Tony stares down at his phone, perplexed. Or maybe poleaxed. Okay, so this isn’t the most explicit text he’s ever gotten. Tony used to run in some pretty kinky circles before Afghanistan, and Pepper gets surprisingly loose-fingered—Tony makes a mental note never to use that word in conjunction with Pepper again—when she’s tipsy, which was fun until they broke up but now he has Jarvis delete all her drunk texts before she can send them, because awkward. But it’s definitely the most explicit text he’s ever gotten from Steve. Tony didn’t know Steve actually said words like dick, though he definitely knows them since Tony uses them all the time to make Steve blush. But more to the point, what does it say about Steve that he wants to talk to Tony about Clint’s penis?
Tony’s a genius, but this one’s a little beyond him. He shakes his head and types back, What about Clint’s dick, Cap? You’ll have to be more specific. Even though holy shit, he does not want Steve to be more specific.
He turns his attention back to repairing his left gauntlet, and when his phone chirps again he winces a little in preparation for something that may get really awkward, and has Jarvis display the message on the holographic screen.
This darn phone’s keypad is too small. I meant Clint’s sick.
Most days Tony is pretty impressed with how well Steve’s taken to modern technology. Then again, he lives in the most technologically advanced building in the world. But sometimes Tony wishes he were just a little slower on the uptake, just to give Tony an excuse to spend time with him. Steve’s a pretty good guy when he’s not an uptight asshole, plus he’s easy on the eyes.
Tony needs both hands for the gauntlet now, so he has Jarvis call Steve back instead.
“What’s the diagnosis, doc? Cold, flu, VD?”
In the background, he hears retching. Probably not just a cold, then, he thinks with a wince.
“He can’t stop vomiting or, um.” Steve stops there and that is just fine by Tony. “I think it’s probably food poisoning.”
“Tell him there’s Pepto-Bismol in the medicine cupboard in the kitchen.” More retching, and Tony amends, “On second thought, maybe you should get it for him. Is Bruce around today? He might have better advice.”
“Good idea,” Steve agrees with an audible grimace. “Thanks, Tony.”
They hang up, and Tony stares down at the gauntlet on his hand and tries to decide if he’s relieved or disappointed or some bizarre combination of both. When he can’t figure it out, he tweaks the glove and heads to the gym for some target practice. Maybe that will clear his head.
The next time it happens, Tony is in an exceedingly dull shareholders meeting. He wouldn’t have agreed in the first place if he weren’t making an extra effort to be nice to Pepper and prove that he doesn’t care that she’s seeing someone else, which is maybe the backwards way to go about it, because Tony voluntarily attending a meeting is bound to raise a lot of eyebrows, but whatever.
Anyway, Tony’s bored, so of course he checks his phone when it vibrates. Anything to save him from having to debate marketing strategy with idiots who clearly don’t know how much more his time is worth for the company when he’s in the lab. Tony has degrees in real science—physics, engineering, and possibly pickup artistry. He’s never actually checked to see if that honorary title from Penthouse holds water. Soft shit like marketing is not his forte.
The message is from Steve. For a second Tony holds out some faint hope that it might be a call to assemble, because he’d rather fight a hundred tentacle monsters through the streets of New York than sit through this circle jerk, but if the city were under attack Steve wouldn’t be texting him, he’d just send the message to the suitcase suit and have Jarvis fill Tony in on the details. When Tony opens the text, he doesn’t have particularly high hopes.
Then he reads Do we have any colored penis in the house? and has to disguise an honest laugh as a cough, because oh my God Captain America did not just say that.
Pepper looks at him with her least impressed I know what you’re doing face, so he puts on his winningest expression and shoves his phone under the table. I know you had this conversation with Fury. It’s black or African-American these days. And no, that’s not something I keep in stock.
He pauses and wonders if that’s far enough, then has to shake himself, because since when has Tony Stark ever stopped at far enough? But I can put it on the shopping list if you want.
A few minutes later, he feels the vibration that signals a response and doesn’t even bother keeping up the pretense of paying attention to Short, Fat, and Long-winded.
Colored PENCILS. Why do people even send text messages if it’s so easy to get it wrong? And where would you get THAT anyway?
God, really? Tony never gets an opening like that. Everyone in his life knows him better. Grinning gleefully, he starts typing back, but before he can send anything, his phone buzzes again.
Don’t answer that.
Tony smiles fondly. Spoilsport.
Once Tony could write off as an accident. Twice would be a coincidence. But the third time it happens, he’s suspicious. Tony programmed Steve’s phone personally. He knows how good his autocorrect is. Sure, it also includes words like dick and fuck and twatwaffle, but that’s what makes it so good. Something Is Going On Here and Tony is going to find out what it is.
If it were anyone else, Tony would think they were flirting with him, or at least playing him, but he knows better than to think that of Steve. For one thing, Steve is entirely too white-bread—maybe even whole-wheat-bread—to see anything worthwhile in Tony. For another, he’s seen Steve’s moves in action in old footage of him and Peggy Carter, and painfully awkward doesn’t begin to describe it. This is almost sneaky.
Well, no. What this is is goddamn hilarious. Tony should sending these gems to DamnYouAutoCorrect, because….
I’m trying some of Bruce’s teabagging. Is it supposed to taste like gym socks?
He actually has to put his head on his arms and laugh this one out, which draws Bruce’s attention from across the lab, and what the hell. Bruce is about seventeen good belly laughs under par on an average day. He can have this one at Steve’s expense. When he raises an eyebrow in silent question, Tony pulls himself together long enough to toss him the phone.
Bruce laughs until tears roll down his face, and when he tries to sit down, he misses his chair and ends up on the floor, which only makes him laugh louder.
Several minutes pass before either of them is in any state to compose a reply. Finally Bruce wipes at his eyes and says, “What do you even say to that?”
Tony holds out his hands for the phone, and Bruce tosses it over. Cleanliness is next to godliness, Rogers, he types, and then he e-mails Steve a link to urbandictionary and hopes he didn’t just scar Steve for life.
But he doesn’t forget to be suspicious about the autocorrects—if that’s what they are. Tony isn’t a supergenius for nothing. He will get to the bottom of this.
Two days later, the madness continues. Natasha and Clint are escorting Bruce at some conference, and even Tony isn’t sure exactly what he means by escorting in this case, but he hopes Bruce comes home rode hard and put up wet, because the man needs to get laid even worse than he needs to smile more. Jane and Thor are on Asgard doing the meet the parents thing, and isn’t that a mindfuck, meeting your alien god boyfriend’s alien god parents. Tony’s more or less come to terms with his attraction to Captain Human Perfection; he doesn’t want to think about how much more insane it would be if he’d fallen for Thor instead.
Actually, if Tony’s being honest, Steve’s probably more perfect because he’s human, and no, all stop, this line of thought is not happening. It’s so sweet it makes Tony want a shower.
The point is Steve and Tony are on their own in the tower, and for once Tony doesn’t feel like working, so he’s just sitting in the living room watching Food Network repeats and waiting for Steve to come home so they can figure out dinner, because if there’s one thing Tony has learned about Steve, it’s that Steve Does Not Skip Meals.
At five thirty, as if on cue, when Rachel Ray flips over to Paula Deen, Tony’s phone chirps.
I’m stripping to get Chinese food for dinner. What do you want?
And that’s not even fair, because Tony has so many answers to that question and not a single one of them has anything to do with food. Well, okay, maybe one or two. Or seventeen, but who’s counting. Definitely not Tony.
Won ton soup, spring rolls, and an order of General Tso’s chicken. And a lap dance, if you’re offering.
It’s a long, long three minutes before his phone goes off again, and Tony is almost afraid to look.
Not on the first date.
Well, Tony thinks as the panic sets in, it could be worse.
The thing is, Tony is kind of a coward and he never gets around to figuring out if Steve was serious about the date thing, and Steve is Steve so it’s not like Tony can just ask.
But he does work out what’s gotten into Steve’s phone, and his name starts with a J and ends in Arvis.
He doesn’t have proof because Jarvis would catch him finding it, and that would spoil the fun. But even though he doesn’t install Jarvis’s OS on other people’s mobile devices, Pepper notwithstanding, there’s no reason Jarvis couldn’t have downloaded a copy of himself into Steve’s phone.
The question is why. Jarvis is, well, really very intelligent. He absolutely knows about Tony’s hopeless crush, and while Tony programmed in a fair dose of smartass and a hint of practical joker, he did not include meanness. Jarvis could have learned that behavior from someone, but Tony doesn’t think he spends that much time with Clint.
Anyway, Jarvis is his oldest friend and he wouldn’t betray Tony like that. Tony’s sure of it. If this is Jarvis’s doing, he must have a good reason, like he’s trying to subliminally plant ideas in Steve’s brain or something.
Tony’s in the middle of trying to figure out how to politely ask Jarvis to butt out of his love life when the message comes through.
What are these sixteen dongs?
It probably says something about Tony that he simply assumes Steve has a perfectly legitimate reason to go snooping in his sex drawer. Though honestly he’s a bit surprised Steve counted—he’d have bet on sheer mortal embarrassment winning out over straightforward curiosity.
Getting a little personal, there, Steve, he types with nervous fingers, and hits Send before he can erase it and say I feel like that’s a “show” and not a “tell.”
He expects Steve to correct him, so when Jarvis puts Steve’s face up on the holographic screen in the workshop, it freaks Tony out a little. “Hi, Tony.”
“Steve.” He’s in the living room, not Tony’s bedroom, which is good because that would be awkward and distracting.
Awkward and distracting-er.
“What can I do for you?”
Steve doesn’t look like someone who’s been rummaging through Tony’s sex toys. Which is a pity. “Could you come up here, please? I need help with the entertainment system.”
Tony’s suspicion of Jarvis grows by leaps and bounds, because the entertainment system is entirely voice activated. “Sure. Be right there.”
If anyone needed confirmation of how totally in over his head Tony is, that’s it right there: he just agreed to leave the workshop without a fuss to help Steve with a glorified iPod. Yeah, Tony has it bad.
When he arrives in the living room, Steve’s on the couch, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and staring at the TV screen like it just kicked his puppy. “I… Tony, what is this?”
Please don’t be porn. Tony looks… then wishes it were porn. “It’s a playlist, Steve. Just music. How’d you get access to it?”
Steve frowns a little, like maybe he thinks he did something he wasn’t supposed to do. “I wanted some music to listen to while I was drawing. Jarvis asked me what I wanted, so I said to play whatever you were listening to most recently.”
Jarvis, you sneaky little bitch.
Tony steels himself and tells just enough of the truth, because pretty soon he’s going to have to lie his ass off. At least he didn’t give the damn playlist a title. “Well, that’s what that is. The playlist I’ve been listening to most for the past few weeks.”
Steve makes a concerned face. “But this isn’t your usual music,” he protests. “This is… it’s all….” He huffs unhappily. “I thought you were over this!”
Tony’s heart sinks like a stone. “Over this?” he asks carefully. Has Steve known how Tony feels all along? And he’s just been waiting awkwardly for everything to go back to normal?
“This!” Steve waves a hand at the screen. “These are all songs about Pepper!”
Tony should be relieved, but he isn’t. He could probably lie convincingly and say they are, in fact, songs about Pepper, and Steve would give him those tragic puppy dog eyes and be a good friend and console him over his Pepper-related grief, which he actually no longer has, and the whole time Tony would just be falling deeper into the warm gooey pit of his Steve Feels.
He makes himself sit down next to Steve and look him in the eye. “They’re not about Pepper, Steve.”
Steve doesn’t have a poker face to speak of, so Tony can pinpoint the exact moment he gets it. “Oh,” he says very quietly.
Then Steve kisses him.
Tony’s kissed, and been kissed by, a great many people. Far more than he remembers, and there’s some he does remember he wishes he could forget. But nobody has ever kissed him like this, like he’s something to be cherished, something good. It does things to him he doesn’t know how to handle, and suddenly he doesn’t know where to put his hands.
So it’s probably a good thing Steve pulls away after a brief moment and says, “But I’m still not giving you a lap dance on the first date.”
Luckily, Tony really does have sixteen dongs.