There was probably something wrong with the way Tony had been raised if he honestly believed that alcohol was always the best solution to being in any sort of crisis. Nevertheless, that had somehow become something he’d grown to accept as a sort of universal truth about life.
Therefore, it was only natural to him that upon discovering the truth about his sexuality at such an embarrassing age like his, he believed that to be a perfect reason to slam back a few bottles of the strongest stuff that he had in his cupboard.
It was also what he blamed the fact that he was currently piss drunk sprawled over his sofa on. His sofa, mind you. Why there was also a Captain America enjoying the pleasures of the same sofa – HIS! – was beyond him.
“Do you want to tell me why you have picked today to get drunk, Tony?” the ‘good’ Captain asked for what could have been the millionth time – Tony didn’t really feel like keeping count.
In fact, Tony didn’t even feel like listening at all, and just like he had the potential nine-hundred-ninety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-and-a-bunch-of-other-nines-because-thank-fuck-even-the-numbers-didn’t-make-sense-anymore times the man had asked before, Tony ignored him. Instead, he was peering suspiciously at the coffee table next to his sofa.
“Tony? Hellooo? Earth to Iron Man, do you copy?”
Tony scowled, but didn’t bother looking up at Steve to actually scowl at him. He contemplated inventing a mute button that he could attach to people. Or perhaps an entire remote control system. It would be very useful to be able to fast-forward through the spangled-annoyance-in-freedom-coloured-boots’ mission briefings.
Really, it was as if he purposely made them unnecessarily lengthy. Fighting aliens couldn’t possibly be that hard. ‘Aim, shoot, and try to avoid the pointy end’ should honestly be able to suffice, especially for a group of superheroes. They weren’t stupid, after all. One did not simply become an international super spy-slash-assassin. Not even to mention the brilliant genius of the Iron Man technology that he, himself, added to the mix.
As all of these thoughts occupied the hazy back of Tony’s mind, he still didn’t take his eyes off the table, biting his lip as he pondered its possibilities.
“And Tony, you need to stop runni—”
Tony slid off the sofa and rolled underneath the coffee table, where he promptly hit his head. He pouted into the carpet.
Still ignoring the Captain, Tony tried to shift around, but the stupid piece of furniture turned out to be closer to the ground than he had anticipated, and he bumped his elbow painfully against its bottom surface. “This coffee table has developed a fault,” he stated, after which he giggled at himself and the reference that he knew Steve wouldn’t get.
A blond head appeared in his field of vision, and Tony stared at it. Steve frowned at him.
“I’m stuck,” Tony said.
“I can see that,” Steve replied dryly. “Why are you underneath the coffee table?”
“It looked comfy,” Tony told him honestly (if slurring his words a bit), still pouting into the carpet. “I wanted to slide underneath it, so I did, but it’s smaller than I thought.” He tried to wriggle free from underneath the table, which only resulted in him hitting his head and elbows a few more times. He whined theatrically.
Steve shook his head, and even through the wibbly wobbly-ness of his being drunk (which really was a very good description of how he felt; wibbly, wobbly, and perhaps a bit woozy as well.) Tony could tell that the Captain couldn’t quite decide whether he should be amused or concerned.
When the man reached out to him though – probably to help him get away from underneath the table, – Tony was a bit annoyed to see that he had apparently settled on the latter option.
“Come on, let me help you out of there. Surely that can’t be comfortable,” Steve said, his voice light, but the crease in his brow telling as to how exactly he felt about Tony’s behaviour, which he probably classified as ‘immature’ or whatever. Most likely as ‘cause for concern’ as well.
Tony rolled his eyes at the thought. Seriously, if he found out that Steve had filed another I-worry-about-Tony report with SHIELD – or worse, with Natasha, – he’d strangle the star spangled buttwipe of a man in his sleep.
Nevertheless, the sofa had been comfy and the floor unexpectedly not-so-much, so he decided to accept Steve’s hand and let the embodiment of liberty liberate him from the claws of his table. He chuckled, “Steve— Steve— Steeeeve! You’ve liberated me! Do you get it? You’ve liberated the state of Stark!”
Steve shot him a look that made Tony wonder why he’d thought telling the man that had been a good idea. Perhaps his sense of humour still needed defrosting.
“It’s funny. You’re supposed to laugh.” Tony demonstrated. “Like so – it’s really not that hard!”
Steve shook his head and sighed, then, without a word, he lifted Tony off the ground and sat him down safely on the sofa again. Tony let himself fall over onto his side and cuddled a pillow to his face. He hummed happily. “Friiieeeeeend...”
“Right, stay here. I’m getting you a glass of water and something to eat, and then you’re going to sober up and we’re going to talk about this like adults.” Steve said, like the complete no-fun spoilsport that he was.
That, Tony was entirely against. Faster than he should have been able to in the buzzed state that he was in, Tony’s hand shot out to grip Steve’s trouser leg. His knuckles were white, and his hand was shaking with the strength of his grip.
There was a loaded silence.
“Stay,” Tony whispered, and although his words were muffled by the pillow, he knew them to be audible to super-soldier ears.
With an everlasting patience that made Tony want to puke in a way that was entirely unrelated to the overabundance of alcohol he had consumed, Steve said, “Okay,” and sat down by his side, the warmth of his leg brushing disgustingly comfortably against Tony’s.
“It all hurts, Steve, why does it hurt?” Tony whispered, against his knowing better than to share. He also still hadn’t let go of Steve’s leg, and the angle at which his arm was now forced in between the two of them was uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the discomfort was a much welcome reminder that the Captain was still there, by his side.
“What hurts?” Steve asked quietly, that same patience in his voice that he had had before never wavering. Tony wanted to shove that patience down his throat. With his tongue. Maybe. Just a little bit, if he was extremely honest with himself, which was something he was very good at not doing, so he did just that.
“I found out why all of my relationships fail.” It was so much easier to talk when he was intoxicated. Tomorrow he would be able to blame it on the alcohol – right now just as well, even, – and he wouldn’t have to take responsibility for his words. Could pretend that he hadn’t shared them. Could even claim not to remember at all. He closed his eyes and hugged his pillow tighter, and if his grip on Steve’s leg tightened as well— well, that was unconsciously.
“And why is that?”
Tony wanted to yell, Why are you always so calm?! Can’t you just get mad at me already? Shout at me for being an idiot? Beat me down for being weak? Have I not been bad enough for you? Why are you still trying so hard to be my friend?!
He wanted to yell, but he didn’t. Much unlike his usual ways, he simply swallowed the words. “Women may or may not really be my area after all,” he said, bitterly, instead.
“Oh,” Steve said, and Tony just hated how accepting the man sounded, even if it went together with some genuine surprise in his voice. “But... Pepper?”
Tony shook his head. He wanted to cry. He desperately wanted more alcohol. “Don’t ask. Please don’t ask. Just... forget I ever said anything. Be your oblivious grandfatherly self and ignore me. Forget I ever... just forget. Forget this. I didn’t mean to—” Everything spun and everything hurt and the blissful buzz of the scotch had gone sour. The burn in his throat nothing but faint bitterness waiting to be lit into flames again.
Oh, and there it was. The pitiful hand in between his shoulder blades. An attempt to soothe that really did nothing but enrage him instead. Gentle backrubs. A super villain’s master plot to world domination. Stockholm Syndrome; reserved especially for the weak. Custom Captain Design for Stark.
Tony shrugged violently, successfully jerking away from the caring touch, even if it really didn’t do anything, since he was still clinging on to Steve’s leg.
“It’s okay to... not like women,” Steve tried, and, oh, the desperation. That disgusting puppy-eye tone of voice, soaking in innocence and so much fucking goodwill, even now. Tony wanted to—to—to— He grit his teeth and shook his head, curling up into a tight ball.
“No it’s not. It’s not okay. I have a vision for how I want my life, Steve! And as unlikely as it may be, it’s a happy one.” Tony was looking up into Steve’s eyes, so painfully blue that he was certain some cruel god had taken the sky on a fine summer day and poured it right there where it would hurt Tony the most – where even Tony, who loved flying, would start to hate that shade of blue. Love it, yet hate it so much that it hurt, simply because it reminded him that he cared.
He didn’t know when he had looked up, and that scared him, but something about him being drunk made every movement flow into another, so it was easy to set aside. Easy to pretend that it was just the blink of an eye in between others, which he had missed for whatever reason. Just another fleeting moment between hiding and appearing, being blind and looking up.
Steve’s eyes looked pained, and the sincerity of the worry in them was sickening.
And all that goddamn pity. Pity Tony wanted to tear to shreds and shove back in Steve’s face to see how much he’d like it.
“What?” he bit back angrily.
“It might have been an issue in my age, but I know it’s different now. So what’s the problem? You can just find a nice guy and settle down with him. I’m sure you’ll find someone, I mean, you’re Tony Stark,” Steve argued gently, as if that would help. And even through his pity and concern, the bastard somehow managed to look hopeful.
“Yeah right,” Tony scoffed, “Because it’s so fucking easy; because I can just be a celebrity in my forties and suddenly decide that, hey!, perhaps I’m gay. Perhaps I’ve just tried so fucking hard to like women all this time, but really I don’t like boobs at all. Oh, no, Tony Stark wants cock today!” He was breathing fast, sitting up now, and for a fraction of a second panic coursed through him when he felt nothing under his fingers, which were no longer clinging onto Steve. Pitiful as he was – because as much as he disliked the Captain, the man was always so hatefully right with his approach – Tony reached out again, although he pretended very hard that he didn’t.
Even the way Steve winced at his shouting somehow managed to be absolutely all-American apple pie flawless.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Steve said, and when Tony opened his mouth to shout some more, Steve put a reprimanding finger on his lips.
Tony briefly considered biting him, but even in his drunkenness could see how that was a bad idea on very many levels. Instead, he glared up angrily at the other as he spoke.
“There’s nothing wrong with liking men, and, as I said, I’m sure you’ll find someone to be happy with. You’re not exactly ugly, Tony. And about being a celebrity, or being your age,” Steve sighed and shook his head, “who even cares?! It’s your life. It’s your happiness. It’s none of their business whether... Tony Stark ‘wants cock today.’ ” Steve’s light frown, not in disgust but in pure, innocent worry as Captain America said those crude words made Tony’s chest ache.
“Well, it’s not like you’d know anyway, you’re the fucking Declaration of Independence personified or what the fuck even else. You are perfect. People don’t judge you the way they judge me,” Tony argued, still angry, and not at all happy about the way he could feel himself sobering up.
“And that’s where you’re wrong,” Steve said, his familiar stubbornness once again showing its sickeningly perfect head. “I haven’t always been like this, and I know damn well how people can judge. But you should be able to be how you want to be, and—”
“That’s exactly the problem!” Tony shouted, interrupting Steve’s no doubt ridiculous speech, “This is not how I want to be! I want to be normal, Steve! Just fucking normal with a fucking wife and a fucking kid and a fucking job that pays the rent and a nice car on the lawn to bring that kid to soccer practice or ballet or—or—” He buried his face in the pillow again, because he didn’t want Steve to see him cry. Crying wasn’t made for Starks. Starks weren’t made for crying. And any Stark that did, well, he had to have been born with some sort of defect. “I want to be normal,” he whispered.
The soothing hand was back, but this time Tony didn’t bother shrugging the touch off. He was too tired to fight it any longer.
“The definition or ‘normal’ could be arguable,” Steve told him, ever so gently. “And besides, since when do you even care about that?”
Tony knew that it was a careful attempt at a joke, to cheer him up, but he didn’t want to be cheered up. “Since I’d like my life to be easy for once,” he muttered. “But it never is, is it? It’s never. Fucking. Easy.” He punched into his pillow with every word of those last three. “Never.”
Steve was quiet for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice was still gentle, but it had a new undertone of determination in it. “Well, as you seem so very inclined to insist that I am ‘perfect,’ I want you to realise one thing: I’m single as well. I like men as well, and that’s not a weakness, that’s something I’m proud of. And I know it’s not fucking easy, Tony, because I know. I was born in the 1920s; you don’t need to tell me. But most of all I know one thing: you are a great guy, and although you’re struggling right now, I know you’ll find someone, and whether you want me to or not, unless you really don’t want me to–” Steve’s voice, which had gotten louder and louder as he seemed to outpour his soul, quieted again. “I will be there for you every step along the way until you are happy.”
Tony pushed himself up and pulled Steve down into a kiss.
He hadn’t planned to do it. Hadn’t known he was going to do it. Hadn’t processed the necessary muscle movements to perform the action. Hadn’t even considered the consequences – then again, when did he ever?
When they broke apart – Tony breathing heavily, clinging onto the back of Steve’s neck and wishing the man would open those sinfully beautiful blue eyes already so he could see his reaction – Tony didn’t know what to expect.
When Steve finally did open his eyes he gave Tony one last indecipherable look, and then pulled him safe into his arms; safe into a warm, comfortable space, which – unlike the coffee table – finally felt like home.
“Okay?” Tony whispered, quietly, as if in that one word he was able to express all of the doubts that he felt; all of the questions he wanted to ask but was too afraid to receive an answer for.
Steve sighed and pressed a kiss into his hair – Tony might not want to kill him for being disgustingly nice anymore – and hugged him a little tighter. “Okay if you are,” he said.
Tony hid his face against Steve’s chest and inhaled the Captain’s scent – warm, comfortable, cinnamon and apple pie. The bastard really was America. He smiled. “For now.”
They’d have a lot to talk about, a lot to think about, a lot to consider and a lot to share, but ultimately... Tony thought that perhaps they could be happy.