The first time they kissed, Steve wasn’t thinking, and he was pretty sure that was the only reason it had happened. Otherwise, he would have had time to think about all the reasons why he shouldn’t do it. All the reasons he hadn’t done it yet, even though he’d . . . well, he’d wanted to. A lot. But that wasn’t . . . wasn’t something he usually let himself think about.
It happened after a battle. Tony had taken off his helmet and was talking about something technological and complicated, rambling, really, tugging one hand back through his hair until it was even more tousled than it had already been from the helmet, going every which way. Steve had always found that so endearing, and Tony had almost died, again, and now he was . . . now he was talking about how transistors worked and fiddling with something in his gauntlet, like it had never happened, and when Steve asked if he was all right he just pounded the other gauntleted hand against his chest to prove it was as good as new, and he couldn’t—so Steve said the two of them needed to talk. He’d been thinking he was going to shout at Tony for being so careless, and pulled him off to one side, into the next room—but as soon as they were actually alone, he just said, all in a rush, “Never do that to me again,” so fast the words were all blurred together, and when Tony blinked and said,
“Sorry, Steve, didn’t catch that; what?”—
Steve didn’t think at all, he didn’t really have any idea what he was about to do; he just shoved back his cowl and leaned forward, put one hand on the back of Tony’s head, feeling his tousled hair under his hand even though his glove, and pressed their lips together.
Tony’s lips were warm and alive under his, warm and—surprisingly soft, just a little thin and a little chapped, and he could feel the scratch and bristle of Tony’s beard against his own chin, and Tony sucked in his breath, his shoulders stiffening, and if Steve had been thinking he’d have pulled away right then, but he still wasn’t, so he tilted his head to follow that sharp intake of breath with his mouth and then Tony let out a groan, low, hoarse, and somehow desperate, and his hand came up to clench at Steve’s shoulder, to pull him close against the cool hard solidity of the armor, as he opened his mouth into the kiss and kissed Steve back.
And, then, well, there was no way Steve was pulling away after that. He’d wanted to do this for years, hopelessly, without ever really thinking about it because he’d never actually do it, and even if he lost his mind and did, Tony Stark would never—and now Tony was kissing him back, carefully, almost hesitantly, not demanding or pushing, but still kissing back, and Steve could probably only have moved away if his life had actually depended on it. His hand shifted in Tony’s hair, curving around the back of his head, the heel of his hand pressing against the skin just above the neck of Tony’s armor, the warmth of the nape of his neck startlingly vulnerable in contrast to the cold metal of the suit. Tony’s mouth was soft and oddly tentative, not at all like Steve had imagined he would kiss, but when he pulled back enough to get a breath Tony gave a small noise, almost a gasp and not quite another groan, and leaned forward to press their lips together again, mouthing over Steve’s lower lip, not quite sucking on it. Steve could feel the flickering swipe of his tongue in a tentative touch against his lip, and it filled him with heat, even as he wondered at what seemed to be his uncharacteristic hesitance from Tony, almost as if he didn’t quite know what to do—surely he didn’t always kiss like this, soft and slow and a little uncertain; he was so famous for being a ladies’ man. Not that Steve minded. But maybe Tony did? And he was just . . . being polite? It struck Steve all at one that he didn’t really know what the etiquette was these days for this sort of thing, not with a man; it wasn’t exactly something you could ask about or read in a reference book.
The thought brought what he was doing home to him, all at once, and the shock sent a chill coursing down his spine. He was kissing Tony Stark—practically in public, the other Avengers were right in the next room, and—he pulled back, and opened his mouth to speak, with no idea what he was going to say. Apologize, maybe? It seemed so inadequate, considering.
But Tony apparently had other ideas. He lunged forward to press his lips to Steve’s again, his arm curling tight around the back of Steve’s neck, cool metal just above the scale mail of his costume, cold against his skin, and though Tony’s mouth was still slow and strangely hesitant, the kiss deepened quickly this time into something more insistent, something hot and deep. Steve let his fingers card through Tony’s hair and Tony turned his head into the kiss for one long, impossibly sweet moment before Steve pulled back again, feeling his cheeks flush warm as he did. This time Tony let him go.
They stared at each other for a long moment. Tony’s eyes were wide, and it struck Steve that he’d never noticed how unbelievably long and thick his eyelashes were before, thick and dark with a little curl at the ends, and why was he thinking about that now? He was losing his mind. Obviously. It was the only explanation.
Tony sucked in a breath and then he was talking, dropping his arm as both hands came up in front of him to gesture while he spoke. “You can’t be angry about that, can you?” he said. “I mean, I know I’m the man-whore here and you’re—oh, God, you’re Captain America, Steve, you’re—and of course I . . . knew that, but you kissed me, so you can’t very well go around saying I corrupted you—but really, it was just one kiss, and if you’re going to say I corrupted you I think you should at least go for the package deal—I’ve never had anyone complain, and—”
“It was a good . . . one kiss, though,” Steve said, wondering why he was suddenly feeling so nervous, like he was about to fail inspection back in boot camp all over again. His cheeks felt very warm. “Wasn’t it?”
Tony huffed out a disbelieving breath and smiled, just a little, the expression warm and soft and a little self-deprecating, and that—that made something in Steve’s chest twist pleasantly. He thought he might be able to look at Tony smiling like that all day. Tony’s cheeks were flushed. “Amazing,” he said. “Very good. I’ve been wondering what that would be like since—ah, well, you probably don’t need to know that.”
That made Steve grin, for some reason. “You’d be surprised,” he said, and reached out with his still-gloved thumb to brush it over Tony’s bottom lip, wondering if it felt as swollen and . . . well, kissed as it looked, even as his brain screamed at him not to do anything remotely like that. He wasn’t going to worry about what his mind was telling him at the moment—not thinking had gotten him this far. “I thought you’d kiss . . . differently,” he said, and suddenly felt shy. “When I imagined it before.”
Tony’s eyes widened still further. “You thought I’d—” he started, sounding a little strangled, and then swallowed. “I was—well, you’d never kissed me before, and I wanted to take it slow, and—I can do better,” he said, suddenly quick and earnest, almost desperate, “I can do a lot better.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” Steve said quickly. “It was . . . nice.” He’d liked it slow and soft like that—it felt like Tony had . . . meant it. Like it hadn’t been just another seduction attempt for him.
“Nice,” Tony muttered. “I can do better than nice.” He stepped forward, even further into Steve’s space, until the chestplate of the armor was pressed flush against Steve’s chest and their hips were angled together, and reached up to touch Steve’s jaw carefully with the fingers of his gauntlet, tilting his head forward until their lips were the barest inch apart. It struck Steve that even though Tony was shorter than he was normally, he was several inches taller than usual in the armor. It was strange to look at him from this angle, let alone so uh, close up. Tony’s breaths feathered over Steve’s lips, the side of his cheek, and sent hot sparks of sensation shivering through his skin. “Let me?” Tony murmured, and before Steve could respond, he closed the last tiny bit of space between them to press their lips together again.
This kiss started soft and slow, too, but it could not have been more different than the last one. Tony’s mouth was hot and demanding and eager on his, and he teased Steve’s mouth open, licked between his lips and over his teeth and then his clever tongue was inside Steve’s mouth and doing amazing, incredible things, and Steve couldn’t think, and Tony was kissing him like his life depended on it, and yes, he was very good at it. In the end Steve didn’t think, because he’d never be able to match that kind of . . . well, technique, he just let the heat surge through him until he was kissing back. He hardly noticed when he knocked Tony bodily back against the wall, pinning him there with his hands on either side of his head, just above his shoulders. He poured everything inside him into the kiss and Tony took it, all of it, and gave even more back. It was the most intense kiss Steve had ever had.
Eventually they pulled apart, gasping, and Tony grinned, laughing, and said, “Do you know how hot it is that you can push me around even when I’m wearing this tin can? I weigh over four hundred pounds in the suit.” His eyes were bright. Steve was torn between looking into them and staring at his mouth, at his smile.
“I . . . um,” he said. “Oh. Really?” Tony thought he was hot? Tony . . . wanted to kiss him? So much that he’d not just kissed him back, he’d kissed him again? Twice? Steve fumbled one glove off and pinched himself roughly on the back of his hand. It hurt, so this wasn’t some kind of crazy dream—“This is real,” he still heard himself saying urgently. “Right?”
“Unless I hit my head and I’m hallucinating this whole thing,” Tony said, his eyes softening, somehow, infinitesimally, unless Steve was just imagining that, too. “In which case I’d appreciate it if you’d drop me off back home and ignore any drooling or embarrassing mumbling I might engage in, especially if any of the mumbling involves you being absolutely amazing at kissing. Which you are, by the way. Did they teach that in super soldier basic training?” He had reached down with one gauntlet and insinuated it lightly around Steve’s now bare hand, as if he wouldn’t notice that Tony was touching him if he tugged it up toward his chest very slowly.
“Uh, no,” Steve said. He was amazing at kissing? Tony Stark thought he was amazing at kissing? Well . . . that was good to know. “I actually don’t think my basic training was all that unusual.”
“Then it’s all you,” Tony said, still grinning at him in that new, warm way that Steve hoped he’d be able to remember forever, no matter what else happened. “Au naturale. So how was it that time?” He raised his eyebrows teasingly, almost challengingly. “Nice?”
Steve’s cheeks felt very hot now, and he looked down at his boots. “Um, good,” he said, then coughed, horrified at how incredibly inadequate that had been. “Better than good,” he said. “Amazing.” He forced himself to square his shoulders and look back up at Tony, who laughed. It almost sounded a little nervous, but surely that was ridiculous.
“Christ, Steve, don’t look at me like that,” Tony said. His metal-encased fingers tightened very slightly around Steve’s hand. “I feel like I need to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and I don’t know if I remember it. What?”
“Was it all right that I kissed you, just then?” Steve asked. He didn’t try to pull his hand back; he didn’t have even the slightest desire to reclaim it from Tony’s hold. “You didn’t . . . mind? Or feel assaulted, or—anything?” He remembered Pepper telling him once, very seriously, that she worried about Tony’s boundaries with people in romantic relationships sometimes. He really didn’t want . . . anything like that to be going on here. The thought of it made him feel sick.
Tony boggled at him—there was just no other word for his expression. “Mind?” he said. “Are you kidding? I think I just personally fulfilled the private fantasies of half the citizens of America just now. Unless . . . did you hit your head?” He ran the fingers of his free hand very carefully over the side of Steve’s head, ruffling his hair lightly. “Because I wouldn’t want to be taking advantage of you if you have a concussion or anything.” His eyes were suddenly surprisingly solemn. “I really wouldn’t.”
“What?” Steve managed. “No! No, I didn’t hit my head.” He took a deep breath. He was blushing. He knew he was blushing. Damn it. “I wanted to kiss you just then,” he said, and swallowed hard. “I’ve . . . wanted to for a while. And—and—” Tony had almost died, he kept remembering it, seeing the pillars falling and knowing he’d never get there in time, and that he wouldn’t be able to help even if he did—“don’t scare me like that! Why are you always so reckless, throwing yourself into danger, rushing ahead—you could have easily been crushed. You need to be more careful.”
Tony’s smile had turned wry and had that self-deprecating edge to it again. “Old Shellhead’s tougher than that, Steve,” he said. “Don’t worry so much.”
“If I don’t worry about you, who’s going to?” Steve demanded. He had put his hands on his hips without thinking, he suddenly realized, and forced himself to drop them, forced himself to take a deep breath as he reached out to rest his hands on Tony’s shoulders through the armor. “I just want to see you being more careful, Tony,” he said.
Tony ran one hand back through his hair and shook his head. “Okay,” he said, a little heavily, and Steve wasn’t sure if that odd tone in his voice was defensive or dismissive, or both. “Right. Can we get back to the part where you said you wanted to kiss me? Because I might be kind of jumping to conclusions here, and I have a feeling that statement’s going to stick in my memory for a while, so you might want to clarify it now.”
Longer than Steve asking him to be careful would stick in Tony’s memory, Steve was sure. He should have minded that more than he did at that very moment, he thought. He probably would mind, a lot, later on. But he’d be angry about Tony’s lack of regard for his own safety and well being later, he decided. They could talk about that. Later. Right now they really needed to talk about . . . this.
He wasn’t sure he knew how to do that. He felt himself reach back to run his hand over the rim of his shield. Nervously. He shouldn’t be nervous. “It was true,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to kiss you for a . . . long time. I’d like to—you’re a very attractive man, Tony. And more than just attractive, you’re—intelligent, and . . . heroic, and—and funny, and I like you. A lot. And I—” He wasn’t saying this well, he realized with a touch of desperation, but Tony was still looking at him . . . well, oddly. His eyes were very bright, and there was a strange, soft little smile playing around the edges of his lips. He still looked wry and self-deprecating in that way that Steve had thought for so long was a smirk and had only slowly realized was directed inward, at Tony himself, but he also looked . . . touched. And just a little bit uncertain.
“Come on, Steve, I thought you knew me better than almost anyone,” Tony said with a dry grin. “You obviously you need to talk to Pepper a little bit more.” He waved one gauntleted hand. “She could clear those misconceptions you seem to have about me right up if you asked her the right questions.”
Steve frowned. “I always thought Pepper was . . . fond of you,” he said. He didn’t like the sound of what Tony was implying about himself.
Tony grinned; it looked hard-edged and almost brittle. “See, you haven’t been asking her the right questions,” he said, then sighed. “No, she is. For some—Steve, I—just don’t—” he took a deep breath. He still looked uncertain, unsteady.
“Don’t what?” Steve demanded, feeling a sinking, disappointed, almost painful feeling in his chest. “Don’t feel that way about me?” He didn’t know why his voice sounded so angry, when all he was really feeling was that tight, painful ache.
Tony blinked. “No, that’s not it at all,” he said in a low voice.
“Then what is it?” Steve took a step forward, into his space. “What are you thinking, Tony?” He wasn’t going to give up on this, he thought, clenching his fists. He cared about Tony too much—wanted this with him far too much to just give up. Whatever Tony felt—which was clearly something, or he wouldn’t have kissed him back like that—he would get it out of him.
Tony stepped back, until he was right up against the wall, surprising Steve. He’d expected him to hold his ground; he always did, when they argued. “That I wouldn’t be good for you,” he said, and his voice was even, but his eyelashes swept down over his eyes and he looked at the floor. “And that you know that as well as I do.”
“I don’t know any such thing,” Steve insisted stubbornly. “You’re already good for me. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I don’t see why this should be any different.”
Tony’s eyes came up to rest on him again, and he sighed. His expression was strange, oddly torn, but it looked fond. Steve took hope from that. “Steve . . .” Tony said.
“What?” Steve demanded.
“Cap! Iron Man!” It was Clint’s voice. “Where’d you two get off to?” His voice was getting closer. “We need to figure out what to do with these whackjobs we’ve got over here.”
Damn it. Steve took a deep breath and lifted his bare hand, pressing it tightly against Tony’s cheek and jaw, feeling the scratch of his beard under his palm. “We’ll talk about this later,” he said. Promised.
Tony gave him a tight little smile, but then turned to press a kiss to the heel of his palm. Steve’s skin tingled where his lips touched. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said, then shook off Steve’s hand and put his helmet back on. “Come on, Cap, let’s go figure out what to do with some whackjobs.”
Steve sighed and pulled his cowl back on. This settled it. Clint had the worst timing in the world. Possibly in the universe. He set his jaw and followed Tony back toward the rest of the team, tugging his glove back onto his hand as he did.
He thought he’d made his intentions to talk about what had happened perfectly clear, but as soon as they got back to the mansion, Tony disappeared, sometime while Steve was still making sure the aftermath of the mission stayed organized, which was, as usual, a lot harder than it sounded. He stayed long enough to debrief with the others, but by the time Steve managed to extricate himself from the rest of the team and sort out what to do with the deranged members of the cult they’d stopped, he was nowhere to be found, either as Iron Man or Tony Stark.
Steve did his best to keep his mounting irritation under control. Tony hadn’t known when Steve would be ready to talk, after all. He’d probably just gone and found something to do with himself while he waited. After all, none of them were much good at being idle—it came with the active lifestyles and double lives—and Tony was even worse at it than most. He wasn’t ignoring or avoiding Steve, whatever it felt like.
Even though that was what it felt like, it would be unfair to Tony to blame him for something like that. It was just because this was something Steve had kept to himself for so long that he was so anxious now that it was out in the open. But he couldn’t help it. He’d kept his feelings deeply buried for so long that it made his neck prickle uncomfortably to think that now someone knew, especially because it was Tony, and Tony was the one who mattered.
He still couldn’t quite believe he’d done that. Kissed him. He wasn’t even sure if Tony liked men like that, though he’d certainly kissed Steve back with enough interest for . . . . But what had come over him? Steve had known he couldn’t do something like that, ever, known he needed to control himself, and he’d thrown caution to the wind all the same.
It felt like Tony was avoiding him, no matter what he told himself. Steve checked the Avengers’ lab, with no luck, then went up the several floors to Tony’s private workroom. He forced himself to knock politely on the door despite the anxiety and irritation he was struggling to bury.
“Come on in,” came Tony’s voice, and Steve’s breath caught in his throat. He forced himself to breathe out evenly and opened the door to step into the room, closing it behind him.
Tony was sitting on a bench on the other side of the room with a few pieces of the armor spread out in front of him, dressed in a black polo shirt and loose slacks. His hair was still tousled, but it looked damp rather than sweat-stiff, so he must have taken a shower since Steve had last seen him. He looked up and gave a lopsided smile at Steve as he came in. “Steve,” he said. “I thought that might be you.”
“You disappeared,” Steve accused. He folded his arms over his chest and gave Tony a severe, level stare.
“So I did,” Tony said, and Steve realized he’d been hoping he’d deny it. “I mean, can you blame me?” Tony added. He swung his legs over the side of the bench and faced Steve, his arms braced on his knees, hunching his shoulders forward slightly and looking up at Steve, that crooked smile still playing about his lips. “That kiss came completely out of nowhere, you know. I needed some time to think.”
Steve swallowed, hard, and told his heart firmly to remove itself from his throat and go back to where it belonged. “About what?” he asked.
“Well . . .” Tony said. Steve was shocked to realize that he was blushing slightly. A bruise was starting to swell on one of his cheekbones. Tony looked off to one side and rubbed one hand against his thigh. “To be honest, mostly about what the hell you were thinking,” he said.
Steve forced his arms to uncross. They felt awkward, hanging at his sides. “I already told you what I was thinking,” he said. You weren’t thinking anything at all, his mind provided helpfully. The back of his neck burned. “I’ve been wanting to do that for a while.” Now it was out there between them. The thought of it was both exhilarating and terrifying.
“Yeah,” Tony said, looking down at the floor. “I remember.”
“Is that . . . going to be a problem?” Steve asked, and knew with sickening certainty that he was desperately afraid of the answer. The palms of his hands were sweating, even.
Tony pushed himself to his feet, ran his hand back through his hair again. Steve could see him swallow thickly, his Adam’s apple bob in his throat. He looked away. “Nah,” Tony said. His tone was careless, flippant. “A problem? Not if you always kiss like that. I had no idea, Cap. You’ve been holding out on me all this time. If I’d known you had that in you I’d have gone after you years ago, just to see you in action.” He waggled his eyebrows lasciviously at Steve, then winked.
Steve blinked, confused and a little hurt. “Tony,” he said, “I was serious. I really do . . .” love you, but no, that would be too much, too fast, he didn’t want to scare Tony off “. . . like you. That way. And I’m trying to—”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here,” Tony said. “You know I’m not really that kind of guy. Commitment, talking about feelings. Not my thing. And boy scouts aren’t really my type. I’m not sure what you were thinking, Steve. But, you know, I’d roll around in the sheets with you anytime, regardless.”
Steve was definitely hurt now. His chest was tight, anger twisting up with the ache in his chest. He took a step forward, fighting to keep a tight reign on his temper, and reached out a hand. “Tony—” he said. “You know that’s not the sort of thing I meant. If I’m not your type, that’s . . . okay—I’ll just—” His throat hurt.
Tony stumbled backward at Steve’s movement, hurrying to put the bench between himself and Steve. Steve froze, cold and shocked, and stared at him. A horrible suspicion slowly began to dawn in his mind. “You’re trying to drive me away,” he said in disbelief. “Aren’t you? That—just now, that was all an act to—to get rid of me. To make me not . . . want you.”
Tony flushed and didn’t meet Steve’s eyes, which was answer enough. “An act?” he said, too quickly. “Not at all. Though you’re sweet, Steve, really. Always trying to think the best of people. Of . . . um, of me.” He flushed even darker. “But I’m afraid I actually am just this much of an asshole, sorry. I told you I wouldn’t be good for you, didn’t I?”
Steve sighed and set his jaw, breathing out through his nose and crossing his arms across his chest again. He took another deep breath and tried to stay calm. Getting emotional or losing it at Tony now wouldn’t help anything. More importantly, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to hit him, kiss him again, or just put an arm around his shoulders and hug him until he realized that no matter what, it wasn’t going to be that easy to drive Steve away, he knew Tony too well for that. “Tony,” he finally said. “You need to stop doing this. I want to have a real discussion with you about . . . all this, not one where you just try to push me away and refuse to listen to what I’m telling you. It’s not going to work, anyway, so you can just give up now.” He took another deep breath and blew it out, looking up to meet Tony’s eyes again, which had gone wide, a startled, almost deer-in-the-headlights look in them. “Let’s start over,” he said, and stepped forward, climbed over the bench. “Hey, Tony,” he said. “I really want to talk about what happened earlier.” He reached up to touch Tony’s cheek with one hand, running it gently over the curve of his cheekbone, relishing the feeling of Tony’s skin, bristly with slight stubble, under his fingers. He brushed his thumb over the swelling mark of that bruise, as gently as he could, and Tony turned his face into the touch slightly in a way that Steve thought was unconscious, then froze again, his eyes widening still further.
“I don’t think we should do this together, Steve,” he said quietly. His voice was serious now, at least, even solemn, low and a little hoarse.
“Why’s that?” Steve asked in the calmest, most reasonable tone he could manage. He even managed to wait respectfully for Tony’s answer.
Tony opened his mouth, then closed it again, then blew his breath out, sounding frustrated. Well, good. It was past time for it to be his turn. “Because you’re Captain America and I’m Tony Stark?” he asked acidly, as if that actually meant something other than whatever he’d decided it meant in his own head. When Steve just stared at him, utterly unconvinced, he shifted uncomfortably, a series of expressions flickering across his features too quickly for Steve to even begin to figure them out, and looked away. “Because you’re a symbol, a living legend, an inspiration, and I’m a fucked-up arms dealer with a bad reputation. All of which is based on fact, I might add.”
“Former arms dealer,” Steve pointed out.
Tony sighed with helpless-sounding frustration. “I’m still responsible for my mistakes, Steve. It’s not like I’m squeaky-clean now. But okay, if that doesn’t convince you, how about because the tabloids would have a field day? Or because I’m, as previously discussed, kind of easy, and you’re . . . well, you?”
Steve crossed his arms across his chest again at that. “I am not a virgin,” he said tightly, annoyed.
“You’re not?” Tony gave him a measuring, reassessing sort of glance. “Huh.” He sounded like he was imagining something vividly. Steve wasn't sure he wanted to know what that was.
Steve could feel his cheeks heating. “So if there’s nothing else—” he started pointedly.
“Oh, there’s more,” Tony said. “There’s a lot more. How about this one—because I’m not good enough for you. Just ask anyone. I’m sure they’ll agree.”
“Are you done?” Steve asked as patiently as he could. He didn’t think he could address what Tony had just said. It made him too angry, and—it made his chest ache and feel oddly tight.
“No,” Tony said. “No, no, definitely not; I could probably stand here listing reasons you shouldn’t get involved with me all day. But I think those are the main points.”
Steve took a deep breath and raised his hand, curved it back around Tony's jaw. He brushed his thumb over Tony’s lips, and this time he could really feel them. It was enough to send a shiver of heat through him. God. He really had it bad, didn’t he? He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, then opened them. “I think you should kiss me again,” he said.
Tony swallowed convulsively. “I—really don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said, craning his neck back to tilt his head away from Steve’s hand, just a little.
“Okay,” Steve said, and took a deep breath, told himself that this wasn’t taking advantage of Tony when he’d kissed him back with such passion earlier. It wasn’t, right? “Then I’ll kiss you. I hope that’s all right.” He leaned forward and brushed his lips over Tony’s, sliding his hand around to the back of his head and resting the other one at his waist. He kept the kiss firm but chaste, even gentle, for a long moment, and when Tony didn’t flinch away or seem to object he pressed further in, coaxing Tony’s mouth open with his own. Tony groaned, far back in his throat, and moved into the kiss, his hands sliding up to grip Steve’s arms as if he needed the contact to steady him. The kiss was warm and wet and . . . and beautiful, and Tony was kissing Steve back again, like he really wanted it—more than that, with an intensity and focus and ferocious passion that revealed everything he’d been saying, all of it, to be a bald-faced lie, and if Steve hadn’t cared about him so much he’d have wanted to shake him for that. Instead he slid his hand around to Tony’s back and flattened it at the base of his spine, feeling the curve of it, the warmth of his body through the fabric of his shirt as he pulled him closer. He could feel Tony’s breath coming fast and hard in his chest, in his throat, and he was almost worried about him at the same time he reveled in having him so close.
Eventually he pulled away and closed his eyes, leaning forward to rest his forehead against Tony’s and panting. He could feel his breath feathering over Tony’s lips, the warm moisture of it. Tony was panting, too, he could feel it. “Maybe we can start telling each other the truth now,” he said, and, after a moment, opened his eyes.
Tony was biting his bottom lip. He stopped when he realized Steve was looking at him. “The truth?” he said, and he sounded almost tired.
“Yes,” Steve replied. “The truth.”
Tony gave a wan half smile. “You make me want to be a better person, Steve,” he said.
“Better than what, exactly?” Steve asked. “You’re a hero.” He smiled a little at Tony. “You do know that, right?”
Tony huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, yeah,” he said. “I know. I’m brilliant. I’m a genius. I’m the invincible Iron Man.”
The arrogant comments sounded entirely sincere. Steve sighed, feeling a little frustrated again. “You confuse me sometimes, Tony,” he said.
“Only sometimes?” Tony asked, his mouth quirking. “I must be slipping.”
“I hate to break this to you, but most of the time you’re not as incomprehensible as you like to think,” Steve said.
Tony frowned at him like he wasn’t making much sense. “I am to most people,” he said.
Steve sighed and shook his head. “Stop trying to dodge me,” he said, tracing his thumb over the side of Tony’s neck. He could feel Tony’s pulse there, fluttering quick and uneven, almost tripping over itself.
“Do I have to?” Tony asked. He still hadn’t let go of Steve’s arms, though, which Steve let encourage him, just a little.
“Yes,” Steve said. “Yes, you have to.” Well, he had asked. What had he been expecting Steve to say?
“Oh, well, if Captain America says it, then I guess I do,” Tony said, grinning slightly. “But I have it on good authority that I’m more likable when I’m not being honest.”
“What is that even supposed to mean?” Steve asked. He frowned. “And who said that?”
“Never mind,” Tony said hastily. “Look,” he said, taking a step back and dropping his hands. “Steve. I’m . . . honored, really. Anyone would be. But I—”
“You’d better not be about to lie to me again,” Steve said, feeling a little desperate.
“I—uh, well, no, of course not,” Tony said. It was completely unconvincing, and he wasn’t meeting Steve’s eyes.
Steve clenched his hands into fists. “Tony,” he said tightly. “Just tell me one thing. Because if you really, truly don’t want this, I swear you’ll never hear about it again. And—I’ll never touch you like that again, either.”
Tony chewed on the inside of his lip and didn’t meet his eyes.
“Just—” Steve said. “Do you—” Do you feel that way about me? Could you ever feel that way about me? “Do you want me to drop this, for good? If you do, just say the word. But if you don’t, if you do want this, on any level, I want to give it a shot.”
Tony finally looked at him, and the look in his eyes was as desperate as Steve felt, helpless and somehow pleading. “I—” he said. His voice broke, and he swallowed. “I should lie to you right now,” he said. “I should, but I can’t. I’m not that good a person.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “And I’ve never been that great at lying to you, anyway.”
“Does that mean—” Steve started, feeling hope leap almost dizzyingly in his chest. He took a step forward to put both hands on Tony’s waist. “You wouldn’t mind?”
Tony laughed slightly. “No,” he said, and was it just Steve’s imagination, or did his voice waver slightly? “I wouldn’t mind.” He reached up, still without opening his eyes, and curved his hand around the back of Steve’s neck, bringing his head down the slightest bit he needed to kiss him. It struck Steve that Tony was the tallest person he’d ever kissed in the split second before Tony’s tongue slipped into his mouth and it became difficult to think anything even that abstract. Tony really was incredible at kissing, almost embarrassingly so, in contrast to Steve’s relative inexperience, but he couldn’t spare enough thought to really focus on that. Steve felt almost dizzy from the heat of Tony’s mouth, the feeling of his body pressed up against Steve’s, the hand curled at the back of his neck, the twitch and shiver of his muscles under Steve’s hands, all of it. He flexed his hand against that solid muscle, curved it around to Tony’s back again, and Tony made a sound and pushed further into the kiss, his fingers curling hard against Steve’s neck.
He lost track of how long it went on, but eventually Tony pulled away. Steve tried to pull him back with both hands, but Tony resisted the movement, and after Steve’s mind caught up with his body, he let him go.
Tony smiled at him, and something in Steve’s shoulders relaxed. Tony’s smile widened into a grin. “I can’t believe I actually got to do that,” he said. “You said—or implied, anyway—that you wanted us to date? You still want to? If you do, then how does dinner sound? Sometime? Anytime. I know a lot of great places.”
They were probably all ridiculously expensive, but they could get into that later. Steve was too busy feeling a wave of relief and happiness to worry about that. To worry about much of anything. It felt like there was a bubble of joy, lighter than air and fizzier than champagne, expanding inside his chest like fireworks. “Sure,” he said. He was grinning like an idiot, and he knew it, but he couldn’t seem to stop. “Yes. Dinner sounds great.”
“Okay,” Tony said. “Wow, I guess I’m dating Captain America.” He laughed a little, ran a hand back through his hair. “How about that?”
Steve couldn’t help it; he could feel himself blushing, his grin turning awkward. “Well,” he said, “I’m . . . dating Tony Stark. That’s pretty amazing, too.”
Tony stared at him for a moment like he’d just started speaking Martian, then grinned again. “Thanks, Steve,” he said. “But I think it’s still slightly more amazing from where I’m standing.” He put both hands on the sides of Steve’s face and leaned in to kiss him again, and this time it was sloppy and wet and hot and demanding, and he brought Steve’s lower lip between his teeth and bit down slightly before he pulled back. Steve managed not to yelp, but it was a near thing.
Sharon had never done that.
“I think I’ve proved my point,” Tony said, and he was breathing hard.
Steve didn’t think he had at all, more like the opposite, but he was willing to let it go. “Do you want to go out to dinner tonight?” he asked hopefully.
“You’re pretty gung-ho on this whole thing, aren’t you?” Tony asked, but he didn’t sound like he minded—then sighed. “I have some work to do on the suit, and if I don’t get through some of the paperwork that’s been piling up on my desk, Pepper will have my head on hers. How’s tomorrow night sound?” But he looked both regretful and hopeful, and that made Steve’s heart leap.
“Sure,” he said easily, because that meant he was going on a date with Tony tomorrow night. “But can I . . . stick around up here?”
“You want to hang out?” Tony asked, and grinned again. “Fine with me, if you don’t find watching me work too boring.”
Steve had never found watching Tony work boring. It was still almost unbelievable to him that Tony saw everything he saw in metal and chemicals and gears and . . . whatever else was in everything he put together. Steve didn’t think he was clueless when it came to technology, at least, not entirely—he’d done his best to catch up to the modern world once he’d been thrown into it, and he didn’t think he’d done half badly. But everything Tony did still amazed him. Tony really was a man of tomorrow, of the future—he could see things that Steve could never have seen or even dreamed of. He was more brilliant, more inspiring, than anyone else Steve had ever met. When he saw Tony work, what he thought of, he felt more hope for the future of America, of humankind, of the world, than he ever had before in his life. “I won’t,” he said confidently.
“All right,” Tony said, “but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He sat down on the bench and threw his leg over so that he was straddling it. “You can help, if you want.”
“Really?” Steve asked, surprised. He sat down, too, facing Tony.
“Well, you can hold things,” Tony said.
That sounded more like what Steve had expected. “Sure,” he said. He realized he was grinning foolishly again. He couldn’t seem to stop. But really, this was just what he’d wanted. He hadn’t wanted to ruin his friendship with Tony. Nothing would have been worth jeopardizing that, not even those amazing kisses. He’d just wanted . . . more, on top of that friendship, and now it looked like he was going to get exactly that. His friendship with Tony intact and the relationship he’d wanted—dreamed of.
In that moment, he’d never been more glad that he’d been unfrozen from the ice where and when he had been. This was . . . this was perfect. He grinned over at Tony, and when Tony looked up and smiled back, a screwdriver already in his hand as he fiddled with something, Steve felt like the luckiest man in America.