Tony Stark had the strangest eyes Steve had ever seen, and he'd fought vampires, so that was saying something.
Not that they were unpleasant, not at all. They were just such an unusual color -- Iron Man's were blue of course, lit from inside, but Tony's were anywhere from bright gold, in the right light, to deep burnished copper. Nobody had eyes like Tony, not even Hawkeye.
For a while, Steve wondered if Tony had done something to himself -- he was such a tinkerer, it wasn't out of the question -- but it became evident soon enough that it was just a part of him.
"It's a rare genetic mutation," Tony said one day, over lunch. Steve had been absently pushing his appetizer around on his plate, trying to put his finger on just why Tony's eyes were so peculiar, and he startled.
"What is?" he asked, semi-guiltily.
Tony gestured to his face. "You stare. It's easier to explain than to wait for people to ask."
"Oh, I -- I didn't -- I mean -- "
"It's fine, I'm used to it."
"I wouldn't ask, though, that's rude," Steve said. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to stare."
"Like I said, it's fine," Tony said, with a twitch of his lips. "It's from my mother's side. Not exactly as useful as telepathy or laser eyes or any of those neat X-Men mutations, but then again, less likely to get me attacked by an angry mob of bigots."
"Is it actually an X-gene mutation?" Steve asked. Tony shrugged.
"I've never been tested. If it is, it probably explains a few things, but it hardly matters at this point."
"What would it explain?"
Tony pointed to his temple with his chopsticks. "You know my old man wasn't dumb, you met him, but -- "
"You're miles out ahead of him."
"Not to brag, but yes. Could be my intellect is an X-gene mutation. I prefer to think my mother's side just enjoyed having a unique look. She was always very fashionable." Tony lifted a takoyaki ball to his mouth, chewed, and grinned again. "Do you like them?"
"I've never seen anything like them."
"Huh, figures I fish for a compliment and Cap shuts me down," Tony said, offering him the last takoyaki. Steve took it, nibbling on the crust.
"No, I do like them, but...that seems like the wrong word," Steve said. "They're like the rest of you."
"Dashing and witty?"
Steve smiled. "Unique."
"Well, that's more like it," Tony said. His eyes themselves darkened, from polished gold to a richer, deeper patina. "You're staring again."
"Art's like that," Steve said. Tony cocked his head. "A painting's always better when you know the source."
Tony flushed a little, but Steve put it down to the heat of the ramen the waiter had put in front of him.
Steve didn't think much about it, at least, not about their conversation, after that. He thought about Tony's eyes as much as he ever did -- maybe a little more, sometimes. Like after a battle when he was checking Tony subtly for injuries, or when everyone was assembled for something more fun than battle, like a movie night.
Tony was arrogant and funny, irritably intolerant of magic despite knowing several magical beings, a little too capable of finding and poking tender places, fiercely defensive of his friends, painfully generous, obsessed with the future, and a workaholic. He had remarkably poor social skills at times, and the longer Steve spent with the Avengers, the more he had to struggle to act exactly the same towards him as the way he did to everyone else. It was hard not to show favoritism, not to back Tony in arguments or try to protect him more than the others in combat.
Sometimes he had dreams about Tony's eyes, dark as antique copper, fixed on his.
"You should talk to him, you know," Jan said to him one day, tiny and hovering over him like an angel (maybe a devil) on his shoulder. Steve startled and slammed his sketchbook shut; he'd been trying to mix colored pencils to get the exact shade of Tony's eyes in bright sunlight.
"About what?" he asked, as she landed on the table and perched on the edge of his pencil cup.
"You know what," she said with an impish smile. "Your crush on Tony."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You love his eyyyyyes," Jan crooned, laughing.
"They're unique, that's all," he said weakly.
"Steve. Captain America shouldn't lie, especially to himself."
"I'm not lying to myself," he said, flipping the book open to a new page, picking up the black pencil and beginning to sketch her. She leaned over, preened, and then went back to posing for him.
"Tony likes you. And you know he's bisexual, right?" she asked. Steve nearly snapped his pencil.
"No, I didn't," he said, concentrating on the sketch. "And even I know it's wrong of you to out people like that."
"He's out. I mean, he doesn't talk about it much, but he came out years ago. Press conference and everything. Way before Iron Man, even."
"Oh," Steve said.
"He likes you a lot, Steve."
"We're friends, Jan. And it's better for the team if it stays that way."
She sniffed. "I don't agree, but I promise to drop it if you draw me looking especially pretty."
"I always draw you looking especially pretty," he said. "It's a side effect of you being an especially pretty woman."
"I try," he said with a smile. "Hold that for five more minutes, and tell me about how Clint's progressing on the design for the new obstacle course."
Jan was as good as her word, and didn't bring up his embarrassing feelings for Tony again, but now that he knew she had seen, he wondered who else had. It made him jumpy, and it annoyed him that he was constantly wondering if Clint or Thor or Natasha or any of the others could see it.
He sometimes wondered if Tony could see it, and was just being a gentle good friend, politely ignoring Steve's childish crush. Tony was older than him and more worldly; he could have anyone he wanted, and there was no reason he'd want to go out with Steve even if he did like fellas as well as women. Steve knew he wasn't a pain on the eyes, but there were smarter and smoother operators out there than him. Hell, when it came down to it, there were smarter and smoother operators than him on the Avengers.
Still, once in a while, Steve would look up or happen to glance over and see those lovely gold eyes on him. Tony's gaze would flick away quickly if he saw Steve had noticed, but it was enough to make him wonder.
It came to a tipping point, suddenly and unexpectedly, at two am in the kitchen of the mansion.
"You're up late," Tony said, when Steve wandered in, seeking a cup of milk and maybe a snack after waking from unsettling, formless dreams of the ice.
"So are you," Steve replied, taking down a glass and then reconsidering, pouring the milk into a mug instead. He put it into the microwave to heat, leaning against the counter. "I was asleep, at least. Have you been to bed yet?"
Tony rubbed a hand through his hair, upsetting its usual sleek neatness. The two loose, long strands of hair that usually fell into his face were ruffled and disorderly, and he puffed them out of his eyes with a sigh.
"No, I have not. Not for lack of desire," he said, shuffling one stack of paperwork among many piles, strewn across the big dinner table. "It's end of fiscal year grant time for the Stark Foundation, I promised I'd review the applications like...two weeks ago, and then..."
"Two weeks happened?" Steve asked. Tony nodded. "You want some help?"
"No reason you should suffer because of my procrastination."
"I don't mind," Steve said, as the microwave beeped. He took down the tin of cocoa and spooned some powder into the mug, stirring to get all the little lumps incorporated. "Probably won't go back to bed for a while anyway."
"Well, you can take the museums and art schools, then," Tony said, indicating one of the piles. "I'm still plowing through STEM. Engineers are not notable for their brevity or clarity in prose," he added.
Steve sat down and pulled the paperwork towards him, but he didn't start reading; instead he ducked his head to look at Tony's face -- the slight pinches at the corners of his mouth, dark bruises above his cheekbones, and the red rims to his eyes that spoke of too little sleep on too regular a basis.
"You should rest more," he said, without thinking about it. "Shame to see your pretty eyes bloodshot like that."
"Very funny," Tony mumbled, but his hands clenched a little tighter in the application he was holding.
"It wasn't meant to be," Steve said, confused. "You should. I worry."
"So that wasn't a crack about...?" Tony pointed to his face. Steve frowned. "Come on, Steve, guys don't just go around telling other guys their eyes are pretty."
It jolted across Steve's brain like an electric shock, what he'd said, and he gaped silently for a second, overcome by his own idiocy.
"That's what I thought," Tony said quietly.
"No, Tony, it isn't that way," Steve said.
"What way is it then, Steve?"
"Well, I mean, maybe guys don't do that, I don't know, I still don't know so much about this time -- but I do. Think. That."
Tony glanced at him, eyebrows drawing together.
"I do think they're pretty," Steve said. He swallowed. "I think, I think you're -- well, you know you're attractive. Don't you? I care about you. And I just think it's a shame when you look tired, because I know you aren't looking after yourself."
Tony was looking at him intently now, mouth half-open as if he'd been ready to make a smart reply and then arrested himself in the middle of it.
"Are you making a pass at me?" he finally asked.
"Not intentionally," Steve said, rubbing the back of his head. "But if you wanted me to, then I could be. Badly. And by accident. But I could."
Tony blinked. "Why?"
"Aw, c'mon Tony, don't make me say it, I'm not any good at this stuff," Steve pled. Tony nodded absently -- he knew how terrible Steve was at flirting. He set down the paper he was holding and stood up, coming around to where Steve was sitting, crouching in front of him. He looked up, and his eyes were thin rings of deep bronze around black. He didn't say anything, just leaned up after a few heartbeats (so loud Steve was sure Tony could hear them) and kissed him.
Steve wanted to see this, didn't want to miss a second, but Tony's eyes were closed, so Steve closed his and let his mouth slide open to deepen the kiss.
"Chocolate," Tony said, when he finally pulled away. "You taste good."
"Thank you, I think," Steve said, confused and aroused and worried. "That was nice."
Tony laughed, head dropping, butting into Steve's chest. "Nice," he repeated, amused.
"Well, it was," Steve insisted.
"Thank you, I thought so too," Tony said, hands sliding up and down Steve's legs, knee to thigh and back, a soothing touch. He leaned back again. "So. The eyes, huh?"
"They were just the first thing I noticed," Steve said truthfully. "The rest came after."
Tony made a soft, thoughtful sort of hum, then rose to his feet. "Make you a deal."
Steve raised an eyebrow.
"I'll get some rest right now and read over the other applications in the morning, if you give me a kiss goodnight. And tell me my eyes are pretty again," Tony said. Steve smiled, warmth filling him, and stood as well. He cupped a hand around Tony's cheek, fingers brushing the hair behind his ear, and put the other on his waist.
"You have very nice eyes," he said, pitching his voice low, and Tony leaned in a little as if he wanted to hear it better. "I'll clean the paperwork up. Go to bed."
He tugged Tony the last inch or so, kissing him, inhaling the smells of warm metal and paper dust and weariness, enjoying the press of Tony's body against his. "I'll make you breakfast and we can go over them together tomorrow morning."
Tony yawned, nearly bonking Steve's teeth with his chin, and nuzzled against his cheek for a minute. "Sounds nice. Hey."
"Yes?" Steve asked, hand still on Tony's jaw.
"I like you too, you know," Tony said. "Always was a sucker for blue eyes."
Steve smiled, pleased. "Really?"
"Mm. I'll tell you all about it in the morning."
"You do that," Steve said, feeling light and warm, and awash in relief. He let Tony go with a last brush of his thumb down his cheek. "Goodnight, Tony."
"Night," Tony said, kissing him once more -- light and quick, liked the'd been doing it for years -- and then he was gone, humming his way down the hall to his quarters.
Steve took a final sip of his hot cocoa, shuffled the strewn papers into a few piles and put his mug in the sink. He went back to bed himself with a singing heart and plans for pancakes in the morning.