They’re lying in bed when the question arises.
“Do you love me?” Tony asks, quiet but contemplative. Steve’s had his hand on Tony’s chest for a while, fingers inching ever so carefully toward the arc reactor if only to busy himself as the silent air fell thick between them.
“Love…?” he asks, like it’s caught between a question and a statement; but leaning more toward a question now, because quite frankly he hasn’t a clue what to do with the word.
They’ve been at this for months now, and it’s all been kept rather—he searches for the right adjective, something to convey everything he’s felt—brief. Lolling his head to the side he looks at Tony for a long time, not moving his hand, not saying anything, just…looking. “Remember in the beginning when we would just…collide? Everything would be so hard and fast by the time we were done I was ashamed and you were distant? Remember how you would try to strike up conversation the next day as we sat in an office at HQ, waiting for the rest of the team to arrive because Pepper was tired of getting calls saying you were missing all the briefings, so she made you show up early with me?”
“And you would laugh nervously at every joke, because you obviously didn’t know what else to do.”
“And things slowed down one night when you were drunk, and I was saying ‘no’—”
“—You can’t take advantage of someone who’s throwing themselves at you, Rogers,” Tony says, a wicked glint in his eye.
“Yes, when they're drunk you very well can.”
“But I came back.”
“You were sober then.”
“I’d sobered up but I didn't want you any less.”
A smile crept on Steve’s face and he looked away, fingers still ghosting over the hollow feeling area between Tony’s rib cage, rising and falling with every breath.
“We went slower and slower every time, huh?”
“Until we just ended up laying in bed next to each other not saying anything?”
“But even now we’re still pretty far apart,” Steve noted, slinging his other arm over to touch the space between their bodies, taking all the time in the world to slowly drag it back to it’s rightful place besides him.
Tony was silent now, blinking up at the ceiling. “…It’s not a good idea for us to get too close,” he stated, as if factual evidence had already proven it to be true. Steve could only laugh humorlessly as he rolled on his side to look at the olive man, lit ever so gently in the moonlight.
“But you asked me if I loved you.”
Tony’s face twitched in annoyance as he muttered, “Because I wanted to know.”