Tony Stark was a real boy-- this was what he told anyone who asked about the arc reactor in his chest. He had likes and dislikes, needs and desires, he said with a wink and a sly grin. And generally people would smile or blush.
If he was very lucky, he got to show them how real he was.
And sometimes, at night, when he'd exhausted all options, he'd lie in bed and cover the glow of the reactor with his hands
When Tony's dad was alive, he used to talk about Captain America all the time. It used to be a joke between Tony and his mom, Howard's massive crush. But Tony couldn't deny that Cap was alluring-- a white knight in a gray world.
Tony had all his stuff: trading cards, comic books, a plastic shield.
The real thing was so much better and so much worse.
"He never shut up about you, you know," Tony said later, after everyone else had gone to bed and it was just the two of them sitting around, drinking beer. As if they hadn't just saved the world five hours ago.
Steve, because he was Steve and not Captain America, snorted and rubbed his thumb across the beer label. "Howard Stark didn't know how to shut up. Not even when it was for his own good."
Tony laughed because the only other person who talked about Howard that way, annoyed and affectionate, had been his mom. "Were you and my dad bumping uglies, Cap?"
"Were we *what?*" Steve frowned at him.
"Come on!" Tony made a vague gesture with his hands that.. okay, maybe he was a little drunk, but maybe Steve was being a little stupid. "You know what they said about foxholes."
"That they have foxes in them?" Steve rolled his eyes and took a pull from his beer bottle.
"No, that there aren't any atheists in them. Or straight guys."
Steve raised an eyebrow. "Maybe you should get some sleep."
"I think that he thinks I'm mentally deficient," he told Pepper later, as they were lying in bed.
"Sometimes I think you're mentally deficient," she replied, pressing a kiss to his mouth and smiling.
"That was hurtful. That was so hurtful that I think you're going to have to give me more than just a verbal apology."
"Really?" She slowly ran her hand across his belly.
"Yeah," he said, his voice deepening. "I think there needs to be costumes involved. Maybe feathers."
"Shut up, Tony." She slid a hand into his boxers and he groaned.
"Shutting up." He always had to have the last word.
"What's it like?" Steve asked, gesturing to his chest and getting bagel crumbs all over the table.
"Hey, don't worry, I'm still a real boy." He fought the urge to cover the glow with his hands.
"Never doubted that for a moment." Steve tilted his head. "Does it hurt?"
He tapped it with his finger. "I don't even feel it."
"That's good," Steve continued to stare at it. "You're not like your dad at all."
Tony blinked. "What?
"I mean, you are, but you're not. He liked his women and his drink, he liked to show-off, too, but…" Steve licked his lips. "We were all so young. We… we thought we could change the world, make it better."
"It is better. You've read the history books, Cap. Things got better for a whole lot of people."
"Yeah, it sure seems that way, doesn't it?" Steve rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand and sighed. "Your dad and me, we used to help each other out."
"I… I'm sorry?" Tony shook his head.
"You asked… foxholes, you said. It wasn't serious. I had Peggy and he had… well, he had a whole lot of girls. But sometimes we'd help each other out."
"Oh." He really didn't know what else to say to that.
"Yeah. I'm going to the gym." Steve took a bite of his bagel and walked out of the kitchen.
"Captain America and my dad were fuck buddies," he announced as he entered Pepper's office. Thank goodness she was alone.
She rolled her eyes at him and gestured for him to sit down. "You already knew that."
"No, I suspected that. But now I have confirmation from the man himself." He flopped into a chair and sighed.
"And?" Pepper folded her hands and gave him a pointed look.
"And it's weird. It's… It's weird, right? It's supposed to be weird?" He rubbed his hands over his face.
"It's a little weird, yes." She smiled at him. "Relax, Tony."
"I am," he said, jerking to his feet. "I'm completely relaxed. So relaxed, I'm a puddle. I'm… yeah."
"Right." Pepper shook her head. "Go away, Tony. Some of us have real work to do."
"So, I don't know what to do with that," he said, watching Steve take off his boxing gloves. "I don’t know what to do with the information about you and my dad."
Steve shrugged. "If you didn't want to know, you shouldn't have asked. It's not a big deal, Tony. Lots of guys did it."
"That's the thing, Cap. It is a big deal. My dad… he…" Tony flung his hands in the air. "He loved you. My mom and I used to joke about how he had a crush, but now that I think about it, now that I know what it's like… He loved you."
Steve looked at him, lips pressed together, eyes dark in the dim light of the gym, and Tony realized that he knew, Steve knew. Probably had always known. "There wasn't any room for that back then."
"Did you—" Tony swallowed back the rest of the words because, he realized, it was none of his business.
"I had Peggy, I loved Peggy. And from what I understand, Howard loved your mom. That's what's important. That's what matters." Steve took off his t-shirt and wiped his face and neck.
Steve sighed and gestured to Tony's chest. "You're a real boy, that's what you said, right? What you always say. Don't look at me like that, I've read the interviews you give. You're a real boy, but so am I. And so was your dad. Being real is wonderful, but it's messy, too. It's painful. Not just for you, for everyone. I'm gonna take a shower and afterward, you can buy me lunch."
"Sure," he said, then a heartbeat later, asked, "So, can I call you papa?"
Steve flushed at that. "Only if I can put you over my knee when you do something annoying."
"Ooh, kinky! I didn't know you had it in you, Capsicle."
"Actually," Steve said, smilingly slyly, "me and your dad."
"No!" Tony put his hands over his ear. "Lalalalalala, I can't hear you!"
Steve laughed and bumped his shoulder.