When Tony woke up, he immediately noticed two things.
First he realized, with a rather animated groan, that his head was throbbing with the kind of pain that told him that he had one (or four) too many drinks the night before. It also meant he had probably thrown up somewhere inappropriate at some point during the night. It wasn't exactly surprising; he'd woken up feeling like this many times before. However, it was a bit disconcerting, considering that when he strained to remember the actual events of the night before, he could hardly remember much more than blurry remnants of memories. The faint memory of people crowded around him echoed vaguely in the back of his mind, loud voices ringing in his ears, a sharp pain in his knee where he must've fallen at some point. Unfortunately, he couldn't recall much more than that.
The second, and more surprising thing, was that he was mysteriously comfortable and warm. He was in a bed, and it only took minimal amount of wiggling to figure out that he was in said bed alone. This was surprising because the killer headache and the acrid, lingering taste of alcohol on his breath was usually accompanied by him either waking up to being shooed out of someone's bed, or finding himself lying somewhere hard, cold, and less than comfortable. Kitchen floors had become a subconscious favourite of his.
Despite all of that, he was currently very warm, unbelievably so, and he was tucked into this bed with the blankets wrapped tightly around him.
He figured that the only logical explanation was that for once he'd managed to make his way back to his dorm room, like a normal person would, and had thrown himself into his bed and fallen asleep. Hardly an unusual assessment.
So, with that thought, he wiggled again, nestling further under the blankets, and decided that it was okay to go back to sleep.
He frowned when the sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted him.
Tony groaned again and buried his face in the pillow. So he wasn’t alone, then.
"Whatdayah want," he slurred, his voice muffled. "'m sleepin'.
There was an amused snort at Tony's protest. "I really think you’re gonna want to wake up for this."
Tony grunted irritably, lifted his head slightly and risked peeking one eye open. He just barely bit back a pained whimper when he did. The reason for the smothered whimper was only half because of the blinding brightness of the room.
Tall, blonde and gorgeous was staring down at him with an expression that was both curious and amused, blue eyes twinkling and a faint smile playing around the corners of his lips. He was wearing plaid pajama pants and a tank top that was far too tight for Tony's sanity, because it showed off the sculpted lines of his arm and the firm definition of his muscles. If it weren't for the headache throbbing just behind his eyes, Tony would have assumed that he was dreaming, because the guy looked like he had stepped off of the page of an underwear advertisement.
In Tony's hungover and sleep deprived state, his mouth decided to speak before his mind had time to catch up, and all that came out was "muscles," in a strangled voice.
Muscles blinked. "What?"
Tony groaned. "Nothing. I'm too hungover for this."
"I'm actually not all that surprised," he said dryly.
"Hilarious," Tony grumbled. He stubbornly kept his eyes shut and threw the blankets back over his head. "Now shh, I'm sleeping. Just don’t steal Rhodey’s stuff okay? He’s still mad about the watch incident."
“Shhh,” Tony interrupted, burrowing even deeper into the sinfully comfortable bed. “Sleepin’.”
Muscles snorted. "Right, by all means. Don't let me disturb you."
"Thanks," Tony grunted, his voice muffled from the comforter.
The guy chuckled. It was a nice sound, Tony thought. "I'm going to go ahead and assume that you're not exactly a morning person, huh?"
"Right," he said knowingly. Tony thought that he might even sound a little bit smug. "Because I can't think of any other reason why you'd be completely unconcerned by the fact that you're inexplicably in a stranger’s room, in a strange bed."
That made Tony open his eyes again. Somewhat groggily, of course, but still. He was instantly a little bit more alert. Slowly, he peeled the blanket off of his head and looked across the room to find the blond staring down at him, faint amusement and confusion glinting in his eyes.
"Shit," Tony announced.
"Yeah," the guy nodded in agreement. "Shit."
Tony groaned loudly.
"Hey, don't sweat it," Muscles said amiably, hunching one shoulder. "I'm sure waking up in a stranger's dorm room without said stranger knowing anything about it happens all the time."
"No it doesn't," Tony grumbled. He grimaced as he struggled into a seated position; there were aches throbbing in his muscles, faint pain radiating all over his body. Whatever he’d gotten up to last night hadn’t been kind to his physical wellbeing.
"No," Muscles agreed. "It doesn't."
"Why the hell is it so bright in here?” Tony grumbled grumpily, and he knew he was being difficult but he was just so tired and everything hurt. He jammed the heels of his hands to his eyes, effectively blocking out the invasive light that was piercing his eyes. “Your lights are going to fry my eyeballs out of my head."
"The lights aren't on," the guy informed him, and then there was the sound of feet shuffling across the room, followed by what sounded like curtains being yanked shut. The aggressively bright light died down a little bit, to Tony's relief, so he felt safe enough to crack his eyelids open again. "That would be the sun, that glowing orb in the sky that shows up every morning."
Tony scrunched up his nose petulantly. "Sarcastic little shit, aren't you?"
Muscles laughed. "Are you really calling the strange guy whose room you woke up in a 'little shit'? I could be an axe murderer."
"Well if you were an axe murderer, you'd probably kill me whether or not I called you names," Tony shot back. Muscles sat down on the bed on the other side of the room and crossed his arms over his chest. He was shaking his head, but he still looked vaguely amused by Tony. Well, thankfully he wasn't pissed, at least. Tony's head hurt way too much to have to deal with that, even though he knew he most certainly deserved it. This guy was being incredibly nice for someone who had every right to be yelling and chasing Tony from the room.
Tony shifted into a cross legged position and scrubbed at his eyes with the knuckles of his hands. God his head ached. What he wouldn't do to have coffee appear in his hands at this exact moment. "How did I even get in here?"
One of the guy's brows raised at Tony's question. "Well, I was asleep so I was hoping that you could tell me that. The window was open when I woke up though, so I'm thinking that's our best bet."
"Shit," Tony winced. Realization washed over him like a wave; that's why his knee hurt. The vague memory of stumbling around the back of the dorm building in the dark came back to him. He could just barely remember clinging to the ledge of one of the first storey windows and smacking his knee against solid brick as he struggled to open the window, which was no easy feat. "I forgot my key card."
Muscles just looked at him expectantly, as if to say go on.
"Well, I had to get into my room somehow," Tony explained. "It was the middle of the night and Rhodey wasn't answering his phone so I didn't know where he’d hidden the spare, so I decided that it would be a good idea to climb in through the window of what I thought was my dorm room."
"What room number are you?"
"12 F," Muscles informed him with a wry twist of his lips. "You're on the wrong side of the building."
"Yeah well." Tony shrugged. "I'm not exactly known for my clear judgment."
"I don't know," Muscles mused. "At least you didn't wander into an axe murderer's dorm."
"I thought we established that you may or may not be an axe murderer," Tony pointed out.
Muscles grinned and stood up. "No, I think we established that I could be and that you’re lucky that I’m not."
Tony grunted and Muscles' grin grew. He found that he really liked that smile; Tony didn't think that he'd ever seen anyone smile like that, warm and friendly while still maintaining the slightest traces of a shit-eating grin.
He really, really liked that smile.
"Do you like coffee?"
Tony blinked and looked at him incredulously, eyes narrowing. "You have coffee here and it took you this long to tell me? That’s cruel. That’s probably worse than being an axe murderer."
"My apologies," Hot Guy laughed. He crossed the room to where a coffee pot sat on the counter, decrepit and looking more like an antique than something someone would use to make coffee. He poured the coffee into a mug that had ‘I ♥ birds’ emblazoned across the side. Tony's mouth watered as the scent struck his nose in a wave.
"I'm not really sure how to make coffee," Muscles told him apologetically as he placed the mug in Tony's outstretched hands. "Not really much of coffee drinker, the coffee pot is my roommate's. I had to Google how to make it. Does it taste okay?"
Tony took a huge gulp of the scalding liquid. It wasn't the best, not quite strong enough, but it wasn't bad. It was more than sufficient for the present moment.
"It's good," Tony said. "You could use some lessons, but not bad for a newbie."
"Glad to hear it," Muscles said wryly.
"Is this your roommate's mug too?" Tony held up the mug and pointed to the ‘I ♥ birds’ inscription.
Muscles chuckled. "It was a gag gift."
"Mmm," Tony hummed. He'd have to remember to ask about that when he wasn't too busy worshipping the caffeine gods. He took another sip of coffee, enjoying the pleasant burn making its way down his throat. "So, do you make every guy who breaks into your dorm room in the middle of the night coffee?"
"Only the ones who are so knocked out that they're drooling on a stranger's pillow." Muscles smirked.
"I don't drool," Tony countered, scandalized.
"Sorry to tell you, but you do." He didn't look sorry about it in the slightest.
"That," Tony said, jabbing a finger at him, "is a dirty lie. I've never drooled once in my entire life."
Muscles laughed again, which inexplicable made Tony’s chest tighten a little bit and just pulse spike for a moment. Tony was starting to feel a faint fluttering in his gut every time he did that. It made Tony want to make him laugh again – it was a nice sound. "Look at the pillow if you don't believe me."
Tony stared straight at him very pointedly, refusing to turn his head. "I don't have to look, because I know it isn't there."
"Denial won't save you from the truth," Muscles told him, more than a little bit smugly.
"There's nothing to deny, because it's not true," Tony grumbled into the rim of his coffee mug.
Muscles smirked at him, amusement spreading across his face. Tony felt something blooming warm in his chest that definitely wasn't the coffee.
"Steve," Muscles said.
Tony blinked. "What?"
"Steve," he repeated, pointing at himself. "That's my name."
"Ah," Tony said. "Right. I'm Tony."
Muscles – Steve – stood up again and crossed the room, stopping right in front of Tony in all of his rippling muscled and sunshine-like smiling glory. He reached one hand out to Tony, smiling down at him expectantly.
"Nice to meet you Tony," he said, his voice warm and friendly, like it really was nice to meet him. "Would you like to go get breakfast with me?"
After a moment's hesitation where Tony stared blankly at the proffered hand, he took it tentatively and shook. Steve’s grip was gentle and firm all at the same time, amazingly soft against Tony's palm. Tony spotted flecks of color underneath his nails and he idly wondered where that’d come from. He didn’t really seem much like the artistic type.
Realizing that he was just staring blankly at Steve’s hand, he snapped out of his thoughts and looked up at Steve with mild confusion.
"Yes," Steve said, dropping his hand to his side. Tony was surprised to find that he almost missed the warmth of the contact when he found his hand bereft of Steve's. Huh. Interesting. "Considering you're here and don’t seem to be in a rush to get anywhere. It'd just be nice to have some company." Steve shrugged. "Unless you have plans."
"Coffee, and now you're inviting me to breakfast? You do realize that I broke in, right?"
Steve shrugged. A bit of the open friendliness had dulled down a bit as Tony spoke, and he looked a little bit uncomfortable now; he was glancing somewhere off to the side that wasn't at Tony, and he shifted his weight from foot to foot. Tony knew he was to blame for it, but he was honestly just confused. This kind of niceness either ended horribly or came with some kind of ultimatum, not an invitation for free coffee and breakfast.
"It was an accident," Steve said plainly. "I'm sure you're not the first person for it to happen to."
"Yes, this does seem like something that happens on a regular basis." Tony snorted.
Steve sighed and pushed a hand through his hair, and Tony took the time to admire the the flow of straw coloured strands running through his fingers. The early morning sunlight caught his hair like a gentle flame, glinting off of it like spun gold. This guy didn’t even seem real; no person should be allowed to be this attractive. “Sorry if I was too forward. You really don’t have to, no hard feelings if you don’t want to. I’m just going and if you wanted to tag along I’d be happy to have you join me.”
Tony considered this for a moment. His only plans had included trudging down to the shop and working until he couldn't see straight. He hadn't even really planned to go out the night before, but Ty had called him and asked if he wanted to paint the town red before everyone was bogged down with coursework and studying for the upcoming exams. Tony had begrudgingly said yes, and the rest was history. Ty had clearly left him at some point in the night – abandoned him, Tony thought bitterly – and he had ended up in the throes of drunken college life; jello shots had been had, followed by body shots and top shelf tequila he'd drank straight out of the bottle.
No wonder he was hungover.
His stomach growled almost as if on command. Perhaps breakfast with a gorgeous underwear model could be good.
"Yeah," he agreed, and smiled up at Steve. "Breakfast would be great."
"Great," Steve answered, looking pleased. "I know a place."
Less than an hour later, Tony found himself freshly showered in a borrowed bathroom, wearing a borrowed shirt that was at least three sizes too big for him, tucked into a booth composed of cracked leather seats and tackily coloured tabletops. Since Tony was still unaware of where his key card was – a pressing problem he would have to deal with soon – Steve had graciously insisted he shower in the adjoining bathroom, and it only took a little bit of protesting before Tony gratefully obliged. When he'd gotten out of the scalding hot shower, some of the stiffness smoothed out from his muscles, there had been a clean sweatshirt and sweatpants waiting for him. He opted for wearing yesterday's jeans since the possibility of the sweatpants falling down around his ankles was very high. So Tony had pulled on the massive sweatshirt, knowing he looked absolutely ridiculous with the sleeves hanging over his hands like a five-year-old waiting to grow into an older sibling’s hand me downs, and followed Steve off campus for what he promised was "the best breakfast he'd ever taste."
Ten minutes of walking brought them to a tiny little restaurant called Peggy's Diner. The restaurant was a tiny little place tucked into the corner of the block, between a flower shop and a travel agency. It was the kind of place that looked like it had opened in the fifties and hadn't seen an interior decorator since; the colours clashed slightly and the light fixtures looked like they'd come from the dark ages. It was the kind of place that Tony would normally walk right by and keep on going without a thought.
Despite that, he found that he quite liked it there. It was clean, well lit, pleasantly quaint, and the staff were nice and welcoming. The smell of breakfast food mingling with the scent of freshly brewed coffee made his stomach rumble as soon as they stepped at the door. Not to mention, Steve looked right at home settled into his seat, chatting with the waitress with an open and friendly smile on his face. The waitress and the host who’d seated them clearly seemed to know Steve personally, so it must be a place he frequented regularly.
"What are you going to have?" Steve asked, just as the waitress was scuttling away after passing them their drinks; orange juice for Steve, more coffee for Tony.
Tony very pointedly lifted his coffee mug, pointed to it, and took a long sip.
Steve shook his head. "Absolutely not. You're not allowed to leave this place without having their waffles. They're amazing."
Tony grunted eloquently and took another pointed sip of his coffee, enjoying the familiar slow burn in his throat when he swallowed.
“Waffles,” Steve repeated, decisively. “If you don’t like them I’ll eat them for you.”
With Steve’s eyes so insistent on him – he really did seem very excited about these waffles – Tony felt compelled to be somewhat cooperative. After all, he had broken into the guy’s dorm room in the middle of the night – the least he could do was indulge him.
Plus, he somewhat resembled an eager puppy the way he was looking at him expectantly, leaning forward on his elbows as he focused on Tony, his eyes all lit up and earnest.
Tony set his mug down, flashed him a smile and shrugged one shoulder in his oversized borrowed sweatshirt. “Well, now I’m intrigued. I don’t think I can leave in good conscience without trying these things.”
Steve’s answering grin was pleased. When the waitress came to take their order, Steve asked for his “usual” in addition to what sounded like enough food to feed a small army, but Tony figured that Steve’s rather bulky physique required a high amount of calorie intake to keep it going, so he wasn’t exactly surprised. She refilled his mug with fresh, steaming hot coffee, for which Tony was profusely grateful for, and brought Steve another towering glass of orange juice. Then she disappeared with the wafting scent of fresh bread and coffee, and the two of them were left alone again.
In the time in between the waitress retreating to the kitchen and returning with heaping plates of food, Tony learned two things. One, Steve was incredibly easy to talk to, and two, he was quickly shaping up to be the exact type of guy that would end up breaking his heart.
Underneath the bulk and musculature that bulged under his almost-too-small shirt – the muscles were from football, Tony was informed – Steve was an art major, with a particular interest in taking older, classical art techniques and utilizing them in a modern way. His words, not Tony’s. Despite the efforts of his mother when he was younger, Tony was no expert in the arts, but when Steve grabbed a napkin, whipped out a pencil he apparently had on hand in his back pocket and drew a rough sketch of the waitress, it was easy for Tony to discern that Steve was good. Exceptionally good, even.
Not to mention when the waitress came to check on them, Steve presented the drawing to her with a flourish, which made her face light up in delight.
So, he had the whole sensitive artist thing going on underneath the beefy, jock exterior. If Tony had been standing during their conversation, he would’ve been weak in the knees.
It wasn’t long before the conversation shifted from Steve’s budding art career, to the fact that Tony was under twenty and already working towards his first PHD in mechanical engineering. To his extreme relief, Steve didn’t get weird about it when he told him – generally Tony was used to either a kind of fawning that was profoundly uncomfortable for him, or an immediate distant expression that belied envy and a kind of wonder. Both were extremely isolating.
Instead, Steve looked genuinely impressed and intrigued. The awe was still there, but it wasn’t a kind of awe that necessarily made him uncomfortable; Steve just seemed honestly interested and immediately launched into asking Tony about what he was working on. It didn’t take long before Tony felt himself loosening up and melting easily into the conversation, telling Steve all about his research in manufacturing clean energy.
Tony was talking animatedly about the most recent experiment he’d done, hands flying around as he explained to a very attentive Steve, when the waitress returned with steaming plates full of breakfast food.
When she set a plate down in front of Tony, he eyed it suspiciously. It was enough to feed a horse.
“No human being should ever consume this much food in one sitting,” Tony announced, poking one of waffles with the tip of his fork. “This could kill an elephant, I bet.”
Steve shook his head and shoved a bottle of syrup towards him. His own plate was already swimming in a pool of brown, sticky liquid. “You are very dramatic,” Steve commented, grinning at him. He nodded pointedly at the plate in front of Tony. “Try it. Be prepared to have your mind blown.”
“I may be dramatic,” Tony allowed as he poured a more reasonable amount of syrup over his waffles, “but you are really intense about these waffles. It’s starting to get a little weird. I feel like I might be a third wheel here. Would you like to be alone with them?”
Steve just shrugged, completely unapologetic. He seemed insistent that Tony take his first bite before he dug in himself, so with an over animated sigh, Tony cut off a piece and brought it to his lips.
Only to let out a long, rather unintentionally loud groan.
“Right?” Steve said excitedly. “The best, aren’t they?”
Tony held up one hand as he swallowed, already prying off another piece with his fork. “Sorry, you’re actually not allowed to talk to me right now. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of a spiritual experience and I need to focus on these waffles.”
Steve laughed, the sound hearty and full bodied in Tony’s ears. Then, he was shoving a bite into his own mouth, his eyes fluttering shut as a pleased sound hummed in his throat. Tony took the moment to chew his food carefully, while staring at a spot of syrup that had smeared on the corner of Steve’s lips.
Tony thought idly that as good as the waffles were, he was certain that Steve’s lips would taste even better.
Yeah, he was so screwed.
It was only a moment before Steve’s eyes opened again, and both of them were stuffing their faces with the food. As his stomach rumbled along with the first few bites, Tony finally realizing just how hungry he really was.
The rest of the meal passed mostly in silence, except for occasional Neanderthal-like grunts and the clinking of utensils against their plates. By the time Tony was full, Steve was finished his and there were still another waffle sitting on Tony’s plate. Remembering Steve’s promise earlier to eat whatever he didn’t want, and seeing the way Steve kept eyeing his plate as if he were still hungry – which Tony could hardly believe was humanly possible – Tony pushed his plate across the table. Steve accepted it gratefully, spearing it with his fork and wolfing it down with gusto.
Tony leaned back in his seat with a sated sigh, and patted his stomach. “You might have to roll me out of here,” he told Steve ruefully. “I think I just ate the same amount I normally do in an entire week.”
“I’m willing to carry you out, if you like,” Steve offered, gravely, but his eyes were dancing as he looked at Tony. “I think I could manage lifting you.”
Tony groaned, closed his eyes, and threw his head back against the cushioned booth. “Good God, man, leave a guy a shred of dignity,” Tony groused. “Just… let me lay here for a while. When I feel like my guts aren’t about to explode, we can leave.”
“The offer stands, but I’m sure you can vegetate there for a little bit,” Steve laughed. “The last time I took my friends Bucky and Sam here, I wasn’t able to drag them out for nearly an hour.”
Tony winced. “Give me five minutes.”
“Okay, tough guy,” Steve replied, not even bothering to hide the amusement in his voice. Tony felt the childish urge to stick his tongue out at him, but ended opting for scrunching his face up in a grimace instead.
Steve cleared his throat then, the sound followed by a long silence. Tony cracked one eye open and peeked over at Steve, who was sitting with his hands folded on the table in front of him. He was frowning a little bit, his lips pursed like he was about to say something.
“What is it?” Tony asked, straightening up into a more dignified, seated position.
“I just, uh,” Steve began, paused and cleared his throat again. “I was wondering. Are you busy today?”
Tony tilted his head slightly, appraising the guy sitting across from him, feeling a little incredulous. There was no way this guy wanted to spend more time with him, was there?
“Well,” Tony said slowly, “I did have the whole day cleared to be hungover and blow things up in my lab. Standard Saturday afternoon for me.”
“Right,” Steve said, shifting in his seat. “Well, if you felt like deviating from the norm, you could come back to my dorm and be hungover hanging out with me? My roommate is out of town for the weekend and, well.” Steve paused there to give Tony a small, tentative smile. If Tony hadn’t known better, he would’ve called his expression nervous or sheepish. “I like hanging out with you.”
The tail end of the sentence came out in a rush, his eyes averted from Tony’s as he focused on the salt shaker that sat off to right of him on the table.
Tony swallowed thickly, suddenly finding his throat to be incredibly dry. “What’d you have in mind?”
Steve glanced over at him again, that strange, nervous expression still there, but now it took on a hint of something hopeful. “I have a really crappy, ancient GameCube,” he said. “We could relive childhood and play it all day, if that sounds like something you’d wanna do.”
Tony found himself nodding almost before Steve had finished speaking. To his surprise, in that moment, he couldn’t think of anything else he’d rather be doing.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Yeah, that sounds great.”