Tony was home early for once. Steve usually got home from volunteering before Tony was, as he put it, "released from the claws of the Great and Terrible Pepper Potts," (he never put it this way in earshot of her, obviously, he's still alive). It was the Friday before a long weekend and everyone else got to clock out early, why not the CEO?
Tony relieved Natasha of her post and handed her a few bills. Clint asked if she could stay for dinner, as usual, and the answer was yes, as usual. Tony emptied his pockets onto the counter and squinted at the meticulously planned calendar Steve had put up on the fridge. Thor wouldn't be home from cross-country practice until 4:45 at the earliest, best to start dinner at 4:30, then.
Tony shook off his jacket and tie as he had one of those frequent miniature surreal moments, where he couldn't believe his life now involved paying babysitters and planning around scheduled meals. Steve came into the kitchen just then, so quietly that Tony wouldn't have known except for Clint's crowing of "Dad!" Steve stopped briefly to tousle the eight-year-old's hair, but said nothing.
Steve came up beside Tony, who was still shedding his business skin onto the counter and the floor. "Hey. Bit late today, huh?" Tony twisted around to prop his hip against the counter and pry off his shoes. "See, this is why I tell you to take a car and not bother with the train..."
Tony trailed off when he caught the look in Steve's eyes. He'd seen it before. Anyone who didn't know Steve might mistake it for fatigue and mild frustration after a long day, but there was a withheld hardness to it. It spilled down into the set of his jaw and the stiffness in his shoulders. Tony turned the page of his photographic memory back to his glance at the calendar. Of course, Steve was helping out at the veteran's hospital today.
This had happened before. Not frequently enough that Tony would consider encouraging Steve to quit, but it was familiar. Surprisingly, Steve "The Great Communicator" Rogers (as Tony had dubbed him once or five times) never said much when these rough days happened. He had once explained quietly, that he had quit the army before he ever got hurt and he had no right to complain about some boo-hoo bad feelings. Even if those bad feelings were caused by seeing a college kid short a couple limbs. Tony had almost told him that there wasn't anything wrong with just expressing how you feel, but he thankfully bit back that giant piece of hypocrisy before it slipped out.
Tony continued removing his footwear in silence as Steve went to to emptying his own pockets, not caring about clutter on the countertop. The older man kept one eye on the kids, watching Clint slowly lead Natasha out of the room, chattering away about ninjas and jungles and treasure, all of which were apparently contained in his bedroom. Neat. Once their voices were well muffled by distance, Tony then turned to Steve.
"You look tired. Go take a nap. I'll handle dinner." Tony tapped the rhythm of his words onto Steve's arm.
"What? No," Steve rubbed a bleary eye. "I feel fine. Dinner's my job."
"Well, maybe it's time for a change." Tap tap tap.
"Tony, it's fine. Besides, you can't even make anything." Small smile, small victory.
"Hey, I take great offence to that!" Tony threw his hands up in a melodramatic gesture. "I am an adult, and I am fully capable of making a phone call to a good pizza place. How dare you say otherwise."
"My deepest apologies," Steve chuckled and then looked guilty for laughing. "But really, it's fine. I'm sure you have work to do."
"Hmm, well, picking out toppings is a very time-consuming decision," Tony stroked his beard as if in deep thought. "It'll definitely cut into my TV time. As recompense, you could give me a footrub after dinner. Yes, that's the only fair way of doing it. All in agreement, say aye."
Steve visibly relaxed and went in for a short kiss. "Aye. Just be sure to clip those talons of yours first."
"Are you insinuating something about the state of my feet, sir?" Tony raised both eyebrows, but Steve had already turned around.
"Insinuating? No, I'm merely relating the fact that you laid my ankle open last night with your big toe." Steve said over his shoulder, pointing at his sock-clad feet. "Wake me up when the pizza's here, and don't forget the garlic bread."
"Hey, I must have been doing something right last night if you're only mentioning it now, huh? Huh?" The only response an echo of laughter from down the hall. Tony smiled to himself and shook his head. "Good kid, that Rogers, but he's got no respect."