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you don't need me (but you won't leave me)

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“It’s fucking cold.”

Steve rolled his eyes, but he smiled fondly at his companion anyway.  “There are children present, Tony.”

“No there aren’t,” the billionaire retorted, completely oblivious to the group of children that passed them as they ran home from school.

“I told you to wear a better jacket.”

Tony narrowed his eyes.  “You did not.  Besides, it’s May!  It’s forty degrees out; what the hell happened to spring?

Steve didn’t bother with a dignified response, and Tony was grateful for that.  Steve could probably tell that he was already miserable as it was.  

He saw Steve move in the corner of his eye: he slid off his scarf before reaching over and wrapping it around Tony's neck, meticulously tucking the ends into the collar of his peacoat.  Tony mumbled a ‘thanks,’ and he definitely saw the far-too-please grin that Steve tried to hide. 

They continued walking down the busy street. The cold weather didn’t seem to deter any of the New Yorkers from getting to their destinations, and Tony began to wonder if moving to New York was the right move after all…

It definitely wasn’t Malibu.

Steve was scanning the street for a particular shop when Tony entwined his cold fingers with Steve's warmer ones. The other man looked at him questioningly.

Steve cocked an eyebrow.  “Won’t you be colder?” he asked, simultaneously clasping Tony's hand tighter.

“It’s fine,” Tony replied with a shrug.

He smiled again.  “If you say so." They walked in silence for a few minutes before Steve pulled on Tony's arm.  "Hey, I think that’s it!" he announced, pointing to a significantly smaller shop window a few yards down.  

“Thank, God.”  Tony picked up his pace, practically dragging Steve through the mass of people.

They entered the coffee shop, and Tony was grateful for the immediate warmth.    Steve parked Tony at a table next to the window before getting in line.  He glanced outside in time to see a teenager snap a picture of him on a phone, but he abruptly turned away and preoccupied himself by analyzing the wall décor of the café.  The walls were adorned with a print that Tony would’ve normally found offensive in an eating establishment, but it somehow worked in this tiny shop.  There were black and white photographs of the city, and a large chalkboard that displayed the store’s menu.

Steve walked back to the table, two paper cups in his hands, and a paper bag dangling between his fingers.

“What’d you get?” Tony asked as his companion sat down.

“Cappucino for you, café miel for me.”  He set the drinks on the table and then ripped open the paper bag, revealing three blueberry scones.  “And these.”

Tony’s mouth watered and he greedily snatched one of the scones.  Tony never once ordered the same kind of coffee, so he honestly had no idea how Steve knew exactly what to get him today.  “Have I ever told you that you’re perfect?”

“Not today,” Steve replied, breaking off a part of a scone and popping it in his mouth.

Tony followed suit and his eyes widened comically. “Holy shit, this is delicious.”

Steve laughed.  “That’s why I got you two.”

Oh, did Tony love him.

Steve watched Tony finish off the first scone before finally tasting his coffee.

“How you have the patience to let perfectly good coffee just sit there is beyond me,” Tony said whilst chewing, and it really shouldn’t have been endearing, but Steve couldn’t stop himself from smiling even more.

They settled into a companionable silence that Tony had only become familiar with a mere three months ago. 

It was a gradual thing. 

There was no shock of lightning, no epiphany or choir of angels.

There was no particular moment where Tony was struck with the realization that he was in love with Steve Rogers

They just spent so much time together that the next logical step for them was to admit their mutual attraction to each other and actually start calling their outings, “dates.”

After the other Avengers moved into the tower, Steve took it upon himself to spend time with each and every one of them at least once a day.  It was nice, really.  Tony didn’t know anyone that spent time with him willingly anymore… although, thinking about it, he never really did.  Pepper was his PA before they were in a relationship, he was only friends with Happy because he decided some odd years ago that he needed a driver, and Rhodey was stuck with him in college because they were roommates. 

They all just happened to stick around. 

Steve and the rest of the Avengers, on the other hand, had no obligation to actually spend time with him.  They each had their own floor, and had no need to go venturing off to spend time with Tony. 

Steve was never subtle about it either.  He seemed to be able to find an excuse for everything.

But, Tony thought, he couldn’t blame the guy.  Steve was literally thrown into a world that he didn’t know, without any relations whatsoever, so it was only expected that he would hang on to few connections that he’s made.

He had said once a few weeks ago (in passing) that they were his only family.

And isn’t it a little sad to think that his only family consisted of a borderline alcoholic billionaire, a Russian assassin, a marksman, an alien, and a guy with anger management issues.

Steve never let that bother him, though: he always made the best of situations (something he definitely learned from the Great Depression, and doesn’t that make Tony a little uneasy).  He genuinely cared about every single one of them, and it was because of him that they all eventually started to actually become this cohesive little unit… which Tony found absolutely terrifying.

Not the fact that he found himself starting to care about this group of people as more than just… people, but that they’ve started caring about him

He’s gotten used to having them around.

Seeing them every day became routine: taking breaks from working in his lab to see exchange new findings with Bruce, sparring with Natasha, watching terrible action films with Clint, and attempting to bake cookies with Thor.  

He especially looked forward to when Steve sought him out at random hours of the day to tell him that they were going out.  

It was strange, really, to think that both of them were strangers to this city.  They had both lived there, previously, but the New York that Steve knew was definitely different from the one he was in now.  As for Tony, he had lived in the Stark mansion during his childhood, but the majority of his earlier memories took place either inside of the large, empty building, or at the many boarding schools he was sent to.

Tony was a little shocked to see Steve walk through his elevator in the middle of January.  They parted on relatively good terms, and Tony had even called him once or twice to check up on him and let him know of his plans for his tower, but he was still surprised that Steve showed up on his own accord.

“Cap?”

“Hey, Tony.”  Steve stood in the middle of his living room with a backpack and duffel bag.

“What’re you doing here?”

“I was wondering if your offer to stay in the tower still stands.”

“Of course, it does.”  Tony blinked.  “I didn’t think you’d come by so soon; figured SHIELD would want to keep you busy for a while.”

Steve’s easy smile faltered for a fraction of a second, but he recomposed himself.  “I’m taking temporary leave of absence.  I need to clear my head.”

“Understandable.”  Tony wasn’t sure if he would’ve been able to do what Steve did: to wake up seventy years in the future, thrown into another war a few days later, and then forced to hunt down your best-friend-turned-assassin. “Your SHIELD issued apartment probably isn’t the best place to do that, huh?”

Steve shook his head. “I’m ninety-five percent sure the little old lady living across the street from me is working for Fury.”

Tony laughed.  “Well, then I guess you’re lucky that I finished your suite last week, huh?”

After the Mandarin debacle, Tony made a permanent move to New York, but he had only been living in the aforementioned city for about a month before Steve showed up.  So, while trying to adjust to a new life in a different city without Pepper was already pretty difficult to begin with, he found himself with the additional task of entertaining a supersoldier.  

Tony made the mistake of treating Steve like a lost puppy, but after Bruce oh-so-nicely pointed out that he was dealing with the scrawny kid from Brooklyn that wanted to punch Nazis in the face, Tony realized that he didn’t have to worry.

Steve was absolutely no trouble at all, and Tony had even grown used to his presence after only a couple of weeks.  One day, Steve walked into Tony’s lab and suggested that they explore the city together, so they started going to a different place every day: a different park, a different restaurant, a different movie theater.

That was why, today, Tony found himself in a little hole-in-the-wall café, sipping a cappuccino while sitting across from Steve, who was cradling his own café miel in his hands.  It was close to six o’clock, so the sun was already setting. 

Steve’s voice broke through his thoughts. “What’re you thinking about?”

“What?”

“You’re always thinking of… of something.”  He gave Tony an innocent look.

True.

“You’ve also been blatantly staring at me for the past five minutes, and so I don’t know if I should be flattered or self-conscious.”

Tony shook his head.  “Not self-conscious.  Definitely not self-conscious.”

Steve looked at him expectantly for another few moments before shrugging his shoulders and turning his attention back downwards.  It was then that Tony realized that Steve had been sketching a rather intricate design onto the side of his paper cup.

Tony noted the lax in his shoulders, the furrow of his eyebrows, and his slightly swollen bottom lip (Steve had a habit of biting it while drawing), and Tony had the strongest urge to lean across the table and kiss him square on the mouth.  He looked around and saw that the store was pretty empty compared to when they first walked in, so it was unlikely that anyone would even notice.

Before he could do anything, his phone buzzed in his pocket.  He looked over at Steve—who was blissfully unaware that their companionable silence was interrupted—before fishing out his phone and answering it.

“What is it, Barton?”

“Thor’s wondering if you guys are gonna be back in time for dinner.”

“It isn't chicken again, is it?  We've had that three times this past week—”

“No, it’s some sort of pasta.  He’s insisting it’s a surprise, but it actually smells really good.”

“We should be back soon.  Don’t wait up for us if you guys want to start, though.”

“All right.  See you in a bit.”

Tony pocketed his phone and took another sip of his cappuccino.

“Who was that?”

“Clint.  He was asking about dinner.”

Steve checked his wristwatch.  “Oh, wow.  It’s almost six already?”

“It would appear,” Tony affirmed, and he began to wonder when his life had gotten so domestic to the point that the Avengers had a pre-determined dinner time.  Everything in Tony’s life seemed to just sneak up on him now.

He found it amazing how much his life had changed since becoming a part of this dysfunctional family.

“You’re thinking again.”

Tony blinked. “Geniuses tend to do that, yes.”

Steve shook his head, but smiled at him fondly.  “Are you all right?”

“Yep,” he answered truthfully.  “I’m perfectly fine.  Promise.”

“Okay,” Steve said with finality, not pressing the issue.  Whether it was because Steve knew he was telling the truth or just didn’t want to badger him, Tony didn’t know for sure, but he was pretty sure it was the former. “We should—”

“I love you,” Tony blurted, giving in to the overwhelming urge to… tell Steve something… anything that gave indication of how he was feeling at the moment.  He felt his cheeks start to burn and tried his hardest to will the blush away.  

Steve reached across the table and gently squeezed Tony’s hand.  “I know you do.” 

Tony’s heart did a weird fluttery… thing, and for a second he thinks something is wrong with his arc reactor, but he knows that couldn't be the problem anymore.  

“I love you too, by the way,” Steve says with a smile, and Tony doubts he will ever get over the fact that Steve chose him of all people. 

It’s silly, he knows, that he’s reacting so much to Steve’s words.  This wasn’t the first time that they’ve uttered that particular phrase to each other—it’s been months since then, actually—but Tony was feeling particularly sentimental for some godforsaken reason. 

“We should probably get going,” Steve said, clearing their table.

Tony nodded and proceeded to shrug his jacket back on.  

Steve threw out the empty coffee cups and paper bag before walking back to the table and glancing out the window.  “It’s definitely colder out now,” he stated. “Do you want to call Happy?”

Tony desperately wanted to say ‘yes.’  The last thing he wanted now was to go back out into the frigid cold.

He hated the cold, hated walking around clusters of people and most of all, he hated being recognized—having every one of your moves documented on a plastic camera phone.  

…but he knew how much Steve liked walking around the city, especially at this hour when the last of the sun’s rays were reflected on the clouds, and the bright lights of the buildings started to come on.  Steve was never a sentimental guy when it came to material things, but he could find beauty in anything.   

Tony didn't know when Steve Rogers wedged himself into his heart, but Tony was going to spend the rest of his life making sure that he stayed there. 

“I don’t mind walking.”

Steve grinned at him, and Tony couldn’t help but return it.  He wrapped the scarf snugly around his neck before taking Steve’s hand and leading him out onto the bustling streets of New York.