See, he liked coffee fine. He didn't love it. He wasn't in love with it. He just liked it. And if he happened to love making it and serving it, then so what. Sue him. He made a mean coffee, a perfect coffee. And that was him being humble about it.
So, when billionaire Tony Stark comes in and orders Steve’s specialty, Steve is ecstatic. Maybe his little coffee shop would get some recognition for once. So, he makes the coffee, perfect as always, and hands it over to the man. He takes one sip and grimaces. Steve just kind of fails to breathe or have a heart beat or anything because no one had ever grimaced before. No one had said anything less than “wow this is a damn good coffee” to him before. So, to say he was surprised would be a hideous understatement.
“I said I wanted coffee,” Mr. Stark says (more like whines), “Not this shit. What even is this? I want my money back, wait, you know what, keep my money. Looks like you need it.”
If the man hadn't said that last part while grimacing in the general direction of everything else, Steve might have considered ignoring him. But he did that and now, well, Steve was more than a little pissed.
“Excuse me?” was all Steve could manage.
The man just smiled in an almost apologetic way, but it seemed more like a smile that said, “I’m better than you, get over it”, and promptly turned to leave, throwing the disposable coffee thermos in the trash rather dramatically, completing his flashy exit.
That left Steve angry, bewildered, more than a little disappointed and a whole hell of a lot determined.
To Steve’s surprise, Mr. Stark returned the next day, waiting until the other barista was busy just so he could get a coffee from Steve. Well damn.
Last night Steve had spent his downtime researching the hell out of coffee making and how to do it right. He didn't doubt his ability, never has, probably never will, but he needed to make one worthy of a Stark. Seemed like the only thing Stark’s drank was smelly amber liquid meant for nothing more than to get wasted. This wasn't going to turn out well.
“What can I get for you, Mr. Stark?” Steve all but snarled, keeping his composure under wraps like the good polite guy he was.
“Coffee please,” the man said and without skipping a beat added, “Drinkable, preferably.”
Steve bristled visibly, hands clenching at his sides and through gritted teeth asked, “Preference?”
The man looked down at his phone, waving at Steve dismissively with his free hand before replying, “Something to keep me awake. And hurry, coffee boy.”
Steve rolled his eyes, a frown taking over his facial features as he turned to make the best coffee ever. He was going to try extra hard, make the man extra jittery for whatever damn thing he had planned for today. And it would be drinkable, the ass. It would be so damn drinkable.
He gave the other man his drink in exchange for the money due and watched as the man took a sip without moving, making sure Steve saw as his nose wrinkled up in disgust yet again. Steve’s stomach dropped.
“I said keep me awake, not give me diabetes, good lord.” he said, but left with the coffee anyways, this time making a flashy exit without throwing Steve’s dignity out on the way.
Steve counted this as a win.
The third time Mr. Stark came in wasn't the day after the sweet incident, nor the day after that. It was exactly a week later, at almost the same time as before. He wasn't wearing a pristine sleek suit like the previous times, but was instead decked out in a band tee and ripped jeans, topped off with a few bracelets and black Chucks. The way he tugged his sunglasses off his eyes and forced them into the tangle of hair atop his head did not make Steve’s chest ache (in a pleasant way). Not at all.
Again he waited until Steve wasn't busy and came up to him. This didn't go unnoticed by his coworkers who snickered. They’d figured out Tony Stark's apparent dislike in Steve’s coffee, and they were exploiting the hell out of it. It didn't help that it bothered Steve a lot more than it should.
“What can I get you today?” Steve asked as the man walked up to the counter. He seemed sleepy, his eyes sunken just that little bit, like he’d been awake all night and wasn't planning on sleeping any time soon. Steve kind of felt sorry for the man, but then he remembered the way Tony had reacted to his coffee that first day and any feelings other than indifference left in a hurry.
“Something bitter. Like, really bitter.” He said, eyes scanning the coffee shop without that critical glint in his eye. Made Steve really want to like the guy.
So, conversation. That’s always a good way to start over. “Long night?” he threw over his shoulder, turning just in time to see the genuine surprise on Tony Stark’s face. Huh. Didn't expect that.
“Yeah, actually,” he said as Steve brewed some fresh coffee for the guy. Looked like he needed it. He noticed and didn't seem to mind the wait. That was good. This was going well. “Working on some stuff. Frustrating stuff.”
“Like what?” Steve asked, surprising himself for being genuinely curious.
Again, Stark looked surprised and Steve just smiled in return, “Well, uh, it’s nothing really…” he looked away awkwardly.
Steve laughed, turning back around to fix Stark up his coffee. He made it sweet, not bitter, the man needed something sweet and soft, something that could get him through the next couple of hours until he could finally catch some sleep. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“Well,” he said, taking his coffee and sipping. His eyebrows shot up to his hairline and he glared at Steve over the flimsy cardboard rim. Steve smiled innocently back. Tony flung him the money before fleeing, throwing a, “I still don’t like your coffee.” over his back as he left.
Steve couldn't stop smiling. This was going to be great.
The fourth time went much like the second, though this time the man looked much too pissed off to say anything.
“Bitter. Now.” was all he said as he approached Steve. Though he still waited for Steve to be done with his current customer instead of going to the other barista on duty with Steve. That happy curl happened again in the pit of his stomach and he couldn't help it. He didn't want to stop it anyway. It’s not like he was going to ignore this growing attraction to a man he’s only seen four times.
Not like all the times he’s talked to the man he’s gotten bad results or anything.
“I don’t think you should—”
“Bitter, Steve. Bitter.”
Steve looked down. He wasn't wearing a name tag, never has. The coffee shop was a small one and everyone knew everyone, so there wasn't really a need for name tags. No one in the shop wore them. He looked up slowly to see Stark as close to flushing as Steve’s ever seen. He’s done his research, of course, but probably not as much as Tony had. “I never told you my name.”
He just averted his gaze and shrugged, his sunglasses sliding back into place, masking his face from Steve’s prying eyes. Oh well. He’d let the man be an ass. Not like he cared.
So he made a bitter coffee. No sugar, no sweetener, no swirl of caramel or topping of whipped cream. Gave it to him plain and black. The man gave him a questing look (as questioning as you can behind a mask), and took a drink, as per usual. He showed signs of obvious dislike, but paid and left without another word.
The fifth time went a lot better. He was in a suit this time, all spiffed up and dandy looking. Sharp, not dandy, whatever, okay? He had a redheaded girl with him who frantically followed him from a sleek black limousine to the front doors where she stopped and spotted Steve. They made eye contact and to say it wasn't a moment of awkwardness on Steve’s part would be blatant lying.
Just one glance at him and she threw her head back in frustration, stalking back to the limo presumably to wait.
“Steve?” Stark’s fingers snapped in front of his face and Steve had forgotten he had walked in, really. He was feeling much too awkward for this kind of thing right now.
“Uh, yes, what can I get for you?”
He raised one eyebrow as he took of his glasses, snagging them in his suit coats breast pocket. They looked strangely good there, even though that was a super expensive suit and those looked like old worn sunglasses. Probably a favorite.
Did all his favorites end up worn out?
All at once Steve realized he was leaning over the counter, as was Tony and they were nearly nose to nose. Luckily as he was backing up awkwardly, Stark replied, “Sweet. Not too sweet. Oh and I want whipped cream and the prettiest sprinkles you have.”
Steve raised a curious eyebrow, “Sprinkles. Wouldn't tag you as the type.”
“Not a lot of people would.” He seemed almost bitter about it.
“Sorry. Got it. Give me a minute.”
Tony (when did he become Tony?) nodded, glancing back to the entrance and the waiting limo before looking back at Steve and saying, “That’s Pepper. Don’t worry about her, she thinks I don’t have time for coffee.”
“I thought you didn't like my coffee.” Steve asked with some amusement. For a guy who didn't like his coffee, he sure came around a lot. Even when the world needed him more.
“Well, I mean, your coffee is better than no coffee.”
Steve turned around with a blank look to see Tony smirking at him. What the smirk meant, he had no idea. “Wow, gee, thanks, Mr. Stark.”
“Ugh, please. Tony. Mr. Stark was my father,” Steve could hear him making fake gagging sounds from behind his back and chuckled a little at the thought of what it might look like. “Please?”
He seemed a little desperate with that last word, so Steve turned around and smiled at him, rainbow sprinkles in one hand, the other wrapped around the disposable cup. He placed it on the counter, shaking a fair amount of sprinkles atop the mountain of cream before saying, “Anything you want, Tony.”
He scoffed, looking a little more than flustered and Steve couldn't help the smile. He swiped the coffee, handed Steve the money and walked out. Steve could hear him grumbling on his way, but he didn't say anything to Steve about how his coffee tasted.
Steve was totally winning. He always wins.
The sixth time was a surprise. They hadn't seen Tony in a while and it was rubbing at Steve the wrong way. He never thought he’d want to see another guy’s face so bad. But he did, so when the familiar scruff waltzed in decked out in casual wear Steve wanted to cry. Or at least haul the smaller man up into his arms and force feed him his coffee. That could work.
His question caught Steve off guard, “Can I talk to you?” He must have looked surprised because Tony suddenly began talking, “I mean, you don’t have to, like, uh, if I make you uncomfortable or something or if you just don’t want to be seen with me or something uh—”
Steve laughed, cutting Tony’s words to a halt. “No, it’s fine. It’s okay. I was about to take my break anyways. Coffee?”
“No. Yes. Please. Anything.” Tony said all in one breath. Something must really be bothering him to make him act like this. It was totally unlike anything Steve had witnessed first hand and from what he’d seen from his research.
So, Steve made something simple, caramel flavor drizzled inside and on top of the thin layer of whipped cream, just to give that extra oomph he himself loved and hoped Tony would like too. He never liked getting vague orders in fear of getting something wrong. He never did, but it was always a fear nagging at the back of his mind. He got something for himself, too, frowning when Tony paid for them both, and then clocked out for his break, meeting Tony in the corner table after hanging up his apron.
The light did amazing things to Tony’s appearance and Steve wanted to trace it with his fingers. They way it dipped and rose through all the contours of his body was electrifying and Steve had to sit down and think of pruney old grandmas to get himself under control. He sipped his drink while Tony stared at his own like it was a puzzle he just had to figure out.
They were silent for a while, just listening to everything, smelling everything, taking everything in. It was different sitting here across from the man rather than standing across the counter as customer and employee. Now they were just two guys sitting in the sun drinking coffee. Steve was suddenly way out of his comfort zone and it must have showed.
“I uh, I can leave if you want.” Tony said, shifting uncomfortably.
“Now why would you do that? You’re the one who asked me to come over here.” He raised his eyebrows expectantly at him, “So?”
“Oh. Yeah. Right. Talking. Things. Uh,” he rubbed the back of his neck, eyes wandering everywhere from the table to the wall behind Steve to the window where he blinked a few times at the light. Steve chuckled.
“If you want to tell me you never actually hated my coffee, you can just say it.”
Tony looked taken aback, and he showed it, gasping dramatically, pink lips parting into a perfect oval, eyebrows furrowing, eyes widened into a look that screamed, “why I never”. Steve laughed again and Tony relaxed, smiling down into his coffee. “Whatever. Okay? I just. One day I needed coffee and I wanted something different. Something I didn't make or JARVIS or Pepper or anyone. Just something different.”
He looked up then, pausing to make sure Steve was paying attention. Steve just nodded, not sure where he was going with this. “So, then, I stumble upon this silly little shop that’s all brown and smells like coffee and cinnamon and there’s this guy at the counter smiling like he’s got no care in the world, talking to his customer like they’re the only thing in his vision, like they’re the only thing that’s important to him. And well, I don’t know why I came in, maybe I wanted coffee and maybe I just wanted someone to look at me like that—”
He paused, his eyes snapping back to the coffee in his hand before he took a long drag of it like something he was addicted to and needed in order to survive. Like he never wanted to go through the with drawls of leaving it. That was silly of course, but whatever. “So I went in and this guy was so incredibly nice but well, I’m Tony Stark and I mess things up pretty quickly. So that’s what I did and I just had to stick with my story until I broke, you know?”
“So that’s what this is? You breaking?”
Steve thought about that for a moment too long, if the look on Tony’s face was anything to go by. He looked panicky, ready to bolt at any second. So, Steve spoke, “Did I meet your expectations? Do I look at you like you’re the only one in the world that matters?”
Tony laughs at that, his face showing signs of blushing though Steve doubts Tony Stark would ever get embarrassed. “Yeah, I think you have.”
“Good. Because, well, you've taken up more than just my world while I’m at work.”
The billionaire looked stunned then, mouth slightly agape as he stared wide eyed at Steve. Steve just shrugged as if his heart wasn't hammering in his chest and the blood wasn't roaring in his ears.
“Really?” Tony said, almost breathlessly, like he couldn't believe it even though Steve had just said it, hadn't he?
“I don’t lie.” Steve said, making to get up. Unfortunately, he needed to get back to work, and there was a steady stream of people coming in the front doors. The barista he’d been working with at the front counter kept giving him worried glances so he assumed that was his cue to get back to work.
Tony stopped him with a surprisingly strong grip on his wrist, dark eyes determined and sure as he leaned in and pressed a soft, chaste kiss to Steve’s lips which Steve returned just as chastely. It wasn't anything like he would have imagined a kiss from Tony Stark would be like, but he loved it nonetheless, loved the way it made his heart flutter, made his eyes close so he could just feel.
When the pulled apart, their eyes locked and Steve instantly feels it; the knowledge of /yes/, that this was more right than anything in the world and more than anything he’d ever imagined he’d get. He saw in Tony’s eyes that he felt that too, and it made him want to hold Tony in his arms forever. A wolf whistle brought him away from his thoughts and he looked back with a clearly not amused face to see his coworker smiling like the idiot he is, thumbs stuck up in the air, leaning over the counter like it would be in the way of his stupidity.
Tony made a little breathless laugh against Steve’s jaw before pressing a kiss to his cheek (he had to lean up to do it, how adorable), “I’ll call you later, okay? Go back to work, I have work to do, too, anyways.”
Steve smiled down at him, “Sure, okay,” he was about to turn away when he realized something, “Hey, I never gave you my number.”
Tony’s hands shot up in a defensive manner, a smirk painting his face (did he always look this adorable?), “That’s what you get for getting a Stark to fall in love with you.”
And then he turned and nearly ran out of the coffee shop, a giggle escaping along with him. Steve couldn't help the laugh that overcame himself as he watched his world run out the door. He’s never been so excited for a phone call in a long long time.
See? He always wins.