"Sorry, but I'll have to take a rain check on the movie tomorrow," Tony said as he walked into the kitchen.
Which was disappointing, but Steve could handle that. It wasn't the first time Tony had to cancel. He was the only one of them with a full time job outside of the Avengers after all. Occasionally, he'd even missed for a dinner with Pepper when there had been too many missed dates between them because of business, though that didn't happen as often now since they'd broken up. But this wasn't an uncommon occurrence, nor was it anything Steve could really begrudge Tony of, because the other man did always make up that rain check regardless of how busy he was. He'd come to accept that with Tony Stark, schedules were things that had to be flexible.
So Steve hid his disappointment and smiled up at Tony from where he was drawing at the kitchen table. "Another late meeting?"
"A date, actually," Tony said. "It was the only time we could get our schedules to coincide since I'm leaving for Japan on Friday."
"A date?" Steve asked, his throat nearly closing in panic. It had to be just a business dinner. Tony had even mentioned busy schedules.
"I can't just wallow in the breakup with Pepper forever," Tony said ruefully. "The tabloids are already attacking me for being 'too broken-hearted to make new patents', and it's only a matter of time before the stockholders start to believe it no matter how much I work. I apparently have to be putting out in order to put out new designs. Who knew?"
"You're being forced to date?" Steve asked. This was supposed to be the future, wasn't it? Not some medieval drama - which was saying something, coming from a man who was seventy years out of his time.
Tony laughed, which always made Steve feel better, even if his stomach was currently sinking faster than the Titanic. "No one's forcing me, Steve. Don't get your freedom panties in a twist on my account."
"I have a reputation to uphold," Tony said with a smirk. "To the press, I'm still the billionaire playboy more than the Iron Avenger. Besides, how can I say no to Jessica? You should see her, Steve. Her legs are..." Tony made some crude motions with his hands and an even cruder noise, as if this unknown woman's legs were beyond words.
"No, thanks," Steve snapped.
Natasha wandered into the kitchen, eying the two of them warily. "If you two are arguing, do it on your own floors," she said, moving to pick through the pantry.
"Are we arguing?" Tony looked up from the refrigerator he'd been raiding to look at Steve. He closed the refrigerator door and frowned lightly.
Darn it, Tony wouldn’t have even noticed if Natasha hadn’t said anything. "No," Steve said, attempting to relax his shoulders as he stared at his drawing. The kitchen was one of his favorite places to draw, since he didn't have to go too far when he got hungry. Which was frequently, considering his metabolism. Unfortunately, it made for awkward conversations when the whole team could walk in on them like in the current situation. This wouldn't have happened if he'd just gone down to draw in Tony's lab.
"Jealous?" Tony asked. Steve's mouth fell open. Tony could not have guessed that. He was pretty sure even Natasha and Clint didn't know that, and they were trained to pick up on this kind of thing. He hadn't acted on his crush at all. He still had things to sort out and so did Tony, so moving right now was inadvisable at best. And he certainly hadn't expected to be this jealous just by hearing Tony talk about a girl. Maybe that was the problem. He hadn't expected this.
And now Natasha was staring at him curiously, and Steve felt a blush rise up the back of his neck. "I'm not-"
"Of course you are. Why didn't I think of this earlier? You've been out of the ice for almost a year now," Tony said, shaking his head. "And no dates. But no worries, Cap. Hey, I can ask if Jess has any friends. Maybe we could set you up if-"
"I don't want a date, Tony," Steve said, exasperated. Okay, so maybe he did, but it was with Tony, not some friend of what's her name. The last thing he needed was Tony acting like Bucky and dragging him out for double dates. At least Tony hadn't found out the real problem, because Steve really wasn't ready to deal with this yet.
"Then what's the big deal?" Tony asked, confusion entering his voice. He waved Natasha off when she snorted, but he kept his eyes on Steve. "You don't usually get angry when I have to cancel. Is this like that time with Rhodey? Me dating won't change that much, Steve, I promise. And you can always hang out with the others while Jessica and I are-"
"Just cancel the damned date!" Steve nearly shouted. This was spiraling way out of hand, too fast for Steve to stop. There were too many jacks on the floor for him to pick up before the ball dropped.
Tony's mouth dropped open, and Natasha stopped foraging through the cupboard to slide into the seat next to Steve. He couldn't tell if she was there to watch the drama or to pull them apart if necessary.
"Look, you can't just-" Tony started angrily after his shock faded. He stopped at Natasha's look. She shook her head warningly, and surprisingly enough, Tony backed down with only minor grumbling.
"Steve," Natasha said as she turned to him. "What's this really about? You have to talk to us if you want us to understand."
Steve looked away from the growing concern in both Natasha and Tony's eyes, running his hand through his hair. He couldn't have this conversation right now, not when he was screwing everything up. He needed more planning, more time to calm down before this went forward.
And God, the look Peggy had given him when he'd started acting jealous of her and Howard had been scathing. Tony would probably be just as bad, if not worse with his quips and harsh words. Tony was angry, and rightfully so. Steve had no business telling Tony what to do concerning his dating life, not when Steve was still too much of a mess to do anything other than consider a relationship between them. Steve had to get a handle on this jealousy and panic now, before he made a complete fool of himself.
"I'm sorry. You're right. I shouldn't have..." Steve trailed off. He was losing his chance. Again. He couldn't lose this chance, not after what had happened the last time he'd waited.
"Hey, it's okay," Tony said, coming to stand by him. He'd obviously decided something was wrong with Steve, and that meant his temper quickly slipped away. He placed a hand on Steve's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I'm sure I can reschedule with Jessica for another day if-"
Steve lost the rest of that sentence. Tony liked her enough to reschedule? He couldn't lose this chance! "You already have a date!" Steve snapped before he realized what was coming out of his mouth.
"I do?" Tony asked, pure puzzlement on his face. "JARVIS, did I accidentally make two dates? You're supposed to tell me when I do that!"
"No, not with-" Steve cut himself off furiously, gripping the sketchbook until his fingers turned white. Fine. There was no way to salvage this, so he should just get this over with. He really couldn't lose another chance, not with the way his life still was.
He stood up, feeling the heat rise well past his neck to his ears and cheeks, and biting down on the panic as he wished Natasha were anywhere but here. Beggars can't be choosers.
Steve took Tony's hand, who just looked even more confused. He thought he saw a light of understanding in Natasha's eyes though. "Steve, are you-" Tony started.
"Y-you..." Deep breaths. Steve had never been so glad that he could actually take them thanks to the serum. He closed his eyes and steeled himself, pushing on. "I'm asking you on a date. Tomorrow. Eight-" Steve stumbled over the time, feeling sick. No. He couldn't do eight. He'd missed that one. "S-seven o'clock. Don't be late." He nearly stumbled over the last phrase as he realized what he was saying, feeling the bile rise in the back of his throat. Suddenly, it was far too cold in the kitchen.
Tony's eyes went wide, and he looked at Natasha for guidance.
"Guess that answers my question," was all she said. "Not what I'd have guessed either, but what can you do?"
And... Steve just couldn't be in this room anymore. He let go of Tony's hand as if it had burned him - though he wished it would, because everything was so cold. Steve panicked, turning tail and running from the kitchen as fast as his legs could carry him.
Steve raced to his floor, locking the door and telling JARVIS that no one was allowed in. He couldn't... Was this betraying Peggy? He'd been saving his wages for a ring back during the war. A good one, and not one that Howard kept offering to buy for him. One that he'd bought himself, even with all of Bucky's teasing. He'd wanted to wait until after the war, to court her properly instead of quiet meetings between missions. He wanted...
And now he'd asked Tony out. It felt like a betrayal, no matter how much he knew it wasn't. Peggy would have wanted him to move on. Peggy had moved on, and he was happy for her, he really was.
Steve only just made it to the bathroom before his breakfast revisited him. He wasn't ready for this. He knew he wasn't ready for this, and Tony certainly wasn't either, no matter what show he put on for all the cameras. Steve should have waited, even if he couldn't risk Tony falling in love with someone else and losing his second chance. He should have waited.
"JARVIS?" he asked after a few dry heaves. "Is this really happening? Did I just ask out Tony Stark?"
"Indeed you did, Captain," JARVIS replied, dry amusement covering a hint of worry that testified for Tony's brilliance. It was a tone JARVIS usually reserved for Tony's more harmless antics. "Though I might point out that you did not wait for his response."
Steve knocked his head against the wall as he leaned back, knowing he deserved that. Speaking of waiting, he hadn't even waited to hear if Tony said yes or no!
That was not how he'd planned to ask Tony out. He couldn't have screwed that up any more if he tried.
"Mr. Stark is asking if you'd mind opening the door to talk," JARVIS said, a hint of gentleness in his voice.
"I..." Steve swallowed, forgetting the taste of bile that was still lingering in his mouth. "In a bit," he said shakily. "I'll come out in a bit. Tell him I'm fine just... I need some time."
"I will inform him," JARVIS replied, before leaving Steve alone to stop his trembling.
* * *
By the time Steve sheepishly wandered up to the common rooms, Tony had gone to work and the others had all heard the news. "Nice one, Cap," Clint remarked sarcastically. "So how far do you plan on going the first-"
Clint scowled as Bruce hit him upside the head. "Are you alright, Steve? Tony was pretty worried. We had to push him out the door before Pepper came and dragged him to work."
Steve winced. "I'm okay. Really, it was just... it's over now. I could have handled that better," he said, flopping down on the couch next to Thor.
Thor patted his back, then passed him a wii-mote. "I'm sure you'll do fine, shield-brother. Anthony values your friendship very much."
Friendship. Steve didn't wince, but it was a near thing. "Why did you give me this thing?" Steve asked, hoping to change the subject. He watched the others play sometimes, but Steve didn't really care for video games that much as far as playing them himself went.
"Team bonding, buddy," Clint said with an easy grin. "And Bruce isn't allowed to play this one, so we're down a player."
"I thought that it was a marriage breaker, not a team builder," Bruce remarked with a raised eyebrow.
Steve also didn't wince at the word marriage, though it made him tense. "Same difference!" Clint said cheerfully as if he hadn't noticed, hitting a button that caused the main screen to pop up.
"Isn't this a kid's game?" Steve asked as the title screen started to play. He was sure Tony had mentioned Mario Brothers as a game from a long time ago, but the graphics looked up to date and were bright and colorful. Cheery, even. He didn't see what the fuss was about, because it couldn't be that bad, right?
Natasha picked up a control as Clint groaned. "This is survival of the strongest, Cap," she said with a vicious smile. "It's a cutthroat game."
By the second level, Steve understood what she meant as Thor bounced off his character to get higher before the stone crushed them. Unfortunately, it meant Steve himself was crushed by the stone. This meant war.
* * *
Steve waited for Tony to get home, scheduling lots of team practices for the others since their inability to work together in video games made it clear there was something left to be desired. It certainly wasn't because he was bitter about losing Dokapon Kingdom and wanted to make Clint suffer for stealing all of his things. Or for Natasha killing his Luigi just for spite every so often. No, Steve didn't hold grudges. He just made the exercises harder to get even.
But Tony didn't get home at his usual time, and after an hour and a half of waiting, Steve debated calling Ms. Potts. "JARVIS, can you tell me if Tony's still at work?" he asked, figuring he'd start with the easiest source of information.
"Mr. Stark went directly to his workshop after lunch," JARVIS replied, surprising Steve. If he'd known Tony had been in the Tower all day, he'd have gone down to apologize. As he made to get up, JARVIS continued, "Mr. Stark has asked not to be disturbed by anyone."
Steve felt his heart sink. He knew Tony's avoidance tactics. "Was it what I said earlier?" he asked, looking down at the drawing he'd been working on. It was Thor as a mushroom, but it didn't make him smile like it had a few minutes ago. Natasha hadn't mentioned that Tony reacted badly, and she wouldn't keep that from Steve if Tony had. Besides, Tony had wanted to check on Steve before leaving. That didn't mean Tony couldn't have used his usual masks to get past everyone once he'd gotten to work so he could lock himself away at the earliest convenience.
"I don't believe so, Captain. Mr. Stark is merely working on a project that caught his attention after a visit to R&D. He is on what he would call an 'inventing streak' and does not wish to be disturbed."
"Thanks, JARVIS," Steve said, feeling a little better, if not totally reassured. If something had caught Tony's eye, he'll have zoned out the rest of the world until he solved the problem. Steve decided to head to bed, since he doubted Tony would be coming out any time soon. He could always catch Tony tomorrow.
Unfortunately, Tony didn't show up tomorrow morning either. With their date at seven that night, Steve sighed and glanced at the elevator that lead to the workshop. JARVIS repeated that Tony didn't want to be disturbed, and he had to respect that for now. Instead, he took up haunting the living room, opening his sketch book and flipping through the pages. He found the picture Pepper had commissioned him to draw. She'd seen him working on one of a Tony-cat, his fur standing on end as he hissed at the board of directors, and she wanted one of all the Avengers as cats. He'd agreed, because she looked stressed and the Tony-cat made her smile as she left to deal with the hurricane Tony had caused and sooth ruffled feathers.
Natasha-cat was giving him the most trouble though, so he turned to her page, working on her bored expression as she cuffed Clint-cat. She didn't quite have the striking quality of Natasha yet, so he set to work trying to capture it. She hid her true self very well, and Steve felt honored that he'd gotten to see even a little of it.
He was just finishing the touches on Thor-cat and Hulk-cat when he looked down at his watch. Half-past seven. Steve felt his heart sink as he realized Tony still hadn't come up. He didn't move from the couch, staring at the Iron-cat he'd doodled sadly. Tony had been the easiest to draw, both as himself and his alter-ego, but it wasn't surprising given how much he watched the man. Steve supposed he had his answer now. Maybe it was a good thing that he'd left before he could hear Tony's reply, though he was sure their next conversation was going to be awkward.
At ten past eight, Steve gathered up his art supplies, since he really didn't feel like drawing anymore. Had Tony gone out with that girl after all? He didn't have the heart to ask JARVIS and find out. Instead he played through the conversation over and over again in his head, coming to the conclusion he'd moved too soon. Back to his first mistake of not waiting, jumping the gun when he should have held it together.
He never should have asked so soon after Tony's break-up with Ms. Potts. It had only been a few months after all, and it was obvious Tony was far from over her yet. This 'Jessica' was likely just a way to keep his reputation up, not anything serious. Steve needed to apologize to Tony and hope this wouldn't make things too awkward between them. Steve ran a hand through his hair, wishing he hadn't said anything at all. He'd just wanted...
He'd wanted too much, too soon. But right now, Steve really wanted Bucky to be here.
Steve was just so tired. Maybe he should just call it a night, even if he would only end up staring at the ceiling instead of sleeping. Before he could find the energy to get up though, the elevator burst open. "JARVIS, tell me he's still here or-Steve!"
Steve blinked as he looked over his shoulder. Tony was out of breath, like he'd been running, and his eyes held a manic expression of barely contained panic. He was covered in grease and grime from the workshop, and Steve couldn't tell if those were bruises or dirt under Tony's wild eyes. He was willing to bet Tony hadn't done much sleeping lately.
"Sorry," Tony said immediately, running a hand through his already tousled hair. "I didn't mean to be so late, but I was working, and I didn't know JARVIS was trying to get my attention. I'm not usually this late for a date. Well, I am, but not on important ones. Well, barring a mission, but-"
"Tony," Steve said, cutting him off. Steve stood, his lethargy slipping away and replaced by a warm feeling in his chest as he walked over to the other man. He couldn't help the fond smile at Tony's frantic gaze. Steve knew that was bad, because he should be far more upset that Tony had been an hour and fifteen minutes late, but the relief that Tony hadn't stood him up was too sharp.
"I am sorry," Tony said, looking down. "I... um. Is there more I'm supposed to say after that? I didn't have time to practice one since I was late and-"
"Just say you'll try better next time," Steve said, brushing some of the unruly hair out of Tony's eyes.
"Um, right. I'll try better next time," Tony said, fidgeting. They were standing close, and Tony looked like he didn't know if he wanted to run away or move closer. Steve stayed still as Tony babbled. "This is weird, isn't it? It's weird. And awkward. And I'm really late, because there were repulsors and they were firing too slowly and-"
"Tony, it's okay," Steve said soothingly. That seemed to stop the fidgeting at least. "Why don't you go take a shower and meet me back here once you've calmed down?"
Now that he'd given Tony permission to turn tail and run, that was exactly what Tony did. "Okay. I'll do that. That sounds good." Tony disappeared into the elevator faster than the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. Steve stood there for a moment, blinking after Tony.
Five seconds later, Steve started to laugh. That was so Tony. He'd been an idiot before, now that he had the hindsight to see it. Yes, Tony could be insensitive, but did Steve really believe that Tony wouldn't say anything? They had been friends for too long now and Tony really did try in his own dysfunctional way to make their friendship work. Tony would never have just stood him up like that, and Steve felt guilty for assuming that he had. Losing track of time and forgetting the rest of the world existed though? That sounded more like Tony.
But that didn't mean that Steve wasn't in for an awkward let-down, Steve realized. His last chuckle left him. Tony had been down in the workshop for long enough that he was probably avoiding something, if not Steve directly. But if this worked out, Steve was never letting Tony forget that he'd been late to their first date.
Steve sat down, opening his notebook again. "JARVIS?"
"Can you tell me when Tony is ready to come back up?"
"Indeed I can, sir."
"Thanks," Steve said, opening a new page to draw a white rabbit with a pocket watch. He didn't think Tony would appreciate the goatee and the sunglasses slipping down its nose that he was drawing on it.
Twenty minutes later with a warning from JARVIS, Steve looked up to see Tony walk out of the elevator, toweling his hair. He was wearing a nice shirt and slacks, despite the fact that they were staying in to watch a movie. Steve took that as a good sign. "Ready this time?" Steve said with a small smirk.
Tony actually looked embarrassed. "I was working on-"
"I know," Steve said, cutting him off with a fond smile. Tony's faintly red cheeks made up for the wait. It was so rare that Steve got to see Tony blush.
"So we're watching a movie?" Tony said, moving on with a pace that meant he had no idea how to react and was babbling to cover his confusion. "Great. It's not a chick flick, right? I mean, neither of us are chicks, but gooey romantic plots are good for dates. At least, that's what Pepper says, and it's easier not to argue with Pepper when she's angry with me for being late. Which you don't seem to be, but I don't..."
Steve waited while Tony ran out of steam, patting the seat next to him. Tony hesitated, but sat down. "Steve..."
For all Tony Stark's vast experience with dating, it looked like he wasn't going to make this easy for Steve. Really, he shouldn't have expected anything in this relationship to start easily. Steve just hoped he wouldn't mess this up. "We should probably talk before we start watching," Steve said. Tony's eyes flickered up to meet his briefly as he nodded. Steve continued, "First of all, I'm sorry for running out like that."
This time Steve looked away, focusing on the blank TV set. "You know, I never did get a date with Peggy. I've never been on a real date before. Sure, Bucky kept trying to set me up with some dame, but they always liked him better. Peggy was the first one that really mattered to me, so that was gonna be my first date. We were just waiting for the war to end so that we could have some time to do it." Steve took a breath, forcing his hands to unclench as he leaned forward. He could feel Tony watching him. "We planned the date as I was putting the Hydra plane in the water."
He heard Tony's hitched gasp and glanced over to see wide brown eyes staring at him. "Christ, Steve," Tony said again, leaning over and rubbing his hand between Steve's shoulder blades. Steve let some of the tension be soothed away. Tony sounded small and broken as he spoke. "I didn't realize..."
"You couldn't have known." Steve met Tony's eyes properly this time. He smiled, even though he knew it didn't meet his eyes. "And it's not your fault. But I am sorry that I left so suddenly. I didn't expect it to affect me like that. I also thought I'd have more time to prepare to ask you out." At this, Steve winced. That could have gone a lot smoother. "And sorry again for my reactions. That wasn't right of me to tell you not to go out like that. That was unacceptable."
"You were going to plan how to ask me out?" Tony asked, a strange expression on his face as he waved off Steve's apologies.
"Yeah," Steve admitted. "A real date too, not just watching a movie here. Dinner, a night out. Maybe flowers?"
This time it was Tony that winced, and Steve laughed. "No flowers then. I'd like to take you out though, if that's alright with you."
"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Tony said, and Steve mourned the lack of warmth on his shoulder as Tony pulled back.
"Why do you say that?" Steve told himself that it wasn't a no, even if it sounded ominous. It just meant Tony needed some convincing.
"Steve..." Tony hunched over, and it was Steve's turn to lean against his friend, offering comfort. "I'm a mess. And so are you."
"I think we could fix each other up well enough," Steve said. "It's what we've been doing so far."
"I'm still not... Steve, I'm still in love with Pepper," Tony admitted, his voice soft and fragile, at odds with how he laid out the facts. "I don't know if I can date my best friend again. It got complicated. I can't take another break like that."
Those were pretty valid concerns, and ones Steve had given a good deal of thought to. "You haven't lost Pepper's friendship, right?" Steve asked, waiting for Tony's nod before continuing. "And it's hard being friends with her again, but it's been getting better. You're both getting better. If things do go south between us, I think we'd still make good friends."
"But you don't know for sure," Tony pointed out. "And it'd affect the team."
"You're right. I don't know. I can't see the future," Steve admitted. "I'm still trying to work through the past, much less the present, so the future's still a bit beyond me right now. But I know you and me have bounced back from a lot of fights before. It's hard to imagine anything final after some of the things we've fought over. And it would affect the team, but so did you and Pepper breaking up. I don't think the team will crash and burn if we don't work out."
Tony stayed quiet, his face blank though Steve knew he was sorting through more doubts and emotions than Steve could count under that mask. Slowly, Steve reached out to take one of Tony's hands between his. It was calloused and scarred by many long hours in the work shop, and he could read years of genius in Tony's palm as he turned it over, massaging the joints carefully.
"I'm not saying it'd be easy," Steve said, smiling as warm brown eyes met his. "You're right. You're still getting over Pepper, and I'm still working through a lot. If we do this, we'd have to take it slow."
Steve brought Tony's hand up to his lips, pressing a kiss to his knuckles and enjoying the way Tony's eyes unfocused slightly as he forgot to breath for a moment. "I think the end game would be worth it, if you want to give this a shot," Steve continued. "You can't come up to bat and be afraid of striking out."
"I'm not sure which is worse: you wooing me with baseball metaphors or that you're old-fashioned enough to resort to hand kissing," Tony quipped, a hint of a smile about his eyes.
"You like it," Steve replied, kissing Tony's palm and enjoying the feel of it against his lips. "So what's that say about you?"
"Mostly that I've learned not to argue when insanely attractive people want to kiss me."
"And if I want to kiss you someplace else?" Steve asked, blushing at Tony's words.
Tony's breath caught again, which was a reaction Steve definitely liked. "You're the man with the plan," Tony commanded. "More action, less asking permission."
Just for that, Steve chased after Tony's neck rather than his lips, like he'd seen people do in some of the movies they'd watched. Without thinking, he pushed Tony back against the couch. "You give me a hickey and you have to deal with Pepper and the Board tomorrow," Tony said, shivering as Steve's lips ghosted down his neck. As Steve pulled back, Tony grabbed hold of him. "No, get back here! Don't you dare stop!"
"Do you want me to mark you?" Steve asked, adding a hint of teeth to his next kiss.
"Way more action, less asking," Tony replied, curling up into Steve's mouth shamelessly.
Steve placed one more feather kiss to Tony's neck before pulling back this time regardless of how Tony tried to keep him there. Tony's eyes flew open. "Maybe next time," Steve said.
"I didn't agree to denial. I do not remember agreeing to denial, Steven Rogers, so get back here and finish what you started!" Tony said, as Steve took a moment to admire the view. Tony's back was pressed against the cushions, pinned underneath Steve and with no apparent inclination of trying to get away. Steve liked having Tony under him more than he cared to admit.
It was the pout that caught him off guard though. It was just so - Tony would kill him if he ever said it out loud - cute that Steve nearly crushed Tony beneath him as he started to laugh.
"I didn't agree to laughing either!" Tony said, pout morphing into a glare.
"You haven't agreed to anything, yet," Steve said, sobering. Tony was a sensualist. He'd respond well to Steve's physical advances. But Steve didn't want just a physical relationship. "What do you say? Want to try your hand at bat?"
Steve didn't look away as Tony searched his eyes. "I didn't even realize you liked men," Tony said.
"I like you. That's enough for me," Steve replied. He hadn't thought much about Tony's sexuality until two months ago, but he'd guessed after some careful watching. Steve's own didn't bother him. He'd done a lot of soul searching once he realized he was sweet on Tony and decided that it didn't matter. "And you're stalling."
"I..." Tony broke eye contact, looking down. Steve followed his gaze to the hand Steve had kissed. Tony was rubbing the skin gently.
"Just think about it," Steve said, hoping his voice wasn't too pleading. He wanted to lean down and kiss Tony properly, but he couldn't push, not with this. Instead, he moved back to his portion of the couch, helping Tony sit up. "We can just watch a movie tonight, and you can think it over, alright?"
He took Tony's hand again, smiling as he traced the lines. "I want this," Steve said with a shy smile. "I want this a lot. But only if you do too. I can wait if you need time to think about it."
"Unless 'more time' means me going on a date with someone else," Tony teased, his words light.
Steve thought back to a time he would have only seen malice in Tony's words, a little amazed at how far they'd both come. Now he just blushed a little, accepting the teasing for what it was. "We liked monogamy when going steady in the old days. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like seeing my guy stepping out with a pretty dame on his arm."
"Old man lingo aside, I'd call you jealous and possessive more than old-fashioned," Tony said, his eyebrow raised ever since the word 'my' entered the picture. Steve felt his face heat up more until the tips of his ears were burning. "You're lucky I don't mind so much, so long as it's in small portions."
"That's good," Steve said, trying not to fumble over his words. He felt like he was small again, not able to say anything right. It was good that Tony didn't seem to mind. Considering Tony hadn't tried to shoot him yet, Steve might even survive the rest of the night.
In fact, the bastard seemed to be enjoying Steve's discomfort. God help him, but he still loved the man.
"Let's just watch the movie," Steve said, proud of himself for not stuttering.
"What are we watching?" Tony asked, mercifully going with the subject change.
"Well, we finished the last Seventh Doctor serial last week, which means-"
"Oh, God. No. Why are you doing this?" Tony groaned, throwing his hands over his face dramatically. "Our first date is not going to be the Eighth Doctor movie."
Steve blinked. "It can't be that bad," he said. He'd heard Tony and Natasha bemoan its existence, but it was still the Doctor, right?
Tony just stared at him. "I need ten times more alcohol and Natasha to suffer with me."
"It's a date, Tony," Steve explained patiently, trying not to frown. "It's just you and me. And I'd prefer if you didn't drink tonight."
"It's the last bit of Doctor Who we have left to watch until the new series starts up again." Steve was actually excited, since this meant he'd finally seen the whole series. And he thought the number of episodes had been daunting way back at the start of it all.
Tony gaped at him for a moment, then rubbed his temples. "Steve, reconsider this. It's the movie. It has no redeeming qualities. It's awful. You can't torture me like this on a date! And it's our first date-"
"And it's special," Steve cut in. "When we first... When we started watching, it was the first time I was really able to talk to you."
There was a beat of silence before Tony answered. "You're saying I have Doctor Who to thank for us being friends? Is that what I have to tell the next generation of my bots? My relationship with Cap started by watching bad scifi from the sixties."
Steve laughed, trying not to look too closely at Tony's use of the word 'relationship' and the fact that 'the next generation of bots' was Tony's equivalent of saying 'our future children'. "There are worse ways this could have started. I'd much rather blame Doctor Who than Loki's army."
At that, Tony winced. "Yeah, Who sounds awesome now, thanks. But we could watch like, the Five Doctors instead of the movie. Or Inferno! Evil-Eyepatch Brig is awesome."
"We can watch those after," Steve said. "Come on. Eighth Doctor first?"
He stared at Tony with what Bucky called his 'puppy dog eyes'. Most of the time, Steve wasn't even conscious of the expression, but every so often he used the expression shamelessly. It never failed to work on Bucky, and Tony's track record so far wasn't much better.
"I'm going to regret this," Tony muttered, waving JARVIS to start the movie. "I haven't watched this sober since it first aired."
"Thank you," Steve said, beaming at Tony.
"Don't thank me yet. Now pay attention to the block of exposition they're about to force down your throat," Tony grumbled.
Steve watched as the movie started, linking hands with Tony who gave him a startled glance. Tony stared at their hands a moment, before slowly entwining their fingers. Steve felt a small smile quirk his lips up.
Aside from their hands, it was just like any other movie night. Tony ruthlessly mocked the film (and Steve privately agreed with the majority of it), everything from the start ("Could they make the exposition any more boring?"), to the new companion ("She's crying to show that she's sensitive."), to the goo snake ("Seriously, Who. Stick to the funny costumes. They're better than your CGI."). Quality aside, Steve was still enjoying the movie despite it all up until...
"The Master is American."
"I did warn you," Tony groused. "I tried to warn you, but did you listen? Nope. He couldn't even get the facial hair right."
"He's American," Steve said again, not quite able to hide the horror in his voice.
"He is," Tony said, switching from complaining to taking sadistic pleasure in Steve's growing trauma. "He's a bleak moment for patriotism. Come on, don't block it all out now, Cap. We've still got Eight's over-dramatic Frankenstein reveal."
Steve shuddered as the Master spoke again, feeling betrayed by his country. Or in the very least, betrayed by the American TV executives who thought this movie would be a good idea. He was so distracted that he didn't notice Tony had moved closer until his head rested on Steve's shoulder. Tony curled around Steve's arm, not letting go of his hand.
Suddenly the Master didn't seem quite so bad.
In fact, the whole thing was going swell. Once you got past how glaringly awful the movie was, Steve rather enjoyed it. Well, he liked the Doctor, even if the Master made him cringe every time he was on screen.
Of course, then the Doctor pulled Grace in for a kiss.
Steve froze, suddenly not able to breathe. "Steve?" he heard Tony say distantly. "JARVIS, stop the movie. Steve, you with me?"
Steve nodded, despite the fact he knew he was trembling.
Tony hovered beside him, and Steve knew he had to stop. Because Tony was always terrified when this sort of thing happened, afraid he'd do the wrong thing no matter how many times Steve assured him it was fine. But he couldn't stop shaking, and his body refused to obey. It was just too much.
"Steve! Come on, talk to me. Was it the kiss?"
The kiss was nothing like his last with Peggy. He didn't know why he was... But thinking of Peggy, wondering what their date might have been like, was suddenly all he could do. And he resented Tony for not being her, imagining Peggy in Tony's place...
No. Steve never wanted to resent Tony.
Tony, who was still hovering, knowing he shouldn't touch but needing to do something, anything, that would help. He was frantically calling Steve's name, along with other soothing phrases that Steve didn't bother trying to follow. Steve could see his lips moving, and suddenly Steve needed something different, something grounding. Something that wouldn't remind him of Peggy.
Steve leaned forward, capturing Tony's lips as he traced Tony's goatee, taking in the bristle against his skin as he pulled Tony closer. He'd never been on the giving end of a kiss like this. Usually he was on the receiving end, and if he'd had any time to think about it, Steve would have been nervous. As it was, he trembled against Tony, taking the anchor the other man so willingly gave him.
"Sorry," Steve said as he pulled back a fraction, his lips still brushing over Tony's, because he couldn't stop from kissing him again, reveling in the smell of Tony's aftershave and the taste of Tony's mouth. For some reason, Steve kept thinking of coconuts, but that couldn't be right. "Sorry. You haven't said yes, and-"
"Shh," Tony said, and this time he was the one bringing them back. "It's okay. It's fine. You're fine."
Steve kissed him again before he could start babbling, a chaste brush as Tony obligingly let Steve pull him closer. Tony was so selfless, and it killed Steve to know he was taking advantage of his best friend right now. That didn't mean he could stop himself, though, and after a few more desperate kisses, Steve buried his face against Tony's neck to wait out the tremors of his body.
Tony's fingers ran through his hair, calming him slowly. He felt hesitant lips kissing the top of his head, and Steve was able to breathe, releasing the vise grip he hadn't realized he'd had on Tony. God, he could have hurt Tony so easily, and Tony had just let himself be pulled closer. Tony knew better. He knew to keep a distance when any of the Avengers had a flashback, but he'd just let himself be pulled in where he could have been hurt... Where Steve could have hurt him.
"I'm screwing this all up," Steve said, trying not to let too much desperation into his voice. "I wanted to do this right, but I keep-"
"Steve, it's okay." Steve was surprised to hear how firm Tony's voice was as he spoke. Tony was usually more nervous than Steve after something like this, but Tony sounded like he'd gotten his footing. "You're not doing anything wrong. This doesn't even make my top fifty worst dates. The only reason it would is because I'm watching the Eighth Doctor movie sober, which I still haven't forgiven you for. Remind me to tell you about some of the really bad ones later, but this? This is not bad, and it's not your fault. Okay?"
"Look at me, Steve," Tony said as he pushed Steve back. His fingers applied a gentle pressure under Steve's chin until he was staring into serious brown eyes. "You are not doing anything wrong. I mean that. You're not screwing this up. This has... Well, I've screwed things up at the start, but it's been a good night, Doctor Who movie and all."
The reasonable part of Steve was being soothed by Tony's words, even if they didn't sink in as far as they should have. This was not how he'd imagined his first date to go. He'd leaned his forehead against Tony's, warring between feeling like a screw-up and trying to believe Tony's words.
The tremors slowly became more manageable, and Steve was almost willing to admit Tony had a point when the other man started speaking again. Steve's attention was drawn to Tony's slightly unfocused eyes. "Well, you are doing something wrong now. You're not kissing me, which is a shame. A crime. A crime that should be remedied at your earliest-"
Steve laughed, his voice only slightly hysterical, as he cut Tony off with a kiss. Steve felt himself relaxing.
"Better," Tony said as Steve pulled away. "Are you-"
"Yeah," Steve said, drawing a deep breath. "I'm okay." He didn't apologize, because Tony would only tell him off for it.
"Do you want to stop the movie?"
Steve considered it, but he'd been able to watch movies with kissing before with no problem. He'd even seen the Doctor kissed before in the new series. Several times in fact. This had to be tied up in these date issues Steve seemed to have.
But Steve wanted this. He wanted this a lot. He couldn't remain in the ice forever.
"Let's keep going," Steve said, swallowing hard. He settled back on the couch, glad to find Tony moving with him.
"You sure?" Tony asked, brushing the hair out of Steve's eyes, thumb lingering along Steve's cheek. "You said it yourself we should take this slow. We don't have to keep going now."
Steve looked into searching brown eyes, smiling weakly. "I'm sure," Steve said, meaning far more than just the movie. This was something he was tired of waiting for.
Sensing the conversation had gone deeper, Tony looked away, fidgeting nervously. "Then let 'er roll, JARVIS."
Steve forced himself to focus on the movie, not the date, relaxing his shoulders slowly. The rest of the movie went from bad to ridiculously worse, but the evening was going smoother. Steve could breathe, Tony was a warm comfort snuggled up against his side, and the Master still had an American accent. Steve found he was quite fond of the movie, despite how mind-numbingly awful it was. He knew better than to admit that to Tony, but the movie did have a certain charm to it that eased Steve away from his earlier panic.
After it ended, they watched the Five Doctors and Inferno over again for what Tony aptly called a 'palate cleanser'. It was late though, and Tony fell asleep as the Doctor 'slipped sideways through time' in the TARDIS. Steve wasn't long behind him.
* * *
Steve woke up the next morning, pleasantly surprised to find himself nightmare-free. They didn't happen every night, but if Steve had been a betting man, he'd have bet on nightmares after the mess last night. Steve wasn't too inclined to dwell on the ice so long as he had his own personal heater draped over him and drooling against his shoulder though.
He could have sworn they'd both been sitting when they'd fallen asleep last night. He couldn't say he was too put-out with the current arrangement, not if Tony was going to cuddle closer when Steve shifted for a more comfortable position. Sadly, he didn't think he was going to get his right leg to wake up any time soon, considering Tony's hip was cutting off the circulation, but that was a price he was willing to pay.
Replaying last night through his mind, Steve decided it hadn't been half bad. Despite Steve's screw-ups, he knew Tony had enjoyed the date, Eighth Doctor and all. Tony obviously wasn't adverse to Steve's advances, though he doubted Tony had really considered Steve as potential in the past. And that was less of a reflection on Steve and more on the fact that despite what those tabloid rags said, Tony was one of the most faithful and committed men to his girl that Steve had ever met. If Steve were honest with himself, he found that trait extremely appealing despite the current problems it created.
His first date. Not how he imagined it would go, and it could have gone a bit smoother, but Steve had enjoyed it. He smiled faintly, hoping the next one wouldn't be nearly as rocky.
It really came down to Tony now. It was his choice if he wanted to continue this, and no amount of Steve's words would change that. It wasn't cowardly for Tony to cut his losses now after he'd just recently been burned, no matter how Steve felt his chest tighten at the thought. Tony was still hurting, and Steve couldn't really find it in him to blame the genius if that was what he wanted.
He started to run his hand through Tony's sleep-tussled hair, marveling at how soft it was as it sifted through his fingers. Tony hadn't bothered with styling it after his shower last night (or more likely he'd forgotten while trying to come up with an apology), and Steve was more charmed by it than he thought he would be. He wondered if it would be worth the look he'd get from Tony if he ever suggested keeping it like this every so often. Provided Tony said yes to dating him.
Steve sighed as his thoughts circled back, and he resolved to push them away for now and enjoy the moment. Maybe the worst was still to come, but he wasn't going to allow that to diminish this moment. He'd learned that lesson from the war.
Steve hadn't bothered counting the minutes, but it was a while before Tony woke up. He smiled fondly as Tony blinked at him groggily, pushing up into Steve's hand like a cat starved for attention. Steve debated reworking his Iron-kitty drawing with this expression. "Morning," Steve said, his own voice still a little rough from sleep.
"Steve?" Tony asked, his brain slowly rebooting. Steve could almost see the little circle cursor that meant the computer was working behind Tony's eyes. It was rather more endearing on Tony than on his tablet.
"Hey," Steve greeted, kissing the top of Tony's head. He felt the stiffness overtake Tony's body and stilled immediately. "Do you want me to stop?" he asked, bracing himself for an answer.
Tony relaxed, melting back against Steve with a forced air. "No."
"Tony," Steve replied warningly.
"No, that wasn't... Just... I mean it. Didn't expect it," Tony said with all the elegance of a man who hadn't had his coffee.
"Alright," Steve said, taking it at face value for now. He didn't push for more, knowing Tony wasn't really awake yet. "If you want breakfast, you have to let me get up."
Tony made a displeased noise in the back of his throat and inched up his Steve pillow until he could burrow against Steve's neck. Steve suppressed a shiver as he felt Tony breathe slow and lazily. "I'll take that as a no," Steve said a little breathlessly. Sadly, Tony was already dozing again rather than playing with Steve's neck. And he'd called Steve a tease.
The thought made Steve chuckle, which he tried to quieten at Tony's whine of protest. For someone who hated actually going to sleep, Tony seemed surprisingly determined to stay that way. He couldn't really blame Tony, he supposed. Nightmares were a common occurrence for both of them, and a night without them was too precious to waste.
He rubbed small circles with his thumb on Tony's back, resolutely ignoring how Tony was still cutting off the circulation in his leg. It wouldn't hurt him in the long run and Steve was feeling too lazy to move the loveable idiot off.
Not long after, Steve heard the door open and he looked over. Coulson was standing there, taking in the scene with raised eyebrows. Steve met the expression with his own raised eyebrows. There was a long moment where Steve waited for more of a reaction to know how to deal with this situation. He didn't think Coulson would have a problem, but...
Finally Coulson sighed. He walked over to the couch and leaned against it, a soft smile quirking his lips as he glanced down at Tony. Steve relaxed a little at the sight, smiling back. "Take care of him, Captain," Coulson said.
"If he'll let me," Steve replied, wondering at what sort of relationship existed between Tony and Coulson. All they seemed to do was banter back and forth with a mix of jest and half-serious threats, but occasionally Steve would walk in on them smiling at each other, and Tony had been very upset after the agent's death. Coulson clearly had a soft spot for the Iron Avenger when no one else was looking. Steve had been trying to figure them out ever since Tony had invited Coulson to watch CATS with them, but he'd had no luck so far. Honestly, Steve didn't know if that had been a blessing or a curse for Coulson, who kept fidgeting the whole time and sending covert glances at Steve and his new set of Captain America trading cards. Tony had looked far too amused.
"Tell him 'At Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender'," Coulson said dryly, and Steve couldn't help but think he was missing something. He knew who Napoleon was and what the significance Waterloo was, but he had no idea what reference Coulson was trying to make. "And take care of yourself as well. The team needs both of you."
Steve nodded, for once hearing Coulson's concern for the both of them in between the lines. It was a good feeling, and Steve wondered how long it had taken him to see it. At least he was seeing it now, instead of still being stuck in the past grieving. He had a certain lazy human blanket to thank for that, along with the rest of the team.
"Speaking of history, that's why I'm here," Coulson said, with a glint in his eyes that belonged more to Clint on a prank mission than on Coulson who still secretly 'fanboyed' (Clint's words, but probably the best description of it that Steve had heard) over Steve when he thought Steve wasn't paying attention. "Director Fury has decided that your grasp on history needs to be confirmed. You're to show up at eleven hundred hours next Tuesday for a test."
Steve groaned, lifting his head up just to bang it back down on the couch. It didn't help, because the couch was too soft. Tony grumbled sleepily, snuggling further against his neck, and Steve felt completely justified with glaring at Coulson.
Coulson was too professional to smirk, but he might as well have been. "I'll see you then, Captain. I'll warn the others off the living room for a while longer."
With Coulson gone and an imminent history test looming on the horizon, Steve wasn't able to enjoy the moment as much as he had before. He wondered if he should enlist Tony's help with 'studying'. He'd get nothing done, but it would be a lot more fun. Besides, it wasn't like he didn't have a near eidetic memory when it came to studying anyway. He'd been pretty smart before the serum, but he'd admit that he found that little side effect pretty useful.
It was a good thirty minutes before Tony stirred again, blinking sleepily up at him. "Steve?"
Steve chuckled, thoughts of history forgotten. "Good morning again. Would you like breakfast this time?"
"You're still here," Tony said his eyes drooping slightly.
Steve was reminded of that first night watching Doctor Who, when Tony had thought he was a fever induced-hallucination. Maybe this was just a sleepy Tony thing. If so, Steve could get used to reassuring Tony every morning. The way Tony blinked at him was rather endearing too. "I am. But if you let me up, I could get you coffee."
That got Tony's attention. "Coffee?" He reluctantly sat up, and Steve wondered if he'd ever have that warmth again.
That thought was quickly replaced with Ow as Tony finally moved off his leg and the blood started flowing again. Pins and needles didn't even begin to cover the feeling. It would be gone quickly enough and, sure, he'd known it was coming, but next time he would consider shifting Tony sooner.
Still limping slightly, Steve ruffled Tony's hair before heading to the kitchen. It was empty, but Steve checked the clock on the microwave to find that it was later than he'd expected. Apparently he and Tony had slept in. Starting the coffee machine, Steve debated his choices. Eggs or pancakes?
Tony wandered in as Steve was breaking the eggs over the pan, looking more awake and extremely grateful when Steve pushed over a mug of coffee. He drank the coffee, watching as Steve cooked in silence. It was a comfortable silence though, and Steve started humming softly as he scrambled the eggs. It was an old song, but one Steve liked, and a glance at the arc reactor made some of the lyrics pretty apt. What is this light that shines when you enter like a star in the night, and what's to prevent her from destroying my sight, if you center all of it on me...
It was 'gooey and romantic' (as Tony said last night), but at the moment Steve didn't care.
"About last night..." Tony started, interrupting his thoughts.
Steve stopped humming at the ominous phrase, poking absently at the eggs. He didn't let his shoulders tense up, but he thought Tony knew anyway. "Yeah?" Steve asked, bracing himself for an answer.
"It was... It was good," Tony said. Steve looked over to see Tony was staring at his coffee. He wasn't hunched over it, like he was going to tell Steve bad news, but he wasn't making eye contact either. "I... It was really good."
"But?" Steve prompted, smiling sadly.
Tony shook his head. "There's no but. Good job on your first date. It was... you'd say 'swell' right? See? I'm even trying to put it in old man vernacular."
"Thanks," Steve replied. He waited for the other shoe to drop.
"I'm still not sure if this is a good idea," Tony said quietly.
Still not a no, Steve reminded himself. "And I still say it'll be worth it."
Tony looked up, brown eyes searching his. Steve didn't know what Tony was looking for, but he knew what he wanted. His shield was a symbol of what he fought for, but his real shields, the mental ones, had kept him firmly rooted in the ice for a long time after he'd woken up. Now he dropped them, and it left him raw and terrified, but he wanted this to work. It would be worth it. They were worth a chance.
Tony sighed, shaking his head with a rueful smile. "If I can't take Captain America's word for it, whose can I trust?" he asked.
Steve felt a goofy grin spreading across his face, so wide that it hurt just a little. "Steve Rogers'," he replied, wanting nothing more than to lean over the counter and steal a kiss. "You can trust Steve Rogers. He's a sure bet."
"Steve Rogers it is then," Tony said. His return smile was a little shaky, but all Steve could think of was how proud he was that Tony was willing to take this chance.
Then Tony took a sip of his coffee and ruined the moment. "You're burning the eggs, by the way."
Steve turned back to the eggs with a dismayed sound, scrambling to see if they were salvageable. They were not. Though Steve hated to see food wasted, even he had to admit defeat with the blackened mess his inattention had created. He scrapped the eggs into the trash can, grabbing more eggs from the fridge as Tony laughed.
"Are you taking pictures?" Steve asked, resisting the urge to strangle the man he'd just convinced to step out with him. It'd just make all that effort wasted, he reminded himself as another flash went off.
"Proof I'm not the only one who burns eggs!" Tony said gleefully.
This time, Steve paid attention to the food. He also made pancakes, just to prove that he could actually multitask while cooking. When he had enough for both of them, he slid the perfectly scrambled eggs and a stack of pancakes onto plates and set one down in front of the ingrate who kept smirking. "Not burnt this time," Steve said.
"Nope," Tony agreed, shoveling a forkful into his mouth. "It's very good. Bravo for Captain America. He's returned triumphant from defeating those fowl eggs and- Hey!"
Steve was not the least bit remorseful for flicking Tony's nose after that pun. "Speaking of defeat, Coulson said to tell you Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo?"
Tony paused in devouring the pancakes, nonplussed. "What?"
"Search me," Steve said with a small shrug. "He came in to tell me about Fury's history test they want me to take, saw you sleeping on top of me, and when I mentioned you were still considering things, he said..." What was the phrase Coulson had used? It'd been slightly stilted, with odd grammar. "At Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender."
At this, Tony recognized whatever it was Steve had missed, and groaned loudly. "This is revenge for me replacing his taser with a vibrator, isn't it? Bastard can't take a joke. My life is not a goddamned Abba song."
"O...kay," Steve said, drawing out the word and wondering if he wanted to know.
Then Tony got that glint in his eye, like he's just gotten the cream, when he looked over to see Steve's expression. "This will be for your own education, Cap. Obviously, we haven't gone in-depth enough in the 70's if you still don't know Abba. And if Abba isn't on that history test, it's a crappy history test, so we have to get you up to date ASAP. And since he made the reference, Coulson must watch it with us. And he's not allowed to touch my booze when Pierce Brosnan starts singing."
Steve decided this was one of those times where it was better to smile and nod, hoping that whatever it was, it wasn't as bad as Tony made it out to be. Not being able to get drunk had its downsides.
They chatted as they ate, Tony leaning against Steve and Steve using his foot to trace Tony's ankles. It was nice, the physical affection that Tony didn't always allow. Intimate without being too much. He wondered how much of it was for his benefit, before deciding it didn't matter so long as Tony was willing to give it.
"So you survived your first real date," Tony said with a small smile. Steve could see the pride he'd felt earlier reflected back at him, and a warmth spread through his body. "How's it feel?"
"Good," Steve said, looking down at his fork as he twirled the bit of pancake in the maple syrup to soak as much of it up as he could. "A little... I wish I could have had this chance with Peggy, so a little sad, but... I'm glad that I now have this chance with you. Thank you, Tony."
"Steve..." Tony said, linking their fingers together. Then he sighed, shaking his head. "Maybe Coulson did have a point with that song. Fine, I surrender. I can't win against you, and I'm not sure I should even try."
Steve smiled at their joined hands, bringing them up to press his lips against Tony's knuckles. He looked up into those brilliant brown eyes as he did, then shyly leaned in for a chaste brush against Tony's mouth. "Thank you," he repeated as he leaned back.
"This whole thing will be impossible, you know," Tony said, a very faint blush settling about his cheeks. "It will explode in our faces."
"It's not impossible, just highly unlikely," Steve quoted with a grin. "And you know what they say. No boom today..."
"Boom tomorrow," Tony finished with him. "There's always a boom tomorrow."
They both started laughing. Steve had a home to return to, a family to love, and a very important date to commit to memory. Making history together was much better than learning about it. And as Tony leaned in to steal some of the egg from Steve's plate, Steve decided he didn't mind being in the future so long as it was Tony who was with him.