“Am I alive?” Tony asks, turning his head to stare at the metal bar jutting up from the grass, scarcely two inches from his face. It’s still vibrating from the force with which it’d hit the ground.
“Yes,” Steve says calmly, even though his heart’s racing. If he’d been one second slower . . . if Tony hadn’t heard him yelling and stopped to look back . . . it’s all he can do to not grab Tony and check for injuries, despite the fact that Tony’s obviously not hurt.
“Well, that’ll wake you up in the morning,” Tony says, his voice trying for light and not quite making it as he climbs to his feet. “Better than coffee even. I may have to change my pants though.”
Steve nods without saying anything in response, slipping his arm around Tony’s back when his knees buckle slightly.
“What the hell happened anyway?” Tony asks, running his free hand through his hair and adjusting his sunglasses, little touches to prove to himself he’s alright.
“Bruce.” It’s answer enough really, and Steve is going to have a talk with Clint about riling him up.
Tony grimaces, shaking his head. “Remind me about this the next time I offer to house five superheroes, okay, Steve? Not that I’ll forget, but it’ll add a lot of weight to hear it from Captain America. Bad idea. Bad idea. It's a miracle I’m alive,” he says, then uses the arm around Steve's shoulders to pull his head down, kissing him—
Steve blames the shock for parting his lips. And for the tongue thing. And the—for all of it really.
“I’m going to kill Bruce though,” Tony says as he draws back, and he strides into the mansion without a backward glance.
Steve opens and closes his mouth a few times, but try as he might, nothing comes out.
Okay, so Tony probably hadn’t realized what he was doing. He’d just had a near-death experience, and the kiss had been a way to . . . reaffirm his life. Deal with his emotions. Release some steam. Something like that. Nothing to be concerned about, and it’s doubtful that it’ll happen again.
The fact that they risk their lives on a regular basis isn’t worrying at all.
Just to be on the safe side though, Steve’s prepared to dodge two days later when he runs to Iron Man’s side after he’s nearly crushed by a thrown bus. But all Tony does is curse a blue-streak and throw himself back into the fight.
Oh. Well, good. Just as he’d thought, the kiss had been a fluke. Most likely, Tony doesn’t even remember doing it.
Steve’s glad that’s solved then.
He hurls his shield at the monster hard enough to slice through one of its fifty arms.
Steve looks up as Tony slams the door.
“Is something wrong?”
“Fury. That asshole. I was the one who—it was my idea to—if he thinks he can get away with—” Tony scowls and points at him. “I know you like him, Steve, but if it weren’t for the fact that he’s a scary son of a bitch, I would punch him in the face!”
Steve’s lips twitch. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” he says solemnly. “If it makes you feel any better, he’s probably talking about you right now and complaining that you’re egotistical and difficult to work with, and if he didn’t need you so much, he’d kick you off the team.”
Tony stares at him for a long moment, then, “You always say the nicest things to me, Steve,” he tells him, just before he leans over the back of the couch and gives him a resounding smack on lips.
Steve blinks up at him. “Tony—”
“I’m hungry. I’m going to make myself a sandwich. And when I say ‘I,’ I really mean JARVIS. Want one?”
He’s not sure what just happened exactly. One second they’re talking, the next he’s being kissed and then offered food, and he doesn’t know how that’s a logical progression of events in Tony’s brain, but he feels like he needs to make one thing clear—
“I’m not hungry,” he blurts out.
What the—I’m not hungry?
“No,” he says faintly, and there’s obviously some sort of disconnect between his brain and his mouth, because he doesn’t add “I’m not interested,” or “I don’t want to be in a relationship right now,” or even “why are you kissing me?” even though the thoughts are teeming in his head.
“I’m not in the mood for a . . . sandwich.” He has the surreal feeling that “sandwich” has suddenly become a euphemism for sex, but maybe that’s just him. “Thanks anyway though?” he says, and it comes out sounding like a question.
“Sure, no problem,” Tony says, shrugging, and he heads off toward the kitchen.
Okay, so he’s not quite certain what happened the last time, but as far as Steve’s concerned, that horribly embarrassing and bewildering conversation is the end of things. Tony had expressed his interest, he’d turned him down—and sure, it’d been a bit vague, but he’s positive his meaning had come across—now they can get back to being friends and foiling evil-doers as the need arises.
Except that’s not exactly what happens.
“Ha, I knew it!” Tony comes running up the stairs from his workroom, holding something large and mechanical in his hands, hair all over the place and tank top covered in stains.
Steve’s relieved to see him. It’s been days since Tony first holed himself up, and even though JARVIS has assured him that he’s eating—assuming anyone other than Tony could refer to coffee and green smoothies as food—Steve had been in the process of bringing him down a lunch tray.
“You knew what?” he asks, smiling because Tony’s smiling at him. Tony’s always a little bit of a showman, using his wit and charm to get what he wants, even if that means emphasizing how much slower other people are in comparison. It’s not one of his best qualities, although knowing that doesn’t always make Steve less susceptible to it. There are times though, like now, when Tony exudes joy with a child-like unselfconsciousness, pure delight with no ulterior motives, and Steve’s come to realize that he can’t resist those occasions at all.
“That I’m always right,” Tony says, his smile turning mischievous. “And if I’m not, then I should be.”
He bounds up the few stairs separating them, and there’s an awkward second or two where Steve tries to move the tray so it doesn’t knock into whatever Tony’s holding while Tony does the same. The two of them are close enough that he can see the little laugh lines around Tony’s eyes, and the next thing he knows, Tony’s tongue is in his mouth and it’s only his quick reflexes that keep the tray from crashing to the ground.
As with all the other kisses, it’s over before Steve’s really processed that it’s happening in the first place, so he doesn’t get a chance to say anything, although it’s not like he did that great a job the last time, so maybe that’s a good thing. It’s not until Tony’s gone that he realizes he could’ve stepped closer to the wall to make room for Tony to pass. Who knows if that would’ve stopped Tony from kissing him, but what’s odd is that it hadn’t even occurred to Steve to try.
Later, he gets to thinking. He understands he hasn’t changed with the times all things considered, that people are much more publicly demonstrative than they used to be. And Tony is kind of like this with everyone, handsy and affectionate and completely oblivious to personal boundaries. Well, not with any of the other Avengers, but Steve’s seen him kiss Pepper and hug Rhodey plenty of times. And this is Tony he’s talking about. Tony always seems to get that extra bit of leeway from everyone.
Of course, Tony’s never kissed him in public, so he wonders if that means something, but then again, Tony probably knows that Steve isn’t one for making a scene. Besides, Tony’s never tried for more than kisses, and Tony’s not what anyone would call shy by any stretch of the imagination, so if he were interested in Steve, he wouldn’t hesitate to say so, right?
But Tony hasn’t been acting differently. Steve’s been watching, but everything’s the same as it’s always been. They still joke and argue in about equal measure, still watch movies on the couch (well, Steve watches them, Tony mocks them), still humor each other when one of them gets the urge to do something that doesn’t seem interesting but turns out it really is; they still fight injustice when and where it pops up. The only change is the kisses.
And to be fair, they’re not bad kisses. Not that Steve’s had much to compare them to, but he’s positive they’re not bad. There’s even a not-so-small part of him that takes pleasure in the soft press of Tony’s lips. What can he say, kisses are nice, and he’s enjoyed all the ones he’s received so far, and truth be told, he’s kind of getting used to being kissed by Tony. He can do without the feeling that Tony’s trying to decide whether to dip him or not one of these days, but that just might be paranoia on his part.
Considering all that, maybe Steve’s making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe he should stop worrying about it so much.
It gets to the point where Steve starts expecting kisses, turns toward Tony when something noteworthy happens and starts thinking kisses between friends as a way of celebrating is perfectly normal. He feels oddly out of sorts if his idea of noteworthy and Tony’s idea of noteworthy don’t line up, but he never goes in for a kiss of his own, because while this is something Tony can get away with, it’s not the same for him.
Not that he thinks Tony wouldn’t let Steve kiss him. Obviously they’re kissing, so it shouldn’t matter who the initiator is, but to be honest, Steve likes that Tony comes to him for his kisses.
Really, if it were up to Steve, he’d probably want more—
Well, that’s no good.
“I don’t think you should kiss me anymore,” he says the next morning as he’s making breakfast. Or maybe it’s dinner for Tony. He has no idea when Tony sleeps, but he’s definitely not predictable, not in this or anything really.
Tony stops and stares at him, a glass of green goop halfway to his mouth. Considering the things Tony eats, it’s amazing Steve let him kiss him in the first place. Tony drinks grass, grass, on a regular basis, and by all rights, he should taste like . . . well, grass, or at the very least, salad, not, not whatever it is he tastes like, which is rather wonderful actually and addictive, and he’s getting more and more miserable with each passing second.
He finishes the scrambled eggs and slides them onto two plates already laden with bacon and sliced fruit before he answers, guiltily feeling like he’s offering some sort token apology as he puts Tony’s plate in front of him. He hadn’t really planned on broaching the subject that morning, but then he’d seen Tony, and it’d seemed dishonest to not lay his cards out on the table. Besides, surely it’s better to do this now rather than waiting until Tony leans in for another kiss? What if Steve lets it happen in a moment of weakness instead of standing his ground? What if he tries to hold on and take more than he’s allowed?
“I think we’re hoping for different things,” he says, glancing at Tony before quickly looking away, because Tony has a green smudge at the corner of his mouth and the last thing Steve needs is to be thinking about touching and licking his lips.
“What do you mean?” Tony asks, finally setting his glass down.
He starts to answer, but he can’t explain how important Tony’s become to him, how he looks forward to each of his kisses, how he wants more. If he tells Tony the truth, he’ll just expose himself and possibly drive Tony away because of the weight of his feelings, and that’s the last thing he wants. So he shrugs instead, even knowing how inadequate the gesture is.
“Oh hell, you’re not going to say, ‘it’s not you, it’s me,’ are you? I hate that one. Although admittedly it’s better than ‘it’s all your fault,’ but still. I can’t believe you’re breaking up with me.”
Tony pushes away from the counter, turning toward the living room.
“You know, I really thought we had something,” Tony says, whirling back around. “And I was trying. I know some people say I can be very trying, but honestly, I was making an effort with you, Steve—”
“We were dating?” he asks, blinking dazedly.
“Do you—are you even listening to me? It’s like you’re not even paying attention!” Tony snaps his fingers. “As I was saying, I was taking things slowly, trying not to be so self-absorbed. I know I didn’t always succeed, but—”
“Is that what this was all about?”
“Is that what what was—”
Steve doesn’t wait to hear the rest of it, leaning across the counter and grabbing one of Tony’s waving hands in order to drag him closer, an overwhelming sense of relief flooding him.
It’s the first time he’s ever kissed Tony instead of the other way around, but there isn’t much difference. It’s still soft and wet, distracting and, alright, he can finally admit it, arousing, especially now that he knows it means something, that they don’t have to stop at just kisses. He’s doesn’t know how he and Tony could’ve been so confused as to what they were doing, but he’ll figure it out later. Right now he’s happy exactly as he is, and he doesn’t even care that they’ve knocked over Tony’s glass, or that breakfast is getting cold, or that the counter is still separating them, although he wouldn’t mind fixing the last problem as soon as possible. He’s just enjoying the moment, Tony in his arms (mostly), their mouths pressed together.
“So we’re not breaking up?” Tony asks somewhat breathlessly when he finally pulls back.
Steve grins but doesn’t say anything, enjoying being the mysterious one for a change even though there’s no way he’s letting Tony go now that he realizes he has him, and he leans in for another kiss.