Chapter 1: This Proposition's Never Going to Fly
Tony Stark was in something of a quandary.
Ever since he could remember he had had a crush on an American icon and now confronted with said icon, the actual man behind the legend was proving to be something of a stick up his ass dick. Though not a dick up his ass stick (which might have been more fun). Well, maybe that was a little harsh. He was a decent upstanding citizen, but oh so very self-righteous. Though, come to think of it that was one of Captain America's qualities he had kind of admired when he was growing up and his dad just wouldn't stop talking about him.
His dad was clearly pretty smitten himself, having failed to mention the annoying bits of Steve Rogers.
That wasn't Tony's only dilemma though. For the last several years, long resigned to the fact he was never going to meet Captain America – what with him being dead for 70 or so years – he had started to crush on a quite different super hero.
He wasn't lying when he told Bruce he was a big admirer of his work, and he certainly wasn't kidding when he mentioned his admiration of the big green rage monster.
He had admired both incarnations of Dr Bruce Banner maybe a little more than was healthy.
That big green rage monster was particularly sexy, which was why Tony was so desperate to provoke Bruce to anger the first few days of their acquaintance.
Up close Bruce wasn't too shabby either. Up until then it had been a more intellectual admiration of the scientist part – Tony could genuinely claim he admired the mind of the man.
Working together in close quarters led to a few less cerebral thoughts from Tony.
And, if truth be told, he still held a bit of a torch for Captain America; Steve Rogers, despite his sense of humor failings when it came to Tony, was still pretty darned perfect.
So the dilemma was not just he was that Tony had more than one unrequited crush, the problem wasn't even that the crushes were male – gender had never been much of an issue with him – no, the problem was that Steve and Bruce were both so decent, upstanding and perfect that there was no way either of them was ever going to go for the proposition that had been floating around Tony's head for the past two weeks.
To whit: “Will the two of you make me the happiest playboy philanthropist billionaire in the world and consent to getting very down and very dirty. Together or separately and if at all possible with the addition of costumes and/or secret, scarily green identities? Maybe even till death do us part.”
There was no way that was going to swing it for him it no matter how it was phrased.
He had a feeling the two of them were one-women-guys and even if they were to suddenly announce that they were in fact open to the possibility of being one-men-guys the man wouldn't be Tony Stark. It was more likely the two of them would end up with each other and cut Tony out of the equation altogether, a prospect he feared just as much as he fantasized about. It would be visually appealing at least.
He would talk to Pepper about it, but Tony had a very strong feeling she really wouldn't understand either.
The on-again-off-again love affair they had been having was certainly off right now. Pepper had insisted she couldn't go through all the heart ache any more and she wanted to be happy. Or she might have said she wanted to be with Happy.
Either way she wouldn't approve of any of this.
Chapter 2: Railroaded
It wasn't Tony's idea this time. Whatever happened after this, you couldn't blame him for this bit.
He had worked alone for year but just lately collaboration had been appealing to him more and more.
After the Loki incident Bruce had nowhere to go, so when Tony Stark offered him a place to crash the offer was embraced wholeheartedly. Bruce felt safe around Tony, though he wasn't sure why. And the Other Guy seemed to have warmed to him too.
Bruce had grown to be wary of himself around other people just in case there was an incident, but with Tony he had a feeling he didn't need to worry.
“You realize He saved my life – you saved my life,” Tony had said. “Tradition dictates I am bound to you now.”
Bruce had given him a weary, half-smile. “You would have done the same for me.”
“Nevertheless,” Tony had said, not denying the truth of the statement, “You can stay with me as long as you need. Forever if you want, no pressure.”
So it was a fait accompli.
“I feel guilty taking up your offer though,” Bruce said. “Also, you realize Steve has been cooped up in what amounts to an open prison ever since he defrosted, don't you? That poor guy probably needs somewhere comfortable and less utilitarian to stay as well.”
“You want me to ask Steve to move in with me?” Tony frowned.
“Well, I just meant... sorry I didn't want to dictate, I just thought it would be a nice gesture. You're right, it was presumptuous.”
“No, no, it's not that. It's really, really not that,” Tony shook his head. And let out an odd chuckle. “Sure, what the hell, more the merrier, let's all shack up.”
Bruce didn't quite get Tony's sense of humor sometimes.
Chapter 3: On the Town
Tony approaches Steve.
Steve was confused. “I have some place to stay.” Compared to camp beds in the field and sleeping on the floor back in his old apartment in Brooklyn the quarters at SHIELD were spectacular.
“Yeah, but Bruce could do with a friend and I'm a stranger to New York, more or less. And the three of us are single guys, now Pepper has abandoned me.” Tony almost, but not quite pouted. “Just thought it would be fun. We could see the sights, visit Coney Island – do they still have Coney Island?”
“Beats me,” Steve shrugged.
“So, yeah. Thor has that scientist girl, Natasha and Clint always hang out with each other, but the three of us could maybe do with a little company. I just thought.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Steve admitted. “Three batchelors gay.”
Tony smirked. “If you like. Though I would probably check out modern slang if I were you, Steve. You wouldn't want to give anyone the wrong impression.” Or, Tony thought hopefully, the right impression.
Steve looked even more confused. “Have I said something stupid again?”
Tony patted him on the arm. “No, not at all, Cap. You just keep on being your 1940's self.”
“Maybe we can go see some shows,” Steve said excitedly. “Last one I saw was Pal Joey. ”
“Fan of musical theatre then?” Tony was still smirking.
“You bet! Bucky and I used to sneak in after the curtain rose when we couldn't afford tickets.”
“Bucky was a close friend I take it.”
“The closest,” Steve said sadly.
When Tony left to make preparations back at Stark Towers he really wasn't any clearer about his potential chances with Steve Rogers. If anything he was even more unsure.
Chapter 4: At least Two to Tango
Steve has a lot of catching up to do, but he wants something familiar for now.
He had dropped hints, lots of them, but neither Bruce nor Steve seemed to be getting them. At all.
Tony didn't even think he had been particularly subtle. With Steve there was, of course, the problems of reference. He hadn't experienced anything post WWII so there was a lot for him to catch up on, but with Bruce there wasn't that excuse.
Which led Tony to the not completely out there conclusion that Bruce might know exactly what he was getting at and had chosen to ignore it.
“So, tonight, you two up for a night on the town or what?” Steve said enthusiastically. “I've never been to a night club – Bucky saw the Tommy Dorsey orchestra at one once. He came back and told me all about it.”
“I don't think you'd like nightclubs, Steve,” Tony said. “Not unless you plan on getting wasted and ending up photographed in compromising positions by the paparazzi. They're not like the ones in Fred Astaire movies.”
Steve looked heartbroken. “What about tea dances? Do they still have them?”
“I think they might not be what they were back in the day,” Tony coughed.
“Last thing I did before crashing into the ice was promise I would take Peggy dancing,” Steve said sadly. “If there isn't even dancing any more...”
“There's dancing, just not what it was.”
“But they have them?” Steve persisted. “We had them back in the army a few times. There weren't any women apart from Peggy so we ended up dancing with each other most of the time. But gee, I love dancing.”
“Oh well, perhaps they are sort of the same these days then. Still, I don't think so.” Steve looked so crestfallen at this it that Tony relented. “Tell you what I'll ask Pepper to check. There must be something somewhere, this is New York.”
As it turned out there were a few suitable venues.
Bruce agreed to come as long as nobody made him dance.
“Now, I don't want you to have unreasonable expectation, Steve,” Tony said as they paid their entrance fees.
Inside there were more people than Tony would have expected. A handful of old ladies and slightly fewer old men. But there were a few younger men and even a smattering of younger women. Most of them dressed in 1940s style. Many of the men were dancing with men and the women with women – especially the older ladies, but it seemed fairly casual and genteel.”
“This is great!” Steve said, surveying the room, seemingly unfazed by the same sex dancing couples.
“I'm just going to get some punch,” Bruce said. “Can I get you some?”
“Sure!” Steve said. Tony shook his head.
Bruce went to get the drinks. “Let's dance!” Steve said immediately.
“What, with each other?” Tony quirked an eyebrow.
“Well, I don't know anyone else here,” Steve said. “And I don't really have much experience of asking girls I've never met to dance.” He pointed to a be-suited couple in their 30s. “Those two don't have a problem with it. I used to dance with Bucky all the time at these things.”
“Of course. Peggy's dance card was always full and I never worked up the courage to ask her to fit me onto it.” Steve's wistful tone was getting to Tony.
“Oh all right, why the hell not. But just remember this was all your idea. And you'll have to lead. It's years since I've done any dancing.”
Steve grinned at this and pulled Tony on to the dance floor. Tony glanced over at Bruce who looked momentarily surprised and then gave a thumbs up sign. Tony wasn't sure what to make of that.
Steve wasn't the best dancer in the world, but Tony could hardly criticize, given his own lack of skill. Still, they made it through a passable waltz, Steve's hand on Tony's waist guiding him into the moves.
Throughout it all Steve beamed. A few other couples nodded their approval as they passed.
“See, this is fun!” Steve said.
Tony sighed. The proximity to Steve was at once pleasant and fraught. He had a feeling if they kept it up then he would make some of his less pure feelings abundantly obvious to Steve, and he wasn't sure if that would be good or bad. The waltz was a t least fairly civilized and not as close as it could have been.
The music changed to a tango. “Oh! Bucky taught me to tango – I can do this!” Steve said excitedly. “Do you know how?”
Tony nodded. “I do, but it's a very... ahem.. how shall I put this... intimate dance, Steve. Do you think you can handle it?”
“Oh, I know, you have to smolder. Bucky was a good teacher.”
Throughout the dance Steve managed to give a very good impression of someone in the throes of passion. He was very good at the tango, it turned out. Tony decided to just go with it.
As they broke off, Tony said “Well...” a little flustered. “We should probably get some punch.”
They joined Bruce who looked astonished at the performance. “Wow. You're both ... very good dancers,” Bruce admitted.
Steve took the proffered punch and gulped it down. “Thank you. Are you sure you don’t want to take a spin around the dance floor?”
“Oh, I can't dance!” Bruce demurred.
“I can teach you if you like!” Steve said.
“I... er...,” was the best Bruce managed as a response.
“Go for it,” Tony said decisively. Bruce paused and then seemed to come to a decision. He nodded his assent.
Tony wasn't going to show a hint of jealousy, he determined. Why be jealous, it was just a dance? The connection he felt with Steve during that tango was just an act. The guy had spent several years performing and was just good at what he did. Yes, that was surely it, Tony told himself . No matter what he was feeling right now and what sparks were passing between the two of them, it was all just an illusion.
And he wasn't in the least bit jealous as Steve took Bruce in his arms and led him around the dance floor, no matter how much the two of them were whispering and laughing with each other. No matter how absolutely gorgeous they looked together out there.
"That was surprisingly fun," Bruce said when the dance ended and the two of them had rejoined Tony.
"Maybe I can have the next spot on your dance card," Tony responded without really thinking it through.
Bruce shrugged. "Sure. This is certainly a novel way of spending an evening."
Tony couldn't disagree.
Chapter 5: Breakfast Meeting
Tony and Bruce and the big green elephant in the room.
Tony had gone to bed alone that night. Though regretfully.
A few days later Pepper went back west, leaving Tony with an itinerary. He had to attend a few official social functions but he was, to all intents and purposes, free for at least the next month if SHIELD didn't come knocking with a problem.
“Are we even working with SHIELD any more?” Bruce asked him when Tony mentioned his lack of plans over breakfast. Steve had been up for hours and had left a note saying he had gone for a run around Manhattan and would be back when he had done the whole island. So he probably wouldn't be out long.
“That's a very good question. I could fund my own army for a decade and still have enough left over for cake and ice cream,” Tony said. “Still, we should probably give Fury a second chance. Maybe he can woo us.”
“I don't mind either way, but the longer the Other Guy doesn't come out the better,” Bruce said.
“You don't want him to come out?” Tony smiled.
“Well no,” Bruce said, oblivious to any innuendo.
“I like him,” Tony admitted. “He's hot.”
Bruce spluttered into his cereal.
“You OK?” Tony asked. “I meant no offense – obviously you're pretty hot too. I have room in my heart for more than one.”
“You're kidding, right?” Bruce frowned.
“Kidding? Yeah, sure. If that makes you happy. But I always say, 'treat 'em mean and keep 'em green'. It's a good color on you. Also, on a totally unrelated note, have you seen the size of my bed?”
Bruce chuckled. “You had me going for a second. I almost fell for it!”
Tony raised an eyebrow and cocked his head. “Yeah,” he said, quixotically, before leaving the room.
A few minutes later Steve returned from his run.
“I just had a really strange conversation with Tony,” Bruce said.
“Stranger than usual?” Steve replied.
“Ah, no, good point. Just, well I know you and he have a bit of a thing going on, I don't want to get in between that – it's just... well...,” Bruce shook his head. “No, I am being ridiculous. He didn't mean anything by it. I, er, I need to go and think about this.” Bruce left, leaving Steve alone in the breakfast room.
Steve pondered Bruce's cryptic speech. “What 'thing going on'?” He muttered to himself.
Chapter 6: Green with Envy
Strong arm tactics.
Bruce had seen what he'd seen. The way Steve and Tony had been dancing that night it had been clear to anyone with eyes that they had started something. Why they were keeping a secret was anyone's guess, though the things Tony had been saying back in the kitchen maybe gave a hint to it.
Though surely it was just Tony's sense of humor. He couldn't have meant anything by it.
Tony clearly liked his partners very big and very strong. Maybe even Hulk strong. Bruce couldn't really compete with that.
His whole situation made him so mad sometimes, he could...
Bruce tried to keep it in, but he realized with sudden alarm he had just woken the sleeping monster – and he had been doing so well.
He smashed out of the room, through the too-small door frame. “Find Tony...,” Hulk said purposefully.
Tony, alerted by the crashing noises, was very easy to find.
“Hiya, big guy!” he said cheerfully, halting Hulk in his trail of destruction. Hulk stilled and looked at Tony, a slight pout on his massive features.
“Tony like Hulk?” He asked,
“Tony most certainly 'like Hulk'!” Tony answered. “You and the quietly brooding scientists you rode in on. You're both great.”
Tony slowly maneuvered towards the confused green figure in front of him and gently touched his arm. Although the Hulk flinched slightly at the touch he didn't stop it.
“Hulk like Tony.” And with that the giant picked up the relatively tiny Tony Stark and all but crushed him to his chest.
“That's fantastic!” Tony said with what little air he had left in his lungs.
Hulk sat down, still clutching Tony.
Steve appeared at the top of the landing. “Hulk! Don't hurt Tony!” he said, with a gentle warning.
“Oh, Hi Steve, I think this is in hand!” Tony said cautiously. “You're not going to hurt me are you?”
Hulk shook his head.
“See, it's fine.”
“Do we know what set him off?” Steve asked.
Hulk was rocking gently, stroking the hair of the captive Tony as though he were a little doll.
“No idea, but he seems calm now,” Tony answered. Steve came closer.
“Hulk like Steve too.”
Steve came closer. “Does Hulk want to let Tony go yet?”
“I'm OK,” Tony answered.
Steve knelt down. “Bruce, you OK?” He said looking Hulk in the eye.
Before he could really stop him Hulk had managed to grab Steve in a hold as well.
“Hulk want to sleep now.”
Steve and Tony had no choice but to bide their time in Hulk's grip, even as his breathing slowed his arms stayed firmly around the two hapless heroes.
“Looks like it's nap time,” Tony said ruefully. His head clasped against the Hulk's chest. Steve was so close, also squashed in Hulk's embrace, Tony could feel his breath on his cheek. “I think the best bet is to just snuggle until Bruce gets back.”
Steve frowned. “Do we know how long that might be?”
“Let's just sleep together and find out,” Tony said closing his eyes.
On reflection, Steve decided that might be the best plan so after a few minutes of looking at a sleeping Tony he too closed his eyes.
Steve was the first to wake up, as soon as he felt the grip around his shoulders relax. Opening his eyes the first thing he noticed was the chest he was up against was no longer green, the second was that up close Tony had remarkably long eyelashes.
“Tony,” he said gently. “Wake up. Bruce is back.”
“Wha...?” Tony's eyes fluttered open. He smiled at Steve. “Morning, Sunshine.”
“What just happened?” Bruce said, coming to. “And why am I naked?”
Chapter 7: Desperate Measures
Subtle has not been working for Tony.
Surveying the damage, Tony said, “I think we need to widen the doors.”
Bruce had changed into a loose robe, half-afraid he might hulk-out again. “I am so sorry, Tony,” he said.
“No problem. Have you any idea what set you off?” Tony said.
“Possibly,” Bruce said gravely.
“Well, whatever it was, you give good hugs,” Tony said. “Nice abs by the way,” he added, leaving Bruce to finish dressing in his own time. “And I'm not talking about the Other Guy!” He winked as he left.
Downstairs Steve had made coffee. “Is Bruce all right?” He asked. “It happened just after I talked to him – did I say something to upset him?”
“I have a theory,” Tony said.
“It's been great these last few days,” Steve said. “The two of you have been such good friends to me. I would hate to think I did something to jeopardize that.”
“I don't think this is your fault.” There was silence for a while as the two men drank their coffee.
“Can I just ask you one thing, Steve?” Tony said, breaking the slightly awkward silence. “Back in the day were you ever more than especially close to any one guy? Or, group of guys?”
This led to a dreamy, faraway look on the Captain's face. “Boy, was I ever.”
“And did this camaraderie ever lead to... how shall I put this... horseplay?”
“Lots of times, a guy has to let off steam.”
Tony sighed. “I don't think you and I are talking about the same thing here, so I'm just going to come out and say it. Please forgive me if I shock you, but I don't really know how to adequately cope with 1940s sensibilities - here goes... Steve, have you ever had sex with a guy?”
Steve's reaction was a stoney face as he firmly put down his coffee cup and strode out of the kitchen.
“Well, that went well,” Tony said to himself.
Chapter 8: Taken Under Advisement
“Pepper, pick up. I need to talk to you. Why are you screening your calls? I have done something spectacularly stupid and I need you to advise me – you are the most sensible and competent person I know and I have screwed up big time. Call me,” Tony hung up. Maybe calling the woman who he had only just broken up with was not the best move, but Pepper was his rock no matter what their interpersonal relationships might be at the moment. She had to help. She was possibly even contractually obliged to help.
His own efforts at making this work had, at best, only partially succeeded. No, if he was being honest with himself Tony had to admit he had really messed this up so far.
Steve hadn't come out of his room all day and although Bruce was still around he was also skulking and had not looked Tony in the eye in any of the several conversations they had since the Hulk incident.
Tony's phone beeped and Pepper's appeared on the screen. “Tony, what have you done now?”
“Oh, it's good to see your face! Everybody has been avoiding me all day and JARVIS has been offline ever since you left. I was trying to go cold turkey with all the old familiar crutches! It hasn't worked, Pep.”
“Well I would advise you to get JARVIS back online so he can deal with these things so I don't have to!”
“Don't be like that! Please help me, Pepper... you're my only hope.”
“Is this in any way Steve and Bruce related?”
“Have you suddenly developed psychic powers?” Tony wouldn't put it past her.
“No need to, Tony. It was quite obvious there was trouble brewing before I left. You were mooning around like a lovesick puppy over both of them.”
First of all is there really such a thing as a lovesick puppy, and second of all, no I wasn't,” Tony protested.
“Really? Well if that's the case then you clearly don't need my help, bye Tony...”
“No! Don't go... OK, yes, you got me. I was mooning around. But I just tried being direct with Steve and I haven't seen him since. And although the three of us have slept together I...”
“You've what?” Pepper said, shocked. “Please tell me you didn't just say that.”
“Slept, Pepper, slept. Only one of us was naked and it wasn't me...”
“OK, I don't know what to say to that. Just make sure you use protection. I need to go now, Tony. Call me again in a few days if you still haven't sorted this out yourself – there is certainly nothing I can do to make this better - you've got matters well in hand, clearly.”
The call ended.
Tony realized he was going to have to try and sort this out all by himself. There would be no Pepper or JARVIS Deus ex Machina to help him.
Though talking of Deus, maybe Thor would have some thoughts on the matter.
Chapter 9: Loose Lips Sink Ships
Talking is inevitable
Steve sat on the edge of his bed, head in his hands. Those things Tony had asked...
How could he look Tony in the eye now?
There were several reasons a soldier was classified 4F and at least one of the times Steve had got that particular stamp it hadn't been because of his asthma. Fortunately he had given a false name that time, so it wasn't on the record. He had tried so hard to make sure nobody guessed these things about him, but he had obviously not been trying hard enough.
Tony must hate him.
Tony was downstairs wondering how he could contact Thor and if the Norse gods ever pulled any sort of divine intervention. He could certainly do with something miraculous to pull him out of the hole he had gotten himself into.
He was contemplating so much he didn't notice Bruce come in so he jumped a little at the “Tony, can we talk?”
He recovered himself and flashed Bruce as bright a smile as he could muster. “We certainly can,” Tony said cheerfully.
“I'm sorry I took advantage of you,” Bruce said.
“I was out of line. I know it was The Other Guy, but ultimately whatever happened was my responsibility. I hope he, I hope I, didn't force you to do anything.”
Tony's eyes widened, “No, really, no, you did nothing. It was fine. It was actually quite soothing. “
“I think I might have feeling I shouldn't be having, I just got a little jealous seeing you and Steve together, and...”
“Wait!” Tony held up a warning finger. “Me and Steve together? When did this happen – have I missed a memo?”
“Come on Tony, it's obvious. The way you two were looking at each other at that dance, the way you talk about him... just everything. I guess I was just feeling left out.”
“That obvious, huh?”
“Cause, I've got to say, I have been dropping hints, signals and signs like you wouldn't believe it the last week or so and neither of you has been getting it. At least it shows I am not entirely crazy. “
“I don't get it,” Bruce looked concerned.
“No. You don't. Have you not noticed any of these hints being directed your way?”
Bruce just looked at Tony, open mouthed in astonishment.
“That's more or less the reaction I got from Steve a few minutes ago,” Tony said. “Though I think with him I pretty much offended every sensibility in his body. It's safe to say from his reaction Steve Rogers is 100 per cent a strictly-ladies' man. I just read the historical signs wrong.”
“What did you say to him?”
“Just came out and said directly 'have you ever had sex with a guy'.”
Bruce's eyes widened. “And he said no?”
“Well he didn't need to say no. He hasn't been back since – he disappeared upstairs an hour ago and he won't come out of his room.”
“Before this goes any further, I just need to clarify,” Bruce paused. “You have been trying to proposition the both of us for weeks?”
“I'm not sure how I feel about that.”
“No. It is pretty tacky of me, isn't it. In my own defense I was trying to do the right thing.”
Bruce sat there very quietly.
Tony felt he had to break the seemingly endless silence.“You're not going to hulk out on me again, are you? I am honestly not trying to make you mad! Though Hulk seemed very up for the whole thing, so maybe that isn't a bad idea.”
“So something did happen! I knew it,” Bruce gasped.
“Nothing bad! It was adorable, in fact. If I can just get you to be more like Hulk this whole thing would probably work itself out, no problem.”
Bruce contemplated. “I don't want to step on Steve's toes.”
“He really isn't interested!”
“Are you certain of that – he seemed very into you? Perhaps someone else who isn't involved in this whole situation should talk to him.”
“I don't know – maybe. Or Thor . Maybe even Clint. All I know is we probably need mediation.”
“As long as we don't bring Nick Fury in on this – I would never hear the end of it.”
Bruce nodded. Even if Fury was bound to hear about this sooner or later, later would be better.
Chapter 10: Tony's Choice
Thor steps in and Bruce and Tony have a bit of a talk.
Thor had taken time out of his busy “making sure that Loki behaves” schedule to visit and give some advice. It was not so much that he was an expert on the matters at hand, so much as someone who wasn't directly affected by it. It seemed like a good idea to just get someone, anyone, who wasn't involved.
“I do not believe Steve Rogers will accept this situation,” he told Tony when apprised of the details.
“I'm finding it a little hard to take," Bruce admitted.
“I've really messed up this time, haven't I?” Tony said wearily.
“I really think Steve is interested, “ Bruce said. “In you, I mean. And although I am massively flattered – and I would definitely, almost certainly, say yes if I thought I wasn't standing in the way of something else – I think you really need to find out what Steve thinks before anything.”
“Dr. Banner is right,” Thor said, “I do not think you need me at all.”
“Yes, we do!” Tony said. “Can you talk to Steve, find out whether he hates me? I think I may have spooked him.”
Steve had locked the door of his room and was still refusing to come out
“Can I just ask you, Bruce – if you and I just stick to epic bromance would you object? I love you like the brother I never had, and if circumstances were different...” Tony smiled, a little sadly.
Thor grinned and slammed both Tony and Bruce hard on their backs. “Yes, the love between brothers is strong and deep! Loki and I, even now, have a deep and abiding love.”
Tony and Bruce glanced at each other. Thor and Loki's version of brotherly love was not exactly a state to be emulated if recent events were any indication. Thor certainly had a very deep capacity for forgiveness.
“So, if you just stop making all those innuendos everything will be great!” Bruce
“I think that's asking too much! “ Tony said. “And I expect hugs as well.”
“We'll see,” Bruce said. “I am just relieved this hasn't turned nasty.”
“Well, yes. That was easy. And it's pretty damned amazing we worked it out so quickly. Thanks, Thor, buddy. You obviously have some sort of magical effect on people,” Tony was feeling a lot more at ease than he had done for quite some time.
“Yes, but we still have to broach the Steve problem,” Bruce added warily.
Tony's face fell. “Yes, there is that.”
“True love is never easy!” Thor said sagely.
“I think we had probably better establish if Steve is even ever going to speak to me again before we start going down that road!” Tony said.
Chapter 11: A Helping Hand
Steve won't come out. Thor tries to help.
Thor knocked gingerly on the door of Steve's room. “Steve Rogers, you must let me in,” he said authoritatively.
Thor stood there waiting for several minutes before knocking again. “Let me in or I will be forced to use Mjölnir."
There was a crash inside the room before the door swung open. “No, don't smash the place up – Hulk already ruined one door and Tony will never forgive me if I was the reason another got smashed!” Steve said frantically.
“Ah, so you still value Tony Stark's regard!” Thor said. “Excellent news. He is afeared you have decided to scorn him.”
Steve blushed and hung his head. “I think you might have got that the wrong way round, Thor. I'm pretty sure if anyone's scorning anyone it's Tony scorning me.”
“I do not believe so,” Thor frowned.
“Has he told you what he said to me?” Steve looked worried.
“He did not. Just that you were offended and would not come out. If you truly do not wish to become involved with Tony physically then I will pass this message on, but I think you will be making a grave mistake. Tony is powerful and strong and would make an excellent helpmate.”
“Helpmate? Is Tony getting married?” Steve asked, surprised.
“Well that is not for me to decide!” Thor said jocularly. “For it is not I he wishes to marry!” He laughed uproariously at this.
Steve looked confused.
“So, it is settled, you are not angry at him and he is not angry at you. All is well!” Thor took Steve into a crushing hug and then left him standing on the landing, slightly winded and completely befuddled.
Chapter 12: Better Part of Valor
Steve wonders about certain feelings he's been feeling.
Steve couldn't really work out what Thor had meant, but it was clear that Tony wanted to let things lie. He must have decided to be discreet about the whole thing. To look the other way when and not allay his suspicions to anyone else in the team. Though that couldn't be, as Thor obviously knew something was going on.
Thor could probably be trusted not to say anything either - not deliberately anyway. Steve suspected morals were not quite the same in Asgard so he may not even think it was something that needed to be kept secret.
Oh no, this was going to be terrible. Everyone was going to find out, Steve realized. The genii was out of the bottle and SHIELD was going to tell Steve he wasn't needed any more, or worse, he could end up in jail. He had seen good men court martialed for being less than discreet and that was certainly not something Steve ever wanted for himself.
If only the serum had taken away this, the last of his weaknesses, he thought miserably. Then wondered why it hadn't. Unless it wasn't really a weakness. Unless this was how he was supposed to be and the rest of the world was mistaken.
If only people were allowed to be who they really were, he sighed.
While he was running through this inner monolog, he failed to notice that Tony had appeared in the hallway, a huge smile on his face.
“We all good here then?” He said, startling Steve,
“Thank you so much for not hating me,” Steve said quietly. “And I will try to keep it ... all... bottled up from now on.”
“Wait, what did Thor say to you?” Tony's smile faded.
“He just let me know that you're not mad at me. And something about you marrying someone, so congratulations on that – he wasn't clear on the details.”
“Thor!” Tony shouted, hurrying back downstairs.
Steve hit the wall in frustration; his fist went through the thin plaster. Tony might need to have a word with his contractor, Steve thought – clearly this building work was incredibly shoddy.
Steve didn't want to go back in his room, and he was going to have to face everyone else sooner or later so he decided to go downstairs and hope everyone forgot about this whole thing quickly and they could just go back to how it had been a few days ago with the dancing and the camaraderie.
Tony really was a wonderful dancer, even though he claimed not to know what to do.
Tony really was amazing.
Steve smiled to himself, thinking about it. It was going to be hard seeing him married to whoever it was he was marrying, but he would be stoic and accept that things were always going to be the way they were and nothing could be done about any of it.
That's how he had always played it, and it had mostly worked until now. He would just have to keep it up for another 40 or 50 or 100 years - however long he was going to go on.
"Keep it all in and be brave," he muttered as he launched himself down the stairs.
Chapter 13: Pitching Woo
In which, if anything, it all gets even more complicated.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“What did you say to him?” Tony said.
“Steve now knows he should not think you angry at him,” Thor said, calmly. “I think no shame should be had from Seiðr, for my own father has practiced such arts and none can think him unmanly.”
“Did you say that to him? Because I have no idea what you're talking about,” Tony said.
“Some may think it an insult, but if the Allfather thinks it good then no man should be troubled - it is good; and I will use Mjölnir on anyone who says aught else. 'Tis true that Loki has taunted our father in the past, but Loki is the last person who should be casting such nīþ.”
Tony glanced at Bruce, who shrugged in return.
“I think what he's trying to say is live and let live... possibly,” Bruce said.
“I think in Steve's time, it was thought - forgive me for I may shock – it was thought argr; but we live in enlightened times, my brothers. And some of the best of men are ragr and proud. ”
“Oh!” Said Tony, comprehending.
“And so it should be!” Thor rumbled.
"Why even long ago the great hero Grettir himself was known to be; and he was the bravest of them all," Thor added.
“Well I'll drink to that,” Tony said. “Though do you think that maybe that wasn't what Steve got from what you said?”
“Hello, fellas,” Steve said, appearing. “I just want to say I appreciate everything.”
“Tony thinks I may have lacked clarity in our interaction,” Thor said. “Suffice to say that these times are not the old times.”
“I think what Thor is trying to say is, if you are interested that's fantastic, if you're not I'll just have to get over it,” Tony said. “Either way, I like you very much Steve – I'll just put that out there. So the option stands.”
“Can I just ask, Steve, has anyone briefed you on the changing mores and attitudes – not to mention laws – of the last 70 years or so?” Bruce said, concerned.
“There hasn't really been time for any of that,” Steve admitted. “I know we won the war, but that's about all.”
“Figures,” Bruce said, nodding at Tony. “If somebody had realized that sooner I think this whole mess could have been slightly less messy. Innuendo and Tony's rampant libido aside, naturally.”
“Naturally,” Tony smiled.
“I don't see what all this has to do with Tony's wedding, anyway,” Steve said. “I just wanted to see if there is anything I can do to help. I am very good at designing things, so if you need any help with that, I can knock up a few sketches. It's a while since I drew anything but it would be good to get back to that.”
“Hold it right there, Steve. I am really not ready for that kind of commitment yet – I'm not saying the thought doesn't appeal, but maybe we should try it all out for a few weeks before any invitations get sent.”
“OK,” Steve said, relieved. At least, he thought, it would be a little while before he had to watch Tony get married. That would break his heart. He could do this, he could get over it. Eventually.
All Tony heard was the 'OK'. “Really? Steve, I am so glad. I promise I won't screw this up, and I will be the most attentive boyfriend ever, despite past form.” As an afterthought he winked at Bruce. “Bruce, I'll take a rain check!”
“Don't!” Bruce said. “I have a feeling you won't need to cash it.”
Steve just stood there as Tony pulled him into a hug. After a few seconds he closed his eyes and just rested into his shoulder, breathing him in.
“Old fashioned wooing and courting I can do,” Tony said, softly. “You'll just have to point me in the right direction sometimes.”
“I'm no expert,” Steve said. “But I can tell you how Bucky used to do it.” After Tony was married he wouldn't have the hope or the illusion any more. Maybe he should make the most of it while he could. He tried to put the thoughts of Tony with his future wife out of his mind, whoever the mystery woman may be.
“Um... sure,” Tony said. Maybe Steve was more experienced than any of them had given him credit.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten that Steve still hadn't really been clued in to modern developments.
Some of this Old Norse can be seen as highly offensive - but as Thor says, if it's OK by the King of the gods then nobody else should take offense.
Chapter 14: You Can't Have One Without the Other
“What say just you and I go somewhere tonight?” Tony said.
“What about Bruce and Thor?” Steve asked.
Thor had decided to stay for a while as Loki was taken care of back in Asgard and there was no pressing need for him to go back for a while. And Jane, he said, was away for very important work and had told him she needed a little alone time.
“They can play Yahtzee or something, don't worry about them.” Tony said. “Come on – what do you want to do? Your choice.”
Steve had been a little skittish all day, and Tony was at a loss. Ever since Steve had agreed to give it a go Tony had noticed Steve giving him sad, longing glances when he thought Tony wasn't looking.
Tony did not want to screw this up, and he wasn't quite sure why Steve was looking at him with so much melancholy. Tony himself had been ecstatic since it happened.
He had made the right choice, he decided. He wasn't going to let anything get in the way of this working out. He had even told Pepper about it, and she seemed surprising gleeful about the whole thing.
“I thought you were forever in love with me!” Tony had said, a little affronted by quite how pleased she was.
“You will always have a place in my heart, Tony – but you need someone like Steve. He's probably too good for you though!” She had giggled. “I am so glad you worked this out and didn't completely mess up any friendships. Let me know if I need to buy a new outfit – you know, for any ceremonies.”
“Early days,” Tony said. “Don't want to do anything premature.”
Pepper agreed that would indeed be bad.
“Pepper sends her love by the way,” Tony had told Steve after she had hung up. “She's already picking out dresses, can you believe!”
Steve seemed to bridle slightly at this. “I am sure she will look very lovely,” he said, tensely.
“She always does!” Tony replied.
So, Steve thought. It's Miss Potts. It wasn't really surprising that she and Tony were going to get married. He did talk about her a lot and it was clear they had a deep bond.
Steve did not want to spoil this for Tony, especially after Tony had been so good to him even knowing the secret he was keeping.
"So, you, me - tonight - where?" Tony said. "Dinner, the theatre, a movie - anything you want."
Steve had settled on the theatre. They had considered going to see the Spider-Man musical, but Tony had pointed out it looked ridiculous. "Why him - why not me?" He said. "Or Thor the musical! That would be hilarious."
So they had settled on Wicked, since it was the least problematic in terms of cultural references for Steve.
First of all they went for dinner. Tony had arranged a table for two in the swishiest restaurant Steve had ever seen.
“Do you have a best man, yet?” Steve said, during dessert, knowing it was very unlikely Tony would pick him.
“Well, obviously you're the best man,” Tony said. “I chose you didn't I?”
Steve looked surprised. “Not Bruce, or Thor – or Clint? Or Nick Fury – Nick Fury seems very suitable.”
Tony looked appalled at this. “Not that he isn't a very striking man, but can you imagine! All that leather – scary. I dread to think what happens behind closed doors.”
“No, I suppose that probably wouldn't work,” Steve agreed, though he was sure Nick Fury would wear formal wear he was asked to officiate a wedding. Who knew these days though. Fashions were not the same as they had been.
"It wouldn't. Though I am certain it will work with you," Tony raised his glass in a toast. "Here's to us."
“Well in that case, yes,” Steve said. “If you're sure you want me. Marriage is a good thing; I would be honored to stand by your side at the altar.”
Tony looked slightly stunned at this, Steve noted. “I... I didn't mean...” Tony started before recovering himself. “You know what, it is very early days, but you are an old fashioned man and I realize these things are important to you. OK, this is all a bit unexpected, but why the hell not! Yes!”
Steve nodded. “Is it going to be a long engagement?” Steve hoped so, that way he would not have to say goodbye to his fantasies quite yet.
“Yes, we should probably spend time getting to know each other properly. And given how sudden this has been that's probably how we should play it,” Tony said.
Steve had assumed Tony and Pepper already knew each other well, but he wasn't going to contradict.
Tony smiled. “I can't believe it! I am actually getting married. The most eligible bachelor in the world is off the market!”
Steve smiled too, he hoped it was convincingly supportive, because he was feeling very lost right at that second.
Chapter 15: Morning After
Celebrations should be in order.
“Steve asked me to marry him!” Tony told Bruce and Thor the next morning. Steve had gone for his regular run.
“That's very soon! I was right though, I knew it. That man was clearly very deeply in love with you. For some reason,” Bruce said. “What did you say?”
“I think I sorta kinda said yes. I am severely limiting my options for the rest of my life, and you know what – I couldn't be more happy. I am so sorry I led you on!”
Bruce shrugged. “I am sure I will get over you. It might take forever or I might be over it by this afternoon. Oh wait, I'm over it!”
Tony was a little concerned that Steve hadn't exactly gone over board with manifestations of physical affection so far. After the proposal they hadn't even kissed, though old-fashioned man that Steve was Tony hadn't expected any PDAs. Tony decided to keep this between himself and Steve, he had a feeling Steve would prefer it that way.
Tony had made sure to hug and touch Steve as often as possible though and Steve seemed to be responding well to that.
They had their whole lives to have as much wild sex as they could manage, so maybe a little anticipation would be best. As long as Steve didn't suggest purity rings it would be fine.
Slow was quite romantic, though not too slow, Tony earnestly hoped.
It almost felt like nothing had changed. Except Steve was even more tense around him if that was possible.
“Congratulations!” Thor said. “May your union be blessed with many offspring.”
“Hey now!” Tony laughed. “I don't know about Asgardian anatomy but I don't think that's likely to happen with either Steve or me. Unless that super serum had some mighty strange side effects!”
“This is no obstacle. My brother Loki is adopted,” Thor said.
Tony bit back any retort to that. Thor was scarily defensive of his brother.
“I think I have compromised enough with tradition just by agreeing to marriage,” Tony said simply. “I am not saying it won't ever happen, but ...”
“It's surprising though,” Bruce pointed out. “It must be a culture shock for Steve going from a time when it was illegal pretty much everywhere.”
“We haven't really talked about it,” Tony admitted. “I was just so shocked myself when it happened. He just does something to me.”
“Super-pheromones maybe!” Bruce chuckled.
“Well it would explain my attraction to those of a chemically altered disposition,” Tony said, raising a slightly leery eyebrow at Bruce.
“Stop!” Bruce warned. “You're spoken for.”
When Steve came in, barely sweating from his run, Tony greeted him with a hug.
“Wow, you smell amazing!” Tony said. “Guess Bruce might have something with that theory of his.”
“Um, thanks!” Steve said.
Tony pulled away, but still kept hold of Steve's arm. He looked him in the eye. “Listen, I know we discussed long engagements, but I've been thinking - a date still needs to be set. Is six months long enough? Any less and there won't be time to organize it properly, any more and , well, to be frank I am already finding it hard. If you know what I mean. I am a very virile man,” Tony said.
“Six months?” Steve said. Almost a hint of despondency in his voice, Tony thought.
“Yes, too long – not long enough – what?”
“No, it's up to you of course,” Steve said.
“OK, good – well I'll let Pepper know, she can start making the arrangements. You really don't realize how happy I am about this do you?” Tony said.
“Yes... I'm happy too...” Steve said. “Excuse me, I need to get changed.”
“Steve Rogers seems troubled,” Thor said.
Chapter 16: Show and Tell
“Hey, Rhodey, I've got some news – brace yourself!” Tony said over the link.
“What have you done this time, Tony?” Rhodey asked. He had been in Afghanistan on a mission for weeks, and it had been quite some time since Tony had seen him.
“Nothing bad – I'm getting married – and get this, it's to Captain America!”
Rhodey registered surprise but said nothing for a second. Eventually: “Well, that is a bit out of left field, Tony. I didn't even realize you were into men.”
“Oh come on, Rhodey – did you never notice all the flirting I used to direct your way. I mean I never asked and you never told, but it can't have passed you by! You gave as good as you got.”
“When you put it like that I suppose I might have had some inkling,” Rhodey admitted. “My god though – Captain America – that guy they dug out of the ice? I did not see that coming.”
“Me neither, if you want the truth. I was all set on playing the field and then it just happened. I still can't really believe it myself. But listen, the reason I'm telling you now is I want to make sure you're free at the end of September – I want you to be the best man. Say you'll say yes.”
“As if I'd miss that,” Rhodey said.
“Excellent news. I'm keeping it out of the press for now – so no blabbing!”
“My lips are sealed,” Rhodey said before saluting and hanging up the video line.
Tony decided his experiment at doing without JARVIS for a while had proven he could do just fine on his own, so he decided now was as good a time as any to put the AI back online.
“Hey JARVIS, I'm getting married,” he said the second he had done so.
“Congratulations sir, but may I say there is a pressing problem with security in the building. I've determined the outgoing lines of communication are being tapped by persons unknown. I can deal with this presently, sir.”
“Oh crap,” Tony said. “Can you track down who's responsible?”
“Just dealing with it sir – yes – you're being monitored by a news organization based in New Jersey. The headquarters of The National Daily Scandal Sheet.”
“That rag! Why are they bugging me?”
“With respect sir, I think it's because you are a well known public figure.”
“OK, point taken -”
“Their servers indicate they're running with you and Mr Rogers' engagement as a front page lead tomorrow morning.”
Tony sighed. He had planned on keeping this as close to his chest as possible for a few more days at least. He was used to press coverage but Steve was a more private person, after all. Still, he kind of wanted everyone to know how happy he was right now.
“OK, well you'd better call a press conference for Steve and me, we can announce it properly and take it out of their hands. “
In a way this was for the best.
Chapter 17: Through With Love
He was going to do this right, Tony decided. It wasn't just about making a symbolic stand – though that certainly played a part – or even about thwarting the machinations of the gutter press - he wanted to be upfront and honest about every aspect of his life.
“I'm going to hold a press conference, Steve, and I want you right there at my side when I announce the engagement,” Tony said.
“I would be honored,” Steve said, mustering every ounce of bravado he could.
Tony grinned. “And I promise I'm never going to even look at anyone else – let alone flirt - for the rest of my life. Actually that may be a bit ambitious – skip that. I will be faithful even when it looks to all intents and purposes as though I am anything but.”
Steve nodded gravely.
“The press conference is at 2pm. You can wear a suit or you can wear That Suit. Either way it'll look fantastic. Actually the stars and stripes might be a really good idea – do you think I should wear the Iron Man armor?”
“I think Miss Potts might prefer it if you wore something more formal,” Steve replied.
“You've got a point – don't want to get the wrath of Pepper down on me even more than I undoubtedly will anyway.” Tony hadn't even told Pepper about the engagement yet, he suddenly realized. It had all happened so suddenly. She might not be completely on-board with the speed of the whole thing. Maybe best let her find out when she saw the press conference; by then it would be a fait accompli. “Do you want to say anything, or would you prefer just to stand there looking gorgeous?”
“I'll make a speech if you want me to,” Steve said. “And I just want to say again how grateful I am.”
“I pretty much feel like the luckiest guy ever myself!” Tony said.
Steve excused himself and left Tony alone in the hallway.
He wasn't sure if he could stand there while Tony declared his love for Miss Potts. Steve was however touched and overwhelmed that Tony had guessed all his secrets and still wanted him to play such an important part at his wedding.
Now Steve just wanted to make sure that Tony would never know how he had come to feel about him.
It was good the serum had given him such a convincingly stoic facade because he was pretty much breaking inside - though even when he was the proverbial 97 pound weakling he was good at putting on a brave face.
He had fallen in love only three times in his life – and the three of them were always going to stay in his heart; the dreams locked away because none of them could ever come true.
From now on he was going to shut away all these thoughts and feeling even more than before.
He was going to make sure his heart was surrounded by unscalable parapets.
Tony let Bruce know what he had planned.
“I've asked Rhodey to be my best man – but I want you to be part of it too. After all if you hadn't let me down gently, Bruce, this wouldn't have happened. Thanks for being so understanding!”
“I don't think we would have worked out anyway, “ Bruce said. “Though I am kind of relieved I never had to put it to the test.”
“Wow, that's overwhelmingly flattering.”
“Well, I just mean – I like us as friends. I don't have that many good friends.”
“I haven't had that many until recently. I think I just need to work on my boundary issues,” Tony said.
“Well you've got that self analysis thing pegged at least,” Bruce answered.
Tony just felt so happy right now. And so very loved.
Chapter 18: Bombshell
Announcements are made.
Tony had made sure everyone important was there – most of the TV companies, the papers and internet outlets and apart from Pepper, who was still in LA, and Rhodey (Afghanistan) all the significant people in his life.
He had not told Natasha or Clint what he was going to say but he was sure they would show support. He had made sure they had front row seats next to Bruce and Thor. He had even invited Nick Fury, though Tony was not at all sure what reaction he was going to have to this announcement. He had a sneaking suspicion Fury might accuse him of corrupting Captain America, but he was going to have to take that risk.
Tony also hoped any negative opinions in the media would be drowned out by the positive, though, five minutes before the conference, with the hall full, he was beginning to worry a little – uncharacteristic as that was.
He really didn't know how this was going to go.
He smiled at Steve and stepped on to the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, I usually call these things to announce some technological wonder or a new way to change the world. Today I have something far more simple and straightforward to tell you: I'm getting married.”
There was a ripple of applause in the room.
“Steve come over here will you,” Tony whispered and gestured into the wings, as he suddenly noticed Steve hadn't followed him on to the stage. Steve walked up to Tony. “A bit closer,” Tony whispered once more.
Tony continued the speech, “I just want to let everyone know that I am more in love than I have ever been in my life and, although it's all happened very quickly, I have never been more sure of anything.” He glanced at Steve, who smiled tightly.
Tony gestured for Steve to come closer and Steve leaned in, expecting another whispered command. Before he had even registered what was happening, Tony was kissing him. Steve's instincts kicked in and he kissed back, hungrily, as all the pent up longing that had been building up over years – since long before he'd even met Tony - broke out.
Tony pulled away at last, breathless.
“Holy shit!” Clint said.
Natasha just grinned and started clapping.
Steve stood there, stunned, not hearing any of Tony's next few words to the crowd.
People were asking questions, and Tony was answering. He had taken Steve's hand and was gripping it tightly, but Steve had no idea what anyone was saying.
Once they had left the stage, Tony said. “You decided not to give a speech then. Never mind. That went pretty well, I think. It remains to be seen what angle they're all going to take, so we should probably be prepared for a shit storm.”
“We're getting married,” Steve said, quietly, without much in the way of tone.
“We certainly are. And that kissing has left me really wanting to know what else you've been holding back from me. The honeymoon is going to be spectacular.”
Steve started laughing, and he couldn't stop.
Chapter 19: Assent of Man
Steve is very good at taking things in his stride.
'Nothing is the same,' Steve thought. Everyone was offering congratulations and warm smiles, nobody was taking them away in handcuffs.
He had stopped laughing. Tony was looking at him,concerned, his hand still in Steve's. Steve wasn't letting go.
“I think I might have missed quite a bit in the last 70 years,” Steve admitted. “Everyone just accepted that .”
“Yes, but not everybody is going to take this well. I just want to warn you, Steve, there will certainly be some people who will say we're going to hell. Some sections of the media are certainly going to say some very hurtful things.”
Steve breathed deeply and nodded. “But a man can marry a man?”
“Here, yes. Not everywhere – but you know all this already – SHIELD must have briefed you on life in the 21st century. Why would you ask me to marry you if you didn't already know that?” Tony smiled.
Steve twitched a little at that, he wasn't sure how to start without hurting Tony's feelings. Tony's face fell.
“Oh my god – you did know?” Tony looked alarmed.
Steve squeezed Tony's hand even harder. And after a moment said: “Of course I did!”
“Geez you had me there. You cannot imagine the scenarios I had going through my mind,” Tony said, with relief.
“I can kiss you if I want. Nobody is going to stop me,” Steve said, quietly. A statement not a question.
“I'm certainly not going to stop you,” Tony laughed.
“I would like to kiss you,” Steve said. He brought his free hand up to Tony's face. “I've only kissed two people before you and I haven't started any of them.”
“Any time you're ready,” Tony said softly.
Steve leaned in, cautiously at first, but when Tony responded he continued more boldly he was just getting into it when a voice interrupted them
“Congratulations,” Nick Fury had appeared.
“Oh, thanks,” Tony said, pulling away, slightly dazed. “I wasn't sure how you'd take this.”
“It's really none of my business what two consenting adults do or don't do,” he said. “Just as long as it doesn't interfere with missions.”
“That's not an overwhelmingly gushing response,” Tony said. “But thanks anyway.”
Fury turned to Steve, “Captain Rogers, I just want to offer my sincere condolences for your choice of partner - though I hope it will be a long and happy marriage. You seem like a very patient and tolerant man, which is just as well.”
Tony grinned. “Insults! Good, that's more what I was expecting from you.”
“In all seriousness though, I am happy for you both,” Fury said as he turned to leave.
Steve was just standing there, a slightly goofy grin on his face. “I think I love you,” He said to Tony after Nick Fury had gone.
“Well, that's good,” Tony said, “considering I am planning on spending the rest of my life with you.”
The third kiss was the best yet.
Chapter 20: Sure of You
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Hey, congrats,” Natasha thumped Steve on the back, a bit harder than was necessary. Even with his serum-enhanced body it slightly winded him. It was hard to believe the woman's powers were not strictly classified as 'super'. “Why did you keep it secret for so long? I mean, it was pretty obvious from the way Tony always bitched and moaned when your name came up that he was a bit obsessed, but you seem a pretty upfront guy.”
Steve blinked at her. “Uh... How long have you 'known'?”
“Well, I didn't know, but you always looked at him a certain way and he certainly looked at you that way. Though of course Tony looks at most people that certain way. Thought he and Bruce might be an item for a while there,” she laughed. “But I have a feeling the Hulk might crush Tony like a bug.”
“Natasha, if I tell you something in confidence will you promise not to tell anyone else?” Steve whispered.
“Sure,” Natasha said.
“I didn't tell anyone because I didn't know,” Steve continued.
Natasha looked at him, puzzled. Tony, who had been dragged away to talk to pretty much everyone in the room, approached at that moment, slinging his arm around Steve's shoulder.
“How you holding up? I've been keeping the press away from you – fielding all their questions - but I think they might want to ask you stuff,” Tony smiled goofily at Steve's slightly flustered expression. “Wow you're adorable!”
Steve shot a look at Natasha, who looked back gravely.
“I've missed something, haven't I?” Tony said, picking up on the odd vibe.
Natasha coughed. “I'm just going to be over there, talking to Clint – if anyone needs me,” she said, sidling away.
Tony turned to Steve. “Steve, is this all a bit too fast for you?”
Steve took a breath. “I've had to do a lot of adapting lately, Tony. I don't think you realize how much things have changed since back in the day.”
Tony nodded, “I can put the wedding back if you need me to. Unless... oh no, I'm an idiot, are you breaking up with me?”
“I can't really break up with you,” Steve couldn't help but laugh. Since he hadn't even known he was in a relationship with Tony, he couldn't really break up with him. “And, no. I don't want that to happen. It's just...” Steve closed his eyes. “Okay, here goes nothing. Tony Stark, will you please do me the honor of marrying me?”
“Are we in some sort of time disassociation scenario, because I'm pretty sure we already did this!”
Steve said nothing to that.
“OK,” Tony said, after Steve had looked at him intensely for what felt like days. “Yes, I will absolutely marry you, obviously. No doubt about it. I mean, I know you're too good for me, but who isn't! The big question is will you marry me?”
“I really, really will,” Steve said at last. Tony responded by embracing Steve. Steve looked over his shoulder – Natasha glanced at him, looking a little worried but he smiled at her in a way he hoped conveyed 'everything is fine'.
She gave him a tentative nod.
“What's that about?” Clint asked her.
“Nothing,” Natasha answered.
Bruce and Thor were standing by the bar, nearby. “Tony Stark and Steve Rogers will surely be heralded in verse for their great love,” Thor proclaimed.
“Happy for them,” Bruce said wistfully.
“There is surely someone out there who will provide you succor!” Thor added.
“Yeah, maybe,” Bruce said.
“My brother Loki is...” Thor started.
“Absolutely not!” Bruce said insistently.
“He speaks of you often,” Thor continued. “You made a very big impression on him.” He would have said more, but the sudden realization that any further words might well bring The Hulk crashing into the party stopped him. “He is misunderstood,” Thor mumbled to himself.
"Aren't we all," Bruce said ruefully.
Just an epilogue to go now! Though I suppose a sequel is eminently possible.
Chapter 21: Epilogue - Letting Go
Or forever hold your peace.
The press had gone wild with the story, and Tony and Steve had gotten so many requests for interviews that they could only do a tiny percentage. And although the usual suspects had condemned their relationships, in the main it had been received very positively.
Both sides of the divide were out in force today, and there were pickets holding signs both celebrating and damning the two of them.
Tony had two best men: Bruce and Rhodey. Tony decided it was too tough to choose one – which was a re-occurring problem he was learning to deal with bit by bit.
He had also decided to have Pepper give him away (ridiculous as the concept seemed) as he really didn't want her to feel slighted and he would always love her – in a purely platonic sense.
“Does that mean you think of me as a father figure?” She had said, amused but flattered when he asked.
He had assured her that wasn't the case, though he had to admit he had a very complicated relationship with her.
Steve decided to follow suit, so he had gotten Natasha, Thor and Clint to stand on his side of the aisle. There wasn't that much room with Thor, but they just about managed.
Tony had flirted with trying to match-make his friends but on consideration he thought it was probably best if they made their own decisions about that sort of thing.
Especially as Thor was still also intent on setting Bruce up with various of his Asgardian compatriots.
Although Tony had very definitely rejected trying to set up Rhodey and Bruce he couldn't help thinking they would be great together. Not to mention, look hot together.
Pepper would have murdered him if had thought about trying to set her up with anyone so that was never an option.
It was a struggle not to say anything, but he had been persuaded by Steve not to interfere.
Tony had done a lot of soul searching in the run up to the wedding and had realized that although he loved all his friends, some more than others, he really loved Steve, on a whole different level. He wasn't even sure why.
The thing about a choice was it meant a whole universe of other choices had been rejected – and Tony really didn't like giving up. Not usually anyway.
This time though, it felt right. It felt really, really right.
Which was just as well, because in about 10 seconds he was in it for the long term.
“...as long as you both shall live?” The officiant said.
“I will,” Tony said. Steve had already said the same so there was no backing out.
A long, deep, joyous kiss later Tony knew he had made absolutely the right decision. It had been amazingly fortuitous that Steve had asked him, taking the decision out of his hands – left to his own devices who knows what would have happened.
Tony winked at Steve.
“This honeymoon really is going to be spectacular!” Steve said.