“Tony, Tony, Tony. Listen to me. Hello? Tony.”
“What, what, what do you want, Pepper? I’m busy. I’m in the process of genius, here. You’re hindering my genius.”
Pepper sighed, thumb and pointer finger rubbing the bridge of her nose. She could feel a headache coming on.
“Tony. You’re going on three nights of no sleep, and everything is smoking. You’re not ”in the process of genius”” she mimicked his tone, curling her fingers into air quotes. “You’re in the process of burning down the entire lab. Which, actually, I’m surprised you get access into at 3 in the morning.”
“My dad paid for it.” He shrugged, as if that were the answer to everything. Which, well, it kind of was. But still.
“Of course he did. Tony, could you just—sit down, just sit down. Sit. Sit. Good. Good boy.”
Tony rolled his eyes but turned off the Bunsen burner (he had that under control, thank you very much) and took a seat on the stool. “Yes, almighty Pepper. To what do I owe the honor of you bestowing your presence upon me?”
“Don’t be a smart ass.” She smacked him atop the head, grinning in triumph as he rubbed it. “Normally you’re not in this part of the lab when you’re…genius-ing. What’s going on?”
Pepper blinked in confusion, trying to see how anything made sense. “Steve…Rogers?”
“Yep.” He popped the p sound, something he knew Pepper hated, and she resisted cringing.
“Okay,” She started again, because clearly Tony was in one of his dick moods that made her want to slam his head into a table. “What about Steve Rogers, Tony?”
Pepper knew that Tony and Steve didn’t really…get along, much. Tony didn’t go out of his way to pick on Steve, but he would if the chance presented itself. It was nothing out of the ordinary—Tony poked fun at anyone.
“I thought I hated him, at first. Something about him and his need to try and do good, and his always-constant freaking smiles, I thought. He never leaves my mind.”
And suddenly, things made a lot more sense.
“You like him.”
Tony didn’t say anything, just proceeded to stab the chunk of metal on the lab table that much harder. He didn’t know when it started, and that was weird. Tony was used to knowing things. It started slowly. One night, he’s getting himself off, and suddenly it’s Steve sucking him off, rather than some nameless blonde chick. It was weird, but Tony’s had weirder, so he paid no attention. But after that, everything he thought about was fucking Steve. He wanted to, like, actually be with Steve. Not just with him, but with him.
It terrified Tony like nothing ever had.
Pepper sigh, deciding to continue when she realized Tony was in one of his moods. “Tony. Making him some sort of…metallic sculpture isn’t going to woo—is that a dick.”
“…It’s a piece of art.”
“You can’t make him a metal penis.”
“He’s Steve Rogers, for one thing. You haven’t been the nicest thing to him, at all, these past four years. What do you think he’s going to think if you give him a giant penis made out of metal?”
Tony knew Pepper was right. Pepper was always right. That didn’t forbid him from trying, though. “That I want his big dick?”
“No, Tony.” Pepper sighed, headache already forming. “That’s not what he’s going to think.”
Tony was silent for a few moments, gnawing on his lower lip with a personal vengeance. He hated this part. He really hated it.
“What am I supposed to do?”
Flowers, Pepper had said. Start by buying him flowers.
There had been a whole ordeal where Pepper sat him down, and gave him step-by-step instructions. She called it “Operation Woo Steve Rogers into Falling in Love With Tony” (OWSRFLWT) and Tony called it fucking annoying. But, whatever. It started with flowers.
He was not going to admit he sat up researching flowers all night. He was not.
Tony did, however, learn that tulips in general meant “perfect lover” and that was kind of cute, right?
After maybe 10 minutes (hours) of internet searching, Tony found out that red ones mean love, yellow ones mean happiness, and a bunch of other ones with equally nice crap. So, after he spent maybe 50 minutes (hours) deciding what color to choose, Tony stumbled upon the fact that giving people multi colored tulips means that they have beautiful eyes. (Tony did not spend an hour thinking about Steve’s baby blues.)
Whatever. Tony lucked out, and the next morning went to the nearest florist, proudly picking out the freshest, brightest tulips. They weren’t overpoweringly scented—just something light and sweet and huh, Tony maybe should get some sort of hobby with flowers, or something. They were sort of nice.
It was a quiet walk back, because Tony was up at the ass crack of dawn, and all the normal people were sleeping. But it was okay to bother Pepper, of course.
With ninja-like grace, Tony snuck into Pepper’s house. He’s done it so many times, he already knows which floorboards are the ones that creak, which doors need to be fixed, and which windows to climb into. He was so good at it, no one ever, ever suspected a thing. If Tony wasn’t such a genius, he’d totally be a thief or something. Seriously.
Pepper gratefully slept on the second floor of the house, while her parents were on the first. That made it a little easier, talking wise, for Tony.
“Pep? Pepper, open up!” He susurrated, fingers rapping against the wood in quick taps. He didn’t let up, either. Just let the incessantly annoying rapping of his knuckles keep going until he heard a beautiful string of swears, and the door being flung open.
“What. The fuck. Do you want.” Pepper hissed while Tony grinned, pushing past her to put the bouquet of tulips on her nightstand while plopping down onto her bed.
“I got him the flowers. I even got him a little card that says ‘secret admirer.’ How 1920s is that?”
“Tony, it’s four o’clock in the fucking morning.”
“It’s never too early for love. Can I put my flowers in your mini fridge? The florist said I should.”
“Get off my bed.”
“I thought we could cuddle.” Tony pouted, extending his arms.
Pepper was having none of it, though, even as she grumbled and put the damn (although beautiful) tulips into the fridge.
“I’m not going to ask you again, Anthony.”
“But Peps, we haven’t snuggled in ages.”
And with that, Tony found himself face-first on the ground, groaning as Pepper used him as a step stool into her bed.
“I’m going back to sleep. If you wake me up before 8, I’m going to rip off your dick and hang it on my wall as a trophy.”
“I love you too, darling.”
Flowers didn’t go as well as Tony had hoped.
See, it started out great. Tony knew where Steve ate lunch, (he wasn’t being creepy. He happened to stop by one of the cafés around campus, and ended up finding Steve with a book, a cup of something steaming, and a sandwich. If he went back after that, well, the food was good.) and left the flowers right on the table.
Perfect. Tony was a damn genius.
Steve arrived 5 minutes later, just as planned, and ordered his sandwich and cup of something steaming. Tony was standing nonchalantly with a cup of coffee and his cell phone, peering over the top as he pretended to text.
Steve smiled at his table and looked around. He stopped a few people, asking them if they had forgotten these flowers on the table. When it appeared that wasn’t the case, Steve looked down at the table in confusion.
“Come on…” Tony mumbled, body practically radiating “IT WAS ME, IT WAS ME.” Tony learned something valuable that day, though.
Steve was definitely not a mind reader. Good to know, good to know. Things like that come in handy in the future, and what not.
With a shrug, Steve picked his cup of something steaming back up and moved to another table. He apparently thought that table was taken.
“Peeeeeeeeeppppppppp.” Tony whined, throwing himself down onto her floor. The headache that seemed to always be brewing beneath the surface whenever Tony came around started to throb at her temples again.
“What is it, Tony?” She had a paper to write, and a dinner date with a new pizza place to attend to. She had no time for shenanigans.
“The flower idea was a bust.”
“He thought someone was sitting there, because I put the flowers on the table he eats at, and he switched tables.”
“Well, what happened to the flowers?”
“I just left them there. I wasn’t going to go pick them up, that’d be embarrassing.” Tony didn’t care if they were 60 dollars. The whole place saw him put them down, and then Steve didn’t give much thought to them. If he were to go back to get them, he would have gotten those…those…those pity stares.
Like the ones you get when you do the walk of shame after sleeping with someone who lives in a house full of people, and they kick you out. Like that.
That didn’t happen to Tony. No siree.
Pepper sighed, throwing a sweater over her shirt. It was getting cooler outside.
“You should make him something.”
Tony opened his mouth to speak, but Pepper held up a silencing finger in warning. “Not a dick made out of metal.”
“Well then what am I supposed to make him?”
“A card, maybe? Write him a letter? A poem? Draw him something? He’s president of the art club, you know. Do something with physics and chemistry and whatever else you do. Something from your heart.”
“A metal dick is my heart.”
Pepper gave him a pointed look before opening her door. “I’m done with this conversation, Stark. Don’t eat anything in my fridge, and remember to lock the door when you’re leaving the house.”
Tony sulked, sitting down on Pepper’s floor to think for a while, before springing up and running out the door with an idea.
He had to turn back mid way to go back and lock it, but whatever. Tony had a plan.
Did he mention that he was a genius?
“Bruce? Bruce. You need to help me.” Tony exclaimed, barging through Bruce’s front door, eyes wild and alive. He always left it open because he had the ‘need to be buzzed in’ gate. No point of locking it if the damn gate was a lock itself.
“Um…sure? What is it?”
“Roses are red, violets are blue. We should have sex.”
There was a pause.
And then there was another one.
“That’s a good poem, isn’t it?”
“Well, it’s not…it’s…it’s really direct.”
Tony sighed as if Bruce were being particularly slow. “I’m in the process of wooing someone, Banner. Non-direct doesn’t really work for me.”
“I can see that.” Bruce grinned wryly, closing his chemistry book. “Who are you trying to…woo?” Bruce wasn’t a big talker, but he got along with Tony. Tony was blunt, said it like it should be said, and was honest. He didn’t treat Bruce differently for being introverted with tendencies of anger. He treated Bruce like he did everyone else, and Bruce really liked that.
Not to mention, they were science bros.
Well, whatever Bruce was expecting, it definitely wasn’t that. His eyebrows shot up and he looked at Tony over the rim of his glasses, trying to see if Tony was joking with him or not. Tony wasn’t joking.
“You’re trying to woo Steve Rogers?”
“I’m trying to woo Steve Rogers.”
“With that poem?”
Tony huffed, done with the game of repetition. “What’s wrong with my poem?”
“Well, I only know Steve from a couple of classes, but—“
“You had classes with him?! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Tony exclaimed, latching onto Bruce’s shoulder. Bruce winced.
“I didn’t know it was relevant information!”
Tony sighed as if the world had done him a great injustice, and flopped back against the couch. “Well, whatever. Back to why you assume my poem won’t be a hit.”
“Well, from what I know, I mean—he’s not that type of guy? I don’t think he’d want to just…you know. Have sex with you, first off. Second, he’s…I don’t want to say shy, because he’s lively and bright around Peggy, and people who are his friend. But Tony, if you just went up to him like that, he’d probably think you were playing a cruel joke on him.”
Tony groaned. Pepper said the same thing. Tony needed new friends.
“Help me write a poem.”
Bruce flushed a little, huffing through his nose. “I’m not helping you write a love poem, Tony.”
“You have no boundaries, do you?” Bruce mumbled, opening his book back up. Tony figured he was on his own again.
“Well, fine! Fine. I’m going to write the best fucking poem any of you have ever seen. It’s going to be so good, I’m going to make people burst into tears with it’s sheer beauty. So fuck you.”
And Tony stomped out of the house like a four year old.
Poetry was a bust, too.
Tony had a feeling Steve would think the poem was for someone else, just like with the flowers, so he made sure to label it this time. Ha. Take that.
Your eyes shine like the ocean
And your ears are really cute
I’ll give you my devotion
You really make me “hoot.”
Tony even drew a fucking owl by the word hoot. It was the cutest thing in the entire world, worthy of coos and ahs, god dammit. It was perfect. Tony’s a genius.
But do you know what happened?
Instead of Steve Rogers taking it, Steve Bishops took it. And then proceeded to extol about how some guy had a creepy gay crush on him.
Tony slammed his head against his lab table once he got back to the science building. Hard.
Tony had no other choice. He was bone dry on ideas, because all of his kept going fucking wrong, and he was in desperate need of help. This left him with no choice.
“I need your help.”
Tony could practically hear the evil, slow grin; he didn’t even have to see it. God dammit. Loki was a senior, just like them, but was liked just as much by the teachers. It’s because he was conniving, and sleuth-y, and Tony admired a tiny fraction of it. Sort of. Loki helped correct junior English papers, which is why Tony found him sitting behind the teacher’s desk in one of the English classrooms.
“Oh? You’re requesting my assistance?”
“Shut the fuck up, Loki. Are you going to help me or not?”
“What’s in it for me?”
“The new exchange guy—Thor? Him. I know he’s your type. Weird, big, and blonde. I’m friends with him. I’ll tell where he eats.”
There was a silence before Loki spun around in his chair to face Tony. He resisted an eyeroll.
“I know where he eats, moron. Classes.”
“Do you want my help, or not?”
Tony groaned, running a hand through his hair. “Fine, fine! Jesus Christ. Deal. It’s a deal.” He jotted down Thor’s class list on the notepad sitting on Loki’s desk. “There.”
Loki eyed him critically before nodding, sinister grin in place. “What do you need?”
“How do you…you’re good with guys. I mean, so am I, don’t get me wrong. I’m good with guys and girls. I’m good with just about—“
“The point, Tony.”
“I’m seriously after someone and I need your sick help to get their attention.”
Loki raised his eyebrow. “Someone isn’t paying attention to the Tony Stark?”
“Shut up.” Tony grumbled. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“I suppose so.” Loki sighed, long-sufferingly, as if this whole thing were ruining his life. Really. And Pepper said Tony was dramatic.
“I’m going to tell you something quite simple, Tony. The way to a man’s heart is through his—“
Loki grimaced, as if Tony just squashed the guts out of a bug and onto Loki’s desk. “Through his stomach.”
There was a pause.
“RIGHT, right.” Tony nodded, getting it. “Food! Make him good food. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Good—good job, Loki.”
Tony bolted out of the room, and Loki just sighed for the umpteenth time. People seemed to do that a lot in Tony’s presence. He counted down from ten. By the time he reached one, Tony was back in the room, looking sheepish.
“What do I cook?”
“That’s going to require Thor’s number.”
“Are you serious?!”
“Like a heart attack.”
Tony grumbled, adding Thor’s phone number onto the notepad. “There.”
“Oh, come on. That’s fucking bullshit and you know it. Give me a little more than that.”
Loki rolled his eyes, but figured he could do just that. “Desserts. Cookies, brownies, pies, cakes—do your research. Make sure you know what he likes.”
“Yeah, yeah, got it—okay, bye. I have sweets to bake.”
And with that, Tony was out. Loki’s eyes narrowed down to the notepad, ferocious grin on his face. For an acclaimed genius, Tony sure was dumb sometimes. A) anyone could have figured out baking is usually a…cute thing to do. And B) It’s not like Loki ever tried to keep his people around.
Everyone likes cookies, right? Because that’s what Tony was currently baking in one of the on-campus cafeterias, after bribing a chef to let him use the oven. Everyone liked cookies. It was like…an unwritten rule to not like cookies. You had to like cookies. It was just a thing.
Except, well…Tony may have dozed off a little. No one can blame him! He was up all night writing poetry, and the night before that researching flowers. Not to mention, making a dick out of metal three nights ago at three in the morning. He was exhausted! It really wasn’t his fault.
Turns out cookies burn relatively quickly once you forget they’re cooking.
It’s okay. It’s totally okay. Reduce, reuse, recycle, or some shit. Tony would regroup, and stuff. It’d be fine. Cookies were a total bust, anyway. What kind of 17-year-old boy bakes cookies? Not Tony Stark. Tony Stark gets baked cookies, but never does the baking. Nope.
Not that he can’t bake. He totally can.
This wasn’t his fault.
With a sigh, Tony dragged himself back into his own empty house and into bed, because the truth was, trying to woo people was fucking exhausting.
And then he thought of Steve’s smile when he laughed at something someone had said to him in the hallway, and it was suddenly a little more bearable.
A lot more scary, but a little more tolerable.
“This isn’t working, Pepper.”
“Your stupid fucking operation, or whatever the fuck you called it!”
Pepper froze, mid step, and turned around to look at Tony. They were in Starbucks on a Friday afternoon, and it was relatively empty. The café smelt of pumpkin spice and salted caramel and rich coffee, and there was only one thing that could stop Pepper from dashing up to the counter to order the largest, sweetest drink she could get.
“You’re still trying to win Steve over.”
“That was the fucking plan, Pepper! I’ve been working at it for weeks, okay? With cookies and flowers and all that other stupid shit, and everything goes wrong!”
“Tony, the…the operation wasn’t a serious thing. I thought we were joking around! Fuck, I thought you’d be done with this little thing in a couple of days.”
Tony didn’t say anything, and Pepper could feel sympathy for the guy settling in. It didn’t happen often. No one had taken him seriously (which is a production of his own behavior and Pepper will not feel guilty for doing it) when he needed them to.
“Let me get us something to drink, okay? Go sit.” She sighed, coming back 10 minutes later with sweet drinks for the both of them.
“Tony, why haven’t you just gone and talked to him?”
“Because I always say something wrong.” He huffed, playing it off, but Pepper could see the genuineness behind those words. She frowned.
“Don’t give me that frown, that’s the walk of shame pity frown!”
She opened her mouth to ask, but Tony cut her off. “No, no. It’s fine. I’d probably end up saying something stupid because I have no brain to mouth filter, okay, and I don’t want to mess anything else up, because I already picked on him throughout the years.”
“No, seriously! I messed things up, and I get it, whatever, boohoo, it happens. Steve’s too good for someone like me, anyway. Innocent…well, he probably jerks off, but I mean in a different way. Just a good guy. Steve Rogers is—“
“Tony, you should really—“
“A really freaking good guy, you know? And it’s not fucking fair, of all damn people to randomly get attracted to, I had to get attracted to the one guy who would probably rather willingly flush himself down a toilet than talk to me."
“Do you ever even listen when I—“
“Honestly. It’s not fair. Shut up Pepper, I’m whining for once. Steve Rogers is too good of a guy for me, okay. With his stupid blue eyes and his floppy hair and his cute fucking shoulders, okay, have you seen them? They’re adorable. And his damn art, and just. He feeds the birds, Pepper! Do you know who feeds birds? People who fucking care! He’s just everything good in the fucking world and it’s so damn endearing, and—“
Pepper let out a cry of frustration, grabbing Tony’s chin between her fingers and twisting his neck to the side, which, ow—he would have registered the pain, if…if oh. Awesome. If Steve Rogers wasn’t standing right behind him, with his guard dog, Peggy.
Peggy, who was grinning something very amused right now, with an eyebrow arched perfectly, and dammit, both she and Pepper knew how to do that really fucking well, and Tony was determined to learn. And…and then there was Steve, who stood there with his mouth hanging open. (Tony tried not to be dirty. He really did.)
Tony cleared his throat, but before he had a chance to say anything, Steve’s entire face was turning red and—and his eyes were glazed with hurt, and…and this wasn’t the reaction Tony wanted. Without a word, Steve was hurrying out the door of Starbucks.
“Wait, I just—what the fuck?”
“Go and explain it to him, Tony. You couldn’t have been more clear.” Pepper shook her head, because honestly, this only happened to Tony. And when things like this happened, she was left to pick up messes. Tony’s eyes darted to Peggy, who stared at him through a judging gaze, before softening with a nod.
What was with girls and their freaky body language? Tony had no idea why she nodded. Whatever. He got out of his seat and speed-walked to the door, and then he was gone.
“Mind if I sit here?” Peggy grinned, taking a sip of the coffee Tony left behind. Pepper smiled.
“Not at all.”
“Steve, could you just hold on a second, just wait, why are you running away from me, it should so be the other way around, I’m the one who just—Jesus fucking ass tits, can you hang on?” Tony panted, finally catching up to the boy. It’s not that Steve was going that quickly anyway, he just had a bit of a head start.
Tony, however, managed to grab hold of Steve’s think upper arm, making sure not to squeeze too tightly.
“What do you want?”
Tony commended Steve on his efforts to not wheeze, but he knew about Steve’s asthma. Still, Tony knew Steve wasn’t a stupid guy. If he needed his inhaler, he’d take it out.
“Can you tell me what the fuck is going on, because I’m really confused?”
Steve let out a laugh, but he was still gasping for air so it was more like a breathy exhale. One that Tony could tell was not actually amused.
“You’re confused? I walk into Starbucks and you’re—you’re making fun of me.”
Tony blinked, but Steve continued. “You weren’t one who instigated the teasing, you know. You kind of went along with it sometimes, but you never—you weren’t one of the people that made it get out of hand. You called me Tiny, or something stupid, but it wasn’t—you didn’t do anything cruel. I thought you were above that. I thought maybe you—“
“Maybe I what?”
“Maybe you were different.”
“Different from what?”
“I don’t know! God, I don’t—you know what, this is pointless. I don’t know who told you about my feelings, and I really respect Pepper, but it wasn’t…it wasn’t okay of you to do that.”
“Feelings? Wait, Steve, SteveSteveSteve hold on.” Tony had to re-grab Steve’s arm, because the boy was on the move again. He was like a damn speed racer, Jesus Christ.
“What?” He hissed again, eyes darting around so they wouldn’t land on Tony’s face.
“I’m sorry, for calling you Shrimp and Tiny and Peewee or whatever else I did, okay? And I’m sorry for not…you know, stopping those other assholes from doing worse.” Stark’s didn’t apologize. But Tony figured he could maybe try, just this once.
Tony could see that Steve was on guard with his shoulders tense, and he had to give the smaller boy some credit. Tony also saw that the guard in his eyes was being let down, which was a good thing for Tony. Although, it broke another little piece of him to see that just a simple “I’m sorry” was already making Steve trust him a little bit more. It was terrifying to hold that sort of power over Steve.
“And I wasn’t making fun of you just now.”
There was a moment where neither of them spoke. Steve stared at Tony, and Tony stared at Steve.
“What do you mean?” Steve swallowed, mouth suddenly completely dried out. Dammit.
“I mean, it was all kind of true. I don’t know how, Rogers, I don’t know—well, no, I do know how. You’re so fucking compassionate, you know? Even to the assholes that don’t deserve it. You’re this ball of light and I’m the stupid ass moth that can’t help but be drawn to it.” Tony loosened his grip on Steve’s upper arm again, this time sliding his fingers down to cup at Steve’s bony elbow.
“You’re brimming with positive energy, even though some people treat you like shit. I’ve never seen anyone like you. Really. You do all these good things, and at first I thought it was because you were a suck up, but you weren’t. You were just good. I’ve never met anyone who was just good, okay? I haven’t. You intrigued me, and I kept some tabs on you. And before I knew it, I was a goner.” Tony shrugged.
He could feel Steve almost trembling (Steve would deny it to the grave) against his fingertips as he took a step closer, free hand slowly going to rest against Steve’s protruding hip bone, as if trying not to frighten a skittish animal.
“I could do this right, if you’d let me.”
Steve took in a deep inhale, and if he thought his mouth was dry before, well—well, it was like someone literally just took a cotton swab and took away any damn moisture. “Are you lying?” And his voice sounded so positively breakable, as if, if Tony were actually lying, Steve would crumble and fly away with the breeze. Tony never wanted to break Steve, and it was becoming less and less scary the more he dealt with it.
“No.” And with that, he dipped his head down to press his lips against Steve’s, thinking “ah, this is nice” and “warm” and “soft” and Tony thought closed mouthed kisses were lame, but this was sweet.
And it didn’t turn filthy (like it did in Tony’s dreams) but it turned sweeter, because Steve parted his lips and he tasted like whipped cream from the top of his dumb Starbucks drink, and he was clutching to Tony’s jaw with a gentle sort of force. His thumb was stinking the underside of his mandible and it made Tony want to fucking purr.
Tony licked into Steve’s mouth, eating up the little sounds that were coming from Steve (hopefully none were from himself) and sliding both hands to Steve’s waist, tugging him close.
Steve was the one the pull away and Tony chased him for a second, pressing a chaste kiss to his lips before pulling back in his own direction, letting Steve drop his flushed face against Tony’s neck. The warmth from his skin was a nice feeling. Tony’s fingertips played with this skin that was peeking out from under Steve’s shirt because Tony couldn’t freaking help himself.
Tony could do slow. He could. Really. Well, okay—he could try, at least.
“You…you really want this?” Tony could hear the unspoken ‘You really want me’ there, and he nodded, completely sure in ways he wasn’t before.
“I really do. I don’t give flowers to just anyone, you know.”
Steve flushed even harder, and god dammit, his ears turned pink. Tony was long gone. “You sent those?”
“And I wrote that poem. I tried to make you cookies, but I—“
“You’re the one who burned the oven.”
“There’s a logical, legitimate reason for that one.”
“I’m sure there is.” And Steve was grinning at him, that grin he reserved for the people who he cared about and who were close to him in his life, and Tony felt as if he were floating. Seriously.
He didn’t care if he sounded like a Disney princess. Tony was floating and everything else could kiss his ass.
“Tony? Why is there a penis made out of metal sitting on my windowsill?”