So, Steve hadn’t always had a ridiculous crush on Tony Stark. In fact, there was a time (back when Steve was still that short kid from Brooklyn who couldn’t even get onto the football team) when he was sure that he’d hated the guy, with his sharp remarks and arrogance and the way he seemed to just genuinely not care, about anything, about anyone.
Tony Stark was a dick, through and through. He was sure of it. “I don’t know how you put up with him,” Steve had complained to Pepper one day over their history project (Pepper aced history, Steve was alright at it; they went well together, with her patient temperament and smiles and no-bullshit and cleverness, and his modest common sense and polite determinedness).
“Ah,” Pepper said, like she wasn’t really paying much attention, but she was; he could see it in the twitch of her mouth, like she was recalling a bad memory (he wouldn’t be surprised, with Tony Stark), “he grows on you.”
“I sure hope not,” Steve muttered under his breath, scribbling some notes onto his sheet, and Pepper cocked an eyebrow at him.
“What was that?”
Steve said, innocently, “Nothing.”
She hid a smile behind her hand.
Pepper had been his friend since he’d first come here a year ago. They’d bonded over the pure amount of idiocy of some of the members of the class, and it was great. Everything was great. His grades were good, he had a social life (well, sort of. The fact that he went around, uh, trying to beat up bullies certainly didn’t help his popularity), and he was overall contented with his life. The only problem?
“He is such a dick,” Steve fumed.
“You did tell him he would be nothing without his tech.” Pep said ‘tech’ like it was a strange food that she couldn’t quite decide if she liked yet or not.
Steve scowled. “He said that –”
“You had bad fashion sense and listened to music that belonged in the ’40s,” Pep finished, long-sufferingly. “Honestly! Men. Can’t get past their petty rivalries.”
Steve shut up after that.
But Tony Stark did, in fact, grown on him (and, take it from Steve, both parties had tried their very best to prevent this at all costs). It hadn’t happened quickly, almost accidently; one day Steve’s mother had been caught up at work and he hadn’t had a ride home from Pep’s. Both of Pepper’s parents were at work.
He had stood at the bus stop, waiting for a bus that didn’t come. And then he’d waited for this next bus, which also decided not to come, and by that time, it had begun to rain. Not just tiny droplets, not just a shower, but massive waves of it. Steve huddled into his coat, going as far into the bus shelter as was physically possibly without going right through the back of it. He’d been about to wonder if he should just walk the five miles home. And then,
Steve looked up sharply. Tony was sitting rather comfortably in his ridiculously comfortable and dry-looking car (which had been an apology from Tony’s father, he’d found out from Pepper, for not being around enough. Steve would never admit it, but he’d felt a tiny bit of compassion for Tony at that moment), and motioning rather violently to Steve.
Tony rolled down the window. “Get in, Steve,” the boy said, tiredly. “I’ll give you a ride. I’m sure you can bear my company for that long. Unless you’d rather...” He waved a hand towards the approaching storm clouds.
Steve quickly shuffled over to the passenger side and got in.
“Thanks,” he said, not looking at the other boy.
Tony snorted and threw the car into gear, driving with a sort of manic speed that made Steve feel like his heart was about to jump out through his throat. “Shitty weather,” Tony said decisively. “What were you doing stuck out there, anyway?”
Steve shrugged, still not looking at Tony. “Ride bailed out,” he said lamely.
Tony nodded, as if this answered everything. “Well, next time,” he said firmly, “ring me, instead of waiting in the fucking rain, okay?” His eyes slid to Steve.
Steve nodded, glancing nervously at the road out of the corner of his eye, and Tony turned back to the steering wheel, apparently satisfied. Steve watched the other boy, biting his lip. Maybe he should just forget about it. It wasn’t like he was going to ask Stark for a bloody ride, anyway. For God’s sake, they hated each other – Tony was probably resenting the moment he’d ever offered Steve a ride already.
His mouth moved anyway. “Um,” Steve said.
Tony cocked an eyebrow at him. Somebody swore vehemently at them as Tony narrowly missed a pedestrian.
“I don’t have your number,” Steve finished, stupidly. He waited for Tony to laugh at him, or make a sarcastic comment, or –
“Oh.” Tony slapped himself on the forehead. “Of course!” He cocked his head thoughtfully, and then said, apparently to the ceiling, “JARVIS, will you please program my number into Mr Rogers’ phone?”
Oh. Steve knew about JARVIS, Tony’s incredible AI, the one he’d been working on since he was eight or something. Steve had never believed Pep’s stories, but –
“Of course, sir,” JARVIS said, and Steve’s phone beeped. Steve would have been offended by this intrusion into his privacy, if not for the fact that he was too busy staring, impressed and little freaked out, at Tony.
Tony looked at him confusedly. “What?” he said cleverly.
“Uh...JARVIS,” Steve said, reluctant for reasons he couldn’t quite pinpoint. “I mean, Pepper told me that you...could make things, that you made JARVIS, and you know, I’ve seen your tech – but I always figured you were bullshitting about, you know –” He waved a hand in an arc in a pathetic attempt to represent The Really Genius Stuff.
Tony looked at Steve for a few moments (a bicyclist swore as Tony cut that little bit too close to him), and then turned back to the road, a strange expression on his face. “Well,” he said, an odd tone to his voice, “yeah. JARVIS is great.”
“Thank you, sir,” JARVIS said courteously, making Steve jump.
Tony saw this, and smirked. He tapped his fingers against the steering wheel and said, “Well, I’m the one who created you, aren’t I? It’s kind of weird you thanking me, y’know, when you’re my AI, and everything, like seriously, I –”
“Well,” Steve interrupted, recognising a Tony Rant coming up, “thank you for...your number. And I think your...tech, or whatever – it’s really smart. You’re really smart, Tony,” he rambled, feeling stupid.
Tony grinned. “C’mon, Rogers, don’t go all soft on me now.” Before Steve could even begin to retort, he asked, “It’s left here, right?” and suddenly Steve was distracted.
“Yeah,” he said, proceeding to give Tony directions, pushing the subject of Tony Stark’s Genius far from his mind.
Regardless of whatever exchange they’d had in the car, Steve swore that he would leave Tony’s name alone in his phone, keeping it only out of politeness (that was what he told himself, anyway.)
“Steve, I’m so sorry,” Pepper said, and she looked it, too. “It’s just...Natasha asked me out for coffee and...this is what I’ve been waiting for, you know? I can give you a lift home, of course, on the way.” She smiled kindly.
Steve felt guilt coil in his stomach. “No! No, it’s fine,” he assured her. “I have a ride home, anyway,” he lied through his teeth, “so you don’t need to give me a lift. It’s fine.” He wasn’t that desperate. He wasn’t going to ruin Pepper’s date.
“Oh...well,” Pep said, brightening. “If you’re sure.”
Steve smiled back just as brightly. As soon as she disappeared into her class, the smile fell from his face. Fuck.
Two hours later found Steve standing in a bus shelter, yet again. At least this time it wasn’t raining, he thought glumly. However, according to the (frankly unreliable) bus timetable, the bus wasn’t planning on coming for another hour and a half.
He considered ringing his mum, then changed his mind. Of course he knew that she would rush from work to pick him up, but he also knew that she had an important meeting today and didn’t want to ruin that for her. Besides, he could deal with...one and a half hours. He’d just...sit here and...stare at the ground. Or something.
“Rogers!” a familiar voice called. A car pulled up outside the bus shelter, breaking about five road rules. “Get in, loser.” Tony smirked at him. “We’re going shopping.”
Steve stared blankly, but got in, anyway.
After a few moments of silence, Steve asked, “Are we really going shopping?” He played with the hem on his jacket.
Tony let out a half-horrified, half-amused sort of noise. “No, I just figured you needed a ride. You do right? Because if you think I’m kidnapping you or something, I’m not, I’m just –”
Steve nodded. Tony sagged a little in relief. “You, sir,” he said, firmly, “need to do some serious movie revision if this is going to be a regular thing.” He waved a hand around the car’s interior, and then pointed at Steve. “Otherwise you won’t understand a good half of my biting wit.”
Steve blushed, much to his horror. “I don’t....really...watch movies,” he said. And then, “Wait, this is going to be a regular thing?”
“You don’t watch –” Tony paused thoughtfully. “Well, you seem quite prone to forfeiting your ride for the good of humanity,” he said. “Pepper told me to check the bus stop on the way past. Figured you weren’t entirely truthful in your whole I’m A Martyr Go On Your Date Without Me thing.”
“Ah,” Steve said, “do you know about her and...”
“Natasha I’m-Going-To-Bite-Your-Head-Off Romanov?” Tony smirked. “Of course. She is my friend, too, you know.”
Steve shrugged. “And you’re...okay with that...kind of thing?” Tony didn’t really strike Steve as the sort of guy who would be bothered by somebody being gay, but you never knew. Besides, if this was going to be a regular sort of thing (Steve did kind of forfeit his ride more than was comfortable to admit), then Steve had to know that Tony wasn’t, er, freaked out by that sort of thing.
Tony began to laugh, the sort of life that you experience when you find something really, really ironically funny, in the whole ‘This Is My Life’ way. “Of course,” he said, comfortably. “It would be a bit weird if I wasn’t, wouldn’t it?”
Steve frowned at the other boy. “Why?”
Tony began to laugh wholeheartedly then, his whole body shaking with mirth. “Oh, Rogers,” he said, in a One Day You’ll Understand way.
Steve did understand, at two AM in the morning two days later as he lie in bed, Tony’s laughter playing on repeat through his mind.
“Oh,” he said, suddenly.
“So, I was thinking,” Tony said, five days and three minor freakouts (on Steve’s part, anyway) later, “we should have a movie marathon.”
“Right,” Steve said, confused. Tony was tugging him over to his car. Their classmates threw the glances as they passed, almost as if to say “Huh, what’s Tony Stark doing hanging out with that loser Rogers?” and then “Actually, who the fuck cares?”
“Tony,” Steve said, slowly, “I have a ride.”
“Pepper is going over to Natasha’s. I told her I’d give you a ride home,” Tony explained, as if this was just a minor detail he’d forgotten to mention. Which, to him, yeah, it probably was. Steve found this simultaneously irritating and endearing. “We should have a movie marathon,” Tony said again.
“Tonight?” Steve asked, even more confused. Tony pushed him into the passenger’s seat. Steve got in obediently, too bemused to second guess this (this seemed to be part of Tony’s charm, confusing people until they found him adorable. Or something like that).
“Well.” Tony slid into the driver’s seat. “I figured, right? I mean, if you’re busy, that’s cool and everything. It’s Friday, I get it. You could totally have some hot girl you could be secretly courting.”
Steve snorted. “No. Not really my thing.” A guy, maybe.
Tony frowned at this. “Why not? I mean, I know, you’re not exactly a smooth-talking beast or anything, but I could totally see how, you know, girls could fall for the whole pounds of rippling muscle nerdy guy thing. I mean, that whole turning-into-a-sex-god over Summer. Girls totally go for that kind of thing,” Tony concluded, unashamedly. Steve frowned, finding it hard to catch up. “Anyway, why not, Rogers?”
Steve decided to just go for it. “I didn’t say girls weren’t interested in me,” he said, looking out the window. It had begun to rain, great, fat droplets of water that made Steve strangely thankful that Tony had given him a lift (and that was the only reason, okay? He just didn’t like getting wet). “Girls just aren’t really my thing, that’s all.”
Tony said, “Oh.” And then, “Oh.”
There was a moment of silence while they both mulled over this.
“So, movie marathon?” Tony persisted cheerfully, narrowly avoiding a pedestrian as he swerved into his own driveway, which apparently they’d been heading towards the whole time, goddamnit, how the hell had Steve not noticed that?
Steve rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
The movie marathons quickly became a regular thing.
Steve didn’t mean for them to. In fact, it was kind of Tony’s fault. Yeah, that’s right – it was all Tony’s fault. He was frankly, he said, appalled by Steve’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of pop culture. And even though Steve himself wasn’t particularly fussed about this, it was apparently a big thing to Tony.
So Friday Movie Night happened.
“Hey, Steve,” Pepper said to him when he walked out of Literature, grinning. “You okay with a ride tonight?”
“Sure,” he said, honestly. He rolled his eyes. “Movie night.” His heart did a little jump at the thought, but no way in hell was he about to admit that to Pepper. He was supposed to hate Tony Stark. But, he thought, a little miserably, he hadn’t hated Tony Stark in a long time. He wasn’t even all that sure he’d ever hated the bastard.
“So,” Pep said, waggling her eyebrows, as they exited the school. “You and Tony seem to be getting close.”
Steve felt a blush work its way up his neck. “Nah. We’re just...friends, I guess. It’s your fault, you know. You and Natasha.” He shot her a mocking glare.
Pepper smiled slyly. “Don’t lie,” she said, looking positively evil. “You wouldn’t miss Friday Movie Night for the world.”
Steve decided not to even grace that with a comment.
“Cap!” Tony called, jogging to catch up with them. He was grinning. “You ready for Harry Potter 2?”
Pepper raised her eyebrows at Steve over Tony’s shoulder. ‘Cap?’ she mouthed.
Steve ignored her. No way was he going to tell her about the whole Patriotic American conversation with Tony that ended with Tony proclaiming him, rather gleefully, ‘Captain America’. It had become a nickname for him. The worst part was that Steve didn’t even really mind it all that much. In fact (though he would never in a million years admit this to anyone, not even Pepper) he kind of liked it.
“Uh huh,” Steve said, in reply to Tony’s comment. “Those movies aren’t all that bad, I guess,” he admitted. He had a soft spot for Neville.
Tony glanced at him knowingly. “Neville, right?”
Steve clearly remembered keeping that little bit of information to himself, which meant Tony must have guessed. Steve looked over at the other boy, but he was talking to Pepper excitedly about a new project or something, apparently oblivious as to what he’d just said. Which wasn’t a big thing, really. Well, it shouldn’t be.
Tony Stark knows me, Steve thought. He wasn’t all that sure what to do with this new information.
“You want to watch another one?” Tony asked, grabbing the remote and flicking through the channels. Tony had this sort of futuristic TV that looked clean and new and really, really fucking complicated. Steve had already made a mental note to let Tony do all the remote handling.
Steve lay back against the sofa, yawning. “Nah. Nah, I’m alright.” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had been even better than the first movie, and he’d practically bullied Tony into playing Prisoner of Azkaban, but it had gotten ridiculously late without either of them even noticing.
“I should –” Steve yawned again. Tony chuckled. “I should probably go home,” he finished.
Tony looked at him. “Yeah,” he said, and leaned back on the sofa. Neither of them made a move to get up.
“Well,” Tony said sleepily, leaning his head against Steve’s shoulder. Steve tried to appear calm about this, even though his heart felt like it was about to explode from his chest. “I guess you could stay a few minutes longer.”
Steve opened his mouth to argue, but then Tony’s hair tickled his nose and he sneezed, which, yeah, was completely gross, but Tony seemed to find it amusing because suddenly the other boy was laughing loudly, and then Steve started laughing, too, and by the time Steve remembered what he was going to say, Tony had settled in, making a home for himself on Steve’s shoulder, and fallen asleep.
Steve followed not long after.
“Tony!” somebody was yelling. “Have you been in my workshop again? Damnit, boy, you know better than that. That was stupid, completely stupid, have you lost every last bit of sense–”
Steve opened his eyes. His neck ached, which, he soon found, was because he was on a sofa. With Tony. Who was also waking up, and staring at the door of the living room in a way that a lamb may look before it gets led to slaughter.
“Anthony –” The door was flung open. A man stood there, a man who held a startling resemblance to Tony, all concentrated gaze and rugged handsomeness. Steve blinked. Oh, God. Oh, God, oh God, oh God.
The man looked at Steve and then away, decidedly ignoring him. “Tony, if you come into my workshop one more time without my permission –”
Tony had pushed himself off Steve and was staring at his father with what looked strangely like anger, his expression dark. “I haven’t stepped foot in your stupid lab,” Tony snapped, pulling on his jacket. He looked at Steve, who was sitting on the sofa still, feeling completely lost. “Dad, this is Steve. Steve, my father.” Tony said ‘father’ like it was a swearword.
“Hello, Mr Stark –” Steve began politely.
“Tony,” Mr Stark said harshly, “you know that I don’t want to meet your little – experiments.” He gave Steve a distasteful look. “Anyway, stay out of my lab.”
And with that, the man turned around and banged out the room.
There were a few moments of high-strung silence.
“So,” Steve said finally, and he saw Tony’s shoulders tense, like he was waiting for the blow, waiting for goodbye, “same time next week?”
Tony relaxed, laughing. “Of course, Cap,” he said, and ruffled Steve’s hair playfully. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Steve may have gained a lot of muscle (and height) over the last year, but that didn’t mean that he was any less hesitant to pick fights where they were due. Pepper and Natasha weren’t exactly secretive about their relationship, but they weren’t entirely open about it either. When Bill Wilkins, a bully with a nasty sneer, snapped something about ‘it just being wrong’, Steve spun around and decked the guy before Natasha could even do it herself (and yeah, she could probably have done better than Steve, which was kind of embarrassing but it was Natasha).
Clint Barton, who was Natasha’s best friend (which required bravery, Steve had always thought, and looked up to the guy, just a little) whistled, impressed. “Nice one, Rogers.”
Steve turned away, disgusted, as Wilkins grappled around on the floor, his friends reaching over to pull him up and shooting Steve vicious glares simultaneously. “I don’t like bullies,” he muttered.
Tony appeared at Steve’s right, smirking. “And they say I’m the one with the anger management issues,” he said, but he sounded impressed. Steve didn’t want him to be impressed, didn’t want anybody to be; the comment had just hit a little too close to home, and he’d reacted. Hitting somebody who could never dream of beating him in a fight wasn’t admirable; it was unfair.
Then again, Wilkins hadn’t really seemed to care all that much about fairness. Pepper gripped his arm in reassurance. Somehow, she managed to understand that it had been about her, but it hadn’t; he would always defend her, but it had always been self-defense as well.
Steve was sure that it was over, but Wilkins apparently had other ideas. “Hey, Stark!” he called after them. “What are you doing hanging out with a fag like Rogers?”
Tony disappeared from beneath Steve’s gaze before Steve could even reach out to stop him, say it’s not worth it. Luckily, Barton had halted Tony when he’d been two seconds from hitting Wilkins, muttering something that sounded an awful lot like “we’ll get him later, Stark.”
Tony stopped short of punching the guy, but he did grab him by the shirt and back him up against the wall of a nearby classroom door. “If you’re going to go around calling anybody a fag, Wilkins,” he snapped lowly, “you might as well call me one. Mess with any of my friends again, and I will make you regret the day they decided to grace an idiot like you with life.”
Tony leaned close and whispering something in the boy’s ear that made Wilkins’ face go slack. Steve picked up, very faintly, his own name and the words ‘you bastard’.
Tony turned away, his face black with fury. “C’mon, Steve,” he said, eyebrows drawn low over his eyes.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Steve said as they clambered into his car (it wasn’t Friday, but it had become routine now; Steve went towards Tony’s car so instinctively, it was almost embarrassing). “It wasn’t worth it.”
Tony booted up the car and was silent for a few long moments as he carefully (for Tony) angled the car out of the car park. Steve had concluded that the other boy wasn’t going to answer when he said, his voice so low that Steve wouldn’t even have heard it if he wasn’t straining his ears already, “You’re always worth it, Rogers.”
The first time Tony came over to Steve’s house wasn’t exactly the way Steve had imagined it to be. Tony was great, but he was, in essence, the son of a rich family; he couldn’t help it if he reacted badly to Steve’s cramped living arrangements, Steve told himself. It was just...instinct.
So, yeah, Steve had been expecting Tony to freak out.
And then he didn’t.
“You,” Tony said, seriously, “were the cutest kid, ever.”
Steve blushed. He didn’t mean to. It was just that whenever Tony was around, the blood seemed to automatically rush to his head (and other places, but he was steadfastly trying to ignore that). It was humiliating.
Steve pushed – gently – past Tony and opened the door to his bedroom, leaning over to switch the light on. It was kind of pathetic, now that he looked at it. He appreciated everything his mother did for him, any living conditions they could afford; but, still, compared to Tony’s house, he found that his room looked, well, boring.
Tony followed him in. “This is cosy,” he noted, eyes scanning the walls, the bookshelves, the schoolbooks. They landed on a notebook on Steve’s bedside table, open to a random page. Steve swore, lunging for it, but it was too late. Tony picked it up.
“Stark,” Steve said, in what he hoped was a firm tone.
Tony was flicking through the sketchbook, whistling, impressed, under his breath. “This is good, Steve,” he said, his fingers surprisingly gentle with the delicate pages. “This is really good.” There were a few moments of silence. Steve tried to get the sketchbook off Tony. Tony nimbly turned away. “You didn’t tell me you could draw!” Tony burst out. His fingers did not pause on the pages.
“Yes, well,” Steve mumbled, thinking, oh god oh god oh god, “it’s a private thing.”
It was a guilt trip, but Tony didn’t seem to care. He just carried on flicking through the book, pages and pages and pages of drawings, drawings of boring things, his place in Brooklyn, his mother, a flower, a book – and then, oh god oh god oh god.
It would have been okay if there were just one, Steve thought. That would be...normal. Something friends do, right? But then Tony’s fingers began to turn more pages, and there was page after page of Tony’s smirk, Tony waiting for Steve at his car, Tony coming out of the nurse’s office, his face lit up with maniac excitement as he brushes bits of debris from his shirt (“Experiment gone wrong?” Steve had asked a little warily. “Experiment gone right,” Tony had countered), Tony, Tony, Tony.
Tony was silent for a long moment. “Wow,” he said, finally. And then, “Wow.”
Steve let out an undignified cross between a squeak and a groan of embarrassment. “I...like...your...profile?” he tried, the words sounding stupid even to his own ears.
Tony was smirking at him. “My profile. Huh,” he said, the smirk widening. He turned another page, not pushing it. Steve could have kissed him for that, right then, right there, in the middle of a small room in a small apartment on a quiet road, nothing spectacular, nothing brilliant, just him and Tony.
That was enough.
“I have never met two people so in love with each other who are so oblivious of it,” Pepper muttered into her coffee. It was Thursday evening, and they were sitting in their usual coffee shop. Pep was editing Steve’s history essay, Steve was looking over her Calculus assignment; Steve was eating a fruit salad, Pep was nursing a bacon sandwich. Steve blinked.
Pep rolled her eyes. “See! You don’t even listen to me when I’m trying to give you relationship advice. I told Nat you’d be like this.” She stole a piece of orange from Steve's bowl. “Look,” she said around a mouthful of orange, “you need to do something about this.”
Steve blinked again, frowning at his friend. “Pep,” he said slowly, “I’m not in a relationship. What are you even talking about?”
“You and Tony!” Pep yelled, exasperatedly. A few fellow students turned around to stare at them, their eyes flitting from one friend to the other. Steve ran a hand over his face.
“Oh, God,” he mumbled. He felt his face heating up despite himself. “Not this again.”
“Yes, this again,” said Pepper firmly. “Look, if you don’t make a move soon, Tony’s going to get back with Hill. Remember her?”
“Nice girl,” Steve commented.
“Nice girl! God,” Pep cried desperately. “You are a lost cause. You really are. Steve,” she said, “you can’t let Tony get back with her. You know why? Because he’s in love with you! The only reason he’d date her is to forget about you! But it won’t work! Because he’s fucking in love with you.”
Steve mulled over this. “That’s a lot of exclamation marks,” he told her.
Pepper groaned into her sandwich.
“Look,” Steve said, positively, “Tony’s not going to get back with Hill. I’m sure of it. If he was thinking about it, he’d tell me, right? So he’s not.”
Pep just muttered something that sounded awfully full of swear words into her sandwich. Steve went back to Calculus.
Tony got back with Hill.
Well, Steve wouldn’t call it ‘got back with’, exactly. Pepper called it ‘being an idiot’. Clint called it ‘sleeping with her because he got too goddamn drunk at some stupid party and felt too fucking guilty to say he wanted nothing more’. Steve just kind of stood there and tried not to glare too sullenly at the wall.
“Hey, Pep,” Steve said suddenly, “is it okay if I get a ride home with you?”
Pepper nodded, smiling faintly, before turning back to her bitching session with Clint. Natasha looked at Steve for a moment, however, almost calculating, before turning away.
“Hey, Steve!” Steve heard Tony call as he followed his friends to the car. Steve turned around automatically, eyebrows raising. “Don’t you want a ride?” And wow, did Tony actually look hurt?
“Nah,” Steve said, with a smile that felt too tight around the corners. “I’m good. Pep offered.”
Tony nodded, looking a little lost. “I...okay, then. If you’re sure.”
Steve looked over at Maria Hill, who was talking with some friends. Steve hadn’t been lying. She was a nice girl. Steve could tell that she liked Tony a lot, which he didn’t really blame her for. Tony was a very likeable person. The thing was, Steve was sure that Tony didn’t even like Hill at all. Sure, Steve had known that Tony swung both ways (when he wasn’t too busy swinging around lethal objects around and blowing things up, anyway), but Steve had a feeling that Tony just didn’t like Hill, in that way, at all. What was he trying to prove?
“Yep,” Steve said, looking sharply away. “See you around, Stark.”
Tony had been following Steve’s gaze, but when Steve said that, he looked up sharply. Since they’d become friends, Steve hardly ever called him that unless he was, well, pissed off at the other boy (for instance, when Tony had decided it was a good idea to set Steve’s t-shirt on fire for science. While he was still wearing it).
“Steve –” Tony began, but Steve had already turned away.
Steve felt the other boy’s gaze burning into the back of his head the whole way to Pepper’s car, and found himself wondering just when the hell his ridiculous crush on Tony Stark had turned into something, well, more.
It was getting late, really late, and Steve was still awake. It was all Tony’s fault. Steve hated that, how Tony had so much effect on his life, how one minute everything was fine and then Tony went and got himself a girlfriend he didn’t even fucking like and now Steve was a mess. It had been two weeks, for God’s sake. Two weeks. Steve should be used to it by now, right?
Steve and Tony were friends. Steve had no reason to be angry at Tony, yet he somehow felt like Tony had broken some sort of unspoken promise between them. Like they were friends but they weren’t, they never had been, there’d just been this thing, a not-quite, a tiny niche between Just Friends and More that Steve had never been able to get out of. He was sure that Tony didn’t even like him.
He was just poor Steve Rogers for Brooklyn, after all. Just because he’d gained a few pounds of muscle didn’t mean that he was any better than he ever had been before. Tony was clever, impossibly so – he shouldn’t even be at their crappy high school, for God’s sake – and he was rich. That was the important thing, Steve thought. Steve could deal with clever, could admire it, love it, but rich was an entirely different ball park – why would somebody rich, and handsome, like Tony, want Steve?
And then there was the whole fact that Tony was Tony, charismatic Tony, who everybody loved and resented at the same time, who automatically came to mind whenever you heard something blow up, like, Oh god, Tony’s at it again.
And Steve, well. Steve was just Steve.
Steve’s phone began to ring.
“Hello?” he mumbled, so consumed by his own misery that he didn’t even bother to check the caller ID. Yes, so nobody ever said he was the genius.
“Steve,” Pepper said. “Sorry for waking you. I need a favour, real quick. Tony’s an idiot and he’s gone and got himself stupidly drunk at this stupid benefit his mother’s thrown – a benefit, of all places! He went and got –” Bang.
Steve pulled the phone away and stared at it for a few moments. There were a few moments of silence, and then a shuffling sound. Steve shook his head, brought the phone back to his ear, and began, “Pep, you there? What do you want me to do?”
“Steve?” Steve heard Tony slur. And then, “Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve.”
Steve sat up sharply. “Pepper? Is everything okay?”
“Look, Steve, it’s stupid, I just –” There was a rustling. “He got absolutely smashed, got into a fistfight with one of his father’s business colleagues, or something. I’m stuck as babysitter, and –Tony! You are such a child. Give me the phone right now. “
Tony giggled into the phone. “No! No. No, just, Steve, I need to tell you something – important. Something important,” Tony concluded definitively. There was a pause. “Just gimme a sec, kay? I need to remember what it is.”
“Tony,” Steve said exasperatedly. “Pass the phone back to Pep.”
“Look, Tony, pass the phone back to Pepper,” Steve said, wide awake now. “I need to talk to her.”
“Buuuuuuuuuut Steve. I thought you loooooooooooooooooved me. I thought we weeere frrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriends. Bestbestbestbeeeeest frrrrrriiends.”
There was a rustle, and then a bang and, yeah, Steve didn’t even want to know what that was but it sounded painful – and then Pepper was back on the phone. “I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have –”
“I’ll be right over,” Steve said, pulling on a pair of jeans.
“You don’t need to, it’s just, you know, I wouldn’t even dream of ask you, but I’ve got a date tonight, and, well, Tony’s parents are out, going to be out for a fair while, they’ve got this business thing in Malibu right after this stupid benefit and I don’t really trust him on his own...”
“STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVE!” Tony yelled in the background.
“I’ll be right over,” Steve said, and this time, Pepper didn’t argue.
“I’ll send Happy ’round to pick you up,” she said, sounding more than a little relieved. “I’ll try and sober him up a bit before you get here.”
So, Steve went. He didn’t know why, knew it was stupid, so, so stupid (Tony was so stupid, damnit, why did he always have to do this), but he grabbed a t-shirt, a jacket and shot out the door faster than was probably socially acceptable for just friends.
The drive to Tony’s house was quiet. There was classical music playing from the CD player (definitely not Tony’s choice, Steve noted with some amusement), but Steve still felt agitated, shifting around every few seconds. If Happy found this behaviour peculiar, he kept it to himself.
“Steve,” Pepper said, nearly collapsing in relief when she opened the door to find him standing there, hair wet from the rain that was beginning to fall. “I’m really sorry about this.”
Steve shrugged. “He’s my friend, too,” he said, a little offended. “Of course I was going to come.”
Pep moved aside to let him in, still smiling apologetically. “It’s just the way things have been with you guys lately...” She sighed. “Tony’s parents called me, like I’m his stupid sitter or something. They didn’t even think to bring him home themselves.” Her mouth twisted unpleasantly. “I would cancel on Nat, but I’m supposed to be meeting her parents tonight, and, you know.”
Steve laughed. “Of course, Pepper,” he said, taking in the state of the living room – and Tony. He was curled up on one of the sofas, a blanket wrapped around himself. He looked miserable. More than anything, he looked at least a little bit more sober than he’d sounded been on the phone. Steve’s heart jumped a little at the sight, his mind turning over all sorts of stupid words like adorable and love and forever.
Tony sat bolt upright when he saw Steve. “I told you not to call him!” he cried despairingly at Pepper. He tried to climb to his feet, but wobbled and fell back down onto the couch with a defeated sigh. “I told you not to call him,” he said again, a little less passionately this time.
“I’ll see you later,” Pep said, sounding a little sympathetic (for Steve, not Tony). She pecked Steve on the cheek. “Good luck.”
Steve smiled wryly.
He waited until he heard the door slam before he collapsed next to Tony on the sofa. Tony let out a sigh, leaning his head on Steve’s shoulder. Steve didn’t push him off. He was too tired for that. “Tony,” he said finally, “what really happened?”
Tony manoeuvred so that his face was pressed into Steve’s neck. His breath was hot against Steve’s skin. Steve shivered involuntarily, and felt Tony’s answering smirk against his collarbone.
“I didn’t get into a fistfight,” the other boy admitted.
A pause. “I just told Pepper that so I sounded macho. I don’t think she believed me.” He sighed again. “I took Maria to the benefit,” Tony explain, his voice a little shaky from the liquor. “Thought it was a good thing to do, right? A couple-ish thing.” His voice was wry. “I’m not very good at couple-ish things.”
Steve didn’t say anything.
“But she said some mean things.” Steve raised his eyebrows at Tony’s vagueness. “So I told her it was over. And she slapped me.” Tony instinctively seemed to raise his hand to where his eye was bruising purple. “It hurt,” he added, probably aware that he sounded like he was whining and not caring, anyway.
Steve tried to suppress the cruel sort of joy he felt at the phrase ‘So I told her it was over.’
“Some mean things?” Steve asked bluntly.
Tony groaned into Steve’s t-shirt. Steve was sure that the other boy wasn’t going to answer, but in typical Tony fashion, Tony surprised him. “She said some...stuff. About you. And how you like guys, you know. Just stupid stuff,” Tony mumbled, his voice muffled by Steve’s shirt.
Steve was unfazed. Of all the things for people to pick on him for, he figured his sexuality was the least offensive. It wasn’t something he was ashamed of. He didn’t like the comments, of course – the disapproving frowns, the sneers – but he’d gotten used to it a long time ago. It wasn’t that that bothered him; it was the fact that Tony had reacted so harshly. Normally, it took more than that to get Tony to make such a hasty decision.
“But you...” Steve trailed off, feeling awkward. He had no clue to ask about Tony’s reaction, so he quickly changed course. “You, too. Like. You know. Guys. Right?” Oh God, what if he’d misinterpreted it and Tony didn’t really like guys? What if he –
Tony snorted. “Duh, but nobody really knows that,” he pointed out. And then he paused. "Well, they will once Wilkins stops being such a wuss and decides to out me. But alas," he added dramatically, "that is all in le futur! It's not something I go around shouting at the top of my lungs. Not much, anyway."
“You told me. On one of our first, you know, real conversations.”
Tony’s voice was a little odd-sounding when he said, “Yeah, well. That’s you.”
Steve decided to drop it. “I’m going to get you an ice pack,” he said, climbing to his feet with a groan. “You’re not going to start yelling my name or throwing anything again, right?” He eyed the other boy a little suspiciously.
To his shock, Tony’s cheeks tinged red beneath his tan. “No,” he mumbled into the arm of the chair, where his head had fallen when Steve had moved. Steve grinned and disappeared into the kitchen, internally despairing on how he was going to find the freezer (or freezers, plural) in this huge fucking mansion.
He returned fifteen minutes later with some Panadol and an icepack, sitting down next to Tony on the sofa. The other boy’s breath was coming out steadily and his eyes were closed, so Steve guessed that he’d fallen asleep. He carefully manoeuvred Tony so that he could reach the other boy’s cheekbone and placed the ice-pack on the spreading bruise, gently running a hand through Tony’s hair, almost unconsciously.
“I think I like this whole you-doing-everything-for-me thing,” Tony mumbled, sounding amused, and Steve jumped, instantly snatching his hand back. He felt like a child who’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing. “No, no,” Tony complained, lazily grabbing Steve’s hand and returning it to his hair. “It feels nice.”
Steve obeyed, relaxing against Tony a little. There was a long silence, interrupted only by the fact that Steve’s hand was this close to freezing off, resulting in him forcing Tony to hold the icepack. Tony (typically) complained at this horrid treatment. Steve didn’t stop running his fingers through Tony’s hair, however (he placated himself with the fact that Tony would complain if he moved away, though he knew it was a completely selfish act).
“I did it for you, you know,” Tony said quietly, his voice uncharacteristically cautious.
Steve’s fingers paused their path. “What?”
Tony turned, the icepack dropping to the ground with a wet splat. He was smirking, but his eyes were serious, serious and sad, a thousand different shades of I’m complicated. “I did it for you,” he said softly, his lips moving to Steve’s ear. Steve shuddered at the contact. Tony only seemed encouraged by this, nuzzling into Steve’s neck. “Breaking – up with her. Maria. Everything I do always seems to be for you,” Tony mumbled, a cross between a laugh and a sob.
Steve moved his head carefully, and Tony’s lips, positioned above Steve’s, brushed his. Tony seemed startled for a moment, freezing beneath Steve’s fingers. And then, just when Steve began to pull back with a soft ‘I’m sorry, I thought –’ Tony leaned in, returning the kiss.
It was nothing like Steve had ever imagined it, and he’d imagined this a lot. There was no delicateness, no carefulness; just heat and need and desperation, fingertips grabbing at shirts and Steve’s hands running through Tony’s hair, pulling him even closer. Tony let out a whimper against Steve’s mouth, and Steve felt it go all the way through his body, making his blood feel as if it were on fire.
“Tony,” he began, pulling back. Tony made a noise of protest and pulled Steve back into the kiss, and Steve may be the sensible one out of their friendship group but he wasn’t stupid, wasn’t unbreakable, and the feeling of Tony’s lips against his jaw, his fingers against Steve’s chest, his shirt, pulling it up, pulling it –
“No, Tony,” Steve said firmly, pushing him back. Tony scowled at him. “You’re drunk,” he pointed out.
Tony fell backwards against the sofa with a sigh. “I’m perfectly sober,” he argued.
But Steve wasn’t backing down, suddenly hit by the realisation that this could just be the alcohol talking, or, even worse, a whim of Tony’s, expectations for a one night stand and nothing more. Even though, in the back of his head, Steve knew this was unlikely, he moved away from Tony, stretching, and got to his feet.
He didn’t miss the way Tony’s eyes followed him as he moved, caught on the flash of skin that was revealed as his t-shirt was tugged up.
“You need to sleep.”
Tony’s scowl deepened. “You,” he said, pushing himself to his feet, “are cruel.” He pushed past Steve. “You have to babysit,” he threw over his shoulder. “So you have to sleep, too! In my room! Hah!”
Steve raised an eyebrow at Tony’s retreating back, but followed regardless. “You wait,” he said, rolling his eyes to ignore the foreboding feeling in his stomach. “You’ll wake up tomorrow morning, and regret we ever did–” He waved his hand in a vague motion, even though Tony’s back was to him. “–this.”
Tony stopped suddenly. Steve had to slam on the brakes to save himself from toppling into the other boy. “You think I’ll regret this?” he demanded, spinning around and poking Steve accusingly in the chest.
“Yes,” Steve said simply.
Tony rolled his eyes. “You really are oblivious, aren’t you?” he said, like this was Steve’s fault, and stormed off like a child having a tantrum.
Which, you know, he kind of was.
“I’m not the only oblivious one,” Steve shouted back as he followed his friend, not even knowing what Tony meant by that, and trying to ignore the loud pounding in his chest.
When Steve awoke the next morning, he was aware that he was very, very warm. And comfy. And, oh my God, were those silk pillows?
Also, something was bleeping. Loudly.
“Turn that fucking thing off,” Tony mumbled into Steve’s shoulder.
Steve reached over to grab his phone from the bedside table, turning the alarm off and – wait. Tony?
Tony’s hand tightened on his arm. He didn’t move his face from Steve’s shoulder. Steve had to admit he didn’t really want to move, either, but still. Tony.
He was in a bed. With Tony. He dimly recalled stumbling into Tony’s bedroom around 2AM, Tony sobering up and in a shitty mood, Steve a little too sober and genuinely tired right down to the bone. Tony pulling him into bed, falling asleep on him, and Steve feeling too guilty – or comfortable, whatever, okay? – to move.
“Can you please have you mini freak out in a few hours?” Tony grumbled into Steve’s shoulder. “Some of us like to have our panic attacks at reasonable hours.”
Steve looked at Tony a little wondrously. “You’re still here.”
“Yes, well,” Tony said, sounding a little offended, “this is my house, after all.” He opened one eye to peer at Steve. “Told you I wouldn’t regret anything,” he said, a little too smugly.
Steve rolled his eyes, biting back a smile. It didn’t really work. Tony saw this and grinned, pressing his lips gently to the corner of Steve’s jaw, his breath warm against Steve’s neck. “I think we should go out,” Tony whispered, like a secret.
Steve laughed. “That’s cute, Tony,” he teased.
Tony rolled onto his back and said, grumpily, “Fine. Let’s have great sex and go out to the movies and be that annoying couple that whispers sappy things to each other the whole movie and pisses off the whole theatre and doesn’t even give a shit, anyway.”
Steve’s laughter shook the whole bed. “Sounds perfect,” he said honestly. Tony turned so that his head was once again buried in Steve’s shoulder.
“Okay,” Tony said, his smile growing against Steve’s neck. And then, “Now, go back to sleep, for fuck’s sake, it’s far too early for human interaction.”
“You’ve been interacting with me for the last five minutes,” Steve pointed out.
“Yeah, well,” Tony said, and his voice was full of warmth. “That’s you.”
Steve grinned at the ceiling. “You’re adorable,” he murmured into Tony’s hair.
He was answered by a soft snore.