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Neanderthals In Tights (Also Known As a Football Game)

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"Whoo! Yeah, go Avengers!" Tony whooped, leaping out of his seat in the bleachers and throwing his hands in the air triumphantly.

"Oh my god," Bruce mumbled into his hands, while Pepper grabbed Tony by the back of shirt and yanked him back down.

"That wasn't even a touchdown for the right team, Tony," the redhead sighed.

"What? Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously!" Bruce hissed, ducking his head to avoid the glares everyone else was shooting them.

"I mean, uh, boo! Go defense! That-other-team sucks!"

"You don't even know who you dragged us out to watch play?" Bruce complained.

"Sword High," Pepper informed them, "The Warriors. They're in red and black, we're in blue and white. It's not that hard, Tony."

"Right, I totally knew that," Tony insisted, standing back up, "Your robotics team sucks ass!"

"Tony!" Pepper tugged Tony down by his shirt again, "You're going to get us kicked out."

"Or worse, the football players will see you here and they'll kill us all as a post-game celebration," Bruce pointed out miserably, "Why did I let you talk me into coming to this again? They hate us."

"Steve totally wouldn't let them," Tony insisted.

"This is his first game, he barely knows them," Pepper pointed out with a roll of her eyes, "They'll just kick his ass too for protecting yours. Do you want that?"

"No," Tony admitted moodily.

"Then stop cheering for the other team."

"How am supposed to know which team is scoring at what times? It's just a bunch of Neanderthals running around in tights! Well, okay, and Steve, who is not a Neanderthal, but does look fantastic in tights—"

"Oh my god, Tony, I don't want to hear this—" Bruce groaned.

"Purely objective observation, Brucie-bear," Tony grinned.

"Oh yeah," Pepper rolled her eyes, "Being in love with the guy doesn't bias your opinion at all."

Tony just grinned wider, because really, what else was he supposed to say to that?

Because yeah, he was—even if he hadn't exactly told Steve yet, but whatever, details, no need to scare the guy off—and yeah, it totally biased his opinion. Steve was fantastic, was the be all end all of Tony's little corner of the world. Tony knew full well he was a sarcastic little fucker and that brains didn't count for shit in the high school social scene and he'd been well resigned to the fact that high school was just not going to be his time.

He had Pepper and Bruce and Rhodey, and he had the robotics team and fantastic grades, but what mattered to the jocks that beat him to hell was that he was awkwardly short and his glasses were too big for his face and his hair was in a perpetual state of bedhead—not in the cutely-ruffled way, but in the Jesus-fuck-have-you-ever-touched-a-comb kind of way—and he was a mouthy little shit who didn't know when to quit.

Tony had always known his lot in life was that he would someday be a genius inventor billionaire, but for now, he was stuck as a bullied, underappreciated geek.

Then he'd met Steve.

And okay, he was still a bullied, underappreciated geek, but he was a bullied, underappreciated geek with a gorgeous boyfriend who thought he was amazing, and that made up for a hell of a lot.

He'd met Steve in art class last year when they were sophomores, something he'd landed in by mistake and fully intended on switching out of until a scrawny, gangly-looking blonde clutching a sketchpad asked if he could sit in the seat next to him. Tony had all but fallen out of his own seat to say yes, immediately taken in by Steve's nervous smile and earnest eyes.

They got detention eight times that semester for talking, but Tony could not have possibly cared less. Steve somehow managed to look surprised every time though, probably because he had never gotten in trouble before then in his life. Tony kind of felt a little bad about ruining that reputation, but not enough to stop; talking to Steve was awesome.

He was adorable and kind and really funny if you paid attention, but you had to listen or you'd miss his jokes completely since he could tell them with the kind of poker face that would make any serious poker player green with envy. Once he got a laugh though, he always broke out into this wide, shining smile that gave Tony heart palpitations.

Yeah, Tony was head over heels from minute one.

They were very different, that much was true; Steve was compassionate and caring, and he loved things like art and history and football. He was dying to be a football player, in spite of his initially scrawny stature, and even hoped to go into the army someday. Tony, on the other hand, was all mental—robotics, engineering, that sort of thing. He wanted to run his own company one day, become a millionaire off his inventions.

In spite of their differences though, they clicked. They were similar in plenty of ways, and admired each other for the ways they were different. By the last day of their shared art class, they'd exchanged numbers, hung out dozens of times, played video games, gone on late-night adventures, the whole shebang, but summer was right around the corner and it felt like the end of something.

So they hung back, Steve taking extra time to pack up, Tony pretending to fiddle with his final project a bit, until the classroom was emptied and they both tried to talk at the same time.

"Look, I really like you—"

"Are you ready to go—wait, what?"

"What?"

"What did you say?"

"Nothing, I said nothing, go on—"

"You didn't say nothing, you said you—"

"Nothing important, just forget it, Steve—"

"I don't want to forget it."

Steve kissed him first. Their noses bumped because Steve didn't tilt his head quite right and Tony's blocky glasses left a mark on the corner of Steve's forehead and Tony stumbled backwards over a chair when Steve slipped his tongue into his mouth.

It was awkward and a little weird and the part where he fell on his ass was kind of painful, but totally and completely worth it.

Steve helped him up, and they made out in the empty art classroom until the teacher came back to lock up and told them to scram or they'd have detention the first day of next year. They scrammed, Steve leading Tony out by his hand and Tony just smiling blissfully.

He might've felt more self-conscious about it, but Steve had been wearing a similarly dopey grin, so he figured he wasn't the only one a little loopy.

Just after their obnoxiously wonderful honeymoon phase ended, around the middle of that summer, Steve hit a growth spurt like no other, shot up a foot and a half over the course of a month or so, and suddenly gained the ability to put on muscle. Don't get Tony wrong, he'd always love Steve, scrawny art student or muscle-y Adonis look-alike or whatever Steve chose to be next, but hot damn.

The honeymoon phase made a quick comeback.

Unfortunately, Steve putting on muscle also meant he was eligible to join the football team like he'd always wanted. Tony was happy for Steve of course, thus the attendance of his first game and attempt to follow along, but. Well.

The football team in general was not Tony's biggest fan.

They might've actually banned him from attending their games at some point during Tony's freshman year on pain of death, but Steve didn't need to know that. That would just make Steve sad, and there were a lot of things Tony was willing to do to prevent Steve's sadness. Like endure the occasional beating for dating a football player and telling Steve he fell down the stairs instead.

Those kinds of things.

Tony wasn't sure why the Neanderthals on Steve's team even cared, anyway. They hadn't given two shits when he and Steve had been flirting all last year, or when they'd dated over the summer. But, whatever. Bad train of thought. He wasn't there to think about idiot football players, he was there to cheer on the one awesome football player.

"Whoo! Go Steve!" Tony cheered, "Good tackle!"

"Tony," Pepper rubbed her forehead in the way that meant she was wondering why she even bothered, "Steve's the one who just got tackled."

"What?!" Tony exclaimed, leaping out of his seat only for Bruce to grab him by the sleeve and pull him back down, "Who tackled him?! Foul, that was totally foul! Expel that fucker!"

"That's the game, Tony, that's not a foul—"

"I fucking hate this game, it makes no god damn sense—"

"It makes plenty of sense if you learn the rules, or maybe pay attention to the game as a whole instead of watching Steve like a hawk—"

"Why is he still playing? He was just tackled by that hulking behemoth in red, he should be sitting down!"

"Players don't sit out after every tackle," Pepper told him, "If Steve's still playing he's probably fine, it wasn't even that bad of a hit—"

"Fuck you guys, who's player number 8 for Sword High?" Tony asked, then, without even giving them time to answer, he pulled out his phone, "Never mind, I'll google it, I have a life to ruin—"

"You most certainly do not," Pepper snatched his phone away, "Tony, my god. Just settle down and watch the game. Steve's fine, he can handle himself."

"But people keep attacking him!"

"It's called tackling, and it's perfectly legal," Bruce sighed, "It's literally how you play the game."

"I hate football."

"Are we supposed to be surprised?" Pepper snorted.

The rest of the game passed in a similar fashion, Tony complaining about everything from the tackling to how long the quarters were to how they were too far away to ogle Steve's ass in tights. Pepper was surprisingly knowledgeable about football and enjoyed the game when she could get Tony to shut up for ten seconds, while Bruce just crouched down and tried to make himself smaller.

When the game was finished Tony darted away from them both, too excited to see Steve all sweaty and tough-looking in his uniform to wait for them. He weaved through the crowd to where the players were coming off the field, waiting by the gate they all passed through.

When Steve caught sight of him waiting, his face light up like it was his birthday and Easter and Christmas all rolled into one. Steve made a beeline off the field to wrap his arms around Tony and twirl him exuberantly. Normally Tony protested to manhandling that didn't involve sex, but he figured Steve was pretty high off endorphins and it wouldn't hurt to let Steve treat him like some dame from the 40's just this once.

"We won, we won, did you see?" Steve asked excitedly, bending to take Tony's face in his hands and kiss him soundly before he had a chance to answer.

"You were fantastic, babe!" Tony congratulated him when they parted, "You took the tackles like a champ, and Pep said you scored two touchdowns!"

"You weren't watching?" Steve's mega-watt smile faltered a bit.

"No, no!" Tony corrected quickly, "I was watching you every minute. I just, well, the first time I thought you'd carried the ball out of bounds until she explained you were supposed to do that, then the second time was after halftime, so I thought you'd carried it into the other teams goal-place and she had to explain that everything was switched now, which, frankly, is confusing, I have no idea why anyone would—"

Steve just kissed him silent, too excited and wiggly with exhilaration to stand around listening to Tony complain about the rules of the sport. Then he broke away to take Tony's hand with a bright smile and tug him along through the crowd.

They went against the grain of people, in the direction back towards the bleachers. Tony tried to ask Steve where they were going, but he couldn't be heard over all the post-game noise, so Tony just followed obediently and enjoyed the view of Steve's blue-spandex-clad ass.

They slipped out of the crowd, behind the bleachers and into the currently abandoned soccer field. Tony barely opened his mouth to finally ask what they were doing out in here when Steve turned and kissed him, hard.

Tony stumbled back a step briefly, and Steve's hands just slipped down around his waist to hold him steady. And okay, sure, Steve was still sweaty and kinda dirty from all the tackling business, but Tony really couldn't care less. He was tough and manly and sexy as hell, and he was all Tony's.

Not to mention, he was kinda high on post-game endorphins, and very enthusiastic about sharing that high. Steve's hands slipped to Tony's thighs and he hoisted Tony up, pressing him back against the fence to kiss him more thoroughly. They were quite happily engaged for a while, up until Steve stopped Tony from tugging at his waistband for the third time. Tony managed to bring himself to pull away, though Steve tried to chase after his lips for more.

"Hey," Tony pressed a hand to Steve's chest, stopping, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," Steve told him quickly, a little too quickly, trying to silence Tony with another kiss.

And okay, Tony let him, but only for a minute.

"I'm serious, babe," Tony pulled away, staying strong even when Steve made a keening, upset sort of noise that made Tony want to drop to his knees and blow Steve in the middle of the stupid soccer field because god he loved it when Steve made that noise, "Something's bothering you."

"What, just because I'm not stripping you naked the second I can?" Steve bit out, and Tony blinked in surprise.

"What? No, I just…I mean, that's fine," Tony tried to get Steve to make eye contact with him, but he was ducking his head now, "Steve, baby, I mean it, we don't have to do anything if you don't want, I just want to know what's going on in that head of yours."

Honestly, he didn't care if Steve wasn't in the mood. Really. That was one hundred percent a-okay in Tony's book—if Steve decided he didn't want to have sex for a week, a month, a year, whatever; Tony could totally live. Sure, he liked messing around with Steve, but he loved Steve. That was what was important, even if he hadn't quite found the right time to say it yet.

"I'm not…I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm sorry, Tony, I just…" Steve shook his head, "It doesn't matter, really."

"Do you want to stop doing…stuff, for a while?"

Way to be eloquent, Stark.

"No, I don't want to stop, I just…that's not…" Steve seemed frustrated and embarrassed and a bit hurt at the same time, and it was a look Tony never wanted to see on Steve again if he could help it, "That's not all this is, for me, and I don't want you to think that it is."

"What?"

Again, not really an eloquent response, but it was about the only thing Tony could muster. Steve thought that Tony thought all Steve was after was sex? They hadn't even starting having sex until two months into their relationship, and it had been fumbling and awkward and yes, okay, Tony was totally in love with Steve but they'd both been virgins to gay sex and it was not exactly the pinnacle of sexual experiences.

Of course they'd totally improved since then and Tony was the first to admit his sex life was currently fan-fucking-tastic thank you very much, but still. If all Steve had been looking for was sex, he sure had a strange way of going about it.

"I just…that's not what I'm in this for," Steve bit his lip, worry clear in his eyes as he ran a hand through his already mussed hair, "I'm in this for you, Tony. And I overheard the guys on the team talking about how I had to just be with you for the sex because they couldn't understand why else I'd date you and they're stupid and wrong but they got in my head and you have to know that I'm not, Tony, I don't care about the sex, I mean, I do, I like it, I just, I'm with you because I'm—"

"Steve, sweetheart, breathe, I know—"

"—hopelessly, ridiculously, laughably love with you, not for anything else."

Okay, that he hadn't known.

Steve, all six feet and two inches of solid muscles and bold courage, looked small. He wasn't meeting Tony's eyes again, and he was fidgeting now, toeing the grass with a cleat like a child in trouble. He had clearly been hit in the head during that game if he thought Tony's answer was anything other than,

"Good, I thought I was the only one," Tony leaned up to kiss Steve again, less heat and more reassurance.

Steve melted against him with a relief so tangible Tony could taste it on his lips.

"Steve, you're an idiot," Tony pulled away to tell him, "I've been in love with you since you accidentally sat on my glasses and blushed so hard I thought you were going to explode."

"That's what did it for you?" Steve asked incredulously.

The giddy, post-game look of jubilation was back on his face, but brighter somehow, more at ease, and it occurred to Tony this was Steve's I'm-happy-because-Tony-loves-me-back face. It was his new favorite Steve face, and he had a lot of favorite Steve faces.

"Obviously. You were adorable. Also, you promised to lead me around school the rest of the day, even though as you've probably figured out by now, I can kinda see alright without them."

"As I remember, you shamelessly took advantage of me anyway."

"Uh, yeah. Have you seen yourself? You're gorgeous."

"I didn't look like this back then, Tony," Steve flushed a bit, and Tony just laced their fingers together again.

"I know. You were still gorgeous. Just a different kind of gorgeous. I loved you then, and I love you now. And I'll love you if you grow a ponytail, or drop all your muscle, or, or…or grow a beard. Actually, you'd look good with a beard, like a young Chris Evans—"

"I love you, Tony," Steve cut him off fondly, saying it mostly because he could, "I've loved you since the time you took me out behind the science building to show me that AI robot you built."

"Steve," Tony frowned momentarily, "It burst into flames. I still have the burn scar to prove it."

"Maybe that time," Steve admitted, tenderly rubbing his thumb over the slight discoloration just under Tony's wrist, "But someday you'll get it right, and I hope when you do I'm still the one you want to come running to show it to."

"Of course it'll be you," Tony murmured, tugging Steve closer by their linked hands, going up on his toes just a bit to press his lips to Steve's, "It's always going to be you."