Chapter 1: Prologue: Meet Rhodey AKA 'Honey Bear'
Tony likes to handout nicknames like candy. Steve has not been too fond of the flavors he's been handed so far.
Steve turns in time just to see Tony launch himself at a tall sturdy African American man decked out in full dress uniform with a box of doughnuts in hand.
“Donuts, you brought me donuts! Oh honey bear, I knew you were my favorite for a reason!”
The other man laughs as he holds the doughnuts above his head while Tony tries to climb him like a tree. Steve looks back down at the non-doughnut omelets he’s making and frowns. What was wrong with omelets? They were good for you and much tastier than a few fried bits of dough with sugar on top.
“Oh come on sugarpie, gimme some! Rhooooodey pleeeeease,” Tony whines, practically wriggling against the other man.
Honey bear? Sugarpie? How come this fellow got all the endearing nicknames while Steve got called things like ‘Capsicle’ or ‘Ken 2.0’ or something along those lines? Of course, it wasn’t like Steve wanted to be called honey bear or anything like that, especially by Tony. But still, something a little more fond than ‘Captain Stick-up-his-ass’ would be nice.
Rhodey only responds with a teasing grin down at the whining genius practically wrapped around him, white teeth flashing. Steve watches irritated as Tony and Rhodey continue to play a rather handsy version of the out-of-reach game with the donuts.
He grits his teeth in an effort not to simply stalk over and snatch the box out of the man’s hands and toss the greasy, unhealthy snack into the trash. Tony ate enough junk food as it was; someone needed to watch out for his health.
The thought also suddenly occurs to him that that shiny white smile would make a superb target for a punch.
“Um, hey Cap, the omelets are burning.”
Steve blinks and turns to look at Clint and Natasha. He’d forgotten they were there.
“Omelets?” He queries.
“Yeah,” Clint nods at the stove behind Steve, “The omelets you’re supposed to be making right now?”
Steve turns around and sure enough there was thick black smoke rising from the pans. Hastily he grabs the pan off the stove and scrapes the now burnt omelets out onto a nearby plate. Natasha walks up beside him and pokes at the ruined breakfast with her fork. She turns to him with a raised eyebrow and Steve flushes with embarrassment.
A whistle cut through the air nearby and Steve tenses as Rhodey walks over to take a look at the aftermath. Tony waltzes up behind him stuffing his mouth with a doughnut with one hand and the rest of the box tucked under his arm.
“Huh, looks almost as bad as the ones Tony tries to for make me.” He comments. Tony immediately launches into protest that it had been the instructions on the back of the box that was faulty, not his cooking.
Steve clenches his fists and bites back the demand to know exactly why Tony was making omelets for Rhodey of all people. It was none of his business who Tony made omelets for, even if he did think it was rather unfair that Tony never bothered any for the Avengers. Like Steve.
Rhodey smiles widely at him and offeres a crisp salute.
“Colonel James Rhodes. Honor to meet you Captain. Tony’s told me a lot about you.”
“Yes, I believe Tony’s mentioned you a few times too.” Steve replies back coolly.
He doesn’t salute back. He does however attempt to smile back the man that Tony was forever waxing on about and let wear one of his armor (not the latest model but still) and apparently constantly calls by endearing pet names. Going by the looks on everyone’s faces, Steve’s smile could do with a little work.
Steve clears his throat. “Well, I, um, should probably take care of this,” He waves a hand vaguely at the charred remains of breakfast. He turns around quickly before he can embarrass himself any further and begins scrapping at the pan vigorously. Behind him, Steve can hear Clint and Natasha introducing themselves to the Colonel.
A few minutes later, Tony drags the Colonel away down to his workshop, having decided that his most ‘darling cupcake’ just had to come check out the latest Iron Man armor because quote unquote ‘it’ll have you on your knees begging for an upgrade to War Machine’.
After they leave, Steve carefully does not imagine the Colonel on his knees in front of Tony, just the two of down there in Tony’s workshop. He does not think of the way Tony lit up at the mere mention of the other fellow and how casually, perhaps even eagerly, Tony had pressed right up against his ‘honey bear’ just moments ago supposedly in the name of doughnuts.
He really doesn’t because it was none of his business whether or not Colonel Rhodes was down there actually checking out the armor or the man that normally wore it. None. At. All.
“If you scrub that pan any harder, there’s not going to be any pan left.”
Clint’s voice startles him out of his thoughts and into dropping the pan he’d been washing. Steve turns his head to see Clint and Natasha staring at him with carefully blank expressions. They were laughing at him. Yep, definitely laughing at him. He’d forgotten about them. Again.
He picks up the pan again and assesses the now patchy looking bottom of the pan guiltily. Perhaps he’d been a little overenthusiastic with his scrubbing. Steve sighs and rinses it off before drying it with a towel and putting it back in the cabinets.
Steve turns back to the other two and nods curtly at them before leaving the kitchen. As he walks out, Clint begins to say something only to be interrupted by an elbow and a command to shut up via Natasha. Steve ignores both of them and heads back to his room to change into his workout clothes. He could do with a few hours with a punching bag and if he were to imagine a certain someone’s face while working out…well, no one had to know.
Edited: August 19, 2012
Chapter 2: Steve Rogers, Team Leader and Chef
Steve is apparently the only Avenger who knows how to make a decent omelet. Tony keeps getting distracted, Natasha doesn't bother, Clint's turns to rubber, Bruce always adds too much hot sauce, and Thor...let's not talk about that one.
Clint and Natasha were chosen for the Avengers initiative for good reason. Between the two of them, they had a wide set of skills that could make most other agents curl up and weep from inadequacy, fear, and envy.
Making breakfast, however, was not one of them. Hence, their current mission: “Get Steve to Make Them Omelets.” What? Clint never claimed naming things was in his skill set either.
“Mr. Rogers is headed this way now, Mr. Barton, Ms. Romanov.”
Clint nods at Natasha after JARVIS’s announcement. In 3, 2, 1….
“So Tony’s still cooped up in his lab?” Clint starts off casually as Steve walks in and grabs a glass and some milk out of the fridge (could the guy be any more apple pie?)
“Yes, he’s been in there for almost 15 hours now.” Natasha replies. Clint fights the urge to smirk as he and Natasha watch Steve’s expression begin to darken while pouring the milk and listening in on their conversation.
Natasha takes another sip of her coffee before setting the mug down and delivering the final blow.
“He hasn’t even touched the dinner left for him.”
Steve puts his glass of milk down on the counter and turns to them with a giant frown on his face.
“You know how the guy is” Clint shrugged, “Gets caught up tinkering with his toys and forgets to eat or sleep. Probably starve down there if someone didn’t occasionally drag him out of his inventor’s cave and force feed him some food.”
It was almost too easy, Clint thinks as he does his happy-about-to-eat-food jig inside his head. Steve grimaces and immediately storms out of the room. Minutes later he’s back, dragging Tony behind him. There’s engine grease smeared all over him and his clothing and with a bright red mark across one cheek from where he likely feel asleep on top of his desk, looking dazed from his sudden reintroduction to light and society. He stumbles to a chair and face plants into the counter, murmuring something about coffee. Well, that or cold flamingoes. Either was possible with Tony Stark.
Taking pity on the guy (and also as thanks for his unwitting role in getting Clint omelets), Clint snags another mug and pours out some of the tar that Tony and Natasha like to drink from the coffee machine. He slides it into Tony’s grasping hands and watches, just a little awed, as the man proceeds to drink it all in one long gulp.
Tony blinks a few times, finally cognizant and aware of his surroundings with caffeine now in his system. He raises an eyebrow at Clint and Natasha before catching sight of Steve pouring egg batter into the pan.
“Omelets? You making omelets? Ooh, ooh I get some right? Please”, Tony flutters his eyelashes at Steve. Steve turns to Tony with exasperated and utterly besotted look. Clint fights hard not to roll his eyes at how utterly gone the guy is over Tony.
“Yes Tony, you can have some omelets.” Then he turns to Clint and Natasha, “Would you guys like some too?”
They nod and surreptitiously high five each other behind the counter. Mission success!
Clint gets up and brings back plates and utensils for everyone while Steve puts the finishing touches on his first batch. Clint is just settling back into his seat when JARVIS suddenly announces that Colonel Rhodes has arrived. Seconds later some guy in full military get up and a box of doughnuts shows up in the doorway and is immediately glomped by Tony.
Rhodes, Clint rifles through his internal files, Colonel James Rhodes, AKA War Machine and long time besties with Tony. The guy’s known Tony for even longer than Pepper has. The two were obviously close and despite some past blowups, their friendship seemed as tight as ever.
Clint pauses his assessment. Something smells like its burning…
Clint turns and finds Steve staring at the Tony and Rhodey comedy act with a box of doughnuts, gripping the spatula in his hand so tightly that Clint could see the plastic handle warping. Meanwhile, the omelets Clint had been looking forward to burn merrily behind him.
“Um, hey Cap, the omelets are burning.”
Steve startles and finally looks away from the bantering twosome.
“Omelets?” He asks.
“Yeah,” Clint nods at burning breakfast, “The omelets you’re supposed to be making right now?”
Steve turns around and scurries to grab the pan off the stove. Beside him, Natasha slinks off her seat and over to Steve to poke at the sad, sad remains of their omelet. Then Rhodes wanders over to whistle and compares it to Tony’s sad attempts at omelet making. Clint scoffs quietly when Tony tries to claim that it was the instructions on the box and not his cooking. Genius he may be but put him in front of a stove and the guy could burn water. Literally. Clint’s seen him do it. God knows what he’d do to an omelet.
“Colonel James Rhodes. Honor to meet you Captain. Tony’s told me a lot about you,” Rhodes salutes.
“Yes, I believe Tony’s mentioned you a few times too.” Steve replies in a cool tone that Clint had only ever heard him use when dealing with offensive reporters, asshole politicians, and Fury after the Coulson incident while an obviously forced smile is plastered on his face.
He also doesn’t salute back. Clint trades looks with Natasha. Technically speaking, Steve was actually lower rank than Rhodes so talk about burn. Luckily Rhodes doesn’t seem the type to take offense or make a scene, simply raises an eyebrow and turns to introduce himself to Clint and Natasha instead. They make some small chat before Tony finishes his doughnuts and drags the Colonel off to his workshop for fun times with exploding things. All the meanwhile, Steve tries to scrub the scorched pan out of existence.
Clint catches Natasha’s gaze and they share an amused smile. Then Clint’s stomach growls, reminding Clint that as hilarious as the Captain’s little snit fit is, Clint was hungry.
“If you scrub that pan any harder, there’s not going to be pan left,” he calls out to Steve who jumps and drops the pan. Tapping his fingers against the counter, Clint waits for him to start up a new batch of omelets. Tony may have had his fill of doughnuts, but Clint’s still hasn’t eaten yet.
Steve dries and puts the pan away. Clint frowns a little to himself. Wait, why is he putting the pan away? Where are the omelets? Steve nods at them and then stomps out of the room.
“Hey! What about our—Ow!” Clint edges away from Natasha’s sharp elbows. “Shut up idiot.”
He pouts at her and stares out the doorway Steve had just left through. Great. There goes his omelet. Suddenly, Clint wasn’t feeling all that generous towards Rhodes either.
“I was hungry damn it.” He mutters to Natasha. She rolls her eyes at him and gets up to prepare some toast. Clint sighs and starts looking for the butter and jam, mourning the loss of his omelets.
Bruce walks in as he and Natasha settle down to their dry slices of bread crumbs held together by ham and Natasha’s willpower.
“Just passed Steve in the hallway. Who stuck a bee in his bonnet?” he asks while pouring himself some orange juice.
“The Rhodes guy showed up and stole Tony’s attention and so now Cap’s sulking,” Clint informs him. “Ruined the omelets too,” he says mournfully. Bruce simply looks on with amusement at Clint’s grief over his omelets, the heartless bastard.
“Rhodes? You mean Rhodey? He’s finally back?”
“Yep, the guy brought Tony doughnuts and now the two of them are sequestered in Tony’s workshop while Steve works out his jealousy fit on some poor punching bags.”
“They really need to stop dancing around each other already,” Bruce sighs, “The whole mutual pining thing was sort of cute and funny in the beginning but it’s starting to get a little embarrassing at this point.”
“You’re telling me. Last week I found Steve’s sketchbook and it was just page after page of Stark.”
Ah yes, the sketchbook. Clint had stolen a look at it later too after Natasha had shared that little tidbit with him and sure enough, there were dozens and dozens of sketches of Tony. One of which was an anatomically correct drawing of Tony in the classic French girl pose. Clint still wants to know exactly how Steve knows Tony’s measurements. As for how Clint knows that Steve got them accurate, well, let’s just say there was a thing with a sewer monster whose slime turned out to have some interesting properties.
Clint taps the counter in thought.
“Steve at least I get. The guy’s pretty shy when it comes to this stuff. What I don’t get, is why Tony hasn’t done anything yet. He isn’t exactly the type to be hesitant about trying to get what he wants.”
“He does, however, tend to be an idiot when it comes to emotions and other such matters requiring actual maturity,” Natasha adds, “Perhaps he hasn’t figured it out yet.”
“Are you serious?” He demands. “Come on! There’s no way Tony could be that oblivious.”
“Actually,” Bruce pipes in, “He can. I asked him why he hadn’t made move on Steve yet a few days ago and he laughed it off. Told me that he and Steve were just friends.”
“Right,” Clint drawls, “Just friends. Which totally explains why Steve draws sexy nudes of Tony and Tony loses his train of thought every time Steve bends over in front of him because he's too busy staring on his ass. Because that’s totally friendly.”
Natasha shrugs. “It took him almost a decade and nearly dying, twice, before he finally figured things out with Pepper. He doesn’t have a good record with these things.”
Bruce sips at his juice and nods in agreement. Now it’s Clint’s turn to frown. As amusing as it was to watch the two of them make idiots of themselves over each other, the UST was starting to get a little heavy. Not to mention, it was now making Clint miss out on omelets.
“So. Steve’s too shy to make a move and Tony’s too emotionally stunted to realize he should…You know what I think?” Clint turns to the other two and grins, “I think they need a little boost from their good friends.”
Both Natasha and Bruce shoot him wary looks.
“Barton. No. Let them work things out on their own. If you try to force things, you might end up screwing things up.” Natasha warns.
Clint gives her his best ‘Who me?’ face. “So,” he says as he smoothly gets up, “I think I’m just going to go train for a bit. See you guys later.” He whistles as he strolls casually out the door and towards the training room where he had a strong suspicion that he would find Steve busting some punching bags.
Things had been rather boring lately. It was time to spice things up a bit.
Chapter 3: Clint "Cupid" Barton
When there are no missions or training to be done, Clint likes to watch soaps. They're oddly addictive.
Steve twitches and just barely avoids spraying the water he was drinking everywhere when Clint suddenly drops down beside him. He glances up and wonders exactly how Clint just did that when the only vent in the section of the ceiling above him was barely large enough for a baby to crawl through.
Prefers high perches, outstanding sight and aim, able to somehow maneuver in spaces too small for grown humans…. Not for the first time, Steve wonders if there was perhaps some truth to the rumors that ‘Hawkeye’ was more than a handle name.
“Clint,” Steve sighs, “If you want omelets, you can make them yourself.”
Clint pouts at him briefly and then shakes his head.
“Never mind about the omelets.”
Steve raises a surprised eyebrow at him. Clint not wanting omelets? Was this the real Clint? Clint rolls his eyes at him.
“I’m here to offer you help actually.” He pauses. “And then as thanks, you can make me omelets,” he nodding happily.
Steve chuckles. Now that was more like it.
“And exactly what are you offering help with that I would make you omelets for?”
Steve chokes on his own spit and surprise. W-what!? How did—?!
“I don’t—! Why would you –? Where did you even get the idea that I’m interested Tony like that?!” He splutters, just knowing he was blushing redder than Tony’s armor.
“Right, and I suppose you’re not jealous of Rhodes at all either.”
“No!” Steve shouts. Clint simply gives him an unimpressed look and Steve deflates.
“I… Was I that obvious?” Steve asks mournfully. Clint looks at him pityingly.
“Uh. Yeah, you sort of were.”
Steve sighs and collapses with head in hands on the nearby bench. So much for trying to keep it under wraps. He had though. He really had. But Tony would say something flirty or lay a warm hand on Steve’s shoulder or just smile and….Steve feels his face warm even more. God, he can’t even think about Tony without blushing. No wonder everyone knew he was sweet on Tony.
Wait. Everyone? Steve’s eyes widens in horror. His head snaps towards Clint.
“Wait! Does that mean Tony knows?!”
If Tony had known this entire time, then why not say something? Had he been trying to be kind or keep things from becoming awkward? Trying to pretend Steve wasn’t hopelessly gone on him because he was a good friend but nothing more? Steve feels sick at the implications.
“He’s probably the only person in this tower still oblivious. Natasha says he’s an emotional idiot which we all knew anyways.” Clint shrugs and Steve’s heart practically skips a beat in relief. Thank god. Tony’s isn’t just trying to let Steve down easy then.
“Anyways, with my help, that’s all going to change. I’ll have you two skipping about lovey dovey in no time at all!” Clint bows dramatically. Steve smiles a little but shakes his head.
“Clint, what makes you think Tony would like me back?”
Tony’s used to all sorts of glamorous people throwing themselves at his feet. After all, everyone wants a piece of Tony Stark, genius billionaire playboy philanthropist and hero. Tony was used all sorts of gorgeous and powerful people. He used to date Pepper who was scary brilliant and beautiful and looked so right next Tony that Steve still doesn’t understand why they didn’t work out (even if he’s relieved that they didn’t and feels guilt for being relieved).
In comparison, Steve’s just a kid from Brooklyn. He still has trouble figuring out which remote to use most times! Clint claims that Tony’s sweet on him but Steve can’t see how or why that would be true.
Clint stares at him for a moment with a look of stunned disbelief before muttering something about ‘deserve each other’ and ‘infectious idiocy?’ and then sighing.
“He lets you drag him out of the workshop to watch cartoons. He spends almost as much time on your suit as he does on his armor. He tried to move the Dodgers back to Brooklyn just because you once mentioned they were your home team and you missed them. Trust me, he likes you too but he’s too emotionally stunted to realize that. So you’re going to have to make him.”
Steve looks at him dubiously and bites back a retort that Clint wasn’t exactly the height of emotional maturity either.
“That’s not proof of anything. Tony’s a good friend and tends to be overly generous at times. To all of us. And I’m pretty sure whether or not Tony likes me is up to him to decide. You can’t just force someone to ‘realize’ that they like you.”
“He poured coffee all over himself last week when you walked into the kitchen shirtless and sweaty.” Clint replies pointedly.
Steve feels the heat in his face that had finally started dying down return with a vengeance. At this rate, he was going to end up with permanently burst blood vessels super serum be damned.
Clint, the horrible, horrible man, simply laughs and slings an arm around Steve’s shoulders.
“Come on buddy. Look, even if you refuse to believe that he likes you back, isn’t that even more reason to try harder to, I dunno, get him to see you as more than just a friend and teammate? Don’t you want more?”
Steve hesitates. He does want more. So much more. He wants to know how if Tony tasted of coffee like Steve always imagined he would, wants to feel the hum of the arc reactor under his fingertips, wants everything Tony had to offer and more. He wants it all so bad that sometimes it aches.
“Yes,” Steve breathes out, “Yes, I want more.”
Clint smiles at him.
“Then go for it.”
Steve nods slowly.
Steve takes a deep breath as Clint grins widely and begins to outline possible scenarios for getting Tony’s attention, starting with leaving secret admirer messages and working its way towards complete soap opera ridiculousness from there.
He really hopes that things wouldn’t become awkward with Tony, that if Clint was wrong (please, please don’t let him be wrong) and Tony said no, then they could still be friends like Tony and Pepper were. If this ended up ruining Tony and theirs friendship or interfered with the team, then Steve would never forgive himself.
“…and there’s an abandoned AIM warehouse in Oklahoma that we can use.”
“Clint we’re not fake kidnapping him so that I can pretend to rescue him.”
Bruce yawns and rubs his eyes, trying to concentrate on the data on the screen. He makes a mental note to never again let himself start a new season when he had experiments to run in the morning. Urgh, how was Doctor Who that addictive anyways? All the special effects were beyond cheesy and the plot lines were ridiculous although that Midnight episode had been seriously creepy.
“Dr. Banner, nice to see you again.”
Bruce turns and is surprised to see Rhodes in entrance to his lab. “Colonel Rhodes, same to you. What brings you to my part of the woods? I’d thought Tony would be busy showing off his latest inventions to you still.”
Rhodes grins at him.
“The bags under his eyes were starting to scare me so I told him I’d hand over War Machine and listen to his complaints about my ‘mistreatment’ of his previous gift to me later if he’d just get some rest. He’s upstairs sleeping now, made me tuck him in and everything too,” Rhodes huffs.
Bruce chuckles a little bit. He finds it easy to imagine a tired and whiny Tony demanding the Colonel tuck him in like a little kid.
“Well, at least he’s finally getting some shuteye now. He’s been working hard on a new armor ever since the last one got completely trashed by Megamind.”
“Yeah I’d heard about that.” Rhodes grimaces and doesn’t say anything further. Bruce takes the moment to grab his mug of tea and waits. He has a feeling that there the other man was here for more than just updating Bruce on Tony’s sleeping habits.
“So I met Captain America today.” Rhodes finally says. Bruce nods.
“Yeah, Clint and Natasha told me about that. Apparently he wasn’t exactly too friendly towards you?”
“The man looked like he wanted to throw me out the window,” he scoffs, with a hint of pouting.
Bruce hides his smile behind a sip of tea. He knew from Tony that Rhodes was quite the Captain America fan, part of the reason Tony had refused to bring Rhodes back to the Avengers tower to meet everyone till now, not wanting to share his friend’s attention.
“Anyways, I was hoping you could maybe clarify why he seems to be holding some sort of grudge against me when I’ve never even met him till know thanks to Tony’s interference.”
“Ah, I wouldn’t take it personally if I were you.”
Rhodes gives him a suspicious stare. Bruce smiles and shrugs.
“He and Tony have been dancing around each other for a while now and I believe Steve got rather jealous when you suddenly showed up.”
“Wait, are you telling me that they have a thing for each other? When the hell did that happen and why didn’t Tony say anything?”
“A couple months back, not long after you were deployed again,” Bruce shrugs, “And like I said, they’re still dancing around each other and refusing to admit that they like each other even though it’s pretty obvious at this point that they’re both head over heels for each other.”
Rhodes leans against the lab bench, arms crossed and frowning contemplatively.
“You sure about that? Both of them?”
Bruce nods cautiously while the furrow in Rhodes forehead deepens.
“And neither of them have said anything?”
Bruce nods again. For a moment neither of them speaks.
“Huh,” Rhodes finally says before striding out. Bruce stares out after him and wonders if that was a good ‘huh’ or a bad ‘huh’. Does he approve or disapprove or maybe wasn’t sure either way…?
Sudden bleeping from his pockets disrupts his thoughts. He pulls out the timer and turns it off. Right, time to incubate the cells. He could worry about his teammates love lives later.
Chaptered fic. I can do that, I told myself, I can totally do that...
ALSRGKJDKJ;A;DLKFJ PLOT CONSISTENCY!!
Anyways so I was working out some plot and I realized I would need to rewrite Bruce, Natasha, and Clint's conversation for anything in my following chapters to make sense....So I did and now there's a new ending to Chapter Two which should probably be read. To those following the story, I apologize for the change up and thank you for reading my silly little story and for your comments. I promise to try my best to keep from making changes like that again.
As always, reviews are appreciated =). If you noticed any mistakes or have any suggestions, please feel free comment.
Chapter 4: Anyone Up For Breakfast In Bed?
Rhodey is a bit of a troll. Clint doesn't like mushrooms. And JARVIS is acting sort of suspicious...
Steve yawns as he enters the kitchen. He’d been up rather late thanks to Clint’s ‘strategy session’ last night for the ‘Mission: Get Tony To Go On Dates With Steve So That The Unresolved Sexual Tension Finally Gets Resolved’.
The name had made Steve blush of course and protest that there was no sexual tension, resolved or otherwise, going on except Clint had given him a long hard stare and asked him if he didn’t want to do the horizontal tango with Tony and, well, Steve wasn’t a very good lair. So he’d ended up giving in and letting Clint call it that though he simply referred to it in his head as Operation: Date Tony.
He opens up the fridge and grabs the orange juice. When he turns around, he almost has a heart attack at the sight of Colonel Rhodes standing only a foot away from him, leaning against the counter with an expectant look on his face. Forcing his heart rate to slow down, Steve straightens and sets the orange juice down on the counter.
“Colonel Rhodes.” He nods.
“Captain.” Rhodes replies.
Steve shuffles awkwardly, waiting for the other man to say or do something other than stare at him. As Captain America, Steve was fairly used to random people staring at him except Rhodes didn’t really look like he was gazing up at him with adoration. In fact, it was more akin to Loki’s expression when last month right before he’d turned Steve into a golden retriever.
After a bit, Steve turns back to his orange juice and pours himself a glass. When he turns back around, the Colonel is still staring at him.
“So, um, was there something you needed?” Steve finally gives up and asks. Rhodes continues to stare at him for a little longer then finally nods.
“Tony wants omelets.”
Steve blinks in surprise. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d been expecting but not it hadn’t been that.
“Okay. I can make some.” Steve says and then looks up at the ceiling, “JARVIS, please tell Tony that the omelets will be ready in ten minutes and that he should come out of the workshop and wash his hands first.”
Tony had told him dozens of times that JARVIS was everywhere in the tower so it didn’t make sense for him to always look up at the ceiling every time he tried to talk to JARVIS and that there was in fact nothing at all to be seen on the ceiling. Steve liked having a focus when he was talking to others though and there’d been that one time when he’d caught Clint hanging out of the vent above him with a balloon full of paint ready to be dropped so he figured it wasn’t a bad idea to look up occasionally. Besides, Steve had asked JARVIS and the AI said he appreciated the courtesy.
Before JARVIS can reply though, Rhodes interrupts.
“Tony’s still in bed.”
Steve takes a moment to tell himself that he’s sure it isn’t what he thinks it is. After all Clint had said…
“I sort of kept him up rather late so I figured I’d let him sleep in a little longer.”
…or maybe Steve was going to have to tell Bruce exactly who’d accidentally tossed his last bag of blueberry tea in the trash.
Steve bites his lip. On the one hand, Tony likes his omelets. On the other hand, Rhodes bringing Tony those omelets. In BED.
“Anyways, he’s probably going to wake up soon and I’m bringing him breakfast in bed and since he mentioned he likes your omelets…” Rhodes shrugs.
If he did this, it would mean Tony eating which was always something to be encouraged. If he did this though, then Rhodes would presumably end in bed with Tony while he was eating. Again. As in Rhodes had probably already been in bed with Tony last night.
Steve may be just a little stuck on the in bed part.
“Colonel, Captain, Sir is showing signs of waking up soon.” JARVIS announces.
Rhodes gives him an expectant look.
“Tony’s probably going to be really hungry when he wakes up.” He comments.
Steve sighs quietly to himself. He couldn’t really say no when it was going to result in Tony actually eating proper food instead of the junk like those doughnuts Rhodes had brought. Even if it meant helping Rhodes end up in bed with Tony. Not to mention he’d sort of already agreed to make the omelets.
Steve looks down at the glass of orange juice in his hands and lets himself wallow briefly in self-pity and misery. Stupid orange juice. He hadn’t even been that thirsty and he’d actually been hoping for milk which apparently someone else had already finished off.
Setting down the glass slowly, he nods slowly and begins to put together the supplies for omelets.
Rhodey can almost taste blood from where he’s been biting the side of his cheek to keep from laughing as he watched Captain America make omelets with the air of a man being forced to cut off his own hand.
Well, at least that rather definitively settled the question of whether or not he was jealous. Not that he hadn’t believed JARVIS when he’d agreed with Bruce’s assessment of the yesterday morning. God, the guy’s face when he’d fed him the line about tiring Tony out last night; he hoped JARVIS would let him have a copy of the video.
He did have to give the guy some points for making the omelets for Tony anyways despite his obvious reluctance at having to take such a request from Rhodey.
He leaned against the counter as the Captain scrambled eggs and tossed in some chopped greens. Captain Steve Rogers, born during the Great Depression, former arts student become the supersoldier via Operation Rebirth and hero known as ‘Captain America’. Also known as the object of Tony’s hero worship later turned ghost rival for Howard Stark’s affections and now turned Tony’s supposed love interest if Bruce and JARVIS are correct and JARVIS at least almost always was when it came to Tony. Bruce had seemed like he’d been pretty sure too.
So. Tony and Captain America.
Rhodey tilted his head, trying to get a read on the guy while he scrambled the eggs. Based on the reports and everything, this man was essentially made of sugar and spice and everything nice.
However, no disrespect to the guy, no matter how upstanding he was, there was no way Rhodey was throwing in his support for him like the other Avengers and apparently Pepper had (can’t believe she’d kept this from either, they were going to need to have a chat sometime soon) until he got solid proof that things were going to work out.
Tony was not an easy person to love. As his oldest friend (Ty doesn’t count, may the bastard rot), Rhodey could testify to that. This was Tony Stark and he came with an entourage of daddy issues, media vultures, and charming assholeish quirks. And when it came to love, Tony followed in his mom’s footsteps of obsessive all or nothing style romance. It was something that had left him devastated more than once.
Even the thing with Pepper, the one person that Rhodey would choose if were forced to guess who could sustain a reasonably healthy romantic relationship with Tony, burned and crashed pretty badly even after all that they’d done to try to make it work and then later to mitigate the damage.
Rhodey still thanked every god he could think of that those two had at least somehow managed to claim back their friendship. In any case, and Rhodey had no interest in letting Tony get hurt like that again and thankfully he had an extremely powerful ally in JARVIS.
Clint walks into the kitchen to find Steve reluctantly handing over a plate of omelets to Rhodes who nods as he walks past Clint and out into the hallway. Steve stares after him, looking like a hapless father who had been forced to give away his one and only precious baby girl to some no good wastrel that had somehow tricked her into marriage.
He raises a questioning eyebrow at Steve.
“So what was that and where are my omelets?”
Steve glowers a little at him before turning around and cracking more eggs into the pan. Clint’s a little confused about why Steve’s looking at him like he’s just defaced the American flag but he’s sure that whatever it is, it can wait till after omelets.
Then Steve grabs a large handful of mushrooms. Clint’s eyes widen and he leaps over the counter but it’s too late. The disgusting bits of fungi scatter all over the fluffy yellow eggs, contaminating their yumminess with their ubergrossness. Clint gapes at Steve.
“What—? You just added mushrooms! You know I hate mushrooms! I’ve told you that like a million times! Why did you just add mushrooms!?”
Steve tosses in another handful.
“They’re good for you.” He states blithely, ignoring Clint’s groans.
“Seriously, what happened with Rhodes? Did he announce that he was stealing Tony away forever and ever or something?”
The egg Steve was cracking over the pan goes squish. Clint pauses and looks at the now crushed bits of egg shell and yolk dripping from Steve’s hand.
“Wait, seriously? He really did?”
Steve turns to him, looking miserable and just a little angry.
“The omelets were for Tony. He’s bringing Tony breakfast.” Steve reports in a dull tone.
“That doesn’t have to mean anything.” Clint protests.
Clint winces. Shit.
“Ok. I’ll admit that’s a bit more suspicious.”
“A bit more? Clint, that’s practically a declaration that they’re already together.”
“And I’m telling you that they aren’t. Look, remember what we discussed last night? There’s no way Rhodes and Tony are together without everyone and their mothers knowing it. Tony’s a media darling and every last one of his romantic escapades are well documented. And even if for some reason, they managed to hide it from the media, do you really think that Tony wouldn’t tell us about it or that Pepper wouldn’t make sure we knew somehow?”
Steve just continues to look miserable.
“Alright, you’ll agree that JARVIS is guaranteed to know if Tony is stepping out with anyone right? JARVIS?”
“…As I reported last night, Mr. Barton, Sir and the Colonel are not romantically involved.”
In the back of his mind, Clint makes a little note. Both this time and last time, JARVIS had paused slightly before stating that Tony and Rhodey weren’t sleeping together.
“But then why is he bringing Tony breakfast in bed?” Steve demands, “Tony’s not sick or a child so what other reason could there be other than that they’re stepping out with each other?”
To be honest, Clint’s can’t think of any reasons either but he’s not about to let that stop him.
“It’s Tony. You know how he likes to think he’s royalty sometimes. Rhodes probably lost a bet or something.”
Steve looks at him with a flat and disbelieving expression.
“That’s not—Nevermind. I just— Nevermind.”
He sighs and turns back to the omelets, sliding the finished ones onto a plate and then grabbing a new pan to start another batch. This time without any mushrooms.
They turn out delicious, fluffy and golden yellow and absolutely perfect. Clint knows this because they look and smell and taste divine. The aura of heartsickness and sheer misery that Steve was radiating was sort of putting off Clint’s appetite though. The guy was eating the mushroom omelets with the air of a man who had lost all hope, just listlessly shoveling food into his mouth without seeming to taste anything at all.
Clint just didn’t get it. He knew that Tony and Rhodey weren’t together. There was just no way that that sort of information could have escaped their notice. Not to mention, Tony was just as head over heels for Steve as Steve was for him. The guy practically melted every time Steve smiled towards his general vicinity.
He even gave Steve access codes to his private workshop. Bruce and Pepper were the only other ones to have those and those two were only because they actually had business down there. Steve was just there to keep Tony company and play with the bots.
There just had to be another reason for the whole breakfast in bed thing and Clint was going to find out what or his name wasn’t Clint Francis Barton (which it actually wasn’t but semantics, shemantics).
Operation: ‘Find Out Why Rhodes Is Bringing Tony Breakfast In Bed’ is a go!
And the author finally updates! Sorry for the wait and hopefully I'll have the next chapter up quicker. Also, I think it's time Tony showed up again don't you? Perhaps in a nice fitted tux ;)?
Chapter 5: Pepper Potts Does Not Have Time For This
Pepper Potts does not understand how her life got to this. Mostly though, she blames Tony.
Tony tugs on Steve’s hands, pout in full force as he complains about how Steve was no fun at all. Is that so? Steve asks but before Tony has the chance to answer, he yanks the other man into his lap and presses a wet open-mouthed kiss against the slightly salty skin under Tony’s jaw. The faint stubble there makes his lips tingle, and it makes him laugh, soft huffs of breath that has Tony squirming in his arms.
Steve, that’s ticklish!
Steve closes his eyes and luxuriates in the sound of Tony’s voice and the soft skin under Steve’s hands and lips. It was like drinking hot chocolate on a cold winter day, the warmth radiating till even the tips of his fingers felt toasty warm. Here with Tony, the arc reactor digging slightly into Steve’s chest, Steve feels so happy he could cry.
Still no fun? He grins up at Tony. Tony glares down at him half-heartedly and then a mischievous glint lights up his eyes, sending shivers down Steve’s spine. It’s all the warning he gets before Tony does some sort of shimmy with his hips and Steve almost chokes on his own tongue.
Tony he moans.
Dexterous fingers, slightly rough with callouses slip under his shirt, leaving behind trails of heat against his skin. Tony looks down at him with a heated gaze and whispers…
Steve frowns. Wait… what?
Steve? Captain Rogers?
Steve nearly sends Pepper flying as he leaps off the couch on which he’d been napping and onto his feet.
“Miss Potts! I—I…” The supersoldier squeaked while trying rather awkwardly to both cover certain parts of his anatomy and keep his hands at his sides so as to not draw attention to those same parts.
Pepper bites down hard on her bottom lip to keep from laughing, carefully keeping her gaze focused on the blank patch of wall next to Steve’s bright red face and away from the honestly impressive signs that his dreams had been rather…pleasant.
“Hello Steve, is Tony down in his workshop already? There’s some paperwork I need him to sign immediately,” She gestures the thick folder of papers in her hands. Steve shakes his head and goes even redder at the mention of the man that had just been starring in his dreams if Pepper heard his sleep murmuring correctly.
“Really? But he doesn’t have meetings and he’s not here with you…”
Steve shrugs and seems to slump a little in place.
“He’s out flying with Colonel Rhodes.”
Pepper looks at him in surprise. Rhodey? What in the world was he doing here?
“He’s back already?” That was odd. Usually his deployments lasted several months at least unless something happened in which case Pepper should have already been informed.
“Yes, he arrived couple days ago and Tony’s been stuck to his side since.” Steve replies, grimacing as if the words tasted bitter in his mouth.
Pepper raises an eyebrow. Well now that was interesting. Captain America was very obviously not a big fan of Rhodey. She would have thought they’d gotten along rather well considering their military background and being able to bond over their shared headache known as Tony Stark.
The Tony Stark Support Group. It had certainly brought Rhodey and her together over the years.
“You might have better luck later. If you’ll excuse me, I have a few more files I’m supposed to be going over.”
He gathers the papers scattered across the coffee table and scurries out of the room, nodding a brief goodbye in her direction. Pepper stares after him for a bit and then calls out, “JARVIS?”
“Yes, Miss Potts?” The smooth British tones of the AI responds.
“Why was I not notified beforehand that Rhodey was coming back? And why is here at Avengers Tower?”
“It seems his deployment had been rather unexpectedly cut short, Miss Potts. As for his presence here, I believe he wished to spend some time with Sir before his next deployment.”
“Really. And when would that be?”
“I can find no record of when that might be.”
Pepper looks up at the ceiling suspiciously. Ever since Tony had quit the weapons industry and handed Rhodey ‘War Machine’ (she wrinkled her nose, what a crude name), Uncle Sam had been keeping the man extra busy with various missions. While it wasn’t to say he didn’t visit in between deployments, especially when the armor needed fixing, this situation was sending off all sorts of warning bells in her head.
First off, if on the odd chance that Rhodey’s mission really had been just cut short by circumstances, there was no way he didn’t have a dozen other missions lined up so what was he doing hanging around Avengers Tower? For another, why was this the first Pepper heard of him being back?
The only conclusion she could come to was that it had something to with Tony and most likely the situation with Steve and Tony. That and this was being orchestrated by JARVIS somehow. Who else had the ability to rearrange the Colonel’s schedule like that and why else was he withholding information from her?
She frowned. She’d really been hoping that Rhodey would stay away from the situation until Steve and Tony were already settled but it looked now like he, with JARVIS’s help, might be getting ready to interfere. That could cause…issues.
Rhodey had always been extremely protective of Tony, and even more so in recent years with everything that had happened where they’d kept almost losing Tony. When it came to Tony’s romantic partners (actual ones, not just one night stands though he had strong opinions on those too) though, he bordered on full out crazy overprotective.
Even she had been subject to intense scrutiny when she and Tony finally embarked on their ultimately failed relationship and Rhodey had actually been relatively approving of her relationship with Tony.
Otherwise it might have turned out something like the Sunset* incident where Tony had come back from Japan proclaiming that he was in love and that he needed their help picking out a ring. Within a week, the head of Baintronics Inc. had quietly retired and went on permanent vacation while Rhodey dragged Tony to the Bahamas to drown his sorrows in drink and pretty scenery.
(Pepper had bumped into Sunset once in Indonesia a couple years later. Sunset had turned ghost white upon recognizing her and stammered that she hoped everyone was doing well before turning tail and fleeing. After she and Tony broke up, she’d looked into several quiet beach properties in Brazil just to be safe)
Steve was a good man, brave and determined and very much in love with Tony but would he hold up under Rhodey and JARVIS’s scrutiny? He already had dozens of marks against him just for the inherent issues with Howard not to mention, there was Rhodey’s odd prejudice against Tony with tall blond men specifically.
Neither he nor Tony would say anything about it but it was hard to miss the way he’d practically hurled the few one night stands that had fit the description out when he’d found them.
Pepper winces and sighs. She did not have the time for this, not with the new line of Starkphones about to come out and the latest arc reactor project reaching critical approval stages. Sometimes she swears the Tony Stark’s purpose in life was apparently to make hers more difficult.
Why was she so invested in Tony’s love life anyways? She had a corporation worth billions across the world to run and here she was trying to run interference against Tony’s overprotective best friend and AI butler overprotective ways.
Oh. Right. She loves him and therefore wants him to be happy. This whole love thing was really getting to be an inconvenient annoyance. She really should do something about it already but she’s just been too busy lately. As in for the past decade or so, mostly because of Tony.
She’d fallen for his trap the very first time they’d met when she was passing by and interrupted him to point out a rather major mistake in the accounting. She’d been slightly worried at first that newly appointed and known to be temperamental CEO would fire her for overstepping her bounds.
Instead, he’d looked up from the error at Pepper with a leer and a comment about how good she’d probably look in a pair of red Louboutin heels and presumably little else. It was a fight between her urge to slap him and offering him the chance to find out for himself.
She ended up sorting through his paperwork instead and suppressing the ever growing desire to not just slap him but possibly even strangle him for using a form of organization which possibly could only made sense to a baboon on LSD.
Pepper had told herself though that it was just a silly crush. He did fit her type to almost a tee after all: smart, handsome and just a bit of a rebel. However a crush was all it was because love at first sight was a ridiculous concept and the thought of being in love with Tony Stark of all people even more so, especially for a sensible woman like Pepper. And as all crushes do, hers on Tony would eventually die down, eventually crushed under all the frustration and suffering that his existence seemed to constantly bring to her.
Only it didn’t.
Over a decade as his PA hadn’t killed it. Neither had Afghanistan nor Iron Man and the Avengers. Not even their inevitable romance and its just as inevitable end had ever lessened or made easier her ‘crush’ for him. So eventually she’d given in and admitted it. Pepper Potts loves Tony Stark.
Thankfully she was no longer quite so in love with him though she suspected that would never quite go away either. Tony Stark feelings tended to be just as annoying and clingy as the man himself.
She sighs again and jerks back, tripping over the couch when Clint drops down in front of her from out of nowhere.
“Hey there Pepper. Chasing down Tony for paperwork again?”
Pepper clutches the folder to her chest and stares up at the plain smooth ceiling, no vents or anything from which a man of Clint’s size could have been hiding.
“Where the world did you come from!?” She demands.
“Ancient Russian Spy Secrets. Traded Natasha a set of ivory knives and a Klondike bar for them.”
Pepper glares at him and swats at him with her folder. Clint just grins back at her, leaning back nimbly to avoid the hit.
“Anyways, Tony’s out so want to grab some lunch with a super handsome heroic hawkeye and Nat instead?”
“There’s a new Japanese restaurant that’s recently opened up on 5th Avenue.” Natasha adds, having suddenly appeared next to her on the couch. Pepper twitches. Maybe next time she’d be a bit more sympathetic to Tony when he complained about sneaky spy couples competing to see who can freak him out the worst by suddenly appearing in unexpected places.
“Well?” Clint prompts her.
Pepper looks down at the folder. There are so many things she needs to do. Keeping the company stable, getting Tony to finally sign these papers so she can get the new arc reactor facility going, figuring out what exactly Rhodey and JARVIS are up to….
She looks back up at the pair of superspies.
“Their sake any good?”
Did you guys enjoy that little scene at the beginning? ;)
Also, sorry no Tony in tux yet... but it's coming soon I promise!
*Sunset Baine is one of comic!Tony's evil ex's. I'm adapting her background to fit this story. Kudos to readers if any of you recognize the other evil ex who's been mentioned.
Chapter 6: Gala Style
Tony and Rhodey like to cuddle....as a platonic, just friends kind of thing of course. Isn't that what everyone does with their friends?
Pepper opens her mouth and closes it again. This was absolutely ludicrous. There was no way that… Just no.
She doesn’t know why she is even contemplating the idea. Sure, the Tony and Rhodey were close and all but she’s known both of them for years now and there’s no way she could have missed something like that happening right underneath her nose.
“Pepper? Come on, you’re not telling us that there might really actually be something between Tony and Rhodes are you?”
Clint jabs his pair of chopsticks at her and Pepper shoves them out of her face before responding.
“No. Of course not.”
“But could there be? Do either of them perhaps want there to be?” Natasha queries.
“In case you forgot, it was Tony and I who had been together. He may have had a playboy reputation but once he commits, he never strays.” Pepper reminds.
“He’s Tony’s best friend.”
“Aha!” Clint shouts at Natasha who leans back annoyed “Told you there was nothing to the whole breakfast in bed thing.”
“Breakfast in bed?” Pepper asks almost hesitatingly. She had a bad feeling about this.
“Apparently Rhodes delivered breakfast in bed to Stark a couple days ago. The implication was that the two of them had been in bed together the night previous.” Natasha explains.
Clint scoffs and adds, “Yeah right. Because two people sleeping together is totally just a friendly bonding activity. Well, this settles it then once and for...”
He turns towards Pepper and trails off at the clearly uncomfortable look on her face.
“You’re kidding. You just said they weren’t bumping uglies!”
“They only sleeping!” She protests. “It’s this thing where Tony refuses to sleep properly or eat so Rhodey just sort of…”
“Croons sweet nothings in his ear till Tony falls asleep in his arms? Yes, very platonic indeed.” Natasha deadpans.
“I…” She doesn’t really have a rebuttal to that. She’d walked in on them once doing what she could only call cuddling on the couch. Tony had been asleep, snuggled into Rhodey’s chest and snoring lightly, while Rhodey was so busy smiling at the dozing genius in his arms with an expression of exasperated fondness that he hadn’t even realize she was there.
It had occurred to her before that it was a little odd but Pepper had always put it down to just Tony being Tony and Rhodey being a good friend. After all, she’d also occasionally played teddy bear for when the man was nearly falling over from exhaustion but still refused to sleep without someone basically holding him down until he finally dozed off.
Then again, she had been in love with him. Could it be that Rhodey had been the same?
Pepper shakes her head.
“It doesn’t make sense. If he really has been holding a torch for Tony, then why now? Why wait?”
Natasha shrugs. “There are plenty of possible reasons. His military career, you, maybe he hasn’t quite realized he was in love…People can be odd when it comes to love especially when it’s a friend.”
Pepper sneaks a quick glance at Clint who looks back blankly. Nevermind.
“Rhodey’s never agreed with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And if…if he’d really wanted Tony then I would have never stood a chance,” she replies.
“So you’re saying that even if Tony was supposedly in love with someone else, he would still leave him or her for Rhodes?”
Pepper throws her hands up in the air in frustration and then grabs the remainder of her cup of sake and throws that back. Clint pours her another and she quickly downs that one too.
“Look," she says, slamming the cup back down, "If you two knew them then you wouldn’t even be asking this. Tony and Rhodey are friends and That. Is. It.”
She stands up, “And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a company to run. Oh, and tell Tony that he better at the gala tonight.”
Natasha nods. “We’ll make sure of it.”
There’s something about the way she says it that send a shiver of foreboding up Pepper’s spine but she knows that whatever it is that Natasha has planned, there’s nothing she can do about it at this time. She really does have a company to run and if she doesn’t leave now then she was going to be late for the board meeting. And unlike Tony, she did not care to have a reputation for always being late.
Steve sighs into his flute of champagne and wished he were home. Parties like this gala really weren't his thing and he’d been hoping to catch up on his reading tonight. Tony had recently introduced him to the Twilight series and like watching a train wreck, he just couldn’t stop reading even though he spent most of the time absolutely horrified by the plot.
Was that really what counted as romance these days? Tony had said that it was the number one romance novel of the decade and was rivaled only by another similar book called ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ but Steve sincerely hoped that this was another one of Tony’s jokes.
Tony had also promised to show him the movies at some point, said the first one had even won several awards. Steve has yet to decide if he was really willing to let Tony convince him to watch them.
Shaking off all thoughts of sparkling vampires, Steve scans the crowd for the other Avengers. Clint had said that this was supposed to be another Avengers publicity event but so far none of the other Avengers had been around. Clint and he had arrived together but the archer had disappeared within minutes of arrival. Bruce was excused due to experiments and Thor off with Jane and couldn’t make it either.
That still left Natasha and Tony who were MIA so far. Steve frowns. Where could those two to be? Surely if something had happened, Steve would have been informed right?
Just as he was getting ready to pull out his phone and call them, there’s a commotion and his ears pick up a faint ‘Mr. Stark’ and Steve smiles. Finally, Tony’s here.
He circles the room searching for a bright and loud crowd where Tony would be sure to be holding court. There’s a large knot of people by the punch bowl and Steve spots his target at the center of it. Tony is laughing brightly, looking as roguishly dashing in his tuxedo as Clark Gable had been as Rhett in ‘Gone With the Wind’.
The tuxedo is a sleek black and white number that practically screams obnoxiously wealthy. Tony pulls it off like a charm though as he always does. It's the bowtie he's wearing that makes Steve smile though. It's a gray and black polka-dot silk one that Steve had given him for his birthday because Tony had kept complaining about Pepper having confiscated his fun ones because they weren't 'appropiate' and plain black bowties were so boring.
He'd been worried at first that Tony would think it a silly gift considering he had enough money to buy but Tony had been delighted by it and promised to wear it to every function which was a lot of functions. By now Steve supposes he should be used to the sight of it around Tony's neck but it still makes him feel a little warm inside seeing Tony wearing something of Steve's.
Bowtie or not though, Tony always looked good in suits, whether they were made of metal or fine Italian wool. Steve liked him in both though he had to admit a certain fondness for Tony in nothing more than threadbare jeans and a grease-stained ACDC shirt.
It reminded him of hours down in the workshop watching Tony make magic (technology, Steve, technology not that mumbo jumbo magic shit that Loki likes), creating blue beauties in air with nothing more than a wave of his hand and bantering with JARVIS and the bots.
He steps forward, ready to interrupt and steal Tony away when someone intercepts him. A very familiar someone decked out in the same dress uniform that he’d worn several days ago when he’d suddenly showed up in the Avengers’ kitchen.
Colonel Rhodes grins at him and throws an arm around Steve’s shoulders. Standing right next to the other man, Steve realizes that the other man is shorter by about an inch and some petty part of him prods him into standing up a little straighter to highlight the difference.
“Captain! Just the man I was looking for,” the Colonel exclaims, “I have a few people I think you'd be interested in meeting.”
Steve looks back at where Tony was; their eyes meet briefly and Tony smiles at him, brilliant and handsome and Steve's heart skips a step as he smiles back. Then the moment is gone and Tony's back to charming the crowd and the Colonel is pulling Steve away. He guides Steve over to the east side of the room towards a group of dressed up dames are chatting by the giant ice sculpture of a swan.
“Ladies! Have you all met Captain America?” Rhodes calls out to them. Steve gulps as half a dozen women turn to him with hungry expressions, as if they were lionesses and he a limping gazelle, ripe for the picking.
“Oh Colonel Rhodes, you shouldn’t have,” titters one of them. The Colonel laughs and shoves Steve forward.
“Hello Ma’am’s,” Steve bows a little. They laugh at him and it feels like his USO days all over again, when unfamiliar dames would come up to him in groups and ask him if he could pick them up too and giggling at his every response. He knows he should feel flattered by their attention but he can’t help thinking that they don’t really know him, didn’t know about how he once could barely make it up stairs without having an asthma attack. It feels false and it’s always made Steve rather uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry but I think I need to find Tony,” Steve smiles at them nervously and turns to leave but the Colonel blocks his way.
“Oh come on Captain. These lovely ladies want to thank you for your courage and dedication. Won’t you stay a little while longer?”
Steve grits his teeth. The last time a dame had ‘thanked him’, he’d end up getting shot at by a very irate Peggy Carter. While he knew that Tony would do no such thing (he’d probably cheer Steve on in fact), he doesn’t want Tony getting the wrong impression. It was hard enough trying to catch Tony’s attention without Tony thinking that Steve wanted to step out with some dame.
“I’m truly sorry, but there’s something I wanted to discuss with Tony. Avengers business you see.”
He smiles at them, willing them to believe him. He does actually have Avengers business to discuss with Tony. Well, if you counted needing a new toaster because Thor jammed in too many pop tarts into the old one again as ‘business’.
The women sigh but agree to let him go and Steve sighs in silent relief at the bullet dodged. His relief is short lived though when the Colonel excuses himself and follows.
“Hey come on Captain, none of them your type?”
Steve stops suddenly and turns on the Colonel.
“Were you just trying to set me up?”
Rhodes shrugs at him.
“Tony mentioned that you seemed to have trouble talking to the ladies so I figured I’d help a man out.”
“Thank you, but I can handle myself,” Steve tells him, voice just a touch frosty and turns to leave. “Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“Wait,” the Colonel calls out to him, throwing an arm out in front of Steve, “Ok, ok so maybe I shouldn’t have done that. But you have to admit, your face was hilarious.”
Steve grits his teeth as the Colonel grins at him, as if inviting him to share in the amusment. It’s the kind of joke that Tony and Clint would and has played on him before but coming from Colonel Rhodes, this essential stranger, it felt less like friendly teasing and a lot more like mockery. He glares at the Colonel and opens his mouth to tell him exactly what he thought of his little ‘joke’ when he suddenly notices that behind the wide smile, Colonel Rhodes is glaring back at him.
“You don’t like me!” Steve blurts out instead and Rhodes rears back briefly in surprise. For a moment, they stare at each other unsure of how to proceed now.
“Umm,” Steve starts, “I mean…”
Rhodes waves his hand. “I know what you meant.” He pauses and then glances around them and Steve guiltily does the same. Thankfully, no one had been close enough to hear Steve’s surprised observation but really Steve had done enough of these horse and pony shoes that he should have known better than to blurt out such things in public.
“Alright Captain, maybe it’s time you and I had a little talk,” Rhodes suggests and Steve nods. He follows Rhodes out of the main chambers and down a narrow hallway and then a left into a small library. Rhodes walks out onto the balcony and Steve joins him.
“So. What makes you think I don’t like you?” Rhodes asks bluntly, leaning against the railing. Steve hesitates.
“Well, you…you seem to act like it,” he says, gesturing helplessly in the air. How to describe the vibe that he got from Rhodes? Now that he looked back on their interactions over the past few days, Steve realized just how strained they had been and not just on his end. It was like the Colonel had constantly been judging him at every moment and Steve hadn't been passing muster.
Rhodes stares at him consideringly for several beats and then sighs and looks away to the setting sun.
“I…don’t not like you. You’re a good man and I respect you for what you’ve done in the past and what you’re doing now. However…”
Rhodes drifts off, gaze distant and Steve leans forward a little.
“However…?” Steve prompts. Rhodes turns to him with a frown and Steve feels his heart stop at his next words.
“I know about you and Tony.”
And at long last, we have Tony in a tux! Coming up next: Rhodes and Steve have a little chat about good intentions.
Also, not sure if this is the proper procedure for such things or not, but I'm looking for a beta for another story I'm working on. It's Tony in college and deals with some trigger warning issues and I'd really appreciate it if someone would look over it for me. If any of you are willing, please drop me a message at my lj (dearwhimsy.livejournal.com) or tumblr (dearwhimsy.tumblr.com)