She’s not coming.
Tony focuses harder on the paper napkin he has been slowly and systematically shredding for the better part of the last half hour. The previous napkin sits as a pile of confetti to the right of his four empty waters; the napkin before that, to the left. He doesn’t want to think about how long he’s been sitting here, how Pepper saw his latest post-breakup text/plea to take him back and decided not to come. He’s managed to not cry so far, which is good, because he is a grown ass man and he shouldn’t be crying in public, but the people at the nearby tables are starting to give him these awful sympathetic glances and the waitress is going to hysterical lengths to avoid walking by his table.
He scrolls through the last few texts he’s sent to Pepper.
oh my god is this for real are we broken up
pepper I’m so sorry for whatever I did please don’t break up with me please
im so sorry
its been a week and I miss you
I still miss you and I’m sorry
I’ll be at the Olive Garden tonight at 7 for dinner- not a date. If we could just talk. Please.
Yeah, he didn’t really blame her for not showing up. He probably wouldn’t either, in her place. But he was just so desperate to talk to her, to see her-
“Hey, baby, sorry I’m late.”
A tall blond stranger built like Adonis slides into the seat next to him. The elderly couple who have been eyeing him with sympathy for the past hour suddenly screw up their faces in disgust. This may or may not motivate Tony to go along with it.
“Just go with it,” the guy whispers. “Whoever stood you up is being pretty awful, I gotta say.”
Tony affixes a smile to his face. “I was starting to worry.”
“Yeah, traffic was hell,” the stranger said. “And because you changed your number yesterday and forgot to tell me the new one, I couldn’t text you. Here, put it in now.” He slides his phone across the table and Tony enters in his number under Tony Stark (the stood-up sap from The Olive Garden).
“Here you go,” Tony says, sliding it back. “Text me to make sure it works?”
The guy taps expertly at his phone, saying, “Okay, here we go…”
Tony’s phone pings and a text floats to the top.
Hi, I’m Steve. I was about to third-wheel with my friends a few tables down when I realized I could come over here and save you. Sorry if you’re not gay but I thought this was better than remaining solo.
Tony laughed. “Oh, Steve, you always know how to make me laugh.” Not gay, but I am bi, so this works out fine. Which couple is your friends?
“I’m glad I showed up when I did- those lovely ladies at that table two rows down are starting to eye you a little bit.” Steve gestures towards a snickering couple who must be his friends: a curvy brunette woman with bright red lipstick and a blonde still in a waitress’s uniform for a different restaurant. “And you know how jealous I can get.”
Tony rolls his eyes. “Eh, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“That I don’t,” Steve replies. How did you end up here on your own?
Bad breakup. I invited my ex here tonight to try and talk things out but apparently she doesn’t even want to see me. “The waitress was starting to avoid me last I saw, so we might have to wait a- oh my God.”
The last was because Steve put one hand up with a friendly grin, and Tony’s waitress materialized out of nowhere, ready to take their order. “Hi, sorry I’m so late. I think I’ll have the spaghetti with meatballs. Tony?”
“I’ll have the gnocchi,” Tony says without really thinking about it, and hands the waitress their menus.
“Look at you, being all fancy with your gnocchi,” Steve replies. Did she say she would come by?
Tony laughs. “Oh, that pronunciation was terrible. Clearly, you don’t have any Italian blood in you.” No, she hasn’t said a word to me in two weeks and we’d been together for three years, and then she dumped me out of nowhere.
“Nope, no Italian. Mostly just Irish, but if we’re being entirely honest, I’m an American mutt through and through,” Steve says. That’s rough. Is it okay that I came and sat with you?
Tony pushes his piles of shredded napkin together. “Yeah, yeah. Look what I did while I was waiting for you. Confetti!” Yes. It was probably very necessary.
“I’m proud of you,” Steve replies dryly, before his phone buzzes with a text that isn’t from Tony. He blushes bright crimson (and Tony is briefly distracted because hot damn he didn’t have a blush kink until just now) and whips his head around to glare at his friends a few rows down. The brunette gives him a broad smile and a wink, while the blonde gives him two thumbs up. He shakes his head, still blushing, and turns back to Tony.
Okay what did she text you
Instead of typing out a reply, Steve screenshots a picture of her text and sends it to Tony. She’s in his phone as Peggy’s Better Half and apparently said “if you do not get that boy’s number and climb him like a tree we’re offering him a threesome to which you are not invited”. Tony barks out a laugh against his will. “Okay, which is which?” he asks, abandoning their previous separation of text and speech. “Peggy and her better half?”
“The better half, Angie, is blonde, and Peggy is brunette,” Steve says, “And they’re both terrible.”
Tony peers over at their table. They’ve abandoned even the pretense of not paying attention to them, bringing both of their chairs to the same side of their table to watch the proceedings with avid interest. Peggy salutes him, and Angie waves. He waves back, a little tentatively, and turns back to Steve. “Are you usually invited to their threesomes?” Tony asks.
Steve’s blush, if possible, deepens. “I- I don’t- I’m not even-“
“So that’s a no,” Tony says. “They seem awesome, though, if a bit intense.”
“Yeah. Should I be pretending I don’t know them, to keep pretending you and I are dating?” Steve asks in a whisper.
Tony whispers back, “Up to you.”
Yeah, they’re the best. Peg and I have been friends for years, and when she started dating Angie she sort of became my next best friend by proxy. “So, honey, how was your day?” Steve asks.
“Pretty good,” Tony said, “I didn’t blow up my house and I only punched a hole in two walls.” See, my best friend is aggressively single and heterosexual. Sometimes I forget heterosexuals actually exist, you know?
Color drains from Steve’s face. “Are you joking?” Our group has the Token Straight Friend too, but Nat- she’s another friend, she’s aro/ace- swears he’s crushing on me, but he swears he’s straight, so no one knows what to think.
“No. I’d tell you if I blew up the house doing research and development for the government,” Tony says, “If only for the horrified pity kisses.” He is prey. The non-heterosexuals have him cornered and he is becoming one of them.
You are the most interesting person I’ve met in the last year. “Well, I guess I have to take my small mercies where I can find them,” Steve says in a slightly strangled voice. “No explosions. Um, thank goodness. Did your holes in the wall at least do anything productive?”
“Nah, the renewable energy source is still evading me,” Tony says, “But I’ve still got some intact walls, so there’s always tomorrow.” Seeing as the competition appears to include Peggy/Angie, that is the best compliment I’ve received in the last year. He’s surprised how honest that text is- shouldn’t the best compliment have come from his ex-girlfriend?
Angie is a close second, but then again, she doesn’t say we’ve cornered heterosexuals or failed to blow up her house. “Always tomorrow,” Steve says. “Hey, can you promise me your house isn’t going to explode tomorrow?”
“Not if you want a promise that’s going to be kept,” Tony replies. Look heterosexual conversion is a part of the Bisexual Agenda, keep up :)
I’m bi and I’ve never heard of this! “Oh, sweet Lord. Just try not to die on me, okay?”
Wow your initiation ritual clearly skipped a few steps. Did you even slaughter the sacrificial goat? “I always try, but I don’t always succeed.”
“Oh, so you’ve died before?” Steve peeks at his phone under the table and laughs in spite of himself.
“Are you texting your side ho?” Tony asks, deadpan.
Steve’s head thunks dully against the table. “What is even happening to me right now,” he asks.
Peggy and Angie applaud from their table, giggling like schoolgirls. Tony shoots them a wide grin- he loves playing to an audience. “Look, you’re the one who agreed to go out with me,” Tony says. “This is what you signed up for.” I’d say I’m sorry but I’m not.
Don’t be sorry, this is the hardest I’ve laughed in weeks. “That is very true,” Steve says, wiping tears of mirth from under his eyes. “I should have expected this.”
“Damn straight,” Tony replies. Me too. Clearly, I need to update my friend roster if no one’s making me laugh so hard I cry.
Your ex never made you laugh so hard you cried? “I guess I’m still learning what to expect out of you,” Steve says. “I think the answer is ‘the unexpected’.”
“Well, once you expect the unexpected, what you once expected will be unexpected and I will continue to surprise,” Tony says. … let’s not talk about her, okay?
Of course. I’m sorry. There was an emoji of a puppy at the very end of his message, which made Tony smile. “I… don’t think I followed that last bit,” Steve says.
“Welcome to the Tony Stark Experience,” Tony says. “And by that, I mean I get that a lot. The people not really understanding me thing.” Blah, no, don’t be sorry or whatever, I’m being dumb.
You’re not dumb. Steve casually takes his hand from across the table. “Well, I guess they’re not putting in enough effort to try.”
Tony can’t text back with one of his hands held captive, but he’s not about to move it, so he shelves the text conversation for now and continues pretending like he’s dating this adorable oversized golden retriever of a human being. “Oh, did I tell you about the time our Token Heterosexual Rhodey got so confused by me he peed himself?”
“I have not heard this story, no,” Steve said, leaning forward a little to rest his chin on his hands. “Tell me a story.”
The rest of dinner progresses in much the same fashion, with periodic interruptions from Peggy and Angie via text or big thumbs-ups. Tony orders dessert just to keep Steve around a little longer, and they dawdle over the chocolate lava cake as they chat.
“I’m just saying, from what you’ve told me, I think Natasha could take Rhodey in a fight, just saying,” Steve says.
“Okay, yes, Natasha is probably secretly a ninja assassin who could take any of us, but I’m saying if it was a melee brawl, your friend circle against mine, I think mine would win,” Tony says. “You’re not listening.”
Steve scoffs and shaves off a tiny amount of cake. “I don’t know, I think we have you in numbers alone. We have an army.”
“We have a Bruce,” Tony retorts.
“Are we going to keep cutting this in half until we reach an atomic level, or is one of us going to actually finish it?” Steve asks.
Tony bursts out laughing. “You were cutting it in half too?”
“It’s good manners!” Steve says defensively, but almost immediately dissolves into laughter.
Later, when pressed, neither of them could say exactly what was so funny, but in that moment, they both sprawled against the table, laughing so hard they could barely breathe. Tony’s stomach started to hurt, he laughed that hard.
“Steven?” a feminine voice with a British accent says from beside their table. Steve manages to pull himself together enough to look up. “Angie and I are going to go and leave you with your new friend here- hello, I’m Peggy Carter and this is Angela Martinelli, it’s a pleasure to meet you. You have cab fare to get home?”
Tony forces himself to say through guffaws, “I can drive him.”
“Wonderful. Well, have a good night, Steve, Steve’s friend,” Peggy says.
“Use protection!” her girlfriend adds, before she follows Peggy out of the restaurant.
Tony looks at Steve and realizes he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to shave the dessert into finer and finer halves to keep talking to him; he wants to never pay the bill so they can stay in the restaurant forever; he wants to put his theoretical self-sustaining energy source into his phone so he can always be texting this person.
This is probably the rebound talking.
Tony doesn’t care.
“Want to go for a coffee or something? Tony asks.
Steve twists his mouth to one side. “It’s kind of late for coffee. It’s… oh, good Lord, it’s already ten-thirty.”
“I didn’t mean now,” Tony says.
Slowly, amazingly, a smile spreads across Steve’s face.