“I asked JARVIS to run some background checks and-“
Steve gritted his teeth to suppress his frustration, his grip tightening around the fork in his hand, and forced his gaze to stay solely on the lasagne that Bruce had made for them that night. He stabbed violently at the pasta and shovelled it quickly into his mouth. He tried to not listen, really didn’t want to hear Tony going on and on about Jarvis, but it was as if his ears were automatically tuned into what the billionaire said, like he didn’t want to miss anything.
He knew he shouldn’t be this…annoyed. He knew that, had told himself that a million times, but that didn’t change the fact that he was. In fact, he found it hard to suppress the strong emotion every time that name left Tony’s mouth. He had never met this Jarvis, didn’t really know much about him except that he was clearly a really important person to Tony – and perhaps that why he had just a bad reaction. Tony had very few people he really cared about – there was Pepper, of course, and Rhodey that Steve had met once, very briefly, before, and the Avengers and Coulson, but that was little more than a handful of people, and Steve never heard him talk in such fondness about anyone except Jarvis. Just once, he wished Tony would refer to Steve like that…
…But that was stupid, he reminded himself strongly. He couldn’t change Tony’s feelings for him anymore than he could go back in time and actually make that date with Peggy. It was a simple fact that he was learning to accept. And just when he thought he had finally come to terms, Tony would mention Jarvis and all those feelings would come rushing back, followed by a lot of possessive claims that always succeeded in making Steve blush red at the implications behind them.
“…so we should be set for the ambush by tomorrow morning at the earliest, I’m sure you can prepare a battle strategy within that time, right Cap?”
Steve snapped out his thoughts suddenly, raising his head and blinking out into the inquiring faces. “Huh? Oh, um, yeah, that should be enough time. I’ll start after dinner,” he added quickly, quickly refilling his mouth and averting his eyes once more.
He could feel Tony’s wondering gaze on the back of his neck, bringing a pink colour to the skin, but he pretended otherwise. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Natasha analysing him closely – probably taking in his stiff posture, the blush and coming to her own conclusions, as she had been trained. Her lips twisted into a small smirk, knowing but not bragging, and she arched one eyebrow.
Steve made a mental note that he may need to avoid one-on-one time for a little while.
“Hey Cap, what are you drawing?”
Steve jerked suddenly and violently at the voice that broke through the silence. His arms automatically moved to cover the sketch and he stared guilty up at Clint’s face. The man arched an eyebrow questioningly at him, before heading towards the fridge, grabbing one of the bottles of water. He unscrewed the cap and took a drink, his eyes watching his fellow teammate, and Steve scrambled quickly to close the sketchbook.
“N-nothing, no-one,” he quickly responded. That wasn’t necessarily true but last thing he needed was Clint knowing that he had a habit of drawing Tony when he was bored.
“Right,” Clint replied slowly, sounding unconvinced, but thankfully he didn’t press.
“So, um, you been working out?” Steve tried to change the subject, his smile shaking nervously.
“Uh, yeah, Tony had JARVIS fit in this target simulation in the gym, so I’ve been testing it for him. It’s pretty good,” Clint shrugged.
Steve scowled automatically at the name, before shaking his head and lowering his gaze to the pencil in his hand. “Ah, well, it sounds like fun.”
“You could look a little happier when you say that,” Clint retorted, amusement clear on his face. He leant over the breakfast bar, staring imploringly at Steve. “You still holding a grudge against Tony, because I thought you’d got over that.”
“What? No, it’s not Tony. I don’t have any…ill feelings towards Tony,” Steve hurriedly reassured.
“So not Tony…then, JARVIS?”
“Why would I have something against Jarvis? I don’t even know the man,” he grumbled.
“Man?” Clint looked surprised for a moment, blinking surprised at him, “Wait, JARVIS…he isn’t…God, you really don’t know do you?”
Steve huffed frustrated, something that only grew when Clint began to snicker. “Know what?”
“We’ve been living here for nearly eight months now, and Tony still hasn’t told you,” he cackled.
“Told me what?” Steve demanded.
“You’d think he would have mentioned it by now,” Clint added, although it was more as if he were talking to himself than anything else.
“Oh, just that JARVIS is very important to Tony, if you know what I mean, and I don’t understand why he hasn’t spoken to you about him yet,” Clint grinned.
“…He’s spoken to you about Jarvis, like, intimately?” Steve’s voice dropped into a whisper, as if afraid someone would overhear.
The archer snorted. “Ah, yeah, intimately, hell I’ve even met him.”
“You’ve met him?”
He gave a one-shouldered shrug and a knowing wink. “In a sense,” he responded. He clapped Steve on the shoulder, “See ya later Cap.”
Steve watched him go in silence and tried to ignore the pained feeling that welled in the centre of his chest, something that was almost suffocating, and he had to release a shuddered breath in an attempt to lift it. Why hadn’t Tony spoken to Steve about Jarvis? When they had spoken before, had finally cleared the air, spoken about their private thoughts and feelings in a way that Steve hadn’t done with another person before, not even Bucky, Tony had said that he felt comfortable talking to Steve. “Probably the safest I’ve felt in a while,” he had said – so why would Tony chose to speak to Clint about Jarvis instead? He tried to ignore how much that hurt.
Opening the sketch book, he stared down into the half finished pencil drawing of the man. The end of his index finger traced the length of the lightly drawn smile. At the time, he had thought it was something especially for him, that open look on his face, but maybe he wasn’t the only one. Maybe Clint had seen it too, maybe even Jarvis…
Steve sighed with heavy defeat and closed the notebook, taking a few minutes to compose himself before he had to face the Avengers once more.
Natasha had this innate ability to be able to get around without anyone around her noticing. Although useful on the field, a frustrating disadvantage when someone was trying to avoid her. Steve knew he couldn’t do it much longer – hell, it was possible that he had never been able to do it, and she’d always just been watching him secretly from the darkened corners of the room – but he had hoped for at least a few more days before she would confront him.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have luck on his side.
He’d stepped into his bedroom, fully prepared to take a shower after a long workout with his punching bags, when the door swung shut behind him with an almost deafening click and when he turned, Natasha was leant against it. Her arms were folded across her chest and her body had fallen into a stance that showed she meant business. Of course, that could only be bad news for him.
Steve smiled nervously in greeting, pulling slightly on the ends of the towel that he had thrown around his neck. “Tasha, what are…um, I was j-just going to take a shower,” he took a halted step back.
“That can wait for now,” she replied after a moment, pushing herself off the door and took calculated steps closer to him. His eyes darted between the approaching woman and his only means of escape – she had strategically placed herself in the way, blocking his path.
“Um, I’m not sure I can. I mean, I’m sweating and my clothes are dirty. I-I really should shower, don’t want to, um-“
“Steve, sit,” she ordered, interrupting his ramblings.
“Uh, um, y-y-okay,” he stuttered, dropping onto the edge of his bed.
“Answer me this, and I’ll know if you’re lying,” Natasha started, “Why have you been avoiding me? Or, even more importantly, why have you been avoiding Tony?”
“…Do I have to answer both questions?” he questioned, hopefully.
She shrugged. “Well, that would be the smart choice.”
Steve sighed, his shoulders slumping forward. “I’m not…I mean, I didn’t mean to…” He struggled to find a way to explain it. Because he hadn’t meant to avoid Tony – in fact, that was probably the last thing that he wanted to do. But after everything he had been feeling and after that encounter with Clint, he wasn’t sure whether he could face him anymore. Seeing Tony reminded him of Jarvis and Clint’s words, and that he hadn’t told him about Jarvis or how important he was, despite everything, and it just brought his uncomfortable weight to his chest that made it difficult to think of anything else. And of course, he didn’t want to tell Natasha that. Despite the fact they had gotten really close since the Avengers had officially moved in together, and that Steve was about 95% sure that she already knew about his feelings about Tony, he really didn’t want to mention it.
“Has it got something to do with JARVIS?” Natasha pressed after a moment of silence.
Steve’s shoulders tensed. “…Maybe.”
“Clint told me all about it, the talk he had with you about JARVIS and Tony,” she continued, taking a seat in the free space beside him. “You know that he didn’t tell you everything right? That he wanted to mess with you for a little bit longer?”
“Mess with me?” Steve repeated, looking up with a slight frown.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already kicked his ass for you,” Natasha assured with a self-satisfied smirk that she didn’t even try to hide, “What he said about Tony and JARVIS…it’s not the whole picture. Tony should have told you sooner than this.”
“Told me what?” he questioned with a sigh.
She set her lips into a line, a thoughtful look on her face, as if she were debating whether or not she should say anything. Eventually, she sighed quietly. “You need to talk to Tony. I shouldn’t be the one to explain this to you, he should be.”
“Speak to Tony, Steve, as soon as possible, okay?” she cut him off with a firm look.
He huffed out tiredly. “Yeah…yeah, sure, I’ll speak to Tony.”
It took him a week or so to gather the courage to seek Tony out. He did try, he did, but someone would always walk into the room at the wrong time or his panic would set in and he’d blurt out something ridiculously stupid that left Tony looking at him like he’d been dropped on his head a few thousand times as a baby. But now, today, was the perfect time.
Clint was spending the week with Coulson, who had just recovered from his injury and was taking some vacation time to spend with his husband. Natasha and Bruce were in Calcutta, helping the sick children as Bruce had done every season since he had begun living at the Avengers Mansion, and his girlfriend had decided to accompany him. She didn’t say it but Steve was sure she felt that she could try and make up for the darkness in her past. Thor had decided to take Jane on a trip to Asgard, to meet his parents, which was even more essential now that Miss. Foster was carrying a little god baby. So that just left him and Tony in the Mansion. No chances of interruptions, a chance to find out the truth.
He took in a shaky breath in a vain attempt to calm himself and pushed open the door to the lab. The music, which was muted by the soundproof glass, met him with a sudden thud and his heartbeat escalated in his chest. His ears rang and he rubbed them to try to fend off the annoying sound. Across from him, Tony was working on a vintage motorcycle, his back facing towards him. Steve opened his mouth, hoping that maybe he could shout across the music to get his attention, when it lowered dramatically. Tony jerked, shocked by the sudden drop in music. “What the-“he started but the rest of his sentence dropped off when he caught sight of Steve standing across from him. He smiled widely. “Steve, what are you doing down here?”
“I, uh, um, I…” he stumbled over his words. He sighed and squared his shoulders, looking the other man in the eye. “Tony, I need to talk to you. T-Tasha said I should talk to you…a-about Jarvis.”
He tilted his head in confusion. “JARVIS? What about JARVIS?”
“I don’t know who he is,” Steve blurted out, “I mean, you always talk about him and clearly he’s a really resourceful man, but I’ve never met him a-and I’ve met everyone that’s important to you a-and you haven’t spoken to me about him, at all, but you have with Clint. Not that I’m say that you can’t talk to Clint, of course you can, but you said that you could talk to me about anything so-so I don’t understand why not him. I’m, uh, g-good at relationship advice; I used to do that a lot before the serum, so I could help, if that’s what you’re worried about and, um…”
“One minute,” Tony peered at him confused, cleaning his grease stained hands on a greyed rag that was resting on his worktop, “This is about JARVIS. I don’t…relationship advice? Really Cap, I don’t underst-“
“And I don’t like it when you call me Cap,” he interrupted, the words seeming unable to stop following now that the flood gates had been opened, “Cap makes it sounds like we’re working, o-or that I’m nothing more than a work colleague to you and I don’t want to be. I want you to call me Steve.”
“Okay, Steve,” he said slowly, “I still don’t-“
“Because I like you, a lot, and I thought we were getting somewhere – you know, we’re not arguing as much anymore and we’re actually having real conversations, a-and you said you felt safe with me – and then Jarvis shows up and you’re always talking about him, and you don’t want to talk to me about it. B-but if you really liked him and needed someone to talk to, I promise I wouldn’t let my feelings get in the way because I only want you to be happy and…” his words trailed off as he took in a shuddered breath.
Then there was a voice, polite and clear, far above him that made him jump, his head snapping upwards violently to search for the source. His body lowered, as if prepared to strike out in case of enemy attack.
“Captain Rogers, I do believe I should inform you that Mr. Stark and I do not have that kind of relationship.”
At the words, his body faltered in its stance and he glanced towards Tony, his expression a mixture of alarm and confusion. Tony was staring at him, his expression blank, giving him no insight into what the other man was thinking. When he spoke, it was quiet and monotone.
“Steve, meet JARVIS, the AI I invented when I was teenager and build into pretty much everything I own, from the Tower to our phones.”
“An AI?” he repeated.
“Artificial Intelligence,” Tony explained, “JARVIS is a computer. JARVIS stands for ‘Just Another Really Very Intelligent System’.”
“Oh,” his arms lowered and his back straightened. Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with how stupid he had been, jealous over a machine. He felt a well of hurt inside of him – why had no one told him? Why had Tony kept it from him, to the point where he rushed down there and blurted out that he…oh. He flushed pink and refused to meet the eyes of the other man. He took a shuffled step backwards.
“Okay, I understand now. I-I, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have, um, jumped to conclusions like that a-and interrupted you while you were clearly working, um…”
Tony took a few steps forward. His voice was insistent, assuring, with an edge of panic that almost made Steve stop in his tracks. “I was going to tell you Steve, I promise. But I wasn’t sure how you would react to JARVIS and, um, I don’t know, I guess I kept putting it off. I shouldn’t have and I’m so-“
“Don’t apologise. It’s nothing, really, I understand, I think,” Steve interrupted. He forced a smile, one that he was sure caused more worry than assurance, “So, um, I’m going to go upstairs now and pretend that I didn’t say anything about liking you o-or being jealous of...of JARVIS, a-and um, yeah, we can pretend this never happened…”
“No, Steve, I-“Tony tried to speak but Steve had already disappeared beyond the shutting door. He sighed heavily; head bowed and rested one hand on the edge of the desk beside him for balance. He ran a hand over his face tiredly and moved to return to his work.
“Sir, might I suggest that you follow Captain Rogers?” JARVIS elected.
“JARVIS, the man just…” Tony trailed off with a sigh.
“I am aware of that sir, and I believe that the erratic beating of your heart, your blown pupils and the blood that had just rushed beneath your skin are all signs that Captain Rogers attraction is reciprocated.”
Tony gapped for a moment, his mouth opening and closing as he searched for a suitable response. Eventually, he sighed in defeat. “Fuck it,” he muttered to himself as he threw the dirtied cloth onto the table and began a hurried search for the blond solider.
God, he didn’t think he’d ever been so embarrassed. With a loud groan, Steve buried his face into his pillow. Usually, he would head to the gym to punch out his frustrations in a punching bag, but right now, all he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and wallow in self-pity. It was times like this that Steve wished Natasha wasn’t so far away – she had a habit of bringing strawberry ice cream and the Wizard of Oz when he was feeling this down.
He must have looked like an complete idiot to Tony, not only admitting that he might – okay, definitely had feelings for him, but announcing that he was envious of an AI, a computer, not a man like he was led to believe. Once again, he groaned, the noise muffled by the fabric. Silently, he prayed that the ground would swallow him up whole and he would never have to face Tony again after this.
Of course, he wasn’t that lucky.
The door swung open suddenly and violently, the wood ricocheting against the wall with a resounded smack. Steve jerked violently at the noise, releasing a less than manly squeak and fell off the edge of the bed.
“Shit Steve, are you okay?” Tony’s voice could be heard above him, panic and concern settled into his tone.
Rubbing his head where he hit it on the bedside table and suppressing a wince, he inclined his head upward slightly. The man must have thrown himself over the bed in his hurry to reach him because he was lying across the once neatly folded sheets, gripping the ends of the mattress. Steve flushed as he remembered what had happened and ducked his head.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he responded, standing up at a speed that made his injury head spin, although he refused to let it show, “Why are you here?”
“Well, um, you left before I could say anything…” Tony said softly, pushing himself up so he sat on his legs in the centre of the bed. He scratched the back of his head awkwardly.
“You…you don’t need to say anything Tony, really,” Steve assured. The last thing he needed was Tony telling him that he didn’t feel the same. At least the lack of words gave him so hope.
“No, but I want to,” Tony told him firmly. “You…I…I don’t…I’ve never…oh fuck it! Come here!”
Steve didn’t have time to react before warm hands had cupped around his cheeks and lips were pressed against his. He froze for a full minute, his mind going momentarily blank before one voice regained enough sense to shout at him to pay attention, and his lips twitched against the pressure. They parted, his breath came out shuddered with pleasure and surprise, and Tony flicked his tongue across his bottom lip. The noise released was a whimper, encouraging more, but Tony didn’t follow through. He just placed a final chaste kiss before pulling back slightly to examine the flutter of eyelids and the faint flush that had crossed Steve’s cheeks.
“Oh,” was the first thing that Steve could think to say.
Tony laughed, his voice a little husky, and smirked at him. “Yeah, oh.”
“And, uh, how long have you wanted to do that?”
“Since I met you,” he shrugged, “I thought it might shut you up. I see I was right.”
“So you’re saying all this time, we could have been doing more of….of that?”
“Probably, but we can make up for lost time now.”
“I’ll hold you to that, Mr. Stark.”
“Tony. For you, I’m always Tony.”