumbling over itself that he didn’t add his last name, which he did not need at the moment to mess up this date. Because he wanted this to go splendidly.
Pepper was so getting a dozen pair of new shoes.
“It’s nice to meet you, Tony,” Steve said, smiling that smile at him, and Tony was instantly lost again, fingers twitching where they held onto the menu.
“You, too,” Tony managed after a too-long pause. He looked down at the menu, found a pizza that might work, memorized it, and put it away, trying to remind himself that he was smooth, he was suave. He could do this.
After a few false starts and numerous brain stalls because of Steve’s smiles or laughs or general amazing personality, the date went off without a hitch. They split the bill, Steve refusing to let Tony pay for the entirety of it and Tony refusing the same. Then when it came time to leave, Tony almost tripped over his feet when he caught sight of the jeans Steve was wearing.
Warmth pooled in his stomach and his mouth went dry, and all he could think about was seeing what Steve looked like under his clothes because his SHIELD uniform had not done him justice.
Steve was looking at him in concern, brow furrowed. “Are you all right?”
“Fine, fine,” Tony said quickly, voice rather high-pitched to his own ears. He patted Steve on the arm, regretting it instantly when his brain catalogued the fact that it was all muscles good Lord. “Just your clothes,” he blurted out unthinkingly. Then he promptly backpedaled, wincing as his mouth continued to run away. “I mean it’s totally great, you have a great wardrobe, it’s awesome, not that I was looking, I mean, but no – yeah, I totally was, but who wouldn’t? You’re really cute and I can’t get over that smile of yours because seriously you could light up a city with the wattage on that and I’d know since designing stuff is my gig but that’s not what you needed to know and I need to stop talking now—” He clapped a hand over his mouth, utterly mortified.
Steve just stood there, blinking at him, face set in stunned surprise.
Tony swallowed, still pressing his hand to his mouth in utter mortification and wondering what the hell had gotten into him to let it run like that. Embarrassment was a burning pit in his stomach, drowning out even the heady attraction that had been simmering at a low burn all evening.
“I didn’t pick it out,” Steve said finally, voice weak. “My friend Sam did. I’m just lucky he didn’t pick the skinny jeans.”
Tony absolutely did not give a faint whimper at the image of Steve in skinny jeans.
“You, uh…like me?” Steve sounded so nervous as he said this that it gave Tony a boost of confidence.
“Like you?” Tony dropped his hand, smiling weakly at Steve. “I don’t go into coffee shops for anybody, Steve.”
Steve shuffled closer, ignoring the peeved mutters he was getting from other pedestrians on the sidewalk they were standing on. “Where were you this week?”
Tony’s shoulders hunched slightly. “I thought you were dating,” he admitted. “The guy with the arm—”
“Bucky?” Steve snorted, eyes crinkling in amusement. “He’s dating Natasha. Not to mention I practically grew up with the guy. He’s my best friend.”
“Yeah, uh…” Tony grinned sheepishly, peeking up at Steve. “I figured as much when you were my date.”
“I had fun,” Steve said softly, his voice almost drowned out by the din of New York City traffic.
Tony’s heart skipped a beat, pounding painfully against his ribcage. “So did I.”
“Would…” Steve tentatively reached out to take Tony’s hand. “Would you like to do it again?”
Tony laughed, fingers tangling in Steve’s before the other could think better of it and withdraw. “I feel like such a cliché for getting a date through a coffee shop, but yes. Please.” He reached up unthinkingly to press a thumb to the corner of Steve’s blinding smile. “I want to count them,” he murmured, already cataloguing this one among the others he’d gathered.
Steve blinked at him. “Sorry?”
“I love your smiles,” was all Tony said before he reached in to kiss that smile the way he’d wanted to the moment he’d seen Steve in that coffee shop.
Pepper was getting two dozen shoes. And a raise.
“Steve, your boyfriend’s here again,” Bucky said, longsuffering.
“This makes three times today,” Clint said from where he was fixing the sink. “I bet he comes in four times tomorrow.”
“That’s a sucker bet I’m not taking,” Bucky declared.
“Shut up,” Steve grumbled, all too aware that his ears were blushing scarlet as he returned Tony’s beaming smile with one of his own. He was gratified by the way Tony’s eyes went hazy and he lost his voice as he was trying to give his order to Natasha, who was all too amused at Tony’s speechlessness.
“You guys make me nauseous,” Bucky groaned.
“I think they’re cute,” Sam said, mixing together a bunch of spices for one of their specialty drinks.
“I’m going to take that break now,” Steve said before anyone else could nag at him.
He’d already taken that break twice today, but no one really cared, close-knit as they all were. Besides, while Nick Fury knew everything that was going on in the shop, he never really cared as long as business went well.
Putting his apron up, Steve went to greet Tony where he was waiting by the wall, smiling into the kiss that Tony bestowed on him. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Tony whispered against his lips. “You’re turning me into a complete sap, Rogers.”
“You were always a sap,” Steve said, smiling happily at him.
Then, while Tony was speechless at the sight, Steve dipped in and kissed him again.