This is a Thursday. The worst villains always come out on Thursdays, and by worst Tony means the most painful.
He's thrown into pavement, and the villain du jour doesn't stick around to cackle or gloat or finish him off. Instead she soars off to commit mayhem elsewhere, and for a moment Tony just lies there and listens to his armor rattle off a list of all the damage that's been done to it.
He needs to get into cover, he thinks. Her minions will be along shortly. He's practically defenseless with this much damage.
He lifts his head, wincing, and scans the stores on the street, looks for one that's open.
The closest refuge he's got is a coffee shop, and he is completely okay with that.
The armor complains at him as he hauls himself to his knees, then his feet, and he can feel the beginnings of a massive bruise - potentially worse, but he's always been good about not thinking about his injuries, especially not with more pressing business at hand.
There's an explosion off in the distance, but the armor's telling him he can't fly let alone fire a repulsor blast, so he instead makes his way to the door of the little cafe - who names a cafe Hawkguy's - and lets himself in.
He gets why it's named that a moment later: the place is bird-themed, from the falcon coffee mugs on the counter to the tacky bird call clock on the wall. There's even a birdcage hanging by the register, door open and the inside stuffed with chocolate bars.
There's a kid behind the counter, eyes wide as Tony drags himself to the nearest table, having a seat and removing his helmet with careful hands. He doesn't want to listen to the armor complain, he wants coffee, there's no reason to keep it on for the moment.
He scans the menu above the kid's head, chuckles to see that the bird motif has left its mark here, and decides that he has to try the 'Flipped Bird' before he leaves. But before that: caffeine.
"I'll take a Red Hawkeye," Tony says, after a moment, hoping it means what he wants it to mean, and sits back while the kid realizes that Tony was talking to him.
He's sore, and it's only getting worse. He probably needs to administer some first aid, but coffee first.
"Excuse me, sir," says the kid - and boy does he have a deep voice. Not a kid, then. Still has the body of a half-starved thirteen-year-old, though. He's too sore to really care. "Red Hawkeye?"
"That's what I said."
"On it," says the barista, and a few minutes later Tony is taking the drink from him, drinking from it greedily, too spent to worry that it's too hot for him right now.
The last of the coffee gone, Tony leans back with a pleased sigh and looks at the barista again. "Got a toolbox on hand?"
"A set of screwdrivers. Pliers. Anything." Tony says. "I need a little mechanical assistance to get this thing up and flying again, and while I'd love to do it with my bare hands I really need a few metal implements." It occurs to him that he should build an emergency toolkit into his armor, just in case this kind of thing happens again. It's a great idea, if realized too late.
"Let me look," says the barista, and off he goes. Tony watches his back for a moment, then shakes his head and removes the gauntlets on his armor, stripping away metal to get to his hands. He's going to have to do detail work to fix the damage, and while he loves the gauntlets, loves how nimble they are, they're still too clumsy for the kind of work he's anticipating.
A few minutes later he's done and the barista is back with two small kits: one's a first-aid kit, and the other has screwdrivers in it.
"Perfect," Tony says, reaching for the toolkit.
"Shouldn't you bandage that?"
"Your forehead - " the barista reaches out, gently brushes at Tony's forehead. His fingertips come away red, and Tony has to suppress a wince at the touch. "You're bleeding."
"And you have to wash your hands," Tony tells him, sighing and putting the screwdrivers away for a moment, collecting the first-aid kit instead. "Don't go getting blood in my next cup - you are bringing me another cup of this, right?"
"Oh! Yes. Excuse me."
Tony watches him scurry off, then gets to work on cleaning himself up, applying a few bandages over wounds he has to feel out, and it's a patchwork job. It's all going to be a patchwork job today, but if it gets him back in the air he can get back home and into another set of armor.
He still has a villainess outside, after all.
Off come the boots as he works, and off come more pieces of the armor as he strips twisted pieces away. There's a lot to fix, and he's lucky the systems weren't fried, and even more lucky that he can fix it.
He barely notices the barista when the next cup of coffee is served, and it completely escapes him that the guy is watching him work up until he pinches his fingers in metal with a soft curse and reaches for the coffee.
Then he realizes that the barista has been perched at another table, leaning forward to watch as he disassembles and reassembles the jet relays, and for a brief moment he wants to lean forward and shield the tech with his body, hiss at the guy for watching, but in the next moment the guy realizes that he's been caught and ducks his head, expression clearly embarrassed.
"Planning on stealing my designs?" He asks without heat, reaching for the coffee.
"I couldn't," says the guy, rubbing the back of his neck. "I was just looking - I'm an artist. I wouldn't know where to start with replicating that."
"Photographic memory?" Tony asks, just in case, sipping his drink.
"What? No. I don't have one."
"Name?" Tony asks, putting down the coffee. It's good, he has to grant the guy that.
"Steve. Steve Rogers." The guy offers his hand, and Tony takes it gingerly - his hand is slender, and he has to admit he's worried he might break a bone or two if he squeezes too tight.
"Tony Stark," he returns the greeting, and lets go. "I'd love to sit and chat, but I have to get this fixed before Ms Explosives out there decides to torch this place. Just keep bringing me more coffee whenever I run low and I'll be out of here and saving the city before your shift is up. Capisce?"
Steve nods, expression turning serious, and Tony appreciates that. He doesn't have time for a gawking fan right now, especially not now that he's beginning to feel the urgency of his repair work.
He wishes, not for the first time, that there were some other heroes out there. Just for the days when the whole city's on fire and he has to be everywhere at once. Not that he wants to share the spotlight, but he'd sure love to share the targets that have been painted on his back.
"Ow!" He hisses as he pinches himself again, sucks on a finger.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah - " he fits some pieces back together, closes up the boot. "Long day, little hard to think after being thrown head-first into pavement."
"Is that normal?"
Tony could laugh at the question.
"It is," he says. "Not getting thrown into pavement, but getting thrown into things - villains love tossing me around. Part of why the armor's, well, armor. Wouldn't last a day out there otherwise."
There is an expression on Steve's face that he is not comfortable with.
"Go back to gawking at me," he says, cracking open the other boot and surveying the damage. Better than the other one, but not good.
"It's not right that you're wanted for protecting us."
Tony blinks, looking up. "Don't start on that," he says. "The police and I have a deep and understanding relationship."
He wants points for that one. It effectively shuts Steve up for a minute, one that lets him get back to work on unbending metal. He wishes, absently, that he were in his lab.
"Can I help?"
"I told you how. More coffee when it gets low," Tony says without looking up. "It's good coffee, I'll probably come back here when I'm not in such a hurry."
He reaches for another screwdriver and glances at Steve and no, no. He does not like that expression.
"If you're even thinking of doing anything more than that, I will take you to the tower and tie you up until you stop."
He is rewarded with a bright red blush and Steve ducking his head. Yet: when Steve raises his head there's a set to his jaw, an annoyed expression written on his face.
"I just want to help."
"Coffee. Chop chop." Tony says, and gets back to work before he can get distracted by the smallness of the man and the will he sees in him anyways and in a distant part of his mind he wishes that the barista were stronger.
He is injured, he reminds himself. Injured, damaged, probably still bleeding, and still needed. He was thrown into pavement less than twenty minutes ago.
He drinks more coffee when it comes and puts together the boot and puts them back on and that leaves the gauntlets for repair, so he doesn't fly himself into a tree without them, and he is so, so thankful that there isn't much damage here at all.
"I'll come back to pay for the coffee," he says to Steve as he closes up the gauntlets, satisfied that he can get himself home. "Thanks."
Maybe he should have said that sooner, but Steve doesn't look mad at all, just a peculiar mix of worried and determined (to do what? Tony is concerned, but he isn't willing to kidnap the barista without more than an expression to spur him on.)
He reaches for his helmet and puts it on without further comment, and out he goes.
Hawkeye's. He tells JARVIS to make a note of the place, remind him to come back later, and then he's back on the clock.
It takes a few days before he can ride out, visit Hawkeye's in person. In civilian garb, not that he isn't recognizable anywhere.
Tony is forever grateful for his a) army of lawyers, b) charming public persona, and c) deep and understanding relationship with the police. Means he can walk around in daylight visiting tacky coffee shops like Hawkeye's without fear of getting arrested, despite his wanted status.
It's tough being a vigilante, but then again it could always be worse. He could, say, be a sickly art student working at a tacky coffee shop to pay the bills. Like Steve.
Steve, who he had JARVIS run a background check on, just in case the barista was lying.
Steve, who to his ongoing relief passed it with flying colors. Unless there's a deep dark secret hidden so deeply JARVIS can't find it - Steve Rogers is a person Tony can visit without looking over his shoulder.
So he does.
The place is as tacky and empty as he remembers - he swipes a chocolate bar from the bird-cage, slaps it on the counter.
"Give me a Flipped Bird and this." He says, and grins as Steve recognizes him.
"Just a minute, Mr. Stark," Steve says, and Tony leans against the counter as he works, examines a - stuffed owl? - hanging from the ceiling.
"Huh," he mutters. "Slow day?"
"I don't mind," Steve tells him, bringing the drink. "Thank you for saving the city."
He is painfully, gratingly earnest.
"You're welcome," Tony says, taking the drink and breathing it in. It's hot, good and worth coming here for. He takes it to a table, perches on it with the drink and chocolate, and peels the wrapper back. He's keenly aware of Steve watching him as he bites into the chocolate.
Bitter dark chocolate compliments the Flipped Bird nicely, and Tony closes his eyes in ecstasy as he drinks it.
"How is it?" Steve asks as he sets the cup down, and Tony gives him a contented grin.
"Worth every penny. Start another one."
Steve trundles off behind the counter, and Tony listens to the whir of the machines as he polishes off the drink. He may have burnt his mouth, but he covers the pain with chocolate and eyes the birdcage, thinking of taking another one.
He doesn't get a chance to decide before Steve comes back, armed with two cups this time and he sits across from Tony at the table, pushing his drink across to him.
"You look tired," Steve says frankly, and he's still earnest. There are still traces of the star-struck gawker in his expression but there is more concern now, a more serious set to his features. "Do you," here he pauses, looks like he knows what he's doing and is embarrassed by it, "want to talk about it?"
"Talk about fighting crime by day and night with no vacation days?" Tony asks, eyebrows up, hands on the cup. "Is this for my benefit or yours?"
"Yours." Steve looks irritated by the suggestion.
"You're a barista."
"That's like a barkeeper." Steve sips from his drink, wipes foam off with the back of his hand. "I'm not going to tell anyone."
Tony looks at his coffee and at the half-eaten chocolate bar and the empty shop and sighs. The barista is sharp, deceptively so. He does want someone to talk at.
"It's not as easy as it used to be," he admits, drumming fingers on the table. "Or as fun. It's more like a job now, because villains come out like clockwork, and when they aren't out there's always someone to save from a mugging. Neverending job, and no one else has stepped up. I'm fighting alone, and if I stop - " He grimaces.
He's remembering Fire Bug, the flying arsonist he put away last night, and he's remembering Ms Explosives from the other day, and because he's so well armored the villains are stepping up weaponry to harm him. It's a twisted arms race he has to keep up with, and there's no way to tell the crazies to stop.
The only thing he can do is keep catching them and keep funding the production of a jail that can handle super-humans and aliens and robots and worse.
There's something about New York City that inspires villains, something about him, and he can't stop now.
Steve's looking at him with something like sympathy, an obvious urge to help but what can he do? Tony shakes his head, raises a finger.
"Don't say anything," he tells Steve. "Don't volunteer to help. You can't quit once you start." He pauses. "You don't look like you'd have the stamina for it, either. No offense."
"I'm tougher than I look," Steve defends. It's as if he doesn't know that he's short, skinny, fragile. It's as if he knows and doesn't care.
What does he think he can do?
"What do you want from me?"
"Mr. Stark, I just want to help." Steve sets his drink down, looks serious. "I'm not going to go out and put myself in danger unless I really have to, so I want to do everything I can from the sidelines." He looks at the chocolate bar, then gets up and crosses to the birdcage and back, bringing another one. "On the house."
As tokens of goodwill go, a chocolate bar is pretty good.
"That could make you a target," Tony says, but he takes the chocolate bar anyways. "Once or twice is fine, but if I become a regular here - that makes this place a target for any villain who wants to hurt me."
"You would protect us."
"Doesn't stop them from trying, and I can't be here all the time," Tony says. Maybe he's overexaggerating the danger, but: the trouble with his occupation is, he can't be sure.
He unpeels the wrapper from the second chocolate bar, and bites into it.
"Why hasn't anyone else stepped up to help you?" Steve asks. It's a good question.
"No one's been stupid enough to," Tony says, because that's the best answer he has. Become a superhero slash vigilante, no pay, no dental plan, no insurance. Become wanted by New York's finest, have your civilian life get a target drawn on it, or have a secret identity to guard day and night. "Maybe I'm not inspiring enough."
"Maybe you're inspiring to the wrong people," Steve murmurs. Tony quirks an eyebrow.
"Supervillains," he says, and Steve nods.
Tony runs a hand through his hair, winces at a twinge in his wrist, stretches out his arms.
"Believe me," he says. "I know what you mean. Iron Man and his gallery of villains - it's an ouroboros now, a snake eating its own tail, and someday one of them is going to get in a lucky shot and I don't know what the people are going to do then, because there are going to be a lot of heavily-armed criminals and nothing between them and people like you."
"What about the military?"
"What about the military?"
Steve holds his cup with both hands as he speaks, and it's all matter-of-fact. "I don't think we're the only ones who would think about this. The military must be doing something, or the government."
"You mean developing weapons that can match the villains, and training soldiers to use them."
"That smacks too strongly of a police state, Steve. If they bring in the military - " he shakes his head. "Also doesn't do a thing for the run of the mill crimes that the police aren't catching. If I catch a missile, they're losing - "
"I think someone would fill your shoes."
"I don't think we want to find out if anyone can fill my oversized shoes."
Tony watches Steve chew on that, and lets out a noisy sigh. These are problems he has been turning over and over in his mind since he seriously started on this crusade, and while yes, he is tired of it all - and sore, can't forget sore, he has injuries that are still healing - he can't stop. Won't stop. It's worth it, saving the day time and time again.
"This isn't a simple problem we can solve with conversation in a cafe."
"Maybe not," Steve says, "but it's worth a try. We should keep talking about it until we have a solution."
"Steve, is this a ploy to convince me to come back?"
Steve blinks at him, as if that hadn't occurred to him. "I'm just offering conversation, Mr. Stark."
"I'm flattered." Steve's smile is genuine, and he reaches to pluck the two chocolate bar wrappers from the table and stuff them into his apron.
Tony raises an eyebrow as he sips the last of his coffee. He sets it on the table, doesn't ask for a refill.
"Steve," he says. "I may just come back."
"I'd like that."
Tony hms, getting up, rising with Steve and strolling over to the counter to pay for everything - except for the free chocolate bar.
It's something to consider, really. Having a civilian to jaw with on a regular basis. Even if it does put the civilian into danger.
Unless they're careful. He looks at Steve, weighs his chances, decides he's for it.
"Barring supervillainy or a natural disaster, want to meet me in the alley behind here at seven tonight?"
Steve looks up from the register. "In the alley?"
"Discreet place to pick you up. I promise you'll be home before sunrise."
"I...sure? I mean yes. Yes, I'd like that."
"It's a date," Tony says, and doesn't stick around to get the change.
Tony has to be frank with himself: Steve's wormed his way into getting the enviable title of 'interesting barista I would like to know better' fairly easily, and despite all the stresses in Tony's life and the complicated problems involved with his job, he wants to give this a shot. Maybe it'll go nowhere, maybe he'll take the guy back home with him and see how fragile he really is.
He'll find out in a few hours, one way or another.
The Iron Man armor isn't one hundred percent suited for dates, or anything other than flying and combating villainy, but it has plenty of presence and looks, in his not-so-humble opinion, awesome, so: his entrance is impressive, a controlled descent from the sky resulting in the one-knee down one arm out pose.
He flips the face-plate up for a moment as he stands, grins at Steve's expression: it's as wide-eyed and stunned as he wants.
"Ready to go?"
"Where are we going?" Steve asks as he steps forward. He's dressed in a coat and a dark blue sweater that's just too big for him and comfortable looking pants with sturdy shoes, and Tony likes that kind of practicality in a guy. He is taking Steve for a flight, and it's a great bonus that he won't kill him with the wind-chill.
"Anywhere," Tony says, offering a hand. Steve hesitates before taking it, looking at his palms, and again, Tony appreciates that. "Somewhere where we can talk without worrying about customers or unwanted guests."
Steve nods, moving closer and now Tony lifts him up into a bridal-style carry as he takes off. It's not dignified but it's as comfortable as they're going to get without turning him into a pony or a flying bench. The sudden proximity as Steve puts his arms around Tony's neck for stability is a plus, too.
Tony just grins at him, even if Steve can't see it through the lowered face-plate, taking them up to a comfortable cruising level. "Don't look down," he warns, and has to laugh as Steve does just that and turns an interesting shade of green. "You're not scared, are you?"
"If you drop me I'm taking you with me," Steve says, arms automatically tightening around Tony's neck.
"Now why would I do that? I've got plans, Steve, and they don't involve scraping you off a sidewalk."
It's funnier from his perspective, he knows that, and still Tony can't help but do a few loop-de-loops to make Steve really yelp, and finally there's laughter, helpless laughter that Tony listens to with an odd feeling of pride.
He levels out their flight and lets Steve calm down, studying Steve's expression from up close.
Oh, he has a problem.
"Yeah?" Tony catches himself from going too far down that path and focuses on Steve again, in a different non-smitten way.
"Where are we going? Your tower?"
"Going to holler about kidnapping if we go?"
"Only if you lock me in," Steve says.
Tony shakes his head and angles them for the tower, diving from the sky to set Steve on the balcony before detouring to his walkway, eyes on Steve as he walks out of his armor and into his tower.
He meets Steve by the bar, pours gin into two tumblers, offers it. Steve barely sips the stuff but that's not the point, not when he'll join Tony on a barstool and finally stop looking everywhere.
"What were you expecting?"
"I'm not sure," Steve says. "Not this?"
Tony nods, drinking his gin without comment, taking in the sight as Steve looks around once more before landing his gaze on Tony.
He doesn't miss how Steve's eyes dip to his chest and back up.
"I thought we'd pick up where we left off," Tony says, casual.
"You mean the supervillain problem."
"That's the one," Tony says. "I'd call it the superhero problem, too. Seeing as right now it's superheroes singular, not plural."
"Have you tried recruiting anyone?"
"That is ridiculous." Tony gives him a look, then raises a hand, outlining the sign. "Wanted: person willing to risk life and limb for no reward."
"...Yeah, it is silly," Steve ducks his head. "I wasn't thinking."
"I can't treat it like that," Tony says. "Seriously speaking, I'm not handing out my tech, and I'm not teaching anyone else how to do this."
"You're waiting for someone to step up." It's almost ridiculous how longing Steve looks - he's so frail, so thin. He'd been light when Tony had carried him, and Tony entertains the thought that Steve's starving himself for a moment, then tosses it out.
"I am," he confirms, after too long.
He gets up, refills his glass.
"Does it get lonely?"
Tony snorts, turns to lift his glass to Steve. "You're the one doing the psychoanalysis, you tell me. Actually, how about you skip telling me and we give up on superheroing altogether and talk about you. I know you're more than a coffee boy, Steve."
It's obvious, it's anything but smooth but Tony wants to move on, wants to get away from this loop he's caught in. There's Steve sitting there anyways, attractive for all that he appears fragile, and Tony wants to know more, wants to hear what JARVIS has told him from the horse's mouth.
"Me?" Steve looks at him, surprised. "I'm nobody, really. I'm not very interesting."
The problem is, he might actually believe that.
"Tell me anyways," Tony doesn't sit back down, walking out to the windows to see the city. No smoke rising in the distance; good.
"I'm just a student," Steve says, after a moment. "An art student."
"Why?" Tony turns. "Why art, Steve?"
Steve looks at him, and Tony sees a set to his jaw that wasn't there, a defensive shift that he has yet to understand.
"I'm good with a pencil," he says, setting the drink on the counter, mostly untouched. "I like to draw."
"I wasn't accusing you of anything," Tony points out.
Steve curls his fingers and looks past Tony as he speaks. "Sorry. I thought - I thought you knew. You ran a background check on me, right? You're rich enough to do that."
"I did," Tony says. "But you're going to have to give me more to go on than that. Someone in the family have something against a liberal arts major?"
"No." Steve frowns at him. "My ma didn't make it." And neither did his pa, Tony thinks. He did scan the report. "There's no one to judge."
"Does it bother you that I didn't memorize the report?" Tony asks. "Because I thought it's more acceptable to act as if you don't know everything about a person."
"...No," Steve says. "It doesn't."
"Then let's move on. Why get defensive about your choice of major?"
"I'm - I'm colorblind." Steve looks at him, tense. It's as if he's expecting Tony to laugh, and it takes a lot of self-control not to let out a disbelieving bark of laughter.
A colorblind artist, of course.
"Monochromatic works for you only, huh."
"No," Steve says, and he shifts on his stool. He's uncomfortable, fidgety. Tony suspects he just wanted to talk about superheroes and vigilantes, not have a near-stranger probe into the whys and hows of his life-path. So to speak.
Well, too bad. If they're going to talk about Tony's choice of unrewarding careers, they're going to talk about Steve's.
"What do you draw? Portraits, landscapes, me?"
Steve works his mouth, then stares at Tony.
"I don't always draw you."
"I knew it! You're going to have to show me those sketches, buddy."
"Maybe," Steve says, and Tony crosses the room to sit next to him. "I draw anything. I'm not picky about my subjects."
Tony studies his profile, decides not to take that as an insult. Decides again that he has a problem.
Now, see, he's open with himself about liking what he likes and that's why Steve's sitting here right now, because Tony decided that yes, yup, he wanted to know more about him.
The next step should be obvious. He leans in, prepared for the whole range of reactions, and raises a hand to catch Steve's chin and pull it around.
He kisses Steve, tasting the lingering traces of gin and a stronger taste of coffee and he keeps kissing him as Steve's eyes widen but he doesn't push him away, he grips Tony's arms but doesn't try to pry him off. Instead he leans in, and Tony can just guess at what's racing through his head now, probably the same thing Tony's thinking: he likes it, he likes this.
He separates for air and to gauge the rest of Steve's reaction, to find out if he's going to holler now about wanting to go home, and instead Steve just gives him one star-struck dopey smile and says "can we do that again?"
"What do you think I am, a professional tease? Of course we can do that again, c'mere," Tony says, leaning in to kiss him again, and then again, and oh, he has no idea where this is going, long-term, just for the night, whatever. He knows where he wants it to go, straight to his bed, so he can peel off that coat and sweater and find out how easily Steve bruises, if he's as strong as he thinks he is, and Steve clutches at his arms, keeps up with him, deepens the kiss and opens his mouth when Tony licks his lips, then in.
The sounds Steve makes are lovely, and Tony wants to record them. In detail.
Naturally this is when they hear an explosion off in the distance. Tony groans for the wrong reason and drops his head to Steve's shoulder.
"No, no no - "
"It's," Steve's breathless, takes a moment to speak. "It's okay. I can wait."
Tony looks up at him, hands on Steve's shoulders, his lips inches from Steve's, and thinks I want him. "This is what you're going to have to put up with if you stick with me," he says, serious, putting off going out there for just a minute more. "Supervillains cockblocking us at odd hours. Bruises in the weirdest places. Potential baddies following you home. Still want in?"
Oh, he's moving too fast, going straight for what he wants without giving the poor guy a chance to keep up, and he half-expects half-knows he's getting a 'no, let me go' but instead Steve just nods and says "I want in."
"I like you," he tells him; steals a kiss and finally has to pull away to go for his armor.
Steve sits back on the stool, looking for all the world like he has what he wants, and Tony can't help a giddy grin as he activates the armor.
He should stay to mention JARVIS, to mention that the elevator's right over there, but instead he gets going, jets off into the sky. This shouldn't take too long, not with how impossibly brilliant he really is.
He glances back at the tower as he goes, grinning helplessly to himself as he gets to business. "What've we got, JARVIS?"
"The usual, sir," JARVIS says, as impeccable as ever, and he goes on to summarize the police reports he's been eavesdropping on, twitter, any and all valid sources of information.
"Back in time for dinner," Tony crows, all confidence, and is that amusement in JARVIS' 'Yes, sir'? Oh, he doesn't care what his AI thinks of him. He's giddy as a schoolgirl and he just doesn't care, as long as he gets back in at least one piece.
Tony limps in hours later, confident that the city is safe, and he's tired, aching, ready to find a bed and just lie in it, skip sleep, just go straight to being comfortable.
The floor is dark and empty when he gets in, and there's a twinge of disappointment as he walks in, but then he hears the soft sounds of someone sleeping nearby, and oh, oh hello.
Over on the couch is Steve, sleeping while sitting upright, a first-aid kit propped on his knees.
Oh, he thinks. Oh, he's perfect.
"Dim the lights, forty-percent," he says, and makes his way over to bend and give Steve a gentle kiss before he drops into the couch next to him.
Steve starts and wakes up, but Tony just puts an arm around his shoulders and pulls him in to lean against him.
"Go back to sleep," he murmurs.
"Let me treat you," Steve manages, still half-asleep, and Tony ruffles his hair. He hopes, belatedly, that there's no blood on his hand. Oh well, Steve'll just have to shower. With him. In his shower. Naked. Yes.
"In a minute," he says, realizing how worn out he is. "Just let me sit."
Steve peers up at him, and Tony closes his eyes, savoring the moment. Someone warm against him, safe. Practically everything he fights for.
"I like you too," Steve says, voice low. "I didn't get a chance to say it earlier."
"It'd be a problem if you didn't," Tony says, idly running fingers through Steve's hair. "You still want to stay?"
He has to ask, even if the timing's all wrong. He has to hear it again.
"Yes," Steve finally pushes Tony's hand off of his head and leans up to kiss him, light. "Let me treat you now?"
"Anything you want," Tony says with a satisfied smile, and he reaches to pull his shirt off, hiding a wince as he does. "Thanks, Steve."
It's quiet for a few minutes as Steve treats his injuries, and Tony's going to have to ask about how he got so good at applying bandages, but right now he just doesn't care.
"Okay," Steve murmurs. "That's the worst of it. Stand up?"
"You have a bedroom."
"Oh, that. Couch is plenty good."
"No, it's not."
Tony eyes him, then pulls himself up and lets Steve lead him away.
"Steve, this really wasn't how I wanted our first date to go," he murmurs.
"It's okay," Steve says. "We'll have more."
"You don't mind moving so fast?"
"Of course not," Steve says, pausing to lean up and kiss him. "I told you, I like you."
"Oh good," Tony murmurs, and returns the kiss, with heat.
This is another Thursday. The worst villains are always out on Thursday trying to throw Tony into pavement, but this time Tony has a secret weapon: he's got another date tonight with Steve, and the thought of Steve is all he needs to fly straighter, aim more precisely, and hit harder.
He never thought he'd turn out to have a romantic streak, but he fights crime for a living and drinks coffee at a tacky coffee shop called Hawkeye's and dates a colorblind artist so hey!
He'll pluck chocolate out of that bird cage again, try some of the owner's coffee - Barton makes a mean brew - and pick up Steve after this. He's got Thursdays in the bag.