Tony has this bad habit of zoning out when working. Or we'll, that depends on if you can actually call the boring paper-signing he's forced to do whenever he drops by the office "work". It's more like a never ending torture, and the pain can only be dulled by copious amounts of coffee, a stiff drink, or Pepper yelling at him. That's how he knows it's an especially bad day - if Pepper yelling at him seems soothing; he deserves a couple of days in the workshop in compensation. Except, apparently he's been "too busy lubing up his darlings" and "he said he'd discuss the new scholarships and signall of the papers today". And so he finds himself zoning out yet again, dreaming up new designs as he's watching people going about their lives on the streets below. It's all so colorful, and he almost finds himself wishing he was out there. In a world that’s nothing but sunshine and ice cream and barking dogs.
He brings up a hand poking at the figures below. Crushing their heads between his fingertips and generally playing god, vaguely aware of Pepper talking about supporting art students and all things creative. And sure, why not? They make the world a little more beautiful, one illustration at the time. He should probably throw some money at them.
And perhaps he hadn't noticed the scrawny figure on the bench below, had he not been involved in a one-sided conversation about art. The man only ever straightens up to watch the people surrounding him for a short while, simply to curl up again with his sketches.
The day goes on, full of papers and numbers and board meetings and whiskey. It's not like something life-changing has happened, it’s just another day in the life of a genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist… except he remembers the artist on the street clearly, like the guy is somehow important.
And that should probably be bothersome, but considering how his obsessions normally are unhealthy and dangerous this could be a nice change of pace. Not that he actually is obsessed, it'd take a lot more to capture the attention of Tony Stark.
He's not really keeping an eye out for the guy. Artists prowl the city like some absurd, alien race during the summers – it's not like they're fascinating or rare. And yet, the next time he's zoning out he finds himself glancing at the bench. The scrawny guy is there, attracting Tony's gaze throughout the day. It's ridiculous, because the kid isn't even interesting. Or well, he shouldn’t be, but he is. He really is.
Tony feels like he's watching a movie when a child gets lost on the streets below. He can't hear a thing, but it's easy to see how agitated the girl is. She's desperately looking around, making her dress spin like that of a dancer. Tony's trying to figure out whether or not he should call someone – the police or Pepper, or maybe Happy – when the artist is suddenly by her side. He's kneeling down, and once he's spent minutes talking to her he gently takes her hand and helps her search for her guardians. They don't need to look for long. A woman, perhaps the mother, comes hurrying through the crowd, embracing the girl and shaking the artist's hand. She offers him money, and he denies it; shaking his head, probably smiling and saying he doesn't need it. Tony is imagining the entire exchange in his head, and that's when he realizes that he doesn't know the guy's face. Or age. Or the sound of his voice. It’s quite alarming actually, because he prefers knowing at least a few things about a person before hopelessly obsessing over them.
He'll be at the office a couple of times per week. Most days he's in his workshop, hidden away from the sunlight and the people and the paper-signing. It's usually a relief, but for once he finds himself missing the busy streets. Pepper doesn't even seem remotely surprised when he brings machine parts to the office, and manages to permanently damage his desk before lunchtime.
And yes, he's behaving quite stalker-like. But if there's something wrong with fanatically staring at some guy he doesn't even know the name of, he doesn't want to be right.
The artist is absolutely ridiculous. From the office he seems quite small. Young. And he's so dedicated, showing up at the bench most days of the week. But while that's very admirable and all, it's everything else that fuels Tony's, well, thing. How the guy will randomly pick up litter and throw it in nearby trash cans when he leaves the bench for the day. How he'll get up to help old ladies carry their groceries. Help tourists figure out public transports. And he never asks for anything in return.
Some days Tony suspects the guy doesn't actually exists – he's just some kind of stupid fantasy portraying everything humanity should be – and that's why he finds himself braving the outside world to buy his own coffee. It's supposed to be a stealth operation. He'll just walk by the bench and make sure that the artist exists. He'll watch from afar, perhaps memorize the guy's features since he still doesn't know what he looks like, and then disappear like a ninja.
Perhaps he lingers too long, he's not really sure, but once he's in front of the guy he finds himself staring. He’s so pale, looking sickly more than anything else. Not only that, but he’s scrawny, like he hasn't had a proper meal in days, and Tony would make a remark about poor artists if the sight didn't genuinely upset him. Even the blond hair seems oddly meek where it's neatly combed to one side.
"Can I help you?"
Blue eyes shouldn't have such depth, but goddamn it, they do. Tony is drowning, he feels like he's at the edge of a bottomless pit, and suddenly he's suspended much higher than he'd normally be, watching from his office. "I was just getting coffee, and I noticed the whole art-thing you've got going on. I'm kind of a fan. A huge supporter. Of all things art."
And the thing about being Tony Stark is that everything he says is smooth, even the things that technically aren’t. At least that's what he tells himself when being under the scrutiny of that intense stare.
"That's... nice." The guy’s smile is thin, and it reminds Tony of the way Pepper will look at him when he tries to skype with her in the middle of the night.
When he tiptoes over in order to peek at the sketch the guy actually attempts to hide it from view. Not that he succeeds, and besides, Tony would recognize his tower anywhere.
"You actually make it look like it has soul."
Soft lips open hesitantly, like the artist isn’t sure whether or not it'd be a good idea to encourage a crazy guy on the street. Tony can't even bring himself to feel insulted – there's something exciting about not being recognized, and for once having people treat your odd ramblings like actual signs of madness.
"All buildings have a soul." His voice is a little raw, like he hasn't spoken in a long time, and he almost phrases the sentence like a question.
"Oh, I know. But I've never imagined Stark Tower to have such soft edges and welcoming lines."
The decision that he's had enough human interaction with strangers, surprisingly coincide with the realization that his stealth mission has failed miserably. With a nod in the artist's direction he quickly walks away.
It's the only time he talks to the guy, and a couple of weeks later the bench is once again empty.
The sense of betrayal passes quickly though, as he finds distractions in the workshop and only returns to the office when Pepper drags him there. Years have passed when she orders him to come along to an art gallery, in order to show the results of the Stark scholarships. Tony points out that actually having to go look at the art was never part of the deal, but something is lost in translation, because an hour later he's dressed up, with a drink in his hand and a ridiculous smile plastered to his face.
They're shown all kinds of ambitious projects; paintings with odd names and thought provoking themes and Tony's convinced that they're all very good and creative. When presented with the more modern pieces he feels kind of old; there's something about Salvador Dalí inspired stick-figure-gore he just doesn't get.
At moments he considers escaping, and that's when he turns to Pepper. Her smile, and the way she obviously enjoys the show and talking to the students, makes it all a little bit more bearable.
Zoning out surrounded by hundreds of people is a twist of faith. Once he's noticed the colorful series portraying buildings from the city, he can't look away. It's a strange sense of familiarity, despite the fact that he's only seen the style once before.
Pepper looks ready to hit him over the head with her purse when he leaves her side, but once she realizes that he's actually admiring the exhibition her expression softens.
He's a little unsure of how long he stares at the paintings, but eventually he's joined by an older lady. She smiles at him, there's gentleness about her, but she's obviously trying to get his attention. The smile grows even wider once he turns to her, and she nods at the paintings.
"Mr. Rogers is very talented."
Tony can do nothing but nod and finish his drink. The unknown artist from so long ago has a name. Obviously, he's assuming that this actually is the scrawny guy that used to randomly help strangers and hang out on a bench beneath Stark Tower for months on end, and perhaps that's kind of stupid. In fact, he should probably return to Pepper instead of making some kind of scene. However, his resolve instantly falters when he realizes that the lady is asking if he'd like to meet Mr. Rogers – the artist is supposed to be somewhere in the gallery.
Life goes into fast-forward, and next thing he knows he's shaking hand with a muscular, blond guy. The mysterious Mr. Rogers is dressed in clothes that are so worn out they could date back to the Great Depression. However, Tony wouldn't be provoked by the outfit if it wasn't for the fact that they're some of the most well-fitting clothes he's ever seen. The dark blue pants hug Mr. Rogers in ways that shouldn't be legal, and the short sleeved, white shirt is almost see-through.
"Steve Rogers", the guy says with a warm smile, and Tony chokes on an inappropriate comment about firm grips, because the eyes are the same. It may seem like the scrawny guy from before has hijacked someone else's body, but his blue eyes are still impossibly vibrant. "It's an honor to meet you Mr. Stark. You have done a lot for these students."
"But not for you?" Tony manages to raise a questioning eyebrow at that, and immediately he's back to his good, old suave self.
Steve hesitates for a moment, and the old lady is quick to chip in. "Steve is as stubborn as he's talented. He thinks there are people that need your scholarships more, and so he's never applied for one despite the fact that he'd be ideal."
She pinches Steve's cheek once she's done talking, making him blush an adorable shade of red.
"You seem to be doing well though." Tony says, nodding pointedly at the one painting portraying Stark Tower. He could make a comment about phallic symbols – or he could ask how many sketches Steve has made of his building through the years – but this far Steve has made no indication of recognizing him as the awkward man who harassed him all those years ago. Tony would prefer keeping it that way; a fresh start with less stalking. "How long will you be studying?"
"Oh, just this term, I can't afford much longer." There's a note of disappointment in Steve's voice, but he never quite stops smiling. "I've had some of the best teachers though, and it's been a joy to work at a place with these kinds of resources."
The lady pats Steve's shoulder affectionately, and this time Tony can't help but to roll his eyes. "Like I said, he's such a stubborn sweetheart."
Most of the time awkward situations will only be made worse when Pepper shows up, but this time she's a saving grace. She swoops in, her glass of champagne just as bubbling as her laughter.
After a quick introduction where she graciously compliments Steve's work, she pulls Tony close, her whisper nothing but a breath against his ear. "You haven't stayed at an event this long in years. I'm proud."
Pulling away she turns her professional smile to Steve and the woman again. "I'm setting him free. If he disappears, don't take it personal."
It would be immature kick her, so Tony tries to do it discreetly. He thinks he's succeeded until he notices Steve attempting to hide his laughter. It's ridiculous how that wide grin makes his heart flutter, as if his medical condition needed to be encouraged.
"Actually, I'd like to talk some more to Mr. Rogers about his fabulous art. If you'd just... excuse us." Steve's arm is hard beneath his touch, those ridiculous muscles playing beneath the skin.
There's not a word of protest as Tony sets his sights on the closest door and pulls Steve along.
They end up in a corridor, and as soon as the door has closed to the crowded room Steve turns to him. There's a slight delay in his movements and Tony realizes that Steve's probably more drunk than he seems. It's a nice realization; it makes him feel like less of an idiot for having had an endless amount of drinks throughout the evening.
"My fabulous art?" Steve's smiling when asking the question and Tony can't tell if it's because he doesn't believe in his own talent, or if it's because Tony's ridiculous.
"Quiet you, we both needed saving."
Steve falters then, his mouth open slightly, until he abruptly starts walking down the corridor, indicating for Tony to follow.
He's not used to silences, they're unpredictable and uncomfortable, and so Tony finds himself trying to think of something to talk about. "Is your art for sale?"
Steve glances toward him, a hint of uncertainty still in his eyes. "This event is supposed to give us an opportunity to show our skill, not make money."
Stopping outside a worn out door marked "Studio 5" they tumble inside. Steve pauses to turn on the lights, with nothing but excitement in his features now.
Tony has never been blown in an art studio before. The walls surrounding them were once white, but after years of being exposed to artistic tempers they're stained with both paint and clay. There's something about it that reminds him of his workshop, and when he runs his fingers through Steve's hair he feels at home. It's an unexpected feeling that catches him off-guard, and he decides to focus on the moment instead; the cold wall against his back and the way Steve holds his gaze. Looking down into those blue eyes he can't keep quiet any longer. Deep breaths turn into whispers; promises and nonsense intermingled with Steve's name. The room is spinning by the time Steve reaches for him, and Tony can't help but to worry about beard burn and what that would do to Steve's smooth skin, but then he can taste himself on those soft lips and Steve's tongue, and all pretense of cohesive thought leaves him.
He reaches down between them, finding Steve's hand wrapped around them both as they rut against each other. Breathing in Steve – his salty lips and his mouth still bitter from wine – they fall apart together. For a moment the world is nothing but heat and sweat and a tight embrace.
Tony attempts to leave a couple of times, a simple act like kissing goodbye turning messy and desperate. On the ride home the city lights blend together, and he keeps trying to figure out what just happened. Whatever it was, it was good.
The next day Tony buys the painting of Stark Tower (and maybe he leaves a tip of a few thousand dollars). By the time Steve shows up at his office a few days later the painting is already on the wall behind Tony's desk.
Steve has this look on his face, somewhere between confused, angry and hopeful, and Tony immediately decides that the expression doesn't suit him. There is something jittery about him as he sits down, not able to stop licking his lips and looking everywhere but Tony... until he does.
All intense eyes and thin lips, his voice is determined. "I didn't blow you for money."
And Tony could ask "then why did you?" but he doesn’t. Because there is something honest about Steve, have always been, and instead he says "I know. I just liked the painting."
Steve is hesitating again; it seems like a common thing for him. Tony glances out the window, watching tourists sit on the bench that once used to belong to a scrawny artist. He sees days of selflessness and dedication. When Steve starts speaking again his voice is softer, just this side of shy.
"I'm sorry. I don't accept money like this, not when others need it more. And as for..."
Tony doesn't let him finish.
"This isn't up for discussion. I paid millions for a Picasso a few months ago, in comparison I basically got yours for free. You earned this fair and square, it's not charity; I don't pay untalented people… and let me point out that we're still discussing your art and nothing else." Steve is obviously about to protest, and so Tony leans back, crossing his arms with a challenging stare. "Give the money to starving children if you want to, but I'm gonna take a wild guess here and say you paid for your education with heard earned money. You should see this as more of the same and… and I guess what I'm trying to say is; stay in school, kids."
His remark actually startles a laugh out of Steve, and he doesn't look as distressed as before. "I'll think about it." A blush is slowly spreading on his cheeks, and his voice wavers a little when he speaks up again. "But I wanted to talk about, well, what happened. There was so much alcohol, and, and I don't know what I was thinking because I don't normally do, we'll, that."
Steve looks about five seconds from banging his head against the desk repeatedly, or alternatively trying to hide under it. "What is it you don't normally do? There are a lot of things you could be referring to by 'that'." Leaning back in his chair Tony raises an eyebrow in question, trying not to smile too brightly. He knows he shouldn’t enjoy the situation, but he can’t help himself. "For all I know you could be talking about not doing men or perhaps old men... or maybe casual sex. You really need to be more specific."
Steve looks flustered and a little caught off guard, and for a moment Tony expects him to say that he was referring to all of the things listed. But then he sighs deeply, and gets up from the chair with a closed off expression. "I think I should go."
And obviously it would end like this, because Tony is an idiot. He finds himself stuttering a little when trying to get Steve's attention before it's too late. "Do you have any idea how rare it is for people to actually try to contact me the next day? Only the ones who want money do." Steve simply turns to him with a kind of empty stare. Everything about him looks hesitant, like he can't believe that he's having this conversation. "And you're not... I'd like to do this the right way; whatever that is. If you want to, perhaps you could explain it to me? I could buy you coffee?"
There’s a thin smile again, so he's definitely doing something right. "Buying me stuff is not the right way." It's the same kind of sigh you'd direct at a disobedient child, and it's definitely the wrong way to deal with Tony – he's overwhelmed with the need to ask if he's been naughty. "But coffee sounds nice. You could come by the studio later?"
"Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. We should meet at the crime scene of overwhelming awkwardness." If Tony was anymore sarcastic he'd actually choke on the words.
Not that Steve seems to notice. He rolls his eyes, and disappears out the door without replying. When he walks down the street he stops by the bench, all golden hair and muscles. It's hard to imagine he was ever the tiny artist who'd curl up with his sketches no matter the weather. He turns to stare at the tower, and Tony finds himself ducking beneath the desk before realizing that no human would be able to see him when he's this high up.
Tony rarely revisits places where he's been blown, and when he does it's usually all kinds of weird. It's not exactly normal or entirely pleasant this time either, with Steve keeping an eye on him like he's both suspicious and relieved at the same time.
Walking around the studio Tony pointedly avoids the stained wall by the door, and ends up behind Steve, watching him work on a new project. Thin lines cover the canvas, and it's impossible to see what the painting eventually will be. There's something very appealing about seeing how Steve starts out with total chaos, to eventually turn it into dynamic portraits and scenery.
"Your hand is like a ballet dancer."
Steve snorts at that, turning around to face Tony, all bright and sunny. "Is that an attempt to tell me that I'm graceful?"
"No, I'm saying your hand does pretty kickass pirouettes." Having Steve look at him with that genuine kind of amusement is something quite filthy, and Tony can't help but wonder what he ever did in life to deserve this kind of reward. Since he's been blessed with an existence without manners he's quick to say it out loud. "How did we end up here? I mean, why would someone like you want someone like me around?" And he almost mentions the countless times scrawny Steve would carry bags for old people – bags that were obviously too heavy and made him wobble all over the place – but he doesn't.
"Shouldn't I be asking that question? You're the greatest inventor of our time, and quite possible the most egocentric one too. Why would Tony Stark spend his time with an art student?" While everything about him is teasing, there's actual worry in Steve's voice. Like he somehow hasn't noticed that he's the sweetest and most interesting person Tony has met in years – like it’s unusual for someone to relentlessly stalk him because he's the American dream embodied and then some.
"I enjoy your company." Tony says it with shifty eyes, trying to bring back a sense of humor to their conversation – and it kind of works. Steve says the answer is enough for both of them, and they spend the rest of the afternoon discussing the similarities between artistry and invention.
A lot of people assume that Tony spends his time doing paperwork and being a pretty face. While most Stark products are introduced as his, there's a ridiculous amount of people who seem to assume that he never gets his hands dirty; that someone else has to do the hard work. With Steve it's the opposite. When he starts asking questions it's under the assumption that Tony spends his days in rooms full of machine parts and circuitry, and honestly, him knowing so much about Tony's habits would be alarming if it wasn't so liberating.
Not sure of what's considered appropriate, Tony's ready to leave without making a single move (he's the best gentleman to ever gentle), but when Steve grabs him by the door it's all the invitation he needs. The kiss is quick and dry and seriously lacks tongue. It should be frustrating, but instead it's a promise.
The next day Pepper forwards a mail from a certain Mr. Rogers. The letter actually starts out with an apology of being a bother, but he didn't know how to get in contact with Mr. Stark and he wanted to thank him personally for purchasing his art – to have such an influential person appreciate his craft means a lot. When Pepper stops by his workshop in the afternoon to ask Tony what he's up to, he can do nothing but smile like a maniac.
"He's the attractive one, isn't he?" She says it with a knowing look, watching him pick apart an engine while covered in motor oil and not seeming the least bit surprised by the sight.
"Gosh Pepper, you shouldn't be so shallow. I'll have you know Mr. Rogers has a fabulous personality. He's the kind of man that makes you want to shove your tongue down his mind."
She dismisses him with a wave of her hand, but once she reaches the door she turns to him. "Seriously though, Tony. He seems sweet. I hope you know what you're doing."
"Oh trust me Pep, I know what I'm doing." He puts an emphasis on doing, obviously, and she's not at all amused by his wolfish grin.
Steve answers the phone with a distracted grunt, all too caught up in work to address the caller properly. Tony sips his drink – and it's not for courage because that would be pathetic, he just wants something to do with his mouth because it’s not like you normally use your mouth when making phone calls – and then clears his throat. "I once saw you give your entire lunch to a family of pigeons, so I think you should let me take you to dinner."
There's a surprised laugh on the other end, followed by cursing as Steve – judging by the sound of it – somehow manages to knock his tripod over. "You what?"
Another sip. "I'm taking you to dinner. Where can I pick you up?"
Steve doesn't laugh again, but after a prolonged silence he speaks up. "You can pick me up at the park close to the studio. At eight."
And since Tony is convinced that Steve is literally the sweetest and most polite guy in the universe he doesn’t point out how that kind of description sounds like utter bullshit. Or well, he does, but he’s definitely subtle about it.
"Great, that's not vague at all. I'll definitely find you."
The exasperation in Steve's voice is overwhelming. "There's a huge parking lot. You can't miss it."
"I guess I have to trust you." It's supposed to be flirtatious, but ends up sounding desperate more than anything else. As soon as he's hung up he lies face down on the floor, because that's how grownups deal with things like emotions. When Pepper finds him an hour later she kicks him and tells him to get back to work (she eventually brings him a cup of coffee too, and suddenly he feels a lot less inclined to waste away on the carpet).
As he pulls up that evening Steve is waiting for him. He's dressed in a worn out tux, and Tony realizes that he needs to get Steve's measurements ASAP because, sure, the guy can pull off dumpster-chic, but he should dress in gorgeous fabrics that brings out the color of his eyes and makes him look like some Prince Charming from the olden days. It's a crime for him not to.
His hair is still wet from showering, and he's staring at his reflection in the windshield of a nearby car, trying to style his hair. As Tony pulls up next to him he wobbles slightly, as if the roar of the monstrous sports car somehow caught him off guard. He’s quick to get in though, flashing Tony a grin and then spending most of the ride fidgeting. By the time they’ve reached the restaurant he must’ve attempted to sneakily comb his hair a dozen times. Not that it ended up helping, the blonde curls are still all over the place and Steve looks genuinely upset about it.
“You know, I think messy is the way to go. I can’t even remember the last time I touched a hairbrush.” Steve doesn’t seem particularly comforted by this, but he stops fidgeting and only hesitates for a moment before following Tony inside.
It's a quiet place, but it gets quite a bit noisier when they walk in. Tony's first impulse is to flash a cheshire grin and put his hand up in a victory sign, but Steve stands by his side with his jaw set, looking like his fight or flight instinct is kicking in, and so Tony asks the waiter for a table somewhere private. It's not without glee that he watches Steve's eyes widen as he realizes that they actually haven’t reserved a table.
They walk through the restaurant feeling the gazes of the other customers, and Steve leans in close to whisper, all hot breath and moisture. "Will this happen often?"
And there is so much in those few words; the assumption that they'll keep doing this. That it’ll work out. That Steve is bothered by it, but seems absolutely okay with trying to ignore the unwanted attention.
His voice may be a little rough when replying. "For a while."
Once they're seated and looking at the menus Tony spends the first minute or so discreetly taking off his shoes, and the next five assaulting Steve's feet and ankles. He puts up a good fight, focusing on the dishes with a perfect poker face – but obviously only considering the cheaper alternatives.
"Hey, hey Steve." He keeps stroking Steve's legs, sneaking his foot up his trousers a bit to touch skin. "Hey. Heeey."
Steve finally turns to him it's with a tired sigh, but there's an upturn at the corner of his mouth, like he can barely keep from laughing. "Yeah?"
"The butter poached lobster. It's mindblowingly tasty. I would say it tastes like great sex but last time I did Pepper slapped me, and I suspect you would as well." There's a fondness in Steve's eyes, the way lovers in a Disney movie would look at each other, and normally this kind of thing would make Tony gag, but it's surprisingly nice. He honestly always thought of himself as a Gaston kind of guy, but perhaps he was the Beast all along. It's not until he opens his mouth, with the intent of telling Steve what to order, but instead finds himself asking "am I really that hairy?" that he realizes how sidetracked he’s been.
"I fail to see what your body hair has to do with food." Despite looking like a stern kindergarten teacher Tony can hear a thud as Steve's shoes fall to the floor. No one should be allowed to have such smooth skin; when Steve captures his ankle between both his feet he actually flinches and hits his knee on the underside of the table. A violent battle follows, with Steve outright laughing by the time the waiter returns and asks if they feel ready to order drinks.
Once they've been served wine Tony steals Steve's glass of water, and gets an affronted look as reward for his troubles.
"You're acting like a teen." It's not really meant as an insult, instead there's a fascinated gleam in those blue eyes.
"Mentally I'm fifteen. Technically you're the predator in this relationship." He talks between sips of water, aiming to drink the entire glass before Steve takes it back.
"Oh, and if I wasn't you would be?"
Tony Stark isn't at a loss for words very often. Usually Pepper is the only one who can put him on the spot like that. "Well... yeah? You're a student. I bet I'm old enough to be your father."
Steve actually laughs at that, his brightness in stark contrast with the annoyance creeping into his voice. "Oh stop it. Not all students are tweens. Many in my class are probably your senior. Besides, compared to you I feel like I was born in the 20:ies."
And Tony proves that he's not an old man by ordering food for Steve and giving him the evil eye whenever he tries to pick a cheaper alternative.
It's not exactly romantic, but they're getting there, asking questions and discussing politics; because arguing about hypothetical registration acts is a lovely way to spend the evening. Although, all sarcasm aside, there's a thrill in arguing with Steve. He's so idealistic and always holds his ground, it's like Tony could push forever without him ever budging.
By the end of the meal it's perfectly obvious that hot "we just argued about politics and moral choices for three hours"-sex should follow, but Steve stops him after a chaste kiss.
"We agreed to do this the right way." There is barely any conviction behind the words, and Tony is more than happy about that. If Steve was deadly serious about this he'd need to install some kind of cooling system in all of his suits. It wouldn't be pretty, or convenient.
He puts his hands on Steve's waist while he’s talking, and tries to ignore the fact that he has to look up in order to meet his eyes. "Why does “the right way” have to be the chaste one? Society isn't always right about these things, you know. It's up to us as individuals to decide."
Pepper would seriously be proud to hear him deliver such a passionate speech, even if the subject might be slightly questionable. "We're grownups. We're allowed to make our own rules. And I... I spent the last fifteen minutes at the restaurant staring at your crotch."
Steve laughs, and it's sweet and teasing and unfair. "I don't think you could even see my crotch from where you were seated."
"I have x-ray vision." This is definitely the first time Tony has won a discussion by arguing that he has superpowers.
Happy politely keeps his eyes off the backseat when Tony straddles Steve like an over eager teenager. He loves the way Steve's skin reddens the more they kiss, shallow marks that will soon fade, but burn so bright when they're together.
His suit pants are thin, and he grinds down, chasing friction and Steve's heat through the layers of clothing. He’s not sure if Steve is actually speaking, or if he’s just placing kisses on his neck. The touch is light but insistent, and there’s the torturous graze of teeth.
It's funny how Steve is so focused on Tony's beard and chest hair, while Tony can't get enough of his smooth chest and clean shaven chin. Perhaps it's all the contrasts and conflicting ideas that make them fit so well together.
Tony’s not used to thinking this much during sex, and he ends up confused more than once. It’s like an out of body experience. He’ll stop for a moment, and Steve will laugh, because apparently he looks like a lost squirrel. The bright smile will bring him back, and he’ll lean against Steve’s chest, listening to his heartbeat and his voice. His world has somehow turned tender, and when Steve puts both hands on his hips to steady him, it’s the weirdest kind of you’ll catch me if I fall feeling.
It makes him feel vulnerable, and also a little like there’s something wrong with his brain, and so he ends up thinking about clothes. Since he happens to be Tony Stark he's brilliant at multitasking, and so he tries to figure out Steve's measurements while they're in the backseat. It proves to be a challenging task, but by the end of the night he feels confident enough to call a tailor and order half a dozen suits in all kinds of colors.
The order is to be delivered to Steve in a few weeks, and while Steve doesn’t seem aware of that they’re waiting for something he’s absolutely fine with Tony’s very specific requests. He jumps at the opportunity of discussing favorite colors, and after going on a long description of how he’d portray Tony he doesn’t seem suspicious at all when Tony starts asking questions.
“If you were to make a self-portrait, what colors would you use?” And Steve takes about half an hour to properly answer, only to be embarrassed that he talked about himself for such a long time. Tony considers this a victory, and he ends up calling the tailor and making some adjustments. Use blue and red instead of grey, no, just trust me.
And the days pass and they have coffee and they spend time sitting on benches just looking at things; appreciating life and looking for buildings for Steve to sketch. There even comes a day when he feels comfortable showing Steve his workshop. He’s not sure what he expected. At first Steve just stares at the machinery and can barely bring himself to touch it, but minutes later he’s poking everything and asking questions. When a few hours have passed he seems to grasp the concept of Tony’s latest project quite well, as if Tony is actually a good teacher. It’s insane, all of it.
Pepper also decides that this is the opportune moment to storm in and bother him about reports, and Steve isn’t even frightened by her. He just smiles and shakes her hand and they talk about Tony’s obsessions – as if this will last, as if Steve is part of the family now – and Tony likes watching them together. It’s the feeling of a puzzle finally coming together, they make sense like this.
Two weeks later the suits are supposed to arrive, and he decides to head to the office. It feels like a safe enough environment if Steve decides to yell at him about it.
The thing is that the office hasn’t gotten any more fun, and he's a big boy now so he’s allowed to take a nap whenever he wants to. But waking up hours later he realizes that the pile of paperwork on his desk has grown exponentially while he slept. The betrayal has to be from someone close to him, in fact, he's 101% sure that the traitor's name starts with a P. What he doesn't expect is the muffled sound of laughter from her office, and he ends up just outside her door, eavesdropping, because that's what anyone would do in his situation.
"He does these things; you shouldn't take it the wrong way." The sounds are muffled, but it’s still enough for him to hear the smile in Pepper’s voice.
Steve's response vibrates through the door, and he sounds exasperated. "I'm not. I just feel that the money could be spent on better things. I don't need all of this, and what did I even do to deserve it?"
There's a brief pause, and Tony knows that kind of silence. He can clearly vision Pepper looking at Steve with pity in her eyes, as if to say that “yes you’re stupid but I can stand your company anyway”. Tony is quite used to that look.
It’s not that he stumbles into the room. He just happens to open the door and suddenly be in the middle of an awkward conversation about his spending habits. Normally he would excuse himself, but Steve is wearing a white shirt and grey pants with suspenders. Really, anyone would be speechless at that sight.
When Pepper glances between them she doesn’t seem surprised in the slightest. She leaves with a sigh and a smile, and then Tony is alone with his awkward staring and the person that caused all the awkward staring in the first place.
“I want to paint you.”
“As…” Tony can’t remember the last time he stuttered. “… as a garbage can?”
“I... what?” If Steve was a cartoon character his eyes would most likely be bulging at this moment.
Tony tries to just shrug the question off, but when Steve raises an eyebrow he looks like he’s straight from an old gangster movie, and honestly, that's too much for anyone's brain to handle. “As payback for the suits.”
"Why would I..." And there's a long pause as Steve simply stares at him. When he starts talking again it's in the same tone of voice you'd use to talk someone down from a rooftop. "Tony, I like the suits."
“I thought you’d think they’d be too much.” There’s barely time to say the words before Steve is next to him. Being close is not exactly romantic at the moment, because he has this stern look on his face, and Steve has the ability to both look and be commanding when he wants to.
“It is, but I like practical gifts. I still think you could’ve spent the money on something more important, but I appreciate that it’s something I can use in my daily life.” Steve pauses for a moment to smile, but when he notices that Tony is about to speak he’s quick to silence him. “This doesn’t mean that you should buy me anything and everything that could be considered practical. I’m just saying… and you should let me paint you.”
Tony says yes – because how could he not – and they end up spending the rest of the day in Pepper’s office. It just kind of happens, with Steve on her desk and Tony clinging to him as if his life depended on it (it kind of does though, because if he were to let go he’d fall to the floor and probably die horribly).
Steve, who’s normally a little quiet and only seems to talk once he’s gathered his thoughts, turns out to talk a lot while painting. He’ll be on the other side of the canvas, peeking at Tony and telling all kinds of stories. There are the ones about his childhood; everything from describing his mother, to stories of spending so much time at different hospitals. He talks about political views, attending pride parades, and how he thinks of love so differently now compared to when he was a child.
And Tony is just waiting, waiting for that moment when they’ll end up discussing their relationship and how it won’t work because of reasons - he’s waiting for a conversation that never happens. Instead Steve looks at him one day, and his eyes seem so much brighter than usual. There’s such determination in them.
“You don't remember the first time we met...” It’s obviously the start of a story, but Tony still protests that he remembers very well. Steve just gives him this look, and then continues.
“I’d sit outside your tower, and I’d draw people. I went there for a study of the building, but I stayed for the things going on everywhere around it. There was so much to see.” His voice is unsteady, as if he’s confessing his sins. “One day I just... noticed you. Not because you were Tony Stark but because you had dark smudges all over you like a mechanic from the suburbs, and you seemed familiar somehow.”
There’s a long pause as Steve focuses on the painting again, but he doesn’t seem to be doing much work. Instead he’s hiding behind the canvas, trying to pull himself together. Tony starts feeling sorry for him, because if this is supposed to be the moment they confess creepy stalking behavior he definitely has a lot to say. The only problem is that Steve won’t let him. He looks like a kicked puppy the moment Tony tries to speak, and he really can’t bring himself to keep talking.
“Since that day I kept noticing you, appearing at the oddest times. And I mean, sure, I draw a lot of buildings but I draw people too. I'd draw you, disheveled and covered in stains. One day you wore a crisp suit and I barely recognized you. Until I did. I thought that was enough of a scare to last me a lifetime – I'd been creeping on Tony Stark. But then you came up to me. About the only time I was drawing something else you decided to approached me, and I was certain you were going to sue me or report me or... yeah, but you just said something incoherent and left.” And Tony needs that on his business cards; Tony Stark, I’ll say something incoherent and leave. If you like me, this is my number.
Steve actually laughs before he continues, and while he’s obviously uncomfortable it makes the situation a little less awkward. “It felt almost intimate to see you like that. You were so much more complex than the press had made you out to be, and people didn't even recognize you. But I did, and... sometimes I wonder how you see me. Am I some kind of plaything you'll support financially for a while? Because I don't want to think that of you, but, well, whenever I think about us I have a hard time figuring out what to make of this.”
And this is the moment when Tony starts waving his arms around like a windmill repeating "wow, no" over and over until Steve lets him speak. “Okay, first of all, no, not a plaything. And this? This is us. I can't claim I understand why you'd want to be around me except for the money, I mean, most people doesn't. I guess there's the fact that I'm a delightful fucking person, but it's not often people notice that, and... I really have no answer for you. All I know is that I like us, and I'd like to keep it up for however long you want to be around."
Steve smiles at that, and wobbles slightly on the chair, as if he trying to walk over to Tony and remain seated at the same time. "Why did you even talk to me? According to Miss Potts she usually has force you to come along to anything art-related."
The thing is, Tony's totally allowed to be sidetracked by this remark because he knows a conspiracy when he sees one. "I knew it! I knew you two would become best friends and plot things and hatch a let's-make-Tony-a-decent-human-being-plan!"
"You already are a decent human being. I'm just... curious." Steve's sigh is heartfelt, the kind of sound you make when you're tired and know that you're stuck with the thing that makes you tired for a long time. And yes, Tony would like to object to the "thing" part, but he's too excited about "a long time".
Still, it's a good question, and now that he knows that Steve remembers their incredibly failed first encounter - and that he's not the only one to have had this "obsessive love bordering on stalking"-thing going on - there's no reason not to be honest.
"Because you'd sit there all the time. You'd wave at people and help tourists and find lost children. It was like watching a ridiculous movie about a better and nicer world. I wanted to know what kind of person you were, because I didn't actually see you properly from up in the tower. I had no idea you had noticed me."
Steve has stopped painting. He's holding the paintbrush in his mouth, biting down as if to prevent himself from saying something stupid. Eventually he spits it out, watching Tony with wide eyes.
"Yeah, I know. We're both creepy stalkers. Strange coincidence, right?"
And this time Steve actually gets up from his chair. He's giggling - the man is actually giggling, this is not some kind of weird daydream - and once he reaches Tony he holds him tight, his chest rumbling with laughter. Tony ends up patting him on the back, and he feels both a little pathetic and very happy, and it shouldn't be a good combination of feelings but it is.
His voice is hoarse when he speaks, and he's not even sure Steve can hear him. He's pretty much speaking to his shoulder at the moment, feeling his beard getting caught on the fabric of the shirt. "But yeah. If you'll let me do this every once in a while, as in, you let me do things for you, we can go to some shitty diner in a ghetto somewhere, and you can buy me cheap apple pie and it'll be super-romantic."
"Some of the best things in life are for free, Tony." Since he's currently too busy rubbing his face against Steve's chest he can't see his expression, but there's definitely sternness in his voice.
Tony feels an overwhelming need to see him, and as he leans back Steve holding on is the only thing keeping him from falling. It's like a leap of faith, except that it's slow and the only challenge is to look up in order to meet those blue eyes. "Like what?"
"Like this." Steve's lips are a little chapped but warm, and there's just a hint of tongue before he pulls away. His smile isn't even sweet, it looks triumphant more than anything else, and Tony definitely feels the need to protest.
"Arguably you could charge for that..."
There's a finger against his lips, and it turns out that the fear of being poisoned by yellow paint is a very effective way to make Tony keep quiet.
"Hey, don't ruin this." It's said with warmth and a soft smile; Tony can't even bring himself to feel offended.
"Honestly, I think we should just both can agree not to do that. Pinky swear?" Holding up his hand to Steve's he tries hard to bring out his best kicked-puppy look, and while his expression only makes Steve roll his eyes, they entwine their fingers.
"Sure Tony, pinky swear." And the way he says it - the brightness and the patience and how he seems to take pinky swears very seriously - is enough to make Tony shiver. It's the most important promise he's ever made, and he'll do anything to keep it.