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Texts of Art

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It wouldn’t look good if I hid in the bathroom, would it? Steve typed as he peered around one of the art gallery’s pillars. He had to admit, Howard had been very clever in his choice of venue for Steve’s official meeting with his son. For a month Howard had been dropping hints about his son in an attempt to get Steve to go out with the guy.

The matchmaking attempt was made more awkward by the fact that Howard was technically Steve’s boss.

How does one go about telling their boss that they are not interested in dating said boss’ kid? Especially when said boss talked about his son like the guy was the most amazing person in the world.

It made Steve wonder why on earth Howard would deem Steve “worthy” of his son. Hell, Steve was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that for over year he had been part of Stark Industries’ security team—never once meeting Howard Stark himself—and about two months ago Howard had demanded for Steve by name as an escort. Since then Howard always requested his presence.

Steve’s phone chimed as a text came in. He opened the message and smiled as he read it.

I’m sure you could sell it. Say you were helping someone hold back their hair as they puked in the toilets.

That sounds very believable.

Do I detect sass in that last text? Oh, Steve, you are not going to make it through the night if the sass is already out.

Steve chuckled and typed another response. Also, around two months ago he’d made the acquaintance of a guy named Tony. That night they’d had a few drinks, which led to a couple of heavy make out sessions that Steve suspected might have gone a little further if Tony’s cell phone hadn’t gone off during the last one. They had exchanged numbers and been texting ever since.

They’d only managed to meet up for coffee three times, but so far Steve liked the relationship. He had no idea where it was going, but he liked it. Plus, it was fun sending Tony random messages and seeing how Tony responded. He almost always had a witty remark for Steve.

Steve’s phone chimed again, and he answered it as he strolled over to the refreshment table to get something to drink—keeping an eye out for Howard.

Great. I get dragged out to one of these boring events, and now the man who dragged me along has run off to find some associate he’s been bragging about all week.

Steve frowned at the text. He poured himself a cup of punch then typed: What kind of event?

Does it matter?

I might be able to help you find entertainment if I know what it is.

Your sweet, precious texts are already doing that, babe. The only thing that would make this better is if you sent me a few photos …if you know what I mean.

Smooth. Steve rolled his eyes.

Only for you.

Steve snickered. He wandered around the gallery and snapped a photo of one of the paintings.

Got a special treat for you, Steve sent as a precursor. When he felt enough time had suitably passed that Tony was well teased and tempted, he sent another text with the photo.

It took five seconds for Tony to reply. That is not what I meant. Also, I’ve already seen enough of that crap artist’s work tonight.

Steve paused as he reread the text.

It was…odd. What were the chances that he and Tony would be looking at the same artist’s works that night? The artist wasn’t even well-known yet. This was their biggest showing in their career so far.

Before Steve could think on it more, his phone chimed again. Steve opened the new text message and flushed at the picture Tony had sent him.

Tony was very clearly lying on his bed in the photo. The buttons of his shirt were popped open and his tie hung loosely around his neck. Tony winked at the camera, enjoying himself far too much in the photo.

A new message from Tony broke Steve out of his reverie.

This is what I meant.

Sorry, but I’m in public and I don’t have any photos like that saved on my phone.

A new message from Tony popped up, but just as Steve moved to open it, a hand settled on his shoulder. It was Howard. Steve still had his back to the man and there were no clues to give away the man’s identity, but Steve knew. He knew down to his core that Howard had finally found him.

Steve steeled himself for the awkward evening that was to come and turned, giving Howard his best smile. “Howard, there you are. How are you doing?”

“I’ve been looking for you all evening.” Howard didn’t waste time, and yanked Steve off in a different direction. “It’s time you meet my son Anthony.”

“I’m sure Anthony has better things to do than meet a nobody like me,” Steve tried one last time.

Howard waved off his comment. “Nonsense. There he is now. Anthony!”

A familiar set of shoulders bunched together. An equally familiar dark head of hair turned, and Steve was greeted by Tony’s face.

Steve stopped in the middle of the gallery.

Tony’s eyes widened.

Howard smirked and shoved Steve toward Tony. “I believe you two informally met about two months ago, so let’s make this formal.” He cleared his throat and gestured to Steve. “Anthony, this is Steve Rogers. He works in the security department at Stark Industries. He has excelled at every task given to him so far. Originally from Brooklyn. He spent six years in the military and was praised by all of his commanding officers. No criminal record. Known for his stubborn streak. Also, he apparently does not research his employers because he had no idea who you were.”

Steve gaped at Howard’s slew of information then snapped his mouth shut when Howard turned on him and gestured to Tony. “Anthony Edward Stark. My son and heir of Stark Industries. One of the smartest people you will ever know, Rogers. He has already created several AI units. Although he does waste his talents by partying too much.” Howard gave Tony a pointed look.

Grinning like a shark, Howard snatched a drink from some poor passing girl’s hands and chugged it down. “You two now officially have my permission to date. Don’t break each others' hearts or I will make your lives miserable.” He strolled off, a bounce to his step.

Tony and Steve stared at each other in bewilderment.

“Did that really just happen?” Tony asked.

“Unless you know of a way we could both hallucinate the same thing, yes.”

“Actually, I do, but that’s neither here nor there.” Tony sauntered over to Steve. “So it looks like my father background checked you.” Tony leaned in close and fiddled with the top button of Steve’s shirt. “Normally, I make a point of not doing as he says, but I think I could make an exception.”

Steve hummed noncommittally, but smiled, enjoying the physical contact and Tony’s playfulness.

Tony undid the top two buttons of Steve’s shirt. “So how about we work on adding some new pictures to your phone?”