Steve hadn't signed up to be a war correspondent with Bucky because he wanted to meet famous people, but he couldn't quite help the pure joy in his heart when he saw the Tony Stark, leaning against one of his armors, chatting with a trim and neatly-dressed woman who could only be Miss Pepper Potts, Mr. Stark's dame.
"You gonna ask for him to sign one of your issues of Marvels?" Bucky asked, not even containing his snigger.
Steve had blushed, not at the prospect of asking him to sign something, but simply because he was even more handsome than the covers of the Marvels magazine, or the occasional black and white photographs that dotted the interiors, would have led him to believe. He knew that Mr. Stark must have at least been forty by now, Steve had been reading his adventures since he was a boy, but he was handsome, with lean muscles and...
He really needed to stop staring, and he managed it, barely. He might ask for an autograph, if they were introduced, but he wasn't going to bother the man when he was flirting with his girl. The way they were always tangled together on the covers and in the pages of those more recent books was pretty blatant. Back home, Steve had heard it called trash, but he knew that dames always tucked away a few pennies for the latest issue.
Mr. Stark almost ran into him, a day or so later, dragging a large chunk of armor plate across the hanger where he was working. He'd run backwards right into Steve, and Steve had suffered the indignity of falling on the floor to avoid the back of his camera opening and ruining the few shots he'd already made.
"Sorry there, sport." Mr. Stark helped him to his feet, and dusted him off, even going so far as to give him a once over. "Are you one of the photographers?"
Mr. Stark nodded, and then re-shouldered the rope he'd been pulling with. "Want a shot or two? The dames eat this stuff up."
Steve didn't think it was only the dames that did so, but he nodded and followed after the man into the workshop area he'd penned off. "You said dames," Steve said, venturing a conversation since Mr. Stark hadn't really said he should stay or go, and didn't seem to be posing for a picture. "Marvels is a men's magazine."
"And yet Pep tells me it's ladies with the issues clinging to their bosoms when she's home and good enough to make an appearance here or there." Mr. Stark hooked the armor plate into a winch and started to crank it higher overhead. "I believe she said the trick was 'women want me, men want to be me', or maybe it's the other way? 'Men want me, women want to be me'?"
"I think that's probably backwards, Mr. Stark," Steve answered, blushing wildly.
"Tony," he said. "Tony's fine..." Tony was smiling at him now, and Steve was blushing even more. "Some people run their lives backwards, Steve. No shame in that."
He nodded, and gulped so loudly that he was certain Tony had heard.
"Go on then," Tony said, grinning even more broadly. "Consider me yours for the crafting, how would you like me?"
Steve ended up with three photographs: one of Tony, sleeves rolled up as pulled the armor plate in to place; one with the man's fingers splayed over the armor like one might touch a lover; and one with the man taking a long drink out of a canteen, eyes tilted so that they caught the eye of the camera just right and looked to be inviting the camera to dinner, or maybe after dinner.
Bucky laughed at him when he brought the three pictures out of the dark room a few days later. Tony whined and begged until Steve showed him.
"Pep!" Tony yelled across the hanger. "Pep, you have to see these. Marvels material for sure."
The beautifully dressed woman, in her heels with her no-nonsense attitude that demanded respect even from soldiers, walked over and rolled her eyes as soon as she saw them. "They're lovely..." The pause prompted his name.
"Steve Rogers, ma'am."
"Pepper," She corrected. "Or 'Pep' if you're this old dog. Tony just knows his customers." She handed them back to Steve and looked at Tony. "You might as well dispense with the subtlety and have him photograph you while you start unbuttoning your--" She gestured, up and down, either to his pants or his shirt.
"Well if he wants--"
He stopped whatever he'd been about to say, but that didn't keep him from grinning at Steve. "You're no fun at all, Pep."
Steve mumbled something about having work to do, and disappeared, while Pepper and Tony leaned up against the armor.
Tony, Pepper, Jarvis, and Rhodes headed out to one front or another soon after that, he and Bucky ended up in an entirely different direction, out among the fighting, kicked up in dust, trying to get a picture that would encompass hope, and maybe some of the fighting spirit that a good photo needed.
They made it back a few weeks later, and he and Bucky were together, working in the dark room for almost a full day afterwards.
He considered trying to find Tony to show the man the images, as it seemed like the sort of thing that the man would appreciate, but he wasn't in his usual work area, and after a brief debate with himself, he decided to brave the possibility of catching him in his quarters.
The man seemed to delight in teasing Steve about... well Steve wasn't entirely certain he knew what the man was teasing him about. Steve knew he was... strange, for a man, Bucky knew, of course, how he more often looked at men than women, but Tony always talked about...
Steve shivered as he tried not to think about it, before tapping gently on the door.
"Yeah, come in," Tony said from behind the door, and Steve opened the door slowly...
Only to find that Tony was sprawled on his bed, a portable desk on his lap, as he scribbled something down with his right hand. His left was in a sling, and there was some sort of damage to his chest, red and angry with a pair of wires leading towards it.
"Pep, I--" Tony actually glanced up. "Steve." He sat up straight for a moment, which made him wince, and then he pulled his shirt closed, but it didn't do much to actually cover whatever was there. "Sorry, I thought you were Pepper."
"I should go..." He didn't know what was wrong with Tony, but he was very obviously unwell, and Steve didn't think he'd appreciate a few photos.
"Steve, no, stay. I'm bored out of my skull." He shifted in the bed again, stretching his legs, and Steve could see the wriggle of toes, indicating it wasn't as bad as it could be. "Pepper's got me on bed rest since I dislocated my shoulder, as though I've never done worse..."
"Are you alright?" Steve asked, a dislocated shoulder didn't explain...
"Hmm? Yeah." He patted the shoulder. "Already feels better, but Pep knows if she lets me out of bed I'll be working on armors and then I'll strain it again and..."
Steve felt like an idiot, but the bandage over his shoulder wasn't near as odd as the... Steve craned his neck.
"Ah..." Tony pulled his shirt closed further. "That. Took a shell to the chest, crushed my heart just a bit... Jarvis did some devilry, wired it with electrodes and things to keep it running. Normally I have a chest plate over it." He held up a plate that looked like it might spread across a man's chest. "I haven't had a charge in a good while, so I'm doing that."
"You have a weak heart?" Steve asked, shocked. His heart murmur had kept him out of combat, and to know that Tony had an armor while he was so damaged gave Steve a faint little thrill, the idea that they had that in common, and yet Tony traveled the world on adventures.
Tony just chuckled. "Funny phrasing, but yes, I have a weak heart."
Steve nodded, dumbly, and then tried to plan his next move; he'd meant to just show Tony some of his photos, but it seemed ridiculous in the face of a man with a heart that was so exposed that someone could just reach out and touch it. He bit his lip, worrying at it awkwardly. "Bucky and I took some photos I thought you might like to..."
He stopped. He was a fool, he knew that much. Tony was with Pepper, and he was older than him, and he'd probably had more than a few fool kid photojournalists who were trying to make a name for themselves. Steve was absolutely nothing special, why would Tony...?
"Sure," Tony answered, bright and smiling. "Let's see 'em, kid. I'm a bit... tied up, but have a seat and I'll look 'em over."
Steve wasn't certain where he was supposed to sit with no chairs in the room, but Tony patted the bed near his thigh - more an extra large cot - and Steve sat, portfolio set across his lap. After he steeled himself with a deep breath, he handed over the book.
Tony took it, smiled, and then flipped it open. Steve made a study of Tony's face; he always noticed how handsome he was when they were up close. Steve was often taken in by that, the way his moustache and beard framed his mouth, the light blue eyes that were always hard even when he smiled, the dark black hair with tiny flecks of grey, and the worn lines that Steve had imagined him earning over his decades as a Marvels adventurer. It was no wonder dames ate up those magazines, even if they were for men.
"The light's amazing," Tony said, finally. "I don't know how you do it when they're in the middle of the field, but you always find just the right shot."
"Bucky says it's on account of my time painting." He regretted saying it instantly, it felt too much like bragging, even though he'd never been particularly good.
Tony simply 'hmm'd and kept looking through. "I'd love to see your work."
"I-- have some sketches in the back."
It hadn't been his intention to share that, although they were in the book; he'd assumed that Tony would have grown bored with flipping through the portfolio by then. Instead, the man flipped to the back and spent far more time examining each. "Obviously our readers love pictures," Tony said, "but there are occasionally times when a sketch is the only way to capture the true majesty of a moment too soon spoiled by the need to run for one's life."
"It happens of-ten--" Tony trailed off, and Steve wondered what had grabbed his attention so much that a man who didn't seem to stay quiet.
It was one of the - if Steve were being honest, many - sketches that he had done of Tony over the few weeks they had spent in the same area. This one was of Tony lifting an armor on a pulley, back straining, each of the muscles that could be seen through the thin white shirt that Tony had been wearing. It wasn't so bad, musculature studies weren't that unusual, but perhaps he should have asked first.
Of course, Tony continued to thumb through, and two pages back was a picture only of Tony's neck, stretched up as he looked over an armor, his hair falling all different directions.
Bucky had always teased him about Steve's attraction to men in general, and Tony in particular, but it was only now that he realized how it might look to Tony's eyes... a few jokes about not living in a usual manner were nothing compared to actually...
"I seem to be a popular subject," Tony said, voice light. "If you asked, you could have me any way you wanted."
Steve flushed, and looked down at his hands.
A moment later, the book, open to a blank page, was placed in Steve's hands, and he looked up to see Tony looking at him. Steve felt his chest tighten slightly, and then went to his bag to pull out his pencils.
"So..." Tony was smirking at him. "How do you want me, Steve?"
He couldn't stop himself from letting his eyes trail down Tony's chest, and looking at the pale skin of his chest, the light dusting of hair down his stomach, and lower, only to feel Tony move, leaning in enough to brush his fingers against Steve's jaw.
"Do you want me?" Tony didn't wait for an answer, just used his fingers, lightly pressed to Steve's jaw, to urge Steve closer.
He went, against his better judgement, and their lips met, soft and surprisingly undemanding; Tony's lips were dry and slightly chapped, but Steve felt his breath catch in his throat as they pressed together, he'd imagined it, kissing Tony, but there, in that moment, it was more than he'd ever expected. A heartbeat later, Tony's mouth opened and Steve's opened to join his. His tongue slipped against Tony's, and he felt Tony's hands spread across his sides and down to his hips, thumb's brushing against his stomach.
Tony waited, mouth parted, scant inches from Steve, close enough that Steve could almost taste the faint remainder of coffee and just the warmth of another mouth. He wanted to lean back in so badly, to touch Tony, to chase the lines of hair or the rough, weather-worn skin of a man who had lived such a full life, but he pulled back even farther.
"I can't," he said, finally, as much as he wanted to continue, and as much as he knew he would regret how close he'd come to having something he'd thought far too much about.
He wondered how Tony would react, what he would say, but instead of arguing or pressing, he just nodded, a hand - half friendly, half something else - on Steve's thigh as he urged him away. "I'll never get away with asking to see your portfolio again, will I?"
Steve did chuckle at that, and he blushed as he folded away the portfolio while Tony pulled away the cords that had led to his heart and then slid the plate back over. It was odd, still, to see the man's chest dominated by metal, almost that armor and man had been fused. He did want to touch it, wanted to run his hands over the man and have the gesture returned in kind, but he couldn't.
"I just..." Steve teased his lip in his teeth. "Does Pepper know?"
"About the fact I've wanted wanted to see your etchings for weeks?" Tony asked. "She's been laughing at me for my taste for a younger man since you stepped on base."
Steve frowned, confused; certainly that seemed a strange thing for a gal to laugh at her fella about. Maybe Pepper just understood Tony more. "She's... alright with that?"
"Why would she--?" Tony frowned, for a moment, and then smirked over. "You know that's just for the magazine, right? It sells copy, Pepper knows her audience. She... she's not interested. She and Rhodey laugh at how bad I am at giving my heart away."
Tony's face fell after that. "Well, I suppose it could be worse, the last person I fell for shot my chronicler and double-crossed me, at least twice."
Fell for. Steve gaped. "Pepper's not your gal?"
The kiss wasn't suave, or practiced, or really any good; Steve was certain he bit Tony somewhere in the middle, just by clashing their lips and teeth together the wrong way, but it didn't matter when Tony rolled him onto his back, keeping himself up with his good arm.
Steve's hands ended up resting on Tony's waist.
"Hello, gorgeous," Tony said, smiling down at him. "Come here often?"
He tried to think of something witty, or smart, but all he could do was look up at Tony, at the blue eyes looking down at him, adoringly, and Steve opened his mouth... "I-- yes?"
Tony smiled again leaned in and kissed Steve softly on the lips. "The answer is, 'as often as you make me'."
"That, I'm afraid, is completely true to character."
Steve didn't mind, didn't mind at all, and he flung his arms around Tony's neck and kissed him until Steve was breathless, gasping for air. It was far, far better than a signature on a Marvels magazine.
Until Pepper came in and yelled at Tony that he was absolutely terrible at recovering, and threw Steve out with a gentle swat on the ass with his own portfolio. She handed it back to him, leaving one hand to hold it tight, when they both were outside. "Don't you break his heart. I know you wouldn't believe it, but he isn't like those old Marvels with a different beauty every issue."
Steve nodded, mutely, and he let himself dare to believe that this would all work out, like some perfect, neat little story."I-- I won't."
Pepper looked down at him, and then she nodded, and let go.
"Steve, bring etchings tomorrow!" Tony yelled, from somewhere behind Pepper, the door to his room still ajar.
Steve did the wise thing, and retreated, face bright scarlet, but his lips turned up into a smile.