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Caffeine, Otherwise Known as the Key to Tony Stark's Heart

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The first time Tony Stark walked into his tiny coffee shop, Steve thinks it was an accident. Has to have been. The man can afford to have his morning coffee made in Colombia and flown to his penthouse before it gets cold. There’s no reason why he’d prefer Steve’s coffeehouse concoctions.

More likely he’d been heading for the neighboring laundromat that serviced high income clientele. But why would Tony Stark pick up his own laundry? He must have a personal assistant to do all that for him.

Eventually Steve realizes Stark is waiting to have his order taken.

“Hi,” Stark says. “Happens all the time. People are overcome by my presence, don’t worry, totally understandable. Though you’re the first I’ve had gawk at me for a full minute.” He gives Steve a slow smile that makes his pulse jump.

Steve clears his throat. “Sorry about that. What can I get for you?”

“What do you recommend? I'm breaking my usual schedule, here.”

Steve thinks for a second. “Well, I’ve been told the café miel is good-”

“Excellent, I’ll take it, give me that,” Stark says.

As Steve brews the espresso, steams the milk, and prepares the honey and cinnamon, he watches Stark from the corner of his eye. Stark fidgets with the condiments, bores of that, takes out his phone and lets his fingers skitter across the touchscreen.

He’s younger than Steve would have imagined, the CEO of Stark Industries. Steve has seen billboards with Stark's face on them, magazines with his face on the cover. Starkphones are the leading smartphone in the world. In fact, any electronic merchandise carrying the Stark Industries label skyrockets on the consumer market.

Stark Tower looms in front of his coffee shop, all shining metal and glittering glass. He walks past it on the way to work.

Steve starts to hand Stark his order. Stark pauses with one hand on the cup and gestures with the other. "These drawings on the walls- done by you?"

"Yeah. I was an art student."

"They're pretty good," Stark allows. He takes a sip of his drink and his eyes widen slightly. "So is this. Wow. I might just have to come back here- No, you know what, you just got yourself a repeat customer."

Steve feels a grin spreading across his face. "You'd be my first. Repeat customer, I mean."

Stark gives a dramatic display of disbelief, flourishing his coffee. "I refuse to believe that. This is too good for-"

"This is only my second day of business," Steve interjects. "I opened yesterday."

"Really?" Stark raises his eyebrows. "Well, now that I've tasted your coffee, I have to say I'm glad you did. Plus you're right across the street. Convenience is always good."

Steve wonders if he should be flattered. Mostly he's just confused.

"Thanks," he says automatically. If the CEO of Stark Industries prefers his coffee, should he really question it?

"I'm Tony, by the way," Stark says, even though it’s clear Steve knows who he is.

"Steve. Rogers," Steve says, and Tony smiles, tips his coffee in a mock salute, and walks out the door.



Tony returns the following morning and Steve looks astonished. Tony can’t imagine why. He'd said he was going to come back, hadn’t he?

When Tony first heard that a coffee shop was going to be opening across the street from Stark Tower he had been interested in a detached sort of way. A potential supplier for his caffeine-fueled nights in the workshop? Sure, he was all over that. And then Tony had caught a glimpse of its owner.

Tony can't pinpoint the exact reason why he's taken an interest in the young art-student-gone-barista. Actually, no, that’s a lie. He can. Steve is fucking hot. Tall, built like a comic book superhero. He had those amazing blue eyes and that pouty mouth. Plus he had an air of sweetness and innocence that Tony, being Tony, had a base urge to corrupt.

Tony steps up to the counter and presents his best smile. Steve’s eyes dance shyly away. That was much cuter than it had a right to be.

"I said I'd come back, and here I am. And I'm expecting the coffee to be just as amazing as last time, if not better." Tony winks. It doesn't make the confusion fade from Steve’s face. "Kidding, I was kidding, you know that, right? I do have high standards; I realize that, but nothing to be worried about-"

"I'm not worried," Steve says quickly. "What can I get you?"

Tony hesitates. "Okay, how about, as much as I enjoyed the last one, how about something a bit sweeter?"

Steve manages to look surprised and interested at the same time. "Sweeter than café miel?"

"Yeah. I've got a bit of a sweet tooth. Pep always says I would be about fifty pounds heavier if I didn't spend so much time in the workshop, not eating. Or sleeping, for that matter. And she makes me get off my ass and work out every once and a while, so there's that."


“Pepper, she’s- well she’s pretty much more in control of my life than I am.” When Steve looks confused again Tony clarifies. “She’s my personal assistant, but honestly, she’s much more than that. There’s really no job title for all that she does for me.”

"I see. Well, I think I can come up with something for you," is all Steve says, a touch of amusement in his voice. And Tony suspects that the surge of pleasure that shudders through him is more than just anticipation of the coffee.



Steve is preoccupied with a sudden influx of customers that starts early in the morning and continues into the afternoon. He barely notices Tony walk in, he and his friend Nick Fury, who has offered to help out part time, are in a frantic rush to get everything done.

The surge of people dies down into a flow, and then fades into a trickle. Steve lets Nick take over and steps out from behind the counter. Tony is sitting at a table in the corner playing with a large tablet.

“Hey,” Steve says, taking the seat across from him. He sets the drink he’s prepared- double shots of espresso poured over chocolate syrup and orange peel, all nestled in whipped cream- onto the surface of the table between them. It's becoming a habit for Steve to concoct something new for Tony to try when he comes in. Tony is the kind of guy that likes variation, and Steve can provide it.

He catches a glimpse of the screen of Tony’s tablet but it’s incomprehensible to him, covered in mathematical equations and diagrams. “I can’t believe how busy it’s been.”

“Yeah, sorry, I might’ve had something to do with that.” Tony reaches for the drink and takes a sip. He avoids meeting Steve’s eyes. “It’s possible that I might have mentioned you- your shop, I mean, to a couple people last night. In passing.”

Steve gapes at him. “You just mention me and all these customers show up?”

Tony shrugs. He closes his eyes and adopts the look he gets when he's savoring his coffee. Steve wonders when he started cataloguing the nuances of Tony's expressions.

The shadows under Tony’s eyes indicate a sleepless night and the confusing urge to play caretaker surfaces in Steve. There’s a bit of whipped cream trapped in the hairs of Tony’s goatee. Without thinking, Steve reaches across the table and catches the cream on his thumb. He moves his fingers across Tony's jaw in a sort of accidental caress as he withdraws his hand and when he glances up again Tony's dark eyes are wide between thick lashes and his mouth is slightly agape.

Steve flushes. Tony must be freaked out about him invading his personal space. Something about Tony made you feel like you were closer than you really were, deceiving Steve into thinking that such gestures were perfectly acceptable. When in fact Steve has only known the guy personally for about two weeks now.

“Sorry,” Steve says. “I didn’t mean to- sorry.”

Tony shakes his head slowly. “No, I- it’s, uh, it’s okay, it’s more than okay. I just- wow. I was starting to wonder if I was wrong about you."

Before Steve can ask what Tony means, Nick is yelling at him to help with the cash register before he does something regrettable. Knowing Nick's temper, (Fury is a more than suitable last name in his case), Steve pushes his chair back and hurries over.




Tony stops inside the doorway of the coffee shop. Steve is behind the counter while Nick wipes down tables. Steve’s normally neat, parted hair is in disarray, escaping its styling to hang in front of his eyes. The front of his apron is decorated with cinnamon and his checkered shirt sleeves are drawn up to his elbows.

The shop has been teeming with customers ever since Tony had raved about Steve nonstop during a party at Stark Tower. Tony had embellished slightly in his adoration of Steve. He had made him sound like the peak of human perfection- a regular coffee-serving Adonis.

Pepper had been surprised Tony had managed to keep quiet about Steve for so long. He’d been trying to withhold his plans from her, knowing that she likely wouldn’t approve. And he could go without another reason to be scolded. It had all come out eventually, though, and rather than reprimanding him Pepper had openly laughed at his scheme to win Steve over. Admittedly, Tony hadn’t had much to defend himself with.

His plans aren’t going exactly as… planned. Tony’s been making passes at Steve for the past couple of weeks, but Steve hasn’t acknowledged his advances in the slightest. Aside from one or two gestures that may or may have not been simply the actions of a guy who was handsy with his friends. It could be Steve simply wasn’t interested in men. But who wouldn’t be interested in Tony Stark?

Tony doesn’t mind the crowd so long as Steve remembers who his first loyal customer was. He strolls over to the corner table to settle down and wait.  

Thirty minutes later Steve has joined him and handed him a scoop of vanilla gelato in a small bowl and a cup with a shot of hot espresso. Tony raises an eyebrow.

"Affogato? That's unusual." He picks up the cup to pour espresso over the gelato.

Steve takes a seat and produces his sketchbook. "I felt like unusual today." He flips the book open and starts drawing.

Tony watches him sketch for a couple of seconds before speaking. “So you want to be an illustrator?” he asks, more to make conversation than anything. He scoops up the affogato and takes a bite. They’ve talked about this before, briefly.

“It’s something I enjoy doing. I get the odd job or two but there’s still not enough demand to go full time,” Steve says. “So I run this coffee shop.”

“Seems like an expensive second job,” Tony says. “Why not work at a Starbucks like most art students?”

“I had some money saved up. And it’s always been sort of a ... well,” Steve trails off. He seems embarrassed. Tony looks at him expectantly so he goes on. “This was a dream of mine, to open a coffee shop. To serve the American people. Supplying them with what they need to go on with their daily lives and support their families. Coffee has just always been such a large part- What? What's wrong?"

“Sorry, I- Sorry.” Tony chokes out. “I’ve just, uh, I’ve never heard it described like that before. Serving the American people. With coffee.”

Steve looks affronted so Tony rapidly backtracks. “Hey, I didn’t mean it like that,” he says. “It’s admirable, really. It’s rare that you get someone with as much idealism as you have these days. I mean, look, we both serve the people. I provide the toys, you provide the caffeine."

And he meant it. Idealism was an attractive quality to someone as cynical as him. When he wasn't mocking it he was envying those who had it.

Steve smiles. “Okay, Stark. So long as you’re not insulting me intentionally.” He sets down the sketchbook and stretches his arms up over his head, lengthening his spine. The tails of his shirt untuck to reveal a sliver of toned stomach muscle and a trail of hair that disappears under the waist of his pants. Tony realizes he’s been staring when Steve asks him if he's okay.

"You can be sort of oblivious, can't you?" Tony asks incredulously. Maybe he’s just exasperated by what Pepper said the other night. Steve blinks in confusion but Tony doesn’t bother explaining.




“What was your motivation behind decorating?” Tony asks him one evening, cradling his cinnamon spice mocha and leaning against the wall near the counter. Steve idly cleans the espresso machine. They’re the only ones in the shop at the moment- Nick has gone home and business is generally slow this late at night. Tony doesn’t seem to operate under normal working hours. He’s stopped coming to the shop in the mornings, instead showing up sometime around noon and staying until after hours.

Steve glances around. The brown walls are decorated with his illustrations, black and white photos of 40’s jazz musicians, and old World War II propaganda posters. A tattered American flag takes up much of one wall. The furniture is dark and solid, and there is a plain wooden jukebox in the corner that will occasionally ring out in the somber tones of Billie Holiday or Robert Johnson.

“It seems a bit odd. For a coffee shop, I mean. Coffee shops are usually all moody lighting and contemporary... everything. With Wi-Fi and... you don’t even have Wi-Fi, do you? That’s so old fashioned. That’s unbelievable.”

“I guess I just prefer old fashioned,” Steve says.

“Well, that explains the clothing, at least,” Tony says. “I can respect that. Kind of funny, actually. You live in the past and I live in the future. Remind me, why are we friends again?”

Steve is preoccupied with the fact that Tony called them friends when Tony points at something behind Steve. “Who’s that? Brother? Boyfriend? Both? Sincerely hoping it’s not that last one. And, oh, is that you on the right? You’ve changed. A lot. Hard to believe.”

Behind the counter is a photograph of a much scrawnier version of Steve and a dark haired boy, matching grins on their faces and arms hanging about each other’s shoulders. Next to that is another photo of the same boy, now a young man dressed in army fatigues.

Steve doesn’t turn to see what Tony is pointing at. He ignores the first question in favor of the second. “Yeah. I used to be smaller-"

"That's an understatement."

"I was a sickly child; I had a lot of health problems. After college I started trying to eat more and exercise. Started weightlifting, boxing." Steve doesn’t really feel any different from the scrawny boy in the photograph. He still occasionally has breathing problems.

Tony looks as though he's rolling that around in his head, absorbing the new information. "And the other guy?" He prompts.

"That’s… he is- was- my friend. My best friend.”

“Did he have a name?”



“It’s a nickname. James Barnes.”

“He was in the army?”

“We enlisted together- or at least, he did. I tried to.”

Tony doesn’t ask why Steve was rejected. "So what happened to him?" He asks.

Steve is silent. It hurts, talking about Bucky. It's been years since he was taken from Steve but the pain is still there. It will always be there.

Steve frowns and goes back to cleaning the espresso machine. It’s already clean so he’s reduced to wiping the shine on the metal.

“It happened in Afghanistan. Bucky’s unit was captured by a terrorist cell.” Steve clears his throat. “We grew up together. He would- he would protect me. I was always getting into fights but Bucky always had my back.”

Steve feels a hand on his shoulder and realizes Tony is next to him. He leans towards Tony and Tony drapes his arm across Steve’s shoulders, tugging him in for a brief embrace.

“He sounded brave,” Tony says softly, and Steve can only nod mutely. His face is wet and he wonders when that happened.



It’s after closing time in the coffee house and Tony, Nick and Steve recline on the worn couches. Nick and Steve share the large sofa while Tony has claimed an armchair. The jukebox fills the room with soft jazz and Steve and Nick are holding bottles of warm beer. Tony has declined any alcohol, opting instead for a caramel machiatto.

Tony is silently listening to Steve and Nick talk. Mostly he’s watching Steve’s mouth. His red lips are distracting. They purse, quirk, spread into a smile. The bottom one juts out in an exaggerated pout.

Tony swallows and diverts his gaze. He tunes back in to the conversation, resolving to pay attention. Nick and Steve are reminiscing about the past.

Nick is a veteran from the same war that killed Bucky. Tony wonders if the black eye-patch that covers Nick’s left eye is a souvenir from his service. Steve lounges back contentedly, the hand holding his beer resting on his thigh. His head is turned towards Nick and he’s completely focused on what Nick is saying but occasionally his eyes will flit to the side to meet Tony’s.

Then both Nick and Steve are looking at him and Tony realizes they’re waiting for him to speak. So much for paying attention.

“Sorry, didn’t catch that.”

“I said, I’m surprised you haven’t tried forcing any of your technology onto Steve here.” Nick repeats impatiently. “This guy believes it’s still the 1940’s. I’d think Tony Stark of all people would try to bring him into the present.”

“Who says I haven’t tried?” Tony says. “I offered him a Starkphone as soon as I heard he didn’t own a cell phone. He refused. I even gave him a tour of Stark Tower, and he was more interested in the gym than my workshop. It was kind of insulting, actually.”

Nick smirks. “It’s real funny seeing you in a place like this. The so-called face of innovation. Some might wonder why, exactly, you’re here every single day-” There’s something not quite friendly in Nick’s tone.

Steve says, “It’s because the coffee here is so good it attracts genius billionaires.” The coffee. Right. That’s why Tony’s here.
Nick appears to have had the same line of thought because he shoots Tony a look that can at best be described as unkind. Tony arranges his face into a semblance of pure innocence. He doesn’t know what he did to piss Nick off. Sadly, he wouldn’t be the first person to hate Tony on sight.

“The coffee’s definitely one reason,” Tony says. “So, Fury, why are you here? Besides the fact that, you know, you’re paid…”

“Steve’s one of my oldest friends. If he needs my help I’m there.”

“Well, that’s commendable. Such loyalty.”

Steve perhaps senses that the tension in the room is mounting, and does his best to diffuse the situation. He stands up and announces loudly that he’s going to grab more beer. Would Tony like join him?

There’s an awkward pause before Tony gets up from his armchair. “Sure, Steve, if holding that beer bottle is just too much for your frail little arms.” He grabs Steve’s broad forearm and shakes his head in mock sorrow. “It’s a wonder you manage making drinks all day. Those cups can get heavy.”

Nick rolls his eyes at Tony’s attempt at humor and Steve ignores him, just heads into the back room. Tony follows him.

It’s dim and dusty. Stacks of cardboard boxes reach to the ceiling. Steve opens a small mini fridge and pulls out two more dark brown beer bottles. He hands one to Tony.

“Give that to Nick. And, Tony, please don’t mind him. He gets suspicious. And sometimes he can be protective. He’s really a great guy.”

Tony runs his fingers over the condensation forming on the cool dark glass of the bottle. “It’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m used to people either hating me or loving me.

Thankfully it’s usually the latter.” He waggles his eyebrows at Steve and earns a small chuckle.

“Yeah, well, I’m sure he’ll get used to you. You guys might end up being friends.”

Tony doubts that. But he nods anyway.

“So, as long as we’re back here…” Tony trails off suggestively and grins. Steve looks puzzled, like he always does whenever Tony flirts.

“C’mon, don’t tell me you asked me back here just to reassure me about Fury. You’ve been making eyes at me all night.”

“Making eyes?”

“Yeah, it- it means you’ve been looking at me like you want me, okay-”

“I know what it means,” Steve says. He looks stunned, and god help him if that’s not a look Tony is sick of seeing on his face. “What did you think I asked you back here for?”

“Never mind, nothing, obviously I misread the situation.” Tony is more than a little frustrated and he doesn’t want to say or do something he’ll regret later. “Let’s go back, don’t want to keep Fury waiting.”

For a second Tony thinks Steve is going to protest but in the end he doesn’t, just turns and leads the way back into the main room and the soothing tones of jazz.


Things have been slightly awkward between them since the talk in the back room, and then one night Tony comes in looking more ragged than Steve’s ever seen him. The shadows under his eyes have progressed into bags. He’s unshaven and his hair is a wild dark mess.

“Give me as much caffeine as possible. Pronto,” Tony snaps his fingers rapidly. Steve decides it’s best not to argue (for now) and whips up something frothy, sweet and shot with espresso.

Tony downs it in one go and asks for more.

"You know, it's probably not the best idea to drink this much coffee when you're sleep deprived," Steve says gently. Tony rolls his eyes.

“Don't you start on me, too. I've already got Pep, Rhodes and JARVIS on my ass. I programmed JARVIS myself; you’d think he’d respect me a little more when I tell him I know what I’m doing-”

“What are you doing?” Steve interrupts. “You’ve been running yourself ragged these past few days, and you won’t tell me anything. I don’t want you killing yourself with caffeine and sleep deprivation, Tony.”

"Better caffeine than alcohol," Tony says bitterly. When Steve gives him an inquisitive look Tony digs into a suit pocket and withdraws a brilliant blue token. He lets it clatter onto the counter.

Steve picks it up. It’s engraved with a circle and triangle motif. A slogan runs around the edges and ‘6 Month’ is stamped in the center.

“Alcoholics Anonymous?” Steve asks.

“Six months in recovery today. I’ve been sober for half a year. I want a drink, Steve.” Tony slumps forward onto the counter and rests his head on his arms. “I want a fucking drink.” His voice is muffled.

Steve pauses, and then slides his hand forward to stroke Tony’s hair. Tony makes a subdued noise in what Steve assumes is approval, pushes his head into the touch.

“You’ve made it this far, Tony. That’s impressive. I’m proud of you.”

This is a new side to Tony Stark that he hadn’t been expecting. Tony’s usually so good at keeping up appearances that Steve never would have suspected that he’s been going through a hard time. The late nights Tony has spent working had been chalked up to an enthusiastic and brilliant mind.

Steve frowns when he thinks of what Tony has been keeping from him. His fingers tangle in Tony’s hair and he yanks them free a little too roughly.

Tony grumbles and raises his head to glare at Steve blearily. “That felt good until you tried to pull my hair out,” he whines.

Steve doesn’t respond and Tony says, “What? Is something wrong?” A guarded look comes over his face. “Do you think less of me now?”

Steve is a little taken aback by his bluntness. “No, Tony, of course not. I just- I want you to tell me when you need help.”

Tony withdraws. “Help? I don’t need help, thanks; I’ve got Pepper and Rhodey giving me all the help I could ever want. I’ve got an overabundance of help. I don’t need you looking after me, Rogers.”

He stalks out of the shop, tries to slam the door but is foiled by the springs. It whispers closed in his wake.

Steve waits thirty minutes before dialing Tony’s cell number with the shop phone but Tony doesn’t pick up. He leaves a voicemail before calling Pepper, who picks up on the first ring. She reassures him that she’ll make sure Tony doesn’t do anything more reckless than usual. Steve hangs up and tries, unsuccessfully, not to worry too much.

Tony’s back the next day, tired and cranky and over-caffeinated but sober. That’s all that matters and when Steve tries to apologize (though for what he can’t imagine) Tony shuts him down but gives him a tired smile and okay, Steve can settle for that.




Steve and Tony are sitting together at the table in the corner after hours. Over time it has become their table. More often than not Tony can be found with his work spread across the tabletop, empty coffee cups and the occasional plate decorated with pastry crumbs interspersed among the technology.

These days he's finding himself spending more time here than in his workshop. It's true that Steve's coffee shop is wanting when it comes to equipment, not to mention the distinct lack of JARVIS and Tony’s music. And no Internet. But the company more than makes up for those defects.

Tony pauses what he's doing and picks up his tablet. He looks to Steve, who has been drawing in his sketchbook.

"What do you think?" Tony asks. He turns the tablet so Steve can see the screen. "A design for the new Starkphone. Even though you don't have a cell phone- something I still can't quite accept, it's practically archaic in this day and age- maybe you can offer some feedback anyway."

Steve looks at the diagrams and the end of his pencil makes its way into his mouth. He chews on the eraser thoughtfully.

"I like it. It's very… fluid. Sleek. Perhaps the screen's a bit too large. The whole phone seems unnecessarily large, now that I think about it."

Tony scoffs and sets the tablet down. "Oh come on, bigger is always better these days, people want large screens."

Steve chuckles. "Okay. You would know better than me." He returns to sketching, pencil moving deftly over the thick paper.

Tony frowns and taps his fingers on the tabletop. He sits up a bit straighter in his seat, trying to see over the edge of Steve's sketchbook. "Why don't you show me what you've been working on? I'm curious."

Steve actually pales. "No, that's- you don't want to see. Really." He stands up and fumbles with his sketchbook. Tony is out of his chair before Steve can react and he darts over, nicks the book from Steve's grasp and twirls away. Tony feels Steve's strong arms closing in on him from behind and he quickly flips the pages before Steve can get the book back.

He pauses. Blinks. Runs his fingers over the sketches of himself Steve has painstakingly transcribed onto the paper. Pages and pages of Tony, a few sketches scattered here and there in the beginning but later on dominating most of the space. The detail is astounding. Here's Tony caught in the middle of a laugh, mouth wide and teeth flashing, eyes gone squinty with mirth. Tony with his eyes closed in appreciation, likely of one of Steve's drinks. Tony gazing into space, a small smile curving his lips, mind preoccupied with something, or maybe nothing. Maybe he's just content. Content to be where he is, with Steve-

Tony turns around and sees Steve has flushed to the roots of his blond hair.

"I- uh." Tony Stark is speechless.

Steve gently pries the sketchbook from Tony's fingers and closes it. "I told you you wouldn't want to see."

When Tony doesn’t respond Steve starts to look hurt. And that results in a sudden ache in Tony's chest.

"Steve," Tony says quietly. He lays his hand on Steve's shoulder. "They're- they're amazing. It just surprised me, it- you’ve never really given any indication of feeling the same way I do.”

“Feeling the way you do?” Steve repeats blankly.

“I- wait. Why do you think I come in here every day?”

Steve blinks owlishly. “You’ve said so yourself, you really like my coffee-”

Tony cuts him off with a loud snort of disbelief. He can’t help it. “You really think I came here every day for two months just for the coffee? Well, okay, maybe partly for the coffee, but that's not the point. The point is… I've been hinting at it since I met you. It feels like I've been flirting at a brick wall. Either you weren’t interested or you were just oblivious. I assumed it was the former but I just kept trying anyway- I figured there was no harm in it since you didn’t seem to care. And… I enjoy your company, that’s no secret.”

Steve works his mouth wordlessly for a couple of seconds. “They’re- they’re just drawings, Tony, I don’t quite-”

“Christ. Just shut up, Rogers. Honestly.”

Tony pulls Steve into a kiss. Steve tastes like honey and cinnamon and coffee and Tony has to fight a smile.

Steve is unresponsive at first but when Tony tries to draw back Steve catches him and doesn't let go.

Eventually the need for air pushes them apart and Steve’s cool blue eyes are warm and his cheeks are red and it’s perfect.  

Tony says, "Best I've been served here yet. That's a favorite, no doubt about it."

Steve laughs. "Good to hear. On the house this time."

“Steve, just curious. What did you think I was doing when I kept flirting with you?”

“I thought you acted like that with everyone. I mean, you do have sort of a… reputation. I assumed that was just part of who you are. I guess I couldn’t believe you were serious.”

Tony shakes his head. “You thought I wasn’t-” He stops himself and takes a breath. “Well, Steve, let me tell you, I’m serious. Okay? I really do like you. More than just a friend.”

Steve nods. Normally Tony would be irritated with him but he just can’t bring himself to feel anything other than elation at the present moment.

Tony taps the cover of Steve’s sketchbook and quirks a lopsided grin. “What do you say we hang these up around the shop?  It’d improve the décor tenfold in my opinion.”

“Actually, I was thinking we could maybe work on some sketches together- you can do some modeling for me. I’ve been meaning to practice my figure drawing.”

Tony is suddenly lost in the mental image of Steve studying his naked body, delicately tracing his contours and stroking his pencil over the paper and… “I think that is an excellent idea,” he tells Steve, and the smile he receives is so earnest it hurts.