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Catching Up

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Tony Stark was not a morning person.  He didn’t understand how anyone could be in such a good mood before sunrise.

However, to be fair, he rarely was in a genuinely good mood, so maybe he didn’t really have a right to talk.

Anyway, Tony Stark was not a morning person… but six months ago, all of that began to change. 

Because six months ago, marked the one-year anniversary of the Battle of New York.  Six months ago was when Loki decided to give the whole “world domination” thing another shot.  Six months ago was when Steve almost died after getting blasted by a fucking alien at point blank.  Six months ago was when Clint and Bruce cornered Tony at the hospital and told him to “get your goddamn head out of your ass and ask him out already!”

So when Steve woke up later a few hours later, Tony was at his bedside with a basket of blueberry muffins and an obnoxious red-white-and-blue teddy bear that played “Stars and Stripes Forever” when you squeezed its foot.  Tony declared his love for Steve and asked if he would be his boyfriend.  The teary-eyed soldier agreed enthusiastically and they shared a passionate kiss.

If you asked Steve for the actual story, he’d tell you that Tony’s actual words were: “I want you, and you want me, so we should just get this over with.”  Steve responded by bopping him on the head with the patriotic teddy bear and snatching the basket of mini muffins away from him (the basket was only half-full, by the way). 

Maybe it wasn’t the most romantic way to be asked out by someone, but Steve loved Tony anyway, and six months later, they were happier than they have ever been.

Now to get back to the initial point of this story: Tony Stark was not a morning person.  Steve Rogers, however, was.  At five-thirty every morning, Steve would get up and go for a run with Sam (and occasionally Clint if he wasn’t off on SHIELD business).  He would come back at seven, and drag Tony out of bed so they could take showers and get ready for the day.

Tony resented it because Tony would always wake up when Steve woke up.  It wasn’t that Steve was loud when he got ready for his run—he was always very considerate of others.  However, getting out of bed meant that Steve would have to disentangle himself from Tony, and Tony was not a fan of anything that got in the way of cuddling with Captain America.  He wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep until he got a hold of Steve’s pillow.  

He didn’t mind being woken up at seven as much, but he still firmly believed that sane people just didn’t get up at such ridiculous hours: doing so was inhumane or something.   

However, all of that changed one morning when an already naked Steve slowly dragged Tony out of slumber with a sweet kiss on the lips.  Tony looked at him blearily, but before he could say anything, Steve disappeared beneath the covers and Tony just lost it.  

Of course, after observing that Tony had been in a good mood for the rest of the day, Steve had taken to waking him up after his run in that particular fashion.  Tony had absolutely no qualms about this, of course, and would return the favor during their morning shower.

It was a ritual that Tony (and Steve) looked forward to every morning for the past two months. 

Being the ever loving and doting boyfriend that he was, Tony decided to surprise Steve one morning by already being awake when he returned from his run.  He made breakfast and brought it up to their room before turning on some music and drawing a bath (he didn’t bother making the bed because… well, reasons). 

At 6:49, Tony stripped and laid out on the bed.  Like clockwork, Steve walked in a minute later, and his jaw dropped.

No, not Steve’s.  Tony’s

Now, being in his early forties, Tony has seen quite a bit over the course of his life.  Okay, so he’s seen a lot—probably more than most people twice his age has seen.  But all of his experience and worldly knowledge couldn’t prepare him for the sight of Steve Rogers in running attire. 

His brain shorted out, and all plans of seducing Steve went out the window.  The blond, meanwhile, had a sly grin on his face, and proceeded to peel the sweat-soaked shirt off of himself at a much slower pace than necessary. 

Looking back, Tony would admit that literally jumping his boyfriend’s bones may not have been one of the most dignified moments of his life, but if there was one thing that Tony would never know the meaning of, it was shame.  For the next two weeks, he’d take a glance at his bruises and be reassured that it was all definitely worth it.

~

“Who lets these people print this garbage?” Tony remarked, flipping through the magazine in his hand.

“Stupid people,” Clint coolly responded as he flipped a pancake towards Natasha, who caught it on her plate without so much as a glance.

“How you two do that is just beyond scary,” Tony said, eyeing them cautiously.

“How we do what?” Natasha and Clint said at the same time.

“See?  Scary.”

“What’s scary?” Pepper asked, striding into the kitchen.  She dropped a stack of folders in front of Tony.

“The wonder twins over here.” He glared at his newly acquired folders. “What the hell is this?”  

“Paperwork for the new building in Malibu.  Building codes and the like.”

“Can’t you just do what you usually do and just sign everything for me?”

“I am no longer your personal assistant, Mr. Stark.  Forging your signature is no longer in my job description,” Pepper informed.  “I am, however, still the boss of you, so I want those back in my office by tomorrow.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the genius grumbled.    

“Pancakes?” Clint offered a plate to the CEO, who graciously accepted it.  

“Thank you, Clint.” She poured herself a cup of coffee before taking a seat across the table from Tony and Natasha.  She studied the title of Tony’s magazine.  “Why are you reading a gossip magazine, Tony?”

“It isn’t a gossip magazine.  It’s purely informative.”

“The cover has a picture of that Kardashian girl and Kanye West with the title ‘And Baby Makes Three?’” Natasha retorted. “That’s a gossip magazine, Stark.”

“Well, I need to know everything about the country I’m saving.”

“I don’t understand why knowing whether or not Madonna had another face-lift is vital information when saving the world.”  

Tony took a long sip of his coffee.  “It just is.”  

“I still don’t understand why you’re reading that,” Pepper said, unamused.

“There’s an article about Steve,” Clint informed. 

“Less of an article,” Tony corrected, “more of a snippet.”

“What does it say?”

“Steve Rogers, aka ‘Captain America,’ was seen jogging in Central Park yesterday morning with a friend, who many speculate to be emerging superhero, ‘Falcon,’” Tony read from the magazine.  “The ever courteous citizen, Rogers took a break from his run to sign autographs with some young fans, and even proceeded to take photos with them.”

“That’s adorable,” Pepper remarked. 

“Wait for it.  There’s more.  Tell her, Stark,” Natasha urged.

Tony rolled his eyes but continued to read anyway.  “The above pictures were supplied to us by a loyal reader, and we here at The Daily Star are eternally grateful: it isn’t very often that we see an American icon out and about.  It is certainly a treat to see someone who could make the rattiest sweatpants and t-shirt look so good.” 

“Oh.”  Pepper wrinkled her nose.  “Well, there goes quality journalism.”

“We’re left to wonder if Rogers actually has to work to maintain those two-hundred pounds of all-American muscle.  Regardless, we aren’t complaining: these photos of a sweaty Captain America could make even the most virtuous of nuns swoon.”

Pepper choked on a piece of fruit.  “Nuns?  Really?” she asked, clearly in disbelief. 

Tony pressed on.  “But don’t go anywhere, ladies.  Rumors have it that our hero is already taken.  God bless America, and if the rumors are true, God bless the lucky girl that our lovely Captain gets to go home to.”  

“So you’re a girl?”

“Don’t get smart with me, Pep.”  Tony tossed the magazine aside.

“Aw, are you jealous of the attention that Steve’s getting?” asked Clint.

“No, I’m not jealous,” Tony huffed.  “Twelve year old girls get jealous.  Tony Stark does not.”

“You are totally jealous,” Natasha said, smugly. “You’re jealous of that, and his non-existent girlfriend.”

“Unbelievable!” Tony threw his hands up. “Why is it that everyone is always against me?”

Pepper shrugged.  “You just always give us reasons to be.”

“That, and the fact that you have the biggest case of ‘denial’ I have ever seen in a person,” the archer added.  He finally stepped away from the stove and sat down at the table.  “I don’t understand why you’re upset though.  You’re the only one that actually gets to touch those ‘two-hundred pounds of all-American muscle,’” he said in a high-pitched voice, making Natasha snicker.

Tony just crossed his arms and stared daggers into the pages in front of him.

“You aren’t actually bothered by that article, are you?” Pepper asked.

“Of course not,” the billionaire defended. “Just a little… peeved.”

“That’s the same thing!” Clint responded. 

“Whatever,” Tony waved him off.  “There’s nothing I can do anyway.  He’ll just continue to look sinfully delicious during his morning runs, and the rest of the country can continue to speculate about his reported girlfriend.”

“Wait, you’re annoyed because he looks good in a t-shirt and track pants?”

“How is it physically possible for anyone to look that good while jogging?” Tony whined. “And I’m annoyed because everyone ogles him like a piece of meat.”

Clint snapped his fingers, realization dawning on his face.  “And everyone only ogles him so much because he isn’t really off-limits since they don’t know that you two are together!”

Tony pinched the bridge of his nose.  “I knew nothing good would come out of hanging out with a bunch of assassins and a mind reader.”

“So what are you going to do?”

Tony looked up at his CEO/ex-personal assistant/ex-girlfriend.  “Do?”

Pepper leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.  “You can’t tell me that the Tony Stark is just going to sit back and do nothing about this?”

“Are you… actually giving me permission to make a bad decision?”

“You make bad decisions anyway,” Natasha said. “Do you really need her permission?”

~

Tony really wished that Pepper hadn’t allowed him to make this particular bad decision.  (Then again, he probably would’ve done it anyway, like Natasha said.)  

He really had no one to blame for his current predicament but himself.  Said predicament being him running laps in Central Park, and it wasn’t even six in the morning. 

When Tony had told Steve that morning that he wanted to come along, Steve looked at him like he had five heads.  When Tony insisted, Steve checked him for a fever, and it wasn’t until Tony changed and slipped on a pair of running shoes that Steve actually believed him. 

“Are you all right, Tony?” Steve asked, concern written all over his face.

“I’m perfectly fine, honey,” Tony replied between breaths.  His shirt was already soaked through, but Steve looked perfectly fine. 

“But—”

“I said I’m fine,” Tony insisted.  “Now, let’s keep going.  I know you can go faster than this, don’t hold back on me.”

“I’ll have to hold back a little, Tony.  I don’t think you can run thirty miles per hour,” Steve said, laughing. 

“Touché.” Tony knew Steve meant it to say it as a joke (even if the supersoldier could run that quickly), but the prospect of running any faster than he was now almost made Tony physically ill.  He desperately held back the urge to collapse on the ground right now: there was a time and place for that type of thing, and Central Park in broad daylight was not one of them. 

“Why d’you wanna come along anyway?”

“Is it a crime to want to engage in some cardio?” Tony asked.

“No, but coming from a guy who continuously claims to get enough exercise from our—”

“Okay, enough of that,” Tony interrupted. “There are children present.”

Steve chuckled.  “Whatever you say, Tony.”

“Where’s Sam?  I thought he usually ran with you too.”

“SHIELD thing,” Steve brushed it off.  “It’s probably good, though, I think he got a little freaked out last time with all of the attention.”

“I’m surprised you guys don’t get noticed more often.”

“They notice us,” Steve replied, “but they usually don’t stop us for pictures and autographs.”

“Don’t lie, Steve.  You love making those little kids smile.”  

“Of course, I do,” the supersoldier affirmed.  “I’m just not a fan of getting bombarded with cameras and reporters screaming questions at me.” 

“Yeah, that’s… that’s never fun.”  A little more tolerable at times, maybe, but never fun. 

“You make it seem so easy, though.”

Tony shrugged (or tried to… it was a little difficult considering he couldn’t breathe).  “Years of practice,” he said simply.  “You get used to it after a while.”

“I guess I so…,” Steve thought out loud, “After all, it’ll probably get worse once everyone finds out about us, huh?”

“Wh-what?!” Tony sputtered.  He tripped and fell forward.

“Tony!” Steve rushed to his side and checked him for injuries.  “Are you okay?”

“Yeah… I think I hurt my ego more than anything.”  He hissed when Steve pressed down on his ankle.  “Scratch that.  There is a chance that that is sprained.”  Fantastic.  “There aren’t any cameras around, are there?”  Iron Man fought doombots and aliens: the last thing Tony needed was photographic evidence of an injury due to tripping

Steve tried to hold back his laugh. 

“I’m serious, Steve.  If word gets out that I tripped in Central Park, then I’ll be the laughing stock of the century.”

“Tony…”

“What did you mean by ‘when everyone finds out about us?’”  He figured there was no point in beating around the bush.

Steve blinked.  “Well, everyone’s gotta find out about us eventually, right?”

“I guess I never really thought about it… I mean, you’re Captain America.  People aren’t going to be very happy if they found out you’re involved with a former arms dealer.”

Steve gave him a look that could only be described as a combination of exasperation and adoration, and Tony could’ve sworn that his heart honest-to-God skipped a beat.  “Who I date is none of their business, Tony.”

“Tell that to those gossip magazines,” the other man mumbled under his breath. 

“What?”

“Nothing.”  Tony refused to look Steve in the eye.

Steve’s brow furrowed as he tried to piece everything together. “Is… is that what this is about?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Steven.”

“Do you… do you not want everyone else to know…?”

Tony shook his head furiously.  “No.  No, no, no, no.  Never.  Of course I want to tell everyone else, Steve.”

“But I don’t unders—”

“I was just annoyed about everyone speculating that I’m your girlfriend, but you didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all.”

“So the reason you followed me around like a puppy all day yesterday—”

“I did no such thing—”

“—and woke up so early this morning—”

“—I told you, cardio—”

“—was because you wanted to make sure no one else looked at me?”

Tony’s pout and silence were enough of an answer for Steve, and he actually laughed out loud.

“Steeeeeve.  Don’t laugh at me!” Tony certainly did not whine.

“I’m sorry, but you are just adorable, you know that?”

“Are you serious?  Adorable?  I’m sexy and charming, not adorable,” Tony protested.

“It’s okay.  I like adorable,” Steve assured.

“So what do we do?”

“Tell everyone.”

“Just like that?”

Steve nodded.  “I was actually thinking that we tell everyone next week during our appearance on ‘Ellen.’  She was really nice when we were on her show last time.  What do you think?” 

“I think… I am becoming more and more aware that I am sitting on the ground—”

“You’re on the sidewalk,” Steve corrected.

”—and a crowd is beginning to form.”

Steve glanced around, and realized that there were significantly more people there than he remembered.  “I think they’re just concerned.”

“And I think they just want an opportunity to see Tony Stark out of his element,” Tony muttered. “Help me up?”

Steve acquiesced, and helped Tony back on his feet, but the billionaire almost fell on his face when he tried to take a step forward.

“I don’t think I can walk,” he remarked.

“No kidding.” 

“What do we do now?”

Steve stood in front of the other man.  “Get on my back.”

Tony looked at his boyfriend incredulously.  “You can’t be serious.”

“It’s either that, or I carry you bridal style,” Steve countered.

Tony shook his head.  “So much for my ego…”  He wrapped his arms around Steve’s shoulders.  Steve hoisted him up and began to walk towards the park entrance.  “People are laughing at me, Steve.”

“No, they aren’t.” 

“They’re taking pictures.”

Steve turned paused and his head to look Tony in the eye.  He craned his neck and gave the other man a chaste kiss on the lips.  “So let them,” he said, smiling.  He ignored the murmurs from passersby and continued making their way out of the park.  “So I guess this means you won’t be accompanying me on any more of my morning jogs?”

“I love you, Steve, but there's no way you can make me wake up at five-thirty ever again."

"I figured as much."

"...That doesn’t mean that you have to stop waking me up afterwards, though." 

“I can live with that.”